May your journey to the outer edges be filled with questions, magic, beauty and delight!
May your journey to the outer edges be filled with questions, magic, beauty and delight!
I’ve been thinking about transitions and friendships lately. On three occasions, recently, a name or a picture of someone who was a good friend in the past has popped into my life. I was recalling with some fondness and nostalgia my memories of this person, this person, and that person as their name or picture popped up.
Part of what I teach is “how to lie at Tarot,” and someday I’m going to put it together as a workshop. Sometimes in teaching and in reading tarot, you need to adopt a persona so you can make your point. I did that several years ago and, voila, Madame Zelda was born.
I was teaching beginning Tarot with a friend and we wanted to do a session on how not to read Tarot. “We should role-play it,” I said. She agreed as long as I would take the lead. I chose to be the reader. I chose the cards for the reading, choosing some of the most challenging cards in the deck. You know the ones: nine of swords, ten of swords and the like. I chose some provocative ones like the Devil and the Lovers, too.
Finding practical and comfortable ways to carry around your tarot decks and associated accoutrements can be a challenge. Books, journals, notebooks, handouts seem to be an important part of the experience of Tarot, especially if you are taking a class, going to a conference, or teaching a class. Readers, too, need to have a way to carry it hither, thither, and yon, as my mother says.
Last Wednesday, I wrote about dogs, after the Westminster dog show. So in the spirit of “assorted whimsy,” we’re for dogs over here in this corner of the Tarot world, too.
There are many legends associated with the origins and customs of St. Valentine’s Day, with little known about the true historical fact. Whatever the origins, this holiday is a lot of fun, full of hearts, cherubs, kisses, cuddles, chocolates and red-hot cinnamon hearts.
Some sources say that February 14th was the festival of Juno, the Roman Goddess of women and marriage. This festival was followed by Lupercalia, a very well-documented holiday of the Roman God of agriculture Faunus. At the beginning of the festival, an order of priests called the Luperci gathered at the cave where the she-wolf raised Romulous and Remus, the founders of Rome. They called the boys and young men of Rome to join them as they sacrificed a goat for fertility and a god for purification. The boys would slice the goat hide into strips and dip them into blood. They went into the streets where they slapped Roman women and crops with these strips of hide to ensure fertility and easy childbirth for the women as well as good crops.
Later that same day, the young women of Rome would place their names in an urn; and the city’s unmarried men would draw a name. The men and women would be paired together for a year; a custom that often ended in marriage.
Pope Gelasius declared that February 14th was St. Valentine’s Day in 498 B.C.E. and it is popularly believed that he did this to end the lottery associated with Lupercalia, deeming it an unchristian practice. St. Valentine’s Day did not become connected with romantic love until the medieval era, and it is not clear which St. Valentine the holiday is named for.
The most popular legend is of a priest living near Rome in 270 B.C.E. The Roman Emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage because he believed that unmarried men made the best soldiers. In an empire beset by internal strife and attacks from many different sources, Rome needed many able soldiers. This priest named Valentine took pity on lovers and would administer the sacrament of marriage in secret. Claudius had him arrested. The emperor when meeting Valentine was so charmed by this earnest priest, that he attempted to convert him to the Roman gods so that Valentine could avoid execution. Valentine remained true to his Christian God and was executed to become a martyr and a saint.
While he was awaiting execution, his jailer, Asterius, requested that Valentine heal his blind daughter; and through the miracle of his steadfast faith, Valentine was able to restore her sight. Just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper and wrote a message to her, signing it “From Your Valentine,” a phrase now associated with this holiday of love and messages.
In medieval times, St. Valentine’s Day became associates with romantic love in France and England; it was believed that February 14th was the day that birds paired and mated. This is mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules. It was common in those days for sweethearts to exchange messages on this day and to refer to each other as their “Valentines.”
As with many customs, the St. Valentine’s Day customs followed the Europeans as they settled the New World. The first mass-produced valentines were sold by Esther A. Howland (1828-1904) and were embossed paper lace. Her father owned a large book and stationary store in Worchester Massachusetts and she was inspired by a valentine she received from England. She became known as the Mother of the Valentine, and was known for her elaborate creations of lace, ribbons and pictures.
In the 21st century, this holiday has grown, and so have the customs associated with it. One billion cards per year are mailed on Valentine’s Day. Love and affection in all its manifestations are celebrated on this day. Passion, affection, steadfast love, crushes, lust, friendship, sex and family are all expressed with tokens of love.
So, as Tarot Teachers, we have students who want to be there in our class. How cool is that! There’s an adult learning theory model that says we need to be as aware of their learning needs and make our classroom compatable with their needs and desires.
Through their life’s journey, adult students are less likely to accept information at face value and more likely to think critically about it. Not all, but many!
The joy of this process is that you don’t have to convince the Tarot student that they need to learn the topic. They want to be there and they are most likely ready to learn. You don’t really have to convince them the topic is important or interesting.
I work at a college in the library and I’m part of many college-wide discussions about how to reach our students so that they learn. And much greater than that, they are excited and engaged in the learning process; further that students become passionate about the subject and it becomes a life-long pursuit or interest. It’s what makes us interesting human beings. And then when we reach out to one another, mind to mind, to share our passions, we are become community. Teachers and students alike become community. Passionate, knowledgeable, reflective, thoughtful, and engaged. We argue, we teach, we laugh, we learn, and we play as we learn.
Students who are there because the class is required, are not in this community yet. It takes some doing to get them to that place of passion and delight. For some, there will be topics that never excite them. For others, it will ignite them and the fire will burn for a lifetime.
Most students of Tarot come because they are interested: some are passionately drawn to the cards, perhaps for a long time; some because they are curious; and some because it’s something daring and even dangerous. For teachers of Tarot, we often get a “leg up,” or an extra boost because we don’t have to lure, seduce, and convince a reluctant learner to become engaged in our passionate discoveries.
At the same time, we can’t assume that everyone is going to become instantly attuned to the cards. It is an intimdating subject to study and learn. Seventy-eight cards with upright meanings, reversals, dignities, correspondences, images, and more. Centuries of writings, opinions, rumors, theories, and arguments can cause a student to run screaming to some other, more apparently simple divinitory system.
Then there’s the whoo whoo factor, both good and bad. The Devil’s Picture Book, a Wicked Pack of Cards are really something to fear by some folks and some of our students may have grown up with that idea. It is something to overcome. Then there’s the other side of the whoo whoo factor. People who come to the Tarot because they are following a spirituality that not only accepts but assumes that their practitioners will use some sort of divination. I’ll admit I was on both sides of this coin, having been in a fundamentalist cult and then following an earth-based religion. As teachers, we may have to temper one or other of those expectations.
On the other hand, we have a much greater change to lure our students into love of the Tarot because they are in the class voluntarily. All we have to do is seduce them gracefully and with the knowledge that a wicked deck of cards brings a lifetime of wisdom, passion, devotion, strength, and learning.
For the past few years, I’ve been manifesting pendulums. Not on purpose, they just come to me. For a couple of years, that was the gift I got for presenting at Pagan Pride Days. It was pretty cool, and some of them were just gorgeous. But I was perplexed because I wasn’t particularly drawn to them. I kept joking that it was a sign from the Goddess to learn about pendulums. I bought a couple of books, but didn’t bother to read them.
I’m just back from the Tarot School’s Readers’ Studio. What a fabulous wonderful time. I learned so much (more on that later) and met so many wild, funny, and fabulous people. The accomodations were great and things were just wonderful.