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The Tarot


Tarot is the language of the soul. It describes a process of life we all go through, no matter what culture, and mirrors for us where we are on the path.

It addresses such questions as, where are we going and where have we been? What lessons am I learning? What am I likely to be confronted with today? How does a particular person feel about me? What’s our past life connection? What’s our future together? How is my business doing? What is my money situation…?

It provides guidance on the path, and a means of bringing our unconscious life to light so that we may live it more consciously. Carl Jung said “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Tarot brings us into the realm of the unconscious, and to whatever extent we can stand it, allows us to live there.

No one knows the exact origin of the Tarot. Is it from France, Egypt, Italy, China? There’s indication that it may be from any of these countries. Most documentation goes back to the 14th century though it may actually be 1000 years older. We can trace back a European card game called “Tarocchi” or “Tarock.”

Tarot is an ancient occult and philosophical system consisting of 78 cards divided into Major and Minor Arcana (secrets). The 22 cards of the major arcana represent the journey of a soul that each of us takes. It’s the story of the soul as it confronts life, develops consciousness and ultimately finds enlightenment. It deals with archetypal forces.

The remaining 56 cards (forerunners of modern playing cards) deal with the changing situations we encounter. It consists of 16 court cards and 40 numbered cards divided into four suits: Wands (clubs) represent the fire element/spirit (some decks have it represent air), Cups (hearts) represent water/emotion, Swords (spades) represent air/mind/thinking, Pentacles (diamonds) represent earth/physical/sensation, money and business.

Classically, each suit has a King, Queen, Knight, Page (or Princess). Cards are numbered Ace through 10.

Divination is the process of establishing communication with the gods of the collective unconscious. It may be translated to mean “divine power,” or “of the gods,” and thus indicates the process is to “make divine.” Initially it was a method by which one could communicate with the gods and comprehend their will.

It’s a spiritual science that deals with discovering the divine significance behind “chance” events.


Ongoing classes – email for more information

Tarot Workshop Review

The following is a review of Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack’s tarot workshop on relationships.  I hope you enjoy it.  My goal is to encourage people to attend these intimate programs. Please contact me by email for more information.

Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack’s
Tarot and Relationships Workshop
Irvine, October 25-27, 2002

When I tell non-taroists (or is it taroites?) that I’m going off to a weekend conference on tarot, many of them assume I’ll be entering a world of fairies and elves where grownups wear short pants and play all day.  This is an alternate world, more magical and colorful than our own.

They don’t suppose that tarot enthusiasts might be people with strong intellects who pursue deep psychological insights. In movies or on TV, psychics and card readers are carried away by otherworldly forces.  If they’re like the infamous Miss Cleo, all they have to do is turn a card and they know everything about you and who is cheating in your world.  There’s no discussion of ethics, art or the English language.

Often real taroists turn out to be an amalgam of intellect and intuition.  Many of us communicate with each other via the internet, comparing decks, cards, descriptions, depictions, but we’re not always located close enough to hang out.

Recently, however, I had the good fortune to attend a workshop on Tarot and Relationships taught by master taroists, Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack.  The event, which was hosted by Barbara Rapp, who also sponsors the Los Angeles Tarot Symposium, was an entry into that alternate world where life is at least slightly better, if not more.  While there was no one in short pants, and no Miss Cleo swept in by the wind and speaking in a calypso dialect one might almost dance to, there was indeed something magical.

Most everyone in the Tarot community knows Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack as two highly informed, and gifted authors.  If you don’t know their work, I encourage you to check out any of their books. You won’t be disappointed.  Two of my favorite books of Mary’s are Women of the Golden Dawn and Tarot Constellations, though every one of her books or articles has made a difference for me.  Her current book, Tarot Reversals has been long awaited and well received.

Rachel Pollack’s 78 Degrees of Wisdom is a classic and was one of my essential guides when I started teaching tarot.  Many of you are already working with her “Shining Tribe” deck, which provides a stunning and integrative approach to tarot.  Please read the outstanding review of Rachel’s latest book, The Forest of Souls: A Walk Through Tarot, located elsewhere on this website.

