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Recently, at PantheaCon (a huge pagan conference in San Jose, California), I led a “Tarot Intel Circle” with around a hundred people and was asked by several participants to provide a description so they could do it themselves. There are two forms of this process: the “Intel Circle” that can be done with any number of people from a dozen to over a hundred, and the “Tarot Council Circle” that works best with around 6 to 16 people. Each person in either circle gets to be both a Questioner and a Respondent. At most workshops the participants range from those who’ve never read a tarot card to professional readers and everything in between. Everyone gets something out of it, and it often provides a huge kick-start to one’s intuitive abilities—opening a door and switching something on in the psyche. It’s a good process to use at the beginning of a tarot course.

The Questioner usually focuses on one issue or situation about which they want to gather information, although they can change the issue at any time. In both Circles it is helpful to begin by asking, “What do I most need to look at around _(insert issue)_? It can be as specific as, “around the problem with the person at work who is driving me crazy” or as general as “around my life purpose.” As the process continues, Questioners can keep asking the same question or reframe it to focus on different aspects of the issue.

Questions should be brief and to the point. The Respondent draws a tarot card (more about this later) and, based on impressions from that card, responds to the question. Usually only a minute or so is allowed for each response before moving on to the next person and question. No response is right or wrong, but rather it offers information, options and possibilities, or layers of meaning. No card meaning is right or wrong. As a Respondent, you don’t have to fix anything!—which is my number one rule.

UPDATE: The germ of these processes was the “Tarot Game” created by Australian artist, Peter Rosson (1954-2002). Originally it involved a small circle of guests who were invited to explore right/left brain interaction, the creative process and the “profiling” of a personal issue using Tarot. May this seeding of Rosson’s creative brilliance continue to grow and flourish.

The Intel Circle

The Intel Circle consists of an inner and outer circle with the same number of people in each, facing each other. The outer circle stays in place (and those who need to sit can do so), while the inner circle stands and moves one person to the right for each question/response interaction. I call time, direct the movement, and I change the rules for each interaction (leaders: a mic and gong are very helpful with large groups). Before we begin, the Questioners draw five cards each from a mixed pool of several tarot decks and will keep these same cards as long as they are Questioners. These cards contain the keys to their issue. As each interaction begins, they ask their question, and the Respondent (across from them) draws one of their five cards, looks at it and responds to the question. Then I ring the bell, the card is returned, and the inner circle moves one person to the right, where a new interaction (with a new prompt) begins. Karen Krebser described her experience as “controlled chaos” with no time for self-doubt.

I’ve provided sample “prompts” for each interaction below. After six or seven interactions everyone switches roles, so that the Questioner can be the Respondent and vice-versa.

The Council Circle

For the smaller Council Circle everyone sits in a close circle (can be around a table) facing everyone else, with one or more decks in the center. The first person addresses their question to the person to their left, who pulls a card and responds. The Respondent then becomes Questioner, turns to the person to their left and asks their own question, that person responds, and so on clockwise around the circle. After responding to a question, people often need to be reminded to switch into asking/Questioner mode as it involves a right-brain/left-brain switch. It is worth becoming aware of how this switch operates in yourself. As leader, I change the “rules” or prompts with each round. After a couple of rounds we change direction (so the question is asked of the person to your right). If doing a long session of several hours, you can have everyone sit in a different seat after a break. In the Council Circle, the leader can also be a participant and usually starts and ends each round.

Towards the end of the whole process, have one person ask a question while each of the others draws a card with which to respond to the question. You can follow with another person asking a question, draw only one card for the whole group, and everyone responds in turn to that that one card. These final questions can be personal, but it’s also a good opportunity to explore spiritual, community and/or world issues. In the Council Circle much more group rapport is built as everyone hears each person’s questions and the responses.

I frequently remind participants that it is up to the questioner to determine what works for him or herself—that this is information-gathering from which they are to pick and choose what seems most meaningful and relevant to themselves. Handled well, it should end up with a deep bonding and a sense of being seen and supported by the whole.

The Leader

The leader is responsible for seeing that the pace moves briskly along, that no one challenges, harangues or criticizes another, and that no one tries to impose their views. The Respondent responds to, rather than “answers” the question. The responses may be possible actions for the questioner to consider but should never be insisted upon. Respondents should not be allowed to lecture or argue for their perspective, nor should other participants question someone’s interpretation. It can sometimes be wise to begin a response with: “If this were my issue, I’d . . .” Personally, I offer gentle but frequent reminders that as respondents, we “don’t have to fix anything,” as this is an essential theme for me. Always support the Questioner’s assessment, for the questioner is the final arbiter of his or her own life. The most relevant information tends to rise to the top. On the other hand, encourage everyone to open themselves to new possibilities.

