Elizabeth Hazel's post re: the 2002 International Tarot Society World Tarot Congress

The 3d Tarot Congress was as wonderful as #1 and #2. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to live close enough to Chicago to attend all three over the years. Janet Berres, Jeffrey, and the ITS Board deserve copious commendations for their incredible dedication and work in making this conference happen.

Just showing up at the registration desk was a treat - we got the most marvelous goodie bags. These cloth tote bags (from Llewellyn) were stuffed with free decks, a cloth pouch, all kinds of tarot catalogs and information. I was thrilled to find the World Spirit Tarot in my bag, as well as Lo Scarabeo's Durer Tarot (a set of 22, beautifully printed and presented). Mille grazie to all of the sponsors who contributed the delightful treats!

The first lecture I attended was presented by Juliet Sharman-Burke on Friday afternoon. She is the co-creator (with Liz Greene) of the Mythic Tarot, and spoke about amalgamating myth and tarot in one's reading technique. She discussed the myths woven into to the Mythic deck, and we got to see a few pictures from the new Sharman-Casselli deck during her presentation.

The next lecture was Hajo Banzhof. Listening to him is a real treat! He spoke on "The Return of the Oracles." This is a deep and broad topic, covering the entire span of written human history. He concentrated on the Oracle of Delphi and the early oracles accessible to humans. I admire him for taking on the challenge of this overview. The tape for this session is well worth ordering, as he touches on areas of history, philosophy, and culture that provide a backdrop to the present and future of the tarot.

The opening ceremony included a tribute to Brian Williams. Janet Berres and Stuart Kaplan both spoke about him at length, and read some of his final e-mails, and an account from his sister about his final day of life that was very touching. Not a dry eye in the house. (There was also a small shrine created for Brian in the Hospitality Room that attendees could visit). K. Frank Jensen from Denmark received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and shared a surprisingly warm discussion with Stuart Kaplan on the podium, discussing their mutual correspondence over the years. Jensen has worked to document the development of 20th century tarot decks, and has a personal collection of around 1,000 tarots.

The opening ceremony was followed by a panel discussion about "Tarot Past" and then we were treated to a performance by Chicago Blues singer, Grana Louise - wow!

My evening was concluded with some intensive visiting and schmoozing, finding friends new and old. Somehow I wound up in Jeanette's (mistress of the Tarot Garden) room, looking at some of the rarest, hardest-to-find, ugliest, and most beautiful decks with a group of like-minded tarot fanatics. It was a deck fondling orgy. Her husband was mixing Bellini's that packed a wallop - my bed was spinning a bit by the time I found it that night.

Saturday was jam-packed with tempting lectures. How to choose, how to choose? My first of the day was with John Opsopaus, who presented his new Pythagorean Tarot, and gave a fascinating overview of the mathematical theories behind his deck. With my current rage for ancient studies, I was in hog-heaven and could have listened and asked questions for hours!

Saturday seemed to be New Deck Day, because after John's lecture, I spent a few hours drooling over the deck selection in the Pentacles Room (i.e. the vendors!). OK, I admit, I overspent wildly and acquired several decks and a few books that I fancied. There were many I wanted but, alas, not this time around.

I had a lovely luncheon conversations, and more shopping, and then attended Juliet Sharman-Burke's second lecture, "An Introduction to the Sharman-Caselli Deck." The artwork on this deck is really lovely - it looks old-fashioned, and somewhat traditional, but manages to allude to mythic content as well. At the end of the lecture, I had to ask her about the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London. A tiny clump of astrologers were sitting near me, and we were all wiggling with excitement in our chairs to hear her speak about the Centre. Juliet was kind enough to indulge us with a description of the school and its current programs. An opportunity for an astrologer to attend the Centre is the thrill equivalent of getting to check out books from the Library of Alexandria.

There was another panel after that on "Tarot Present" but I had my own last-minute agenda to attend to, as I was the pianist during the banquet! Darn lucky I remembered to bring a bag of music. I finally found the piano hidden in a back hallway, and arranged to get it moved into the hall the moment the panel discussion was over so I could get acquainted. The Radisson hotel staff were gracious, friendly, and accomodating, and did everything possible to make their guests feel welcome over the weekend, even a high-strung piano hack on the edge of panic.