We started the weekend by choosing cards from our decks that spoke to us of relationships, and moved on from there to the discussion of relationships at large.  Indeed, we created an expansive list of some of the relationships in our lives:  Our relationship with food, with our decks, each other, families, etc.

The group questioned the nature of relationships and allowed our cards to answer.  We asked our decks to discuss their relationships with other decks.  We talked about elemental dignities and they’re relationship to each other and our relationship to them.  In other words, how do the different suits feel about each other?  Do they always feel that way?  How do my different decks prefer to be used?

We created spreads.  Relationships being the topic, we looked at different ways to read about a relationship, from where it’s been to where it will likely be.  We talked ethics.  What should we say when asked certain questions?  What are the limits?  Are the limits for you the same as those I practice?

We asked questions of the decks and ourselves, such as, “What is my truth?”  What might one deck want to teach another?  We discussed God, sex and death, but not necessarily in that order.  If a querent is looking for love, why aren’t they finding it?  We used a spread from Thyrsse at tarotmoon.com for that.

How do I connect with my body?  We drew cards from the Shining Tribe deck and laid them out across a willing volunteer.  How many of us think of laying a spread out on ourselves and feeling the cards from that angle?  What changes when you put one card next to another, or me next to you, or Mary beside Rachel?  What new synergy is created?

On another tangible level, the room was comfortable, the setting was lovely, we were well fed, and we were also given complimentary gift bags from Llewellyn.  (Barbara Rapp must have made the arrangement for these.)

Our bags were filled with wonderful tarot products.  Tarot Calendar, post cards, tarot decks….  Each bag contained a new tarot deck (Everyone’s was different.  Mine was the Nigel Jackson deck, which I would never have thought to buy for myself and yet I love.)  It opened my eyes to other decks I might previously have overlooked.  However, since Barbara recreated her store, The Crystal Cave, in the back of the room, we had access to a multitude of decks, which we could genuinely experience before buying.

As to gift bag’s inclusion of the Llewellyn calendar, I don’t know if they’ve begun adding more information and beauty to their calendars, or if I’ve changed (or both) but I’ve totally enjoyed reading the information listed for each month, along with an authors’ choice of spreads.  I’ve then been able to go to the authors’ web sites and learn even more about them and their approaches to tarot.  This is something I don’t usually say about calendars.

It was refreshing to come together for a few days and be in the presence of new friends, invigorating ideas and novel spreads.  Were we intellectual daemons in the realm of fairies and elves?  Perhaps sometimes.  I bought The Wild Spirit Tarot by Poppy Papin, certainly a new adventure for me.

(Barbara is planning the next Mary and Rachel event. You can email your preference date and suggestions for topics to Barbara Rapp at hrabarb@earthlink.net, or simply ask her to add you to the mailing list for upcoming events.)

I look forward to meeting you there!



Shortly after the weekend I emailed the participants that I would be writing an article.  The following two emails sum up the many glowing responses I received:


This was a powerful workshop.  As I often do short relationship spreads for patrons of the fairs, there were several presented which I will adopt for use.  While I wonder at the amount (15 hours) of time we spent on aspects of one topic: relationships, I am equally amazed that the time spent felt just right.  There was great energy in the group and I walked away that night, slept wonderfully, probably because we’d all been in a light trance through out the 2-1/2 days.



To tell the truth, I would have gone to the workshop no matter what the topic.  In my experience, Mary and Rachel always have something exciting to share and I wasn’t disappointed.  I came back home after workshop on a complete high. Armed with five new books, new cards, new spreads, new ideas, I’ve been reading cards non-stop including for Samhain. I flip back and forth between the books comparing opinions and advice with my own until I’m dizzy.

I got more out of these three days than I have with all the other ten classes that I have attended this year and it was just so much fun! The sense of community is strong, Lorrie, I agree and I was impressed with the willingness to share knowledge and insight.  I came away with a validation that I am developing good intuitive skills as a reader. I am also pleasantly amazed to learn all the different ways this group uses Tarot as development tools. Barbara Rapp, thank you for putting it together again and Lorrie, I’m glad you are getting the word out.
Happy readings,
Jo Elliot
Orange, CA