What is said in the circle stays in the circle and should never be mentioned elsewhere. Trust is paramount, which is especially apparent in the Council Circle.

At the beginning and end, the leader should take a couple of minutes to ground, center and focus everyone, state the group intent, and open (or close) the relevant energy centers for intuitive work. If appropriate to the situation you can set wards and call in guides. An informal-style Council Circle can work in a quiet, supportive social environment without needing a ritual format, but the leader should still be in control and gently guide the process.

The Cards

It’s usually best to use decks that have story-telling images on all the cards. Respondents can draw from a single deck, a selection of decks, or a bunch of decks mixed in a “pool,” or a set of cards (or deck) held by the Questioner. It’s also okay to have the Questioner draw a card and hand it to the Respondent. Whatever works!

The Prompts

Most of the following prompts are for the Respondent, but a few require something from the Questioner. While I usually begin with the same first few, I vary the later prompts as my own intuition directs me. The Respondent should begin speaking immediately and for the entire time given, repeating thoughts, if necessary. When in doubt, simply describe the card! Each item below consists of one interaction lasting a brief one to two minutes. Indented items are part of the prior interaction and may require slightly more time. Occasionally ask the Questioner to summarize what they’ve learned so far (a few summary points are suggested below). For most of the interactions the Questioner remains silent except for asking the question. Note: it’s okay for the Questioner to see the card drawn.

After the Questioner asks their question, the Respondent draws a card and—

• responds with the first thing on the card that catches his or her eye.

• responds by literally describing the image on the card (no meanings or interpretation allowed).

-follow by prompting the Respondent to repeat everything they just said in the 2nd person, present tense (“You are . . .”).

• responds by describing what seems to be the emotions, feelings and attitude of the figure(s) on the card and the mood and atmosphere of the environment.

-follow by prompting the Respondent to repeat everything they just said in the 2nd person, present tense (“You are feeling . . .”).

• the Questioner thinks the question silently (not aloud) and the Respondent responds with something suggested by the card.

• responds with a question (that is, answer a question with a question based on the card drawn).

-Optional: Questioner says what the Respondent’s question brought up.

• responds by not looking at the card (draw one but don’t look at it).

• breathes in the card and then responds with ONE word.

-Optional: Questioner tells how that word is relevant to their question.

• responds with one or more metaphors, aphorisms or sayings based on the literal image (“Been down so long it looks like up to you.” “Beggars can’t be choosers.” “You’ve got the whole world in your hands.” “It’s like being stuck on a fence.”)

• responds with what the person “should do.” (The Questioner can be asked to phrase their question accordingly: “What should I do about . . . ?”)

• responds with what the person “shouldn’t do.” (Ditto. Have the “should/shouldn’t” prompts follow each other.)

• responds with a wild, crazy fairytale using the card as the illustration, and beginning “Once upon a time . . .”

-prompt the Respondent to repeat everything they just said in the 2nd person, present tense (“You are . . .”).

• responds with “The lesson of this card is . . .”

• responds with “The worst case scenario described by this card is . . .”

• responds with “The best case scenario is . . .” (Pair it with the preceding.)

• responds as if the Respondent were a figure on the card, by speaking as that figure.

• responds with “Yes, if  . . .” or “No, if . . .” or “Maybe, if . . .”.  (Have the Questioner ask a yes/no question.)

• Have the Questioner say how all these responses relate to their issue. (Can insert this whenever it seems appropriate—not too often, but definitely at the end.)

I sometimes end with each person creating an affirmation based on the qualities that they perceive in one of the cards that they most want to develop in themselves, and committing to an action that is in alignment with that.

For Further Development

Many more possibilities are suggested by the exercises in my book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, which also presents techniques that will make you a more effective and empathic leader of this kind of group process. See especially Step 21 for the affirmation process and the “Traps and Solutions” in Appendix H.

James Wells’ reports on his experience when I taught this process at Readers Studio 2010.

Check out this fabulous video by Caterina Paris on combining palmistry with the four suits of the tarot:

And check out Carrie’s other tarot videos here.

