San Francisco-Bay Area Tarot Symposium (SFBATS) 2002 - Page Two
Report by Diane Wilkes
After lunch, Thalassa gave a funny and moving tribute to Brian Williams as his mother, sister, and brother looked on. Before his death, Brian arranged to have his personal tarot book and deck collection sold at SFBATS, and his family carried out his wishes. I now have, among other items, his copy of the Il Meneghello Minchiate Etruria, on which he based much of his Minchiate. Knowing he wasn't a reader, this seemed a way to have something infused with Brian's energy, and owning it means a great deal to me. Even more meaningful was getting the opportunity to speak to Brian's family and sharing what he meant to the tarot community in general and to me personally.
The next workshop I attended was Melanie Oelerich's Chances Are: The Wheel of Fortune and Fate, which focused on Trump X. This was the perfect aprés lunch workshop, because the majority of it focused on arts and crafts. After a short presentation on the traditional symbols on the Rider-Waite-Smith Wheel of Fortune, Oelerich handed out supplies for each of us to create a personal Wheel of Fortune. Since I am dextrously-challenged, Valerie Sim-Behi put mine together for me, but I must take responsibility for the less-than-adequate artwork. Fortunately, I recognized that artistry wasn't the point and got a lot from this presentation.
Tom Tadfor Little was kind enough to share this about James Ricklef's workshop, which I was unable to attend:
James Ricklef, author of Knighthawk's Tarot Readings, presented an inspiring workshop on creating your own spreads. Beginning with a series of different ways to modify an existing spread (adding/removing positions, changing meanings, using modifying cards, etc.), Ricklef engaged the creative participation of the audience and kept the ideas bubbling up. One thing I appreciated is that many of his spread ideas kept a clear practical focus - there was usually a card for "advice" or at least a clear idea of which cards the querent needs to focus on to decide on a productive course of action. He did a wonderful riff on a basic spread for choosing between two or more options, eventually expanding it to a large spread with multiple considerations for three different paths. My favorite part of the workshop was an example of how to use a personally meaningful quotation or idea to generate a spread (by basically taking the key words or concepts from the quote and assigning each to a position). This is something I expect to use a lot - we all have favorite "words of wisdom" that mean a lot to us; now we can breathe further life into them using the tarot. The workshop concluded with a final method of creating a spread - using an established spiritual system, such as qabalah or alchemy, with the spread positions reflecting the structure of the system.
Patricia Croteau (known as Catwomyn on various Tarot e-lists) offered a really fun workshop on Crystals and Tarot. Participants even got a goodie bag of crystals to work with and keep, as Catwomyn did a grounding visualization and walked us through our own personal meditations with the stones. Because I naturally leap to making mental tarot correspondences, I jumped ahead a bit. We were supposed to get in touch with the feelings of the stone before cataloguing those feelings into their tarot archetypes...but I knew what cards my stones corresponded to the minute I looked at them. I didn't realize I was getting ahead of myself...but it ultimately didn't matter one way or the other. This is something any crystal-loving tarotist can do at home. Just ground, hold a stone in your hand and let yourself feel its message. Only after that should you try assigning it to its appropriate card, based on the emotions and adjectives the meditation inspires. Do as I say, not as I did!
What I loved most about this workshop was Catwomyn's emphasis on finding our own individual stone-card correspondences, as opposed to giving us hers (which she did at the end of the workshop). In fact, I'd have to say that philosophy pervaded all the workshops I attended at SFBATS...the Do What YOU Wilt mandate that resonates so strongly within my own soul. My unexpected gift from this workshop was making all sorts of powerful mental connections with the Star card, amethyst, and Brian Williams' spiritual gifts. The whole experience had me vibrating in a good way, and one which is not typical for a grounded, pragmatic soul like myself. I am not, in general, the astrally traveling type.
What I regretted most about Catwomyn's workshop is that it was "up against" Gary Ross' workshop. Tom Tadfor Little yet again comes to our assistance by sharing the following:
Gary Ross's talk on "Polarities in the Tarot" was almost aborted when an emissary from the newly discovered
planet Qaohar appeared to inform us that their people had abducted the presenter and would soon be assuming
control of life on planet Earth. Fortunately for us all, the alien had difficulty
breathing our atmosphere and was forced to return control to Ross. The presentation focused on the major arcana cards from the Waite-Smith and
Thoth decks, and how the two systems often emphasize complementary poles of the card's meaning. An
unexpected insight came out of this workshop. Ross asked the audience to draw cards from their own decks to
direct the discussion, and no one present seemed to be use a deck that was close to
either Waite-Smith or Thoth in its symbolism or meanings. Ross remarked that in earlier years, the tarot community itself had been somewhat
polarized between these two influential decks and systems of meaning, whereas today a much more liberal or postmodern atmosphere prevails; debate over which tarot system is "correct" no longer dominates our conversation and thought.