As usual, the banquet was a blast. There was a lovely array of food, suitable for both vegetarians and omnivores. The banquet room, which during the day was divided into three rooms for lectures, was completely opened and beautifully decorated with purple and white balloons. Attendees arrived in tarot-inspired costumes. Janet, as Mistress of Ceremonies, was fabulously costumed as a High Priestess, and set the tempo of good food, good friends, good times. Paula Gibby treated everyone to a few songs - she has a beautiful, trained voice! We even managed an off-the-cuff version of O Sole Mio in honor of the Italian guests.

At the end of the dinner, people strutted their stuff to the "March of the Siamese Children" from "The King and I" (Okay, that was my idea of delicious irony for dessert). First the trumps, then the courts, and finally the pips. Two clever guys arrived as blank cards (dressed in white), which was very funny. The biggest laugh was received by a woman who dressed as the Queen of Cups - brassiere cups, to be precise. She flung bras at the crowd, who were hysterically howling at her ingenuity. (Inside scoop - she recruited used bras from her friends at work in order to construct her costume).

After the march, we were shown a local TV report on the previous Tarot Congress in 1999, and familiar faces in the montage received applause. We also saw Erin Bartlett's tarot documentary film, a work still in the process of completion. I hope this becomes a finished product, as it provides a chance for tarotists to talk about what they do. Erin has 200 hours of footage to work with, and several expert tarotists were interviewed. The end result has the potential to be a much-needed view of the art of tarot from the inside.

Sunday arrived. I was a bit dazed and saw that look reflected back at me by other attendees. It took an awfully long time for me to pack and get all of the bags of new decks and books to my car - I was moving in slow motion. So the first lecture I attended was with Dwariko von Sommaruga, who spoke about her self-published tarot deck, Songs for the Journey Home, co-created with Catherine Cook. Dwariko is a native of Auckland, New Zealand, and has had a very interesting life path, including a stint with the Bagwan Rajneesh in the Seattle area. She talked the group through a meditation to create original tarot cards, tapping into the hidden mind to derive meaningful personal symbols for each trump.

The next few hours were spent talking to people - Lon Milo Duquette, Bunny Bob, the gentlemen from Lo Scarabeo, who had come from Turino, Italy to attend the conference, and many other friends I've enjoyed meeting over the years at the ITS and ATA conferences, and many new friends I met over the weekend. This is always my favorite part of tarot conferences! I had a swell lunch with the ladies - Janet Berres, Joan Bunning, Mistress Connie, Juliet Sharman-Burke, and the ITS treasurer (whose name escapes me at the moment, blush). This is a memory I will cherish - here's to the ladies who lunch, as the Broadway song goes.

The final lecture of the weekend I attended was Ron Decker's on "The Knapp-Hall Tarot: Symbols and Sources." One hour, fifteen minutes was just not enough! After filling us in on the background of Knapp and Hall, he gave particular attention to elucidating the meditation crests on the trump cards of this mysterious deck. Ron's new book (titled "History of the Occult Tarot") will be released in the next month or so, and I was fortunate to get a chance to sit with Mary Greer as she thumbed through an advance copy. Tarot historians, particularly Waite fans, will be thrilled to know that Waite's own tarot deck has been reproduced in this book. There is no way I can say enough about Ron's talk - he is a terrific speaker and a fountain of knowledge. Order the tape!

Although I much wanted to stay and attend the final panel discussion on "Tarot Future" and the closing ceremony conducted by Phyllis Curott, time constraints of a very long drive home demanded that I hit the road after Mr. Decker's lecture was finished.

I made a brief stop at my cousin Jon's house in Elmhurst, a few miles south of Lincolnwood, to see his brand new baby boy, Christian, who is just one month old. It seemed appropriate that a weekend that opened with a tribute to a beloved tarotist/artist who had passed into the Summerland ended with a celebration of new life and the joy of greeting a new baby into the family.