I was reminded in the previous post of people who ask what they need to do to become a professional tarot reader.  After you feel comfortable reading for self, friends, and friends-of-friends, here’s my number one suggestion for when you want to make the transition.

Your Rite of Passage

The ideal “rite of passage” is to volunteer for a full day (or better yet, a weekend) at a charity or benefit event and donate everything to the cause. If you keep the price reasonable ($5-20 or sliding scale depending on the length of reading and the venue) then your schedule should be filled. The point is to read non-stop (except for necessary breaks), even to the point of exhaustion (drink plenty of water!). There’s a point beyond which a part of you doesn’t care what you say anymore, and you totally let go. You’ll be surprised at what happens then and how accurate you become when you finally bypass your critic. I can’t even begin to list the number of things you will learn from such an experience, but here are a few:

  • Letting go of the critic and trusting the process.
  • Explaining what you do and/or don’t do in one short, concrete statement.
  • Guiding people efficiently through the question, shuffling, etc.
  • Learning to listen as well as speak.
  • Realizing you can’t “fix” someone & letting go of the need to do so.
  • Releasing the need to be “right.”
  • Getting your timing down (how many cards for the time allotted).
  • Learning how to end a reading (especially with a clingy or argumentative client).
  • Discovering the things you’ll need in a “reading kit.”
  • Arranging breaks, keeping hydrated, eating, etc.

Omega08-2

A few basic accoutrements for reading at fairs and events:

  • One or more tarot decks, appropriate to the clientele and occasion.
  • A spread cloth. (Busy designs can interfere with the card images.)
  • Business cards & promotional handouts.
  • Tissues!!!
  • Water! Plus an emergency snack—in case you can’t get away for a meal.
  • Clothing to put you and others in the mood, and in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes.
  • Knowledge of local laws! If necessary have the organization collect the donation and give the person a token for a free reading.
Extras:
  • Watch, clock or timer.
  • If outdoors, healing stones to keep the cards from blowing away (plus nice to have for the energy).
  • Flowers, statue, other decorations. Don’t overdo it.
  • Reading sign-up sheet on clipboard & pen.
  • Mailing list (if appropriate).
  • Cushion for folding chairs. This extra bit of comfort helps.
And, if you continue to do fairs:
  • A professional looking sign. This probably will not be necessary for your first charity event.
  • Code of Ethics written by you and to which you adhere. (Google for examples.)
  • Optional: Tent.
  • Optional: Tackle box with pens, permanent marker, index cards (for mini-signs), tape, tacks, clips, extension cord, etc.
  • Optional: A Recording device. It’s ideal if the client doesn’t have to write stuff down. Here’s a post on great ideas for recording in person & online.

After doing this myself and making this suggestion to others for more than 30 years, as well as doing mini-events like this with my students, I’ve gotten tons of feedback from people who said it was the best thing they ever did to catapult them into the beginnings of professional confidence and expertise. Please, anyone who wants to add to these lists (and I know there’s more to say), do so in the comments.

Here’s an intriguing quote from G.I. Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous (1949), p. 100-101.

“In order to know the future it is necessary first to know the present in all its details, as well as to know the past. Today is what it is because yesterday was what it was. And if today is like yesterday, tomorrow will be like today. If you want tomorrow to be different you must make today different. If today is simply a consequence of yesterday, tomorrow will be a consequence of today in exactly the same way. . . .

“If a man wants to know his own future he must first of all know himself. . . . Knowing the future is worth while only when a man can be his own master. . . . In order to study the future one must learn to notice and to remember the moments when we really know the future and when we act in accordance with this knowledge.”

Any thoughts on this? It’s worth reading the whole section in Gurdjieff’s book (link to text above). How might these thoughts relate to our reading tarot?

“If you’re interested in deepening your understanding of the Tarot, forming a personal bond with your deck, or enhancing your abilities as a reader, 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card is an excellent experiential guide for connecting with the cards.” —Janet Boyer

A 3-card drawing that helped me escape an untenable situation.

A 3-card drawing that helped me escape an untenable situation (see below).

Are you looking for a way to enliven your tarot practice and expand your skills? Then I urge you to try Mary K. Greer’s 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card. This is a shameless plug for my latest book. I wrote it, in part, to help you discover what reading style you most resonate with but also to push the boundaries of what you thought was possible in a tarot reading. It’s all about how to discover meaning for yourself. It’s also where I reveal all my tarot reading “secrets.”