So, there I was, in vibratory mode from the crystal workshop, as I entered Ellen Lorenzi-Prince's "Creating Tarot, Creating Life" workshop. Hekate's cheerleader (as Ellen is affectionately known) was in fine form, transforming us all as she talked about her transformative experience creating her deck, Tarot of the Crone. In devising the Creating Life Spread, which Ellen had each participant do for him- or herself, we all became part of the creative process. Lorenzi-Prince refused to limit said creative process to "art," which enabled us all to look at our lives in a formative and vibrant way.
I chose to use my brand-new copy of Tarot of the Crone, which made the experience all the more meaningful for me--this deck is the one I plan to avail myself of whenever I want to do my most profoundly deep personal readings. I recommend Ellen's Creating Life spread to everyone who has read this far, as it contains the depth and wisdom found in all of Lorenzi-Prince's work. I can tell you that the workshop participants were clearly moved by the experience.
The workshop was to be Ellen's story of her creating her deck, which took three years, and she did share various personal experiences that shed light on that process. But she did this as she went through the spread positions, so we all got to experience our own creativity, along with hers. This was the one workshop where I didn't take many notes, because I was so engaged in Ellen's presentation and interpreting my spread.
The last workshop was another difficult choice for me: Thalassa, whom I had never seen present before, or J. Phillip Thomas, whose Tarot de Paris has become one of my favorite new decks. I ultimately decided that seeing Thalassa at SFBATS was an essential rite of passage.
Which, interestingly enough, ended up being truly apropos. Thalassa's alleged topic was entitled "Living by the Seat of the Pants and Seven of Swords," but the description of the workshop and the actual content were not synonymous. Thalassa really spoke about the essential role of honesty and flexibility for diviners of all stripes. "You have to see it all and you have to be able to say it, speak about what is dark and real." (Was I back with Hekate's cheerleader? No. I was in Thalassaland, undergoing my final SFBATS initiation.)
Thalassa proceeded to hold forth on our antiseptic culture, that likes to pretend death (Death-Card XIII) doesn't exist, which inclines querents who are "looking for a piece of the real." We, as readers, offer them the opportunity to connect with that authentic self, but only if we are willing to speak the truth, looking at clients not as part of a master's thesis, but as people, human beings. We serve as mirrors to ourselves and each other and tarot is the lens through which we can see ourselves, what keeps us honest and gives us something to ground through.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Thalassa workshop without a diatribe (this one was on Dubya). She spoke of "rehabilitating problem cards" and the "Betty Ford Clinic of the Arcana." She spoke of seeing the shadow in the so-called "good" cards and the light in the cards traditionally seen as challenging (The Tower, Judgement and Death), which she referred to as facilitators of change. The entertaining sharing of personal stories and tarot insights made Thalassa's the perfect workshop with which to end a terrific conference.
Some highlights: getting to meet Marie White, of Mary-El Tarot fame. She brought some prints of her cards and they are definitely to drool over. Some smart publisher should snatch this deck up quickly! Marie is as beautiful as her artwork, and her sweetness of spirit and creative gifts make her quite the Tarot Empress (doesn't hurt that she is pregnant again!). Spending time with West Coast Tarot buddies who I don't get to see nearly enough. Finally getting to meet the passionate and intense Mari Hoshizaki and spending time with her--you should see her terrific collages! Special thanks to Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, who made it possible for me to attend SFBATS in the first place, and Tom Tadfor Little and Crystal Sage for their contributions to this report.
Photographs of Thalassa's altar for Brian Williams, Gary Ross, and Thalassa
© 2002 Crystal Sage
Report and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes
While I have returned in body to Philadelphia, I remain in the San Franciscan world of diviners in spirit. And not just spirit: I keep coming across tarot cards I picked up in my wanderings as I go through my purse and open my books. The Six of Bats from the Halloween Tarot, the Six of Disks from beloved Brian's Renaissance Tarot.