So, is this the end of World Tarot Congresses? Having been involved in arranging large events, I know about the enormous, grueling piles of work required to mount a conference like this, but cannot even begin to imagine what it would take to cancel the originally scheduled event after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked, and reschedule speakers, facility, and attendees (not to mention all of the printing, advertising, and financial details) to nine months later in May 2002. People have limits, lives of their own, and the massive anguish and angsts of postponing and re-mounting this event must have been tremendous.

Certainly, they deserve whatever lauds we can send them for simply surviving the process - let alone achieving a wonderfully successful conference last weekend. If I were walking in their shoes, I'd want a nice, long vacation from conference planning. But forever? Forever and ever?

More to the point - what does the ITS Board need from ITS members and tarot community at-large to consider doing another event a few years from now? What kind of support can we offer them now? What kind of support and assistance would be most helpful in arranging a future event? Tarotists tend to be loners, and struggle to conform to organizational necessities. But do we want to lose future opportunities to congregate and discuss amongst ourselves?

The International Tarot Society has made a substantive contribution by facilitating a forum for contact between American and European tarot communities. We can see all the players on the field, discover new trends, and meet like-minded friends at the WTC.

After the ITC Board has had a nice break (a week in a post-Congress coma sounds about right), and have had a chance to discuss amongst themselves, I hope Janet will share her thoughts about the future of the ITS and the potential of future World Tarot Congresses with the Tarot-L community.

Mary K. Greer's posts re: the 2002 International Tarot Society World Tarot Congress

Post One:

I just want to echo Liz's statements about the WTC (read her post). I especially appreciated meeting all the Tarotists from other lands. 

The Italy contingent was great - we got to see Giacinto Gaudenzi paint an original Tarot card - a Queen of Wands - using Barbara Moore (Llewellyn editor) as the model. Barbara looked both feminine and elegant with her short curly hair, pink top with a stand-up ruffle around the neck and black leather pants (which didn't get into the picture). As people described the qualities of a Queen you could see Barbara (her back was to us) change her whole posture and energy. The Italians also brought an outstanding red wine for everyone - we were even guzzling it up on the stage during the panel discussion which livened things up a bit.

I only got 5 to 6 hours of bedtime per night (and I was trying to get to get in early!) - there was so much to do. There was a definite emphasis on Tarot history with some great slide shows. I would have liked a few more workshops on practical techniques but we'll get plenty of that at the New York Tarot Festival. Bob O'Neill did himself proud with tons of slides of 14th and 15th century illustrations featuring Death through the World in relation to the Book of Revelations. Pretty convincing, Bob. I was most struck by a fresco from Bologna showing two "Hanged Men in Hell" -- upside down with their legs crossed.

Giodano Berti (with help from Riccardo Minetti) gave a learned overview of the history of Tarot up through the Oswald Wirth and Egyptian decks with tons of slides.

Stuart Kaplan explained how he went to bid on the 1910 Rider-Waite Tarot on Ebay only to find out that the phone connection wasn't working. He ran to the office with 15 minutes to spare and then forgot his ebay password. He tried to call Bobbi but, of course, the phone wasn't working. Finally he got one of his friends (an ebay competitor) to bid for him and won the deck for $8,200 - outbidding the Italians only because they were not used to bidding on ebay. Stuart "promised" us during the talk that he would do a reproduction of this deck (but with the brown "crackle" back which has never been published by him) and that it will be called the Waite-Smith deck (finally). We also asked for a nice red box like the original book/deck set came in, which, in my opinion, is the best packaging to date.

Hajo Banzhaf took us on an alchemical journey through the Thoth deck in slides. He began with the alchemical journey through the zodiac and the seasons - showing how it was the basis of the caduceus. I can't go into details but he gave us plenty. He's an inspiring speaker with tons of information.

I only saw Juliet Sharman-Burke's first talk but her deck looks like it will be a very usable one. 

Tom Tadfor Little got kudos from everyone for his technique for reading the Antique Tarots. My roommate Fern Mercier (Auckland, New Zealand) thought it was one of the best presentations there. 