I first read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning a very long time ago. As an army brat who had lived in post-War Japan and Germany I was interested in Frankl’s concentration camp story and how he not only survived but transformed his experience into gold.  What stuck with me was his belief that “Everything can be taken . . . [except for] the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t like to criticize someone else’s reading as tarot card meanings are not fixed, and it is an art, not a science—but there’s a lot of confusion in the four minute reading for Whoopi Goldberg on The View—watch it here. I thought I’d clear up what I can. Read the rest of this entry »

Charles San introduced the 1973 Causeway Books edition of Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot with an  essay, “How to Read the Cards,” in which he recommended this Major Arcana-only spread. It features an interesting way of selecting the cards and, when I first tried it, the cards themselves suggested a way to give the reading additional definition and depth. Here is the spread with my own modifications. (San did not state where to place each card except that they circle around the Significator.)

  1. Shuffle the Major Arcana and deal out six cards face down on top of each other. Turn the seventh card face up and place it in the middle of the reading area. This is the Significator and represents a starting point for the reading. Return the other six to the bottom of the deck.
  2. Deal two cards face down and turn one card up, placing this third card at the 10 o’clock position (relative to the Significator). Do this seven times placing every third card in a counterclockwise circle around the Significator [this order is added by me as a result of the example spread that follows]. You will end up with seven cards circling the card drawn in step 1.
  3. Optional: if unsatisfied that these cards suffice, deal three more cards from the remaining thirteen, taking the third, tenth and thirteen cards, and place them above the circle.

San says you are to build a vision of the “present place in the ebb and flow of one’s life,” as “the individual cards and the combining of them provides one with the reading.” You can read this spread for yourself or one friend, but if three people are present then “the reading that results concerns all three as part of the society in which they live and work.”

Here is my spread using the Golden Dawn / Whare Ra Majors: Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2: Hijacking What It Means to Be Human

(Read Part 1 to learn about mentalists, skeptics and cold reading.)

zoltar

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there are at least a half-dozen extremely expensive books marketed by mentalists on tarot, of which I’d never heard in my forty-plus years collecting tarot books. And, they were written by and for professional tarot readers that I didn’t even know existed as a self-identified group. Of course, I was aware there are fraudulent tarot readers who deliberately used cold reading techniques to con their marks. Naively, I had assumed, though, that cold reading was used mostly by fake mediums and clairvoyants (as in the 19th century) and by mentalist entertainers. I had no idea that tarot was regularly taught as a scam except among some phone psychics and those storefront psychics who used it to extort money for removing curses, etc.—a whole different, albeit related, enterprise. [Note: some mentalists are also ethical tarot readers, and not all mentalists deny the paranormal. I am also not referring, in most of what follows, to ethical mentalists who are honest about using mental tricks.] Read the rest of this entry »

Part I: Skeptics, Mentalists and Tarot Readers

mind-readingFor purposes of this article let us assume that there is no paranormal or spiritual aspect to tarot readings. Let’s pretend, for the moment, that all tarot readings have a rational basis in easily explained normal human skills.

Skeptics and mentalists reduce tarot reading to just this level. Mentalists utilize skills to make money in public performances, while skeptics denounce any tarot or psychic readings that don’t acknowledge they are merely mental tricks.  They claim “pseudo-psychics” exploit human weaknesses and take advantage of the desire to easily gain benefit from something. Pseudo-psychic readings are seen as “too-good-to-be-true” and as giving false hope just to make money. Skeptics claim that psychic and tarot readings can be explained by techniques gathered under the terms Cold and Hot Readings. We will ignore hot readings (that fraudulently use information obtained ahead of time) as our purpose is to examine readings where nothing prior is known about the client. Read the rest of this entry »

I experienced a breakthrough regarding tarot when I realized that all the Major Arcana cards are operating somewhere within me at all times. I discovered this from doing a variety of twenty-two card spreads that show where each energy or archetype is operating at the moment. Of course some cards are emphasized or highlighted around particular issues. These are the ones that show up in smaller spreads saying: “Look at me. I’m what’s most important right now regarding your question.” It’s kind of like they’re doing a jig or vibrating more than the others, and thrusting themselves to the front to get your attention. Meanwhile, the others are in the background, quietly doing their own thing or maintaining the status quo.

Sometimes it’s worth seeing the whole picture to understand how each energy or archetype plays its role in relation to the others. There are several ways to do this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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