Ron Decker obviously had lots to talk about that he couldn't cover in his lecture but will be in the book with Michael Dummett that is about to come out (or you can order it now from Duckworth in England). He found out all kinds of biographical tidbits about the early 20th c. Tarot luminaries and repeated just enough of the first book so that the second can stand alone (since the first is now O.P.) The key to the Knapp-Hall deck can be found in the two volume set on numerology by Harriet and Homer Curtiss. As Liz mentioned, Decker provides B&W pictures of 12 cards from Waite's later meditation deck in the new book!!!! The B&W images are a little hard to decipher and there are nowhere near the specific details and symbolism as you'll find in the Waite-Smith deck - but I'm sure it will be fascinating to study in conjuction with his works on The Holy Grail. To my knowledge there is no Minor Arcana. [Speaking of which - I finally, after almost 10 years, have heard from Roger Parisious
who has been collecting data on Yeats and Farr's influence on Smith, and his theory that Waite "stole" the Minor Arcana material directly from their work. I haven't seen any documentation of this yet so don't get too excited.]

Liz Hazel played beautifully for the banquet and Paula Gibby's singing was astounding since she is a little wisp of a person.

The costumes were fun though not so astounding as the last congress.

There are lots of pictures and more commentary over at ComparativeTarot, which I urge everyone to check out. TheComparativeTarot list had a great showing of people.

I was in New York for the Book Expo the weekend prior and got to stay with Wald and Ruth Ann. They took me to the hotel where the NY festival is being held and I can say it's an excellent set-up and incredibly convenient for people flying in to LaGuardia. I especially liked the William Morris-style designs in the rugs. They've also arranged buses to the Village on Friday night so everyone can experience the infamous nightlife (plus shops stay
open way late).

BTW, if you can get to the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibit at the MET - do so! Talk about symbolism - from a psychological POV. Be sure to read her biography (translated from the French and published by Grove Press) rather than getting her life story from the movie or latest novelization.

We are really lucky to have all these opportunities. Hope to see everyone at the NY Tarot Festival or later at the ATA Conference in Sacramento. 



Post Two:

I noticed that I failed to mention one of the workshops that I attended in my last description of the congress. However, I have found myself talking about it to my friends probably more than any of the others. It was by Kim Danbert of Melbourne Florida and was on the Court Cards. This workshop stood out because it was one of the few experiential, interactive workshops of the weekend. 

When we arrived in the room there were four long tables set in a diamond shape, labeled as the Kingdoms of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. Each participant chose one Kingdom and was given a button identifying them as one of the Court Cards or a Major Arcana. We learned that the Magician Snoopy had lost his familiar, Woodstock, and would be unable to fulfill his duties to each kingdom until Woodstock was found. Each Kingdom had to determine what the Magician had done for us in the past and what would happen to us if his powers were not returned. We could use the cards from our suit to help us determine this information.

Since we were Swords our choices were pretty dire. We went for power and legitimacy. Since we might loose that "legitimacy" it seemed apparent that there had to be something illegitimate in the kingdom to make us worried. We began to wonder who the parents of the Page really were. Kim's husband had the role of the Devil, and he went around the room trying to stir up trouble and to get us to make "deals" with the other Kingdoms - for
information or alliances. We were then supposed to use the cards to "find" where Woodstock was, but I saw him in the hands of the "Devil," only the Knight of Pentacles got there first and Pentacles claimed him. We then made a deal with them that the Bird couldn't "sing" (i.e, reveal the illegitimacy of the Page of Swords), so he was cursed with muteness. The other suits wanted him returned in full voice so our Queen made a deal with the Cups -- that they provide her with a cup of poison. The Bird was freed and the Queen got to decide if she was going to use
the poison on the King, the Advisor (the High Priestess - his lover) or the illegitimate Page. Since you all weren't there, I'll leave you to wonder who she chose. 

Pulling off a workshop like this - especially in the midst of a "fact"-ladened conference -- was not easy and Kim did a wonderful job of it. She took a risk and I think everyone who attended got lots of ideas about more imaginative ways of letting the cards create their own stories.

Post from Elizabeth Hazel Elizabeth Hazel 2002
Posts from Mary K. Greer Mary K. Greer 2002
Photograph 2002 Sally Anne Stephen
Page 2002 Diane Wilkes