The Rowdy Goddess

An Ecstatic Vision of the Goddess, dancing in harmony with the Universe.

Archive for the tag “learning”

Enriching your Tarot Visual Vocabulary

Strength from Labyrinth Tarot

Strength from Labyrinth Tarot

When you practice anything, whether it be a musical instrument, a spirituality, an exercise program, or a divination practice, you sometimes have to mix it up to keep from getting stale and stuck in routine.  You can mix it up by learning new things, looking at something with a beginners mind, or by expanding your skills.  Tarot has a rich heritage of lore, history, visual images, and traditionally assigned meanings.  Moreover, Tarot is a place full of exploration, experimentation, building new meanings, vision, and voice.  I often tell my students that each deck has a voice and you need to learn to hear the voice and then translate it into meaning, for yourself and for others.  How do you do that?, I’m often asked.

One way is to employ Visual Thinking Strategies (VST), an active teaching technique.  I learned it in the context of leading it with a group.  Today, I’m attempting to explain how I employ these techniques when I am alone and learning a new deck.  It’s part knowledge and part intuition as applied this way.  I imagine the scholars that develop would cringe at this little bit of Unverified Personal Gnosis!  We live in a society where we are bombarded and saturated with visual messages, and yet we are not always literate in the language.  This has helped me be more fluent in visual language.  It helps as a Tarot Reader.  If you read all the time with the same deck, it’s important to keep it fresh, as you know.  This helps expand your vocabulary and look at an old friend with fresh eyes.

Visual Thinking Strategies is used by art educators to help people interpret what they see in front of them, do develop an artistic vocabulary, and to aid in better expression, either verbally or in writing.  It is usually a facilitated discussion process that encourages depth of analysis.  VTS is centered on students and is an experiential process.  Students are looking at the primary object, not secondary sources or critical analyses.  Participants are encouraged to develop a new vocabulary and VTS provides a structured approach to construct new meaning.

It is a simple process and I’m going to describe how a facilitator does this and then give you some ideas of doing this when you are alone with your cards.  The facilitator presents the groups with a painting or other kind of artwork and says, “Take a minute and look at this picture.”  After a minute, asks “what is going on in this picture?”  As the students gives their response and the facilitator paraphrases their responses and points to what they have pointed out.  Then the facilitator probes deeper, “What is going on in this picture?” When the students respond, the facilitator asks, “What makes you say that?”  When the responses reach a lull, the facilitator goes for even more depth by saying, “What can we find?”, and then continues, making links to previous statements about the image.

Three things are happening here:  Paraphrasing, Pointing, and Linking.  Each is an important part of the process of hearing the voices of the images.

Paraphrasing helps students understand that their thoughts are heard, understood, and valued.   In addition, they can see their idea grow and contribute to the group understanding as the conversation goes on.  This kind of technique is inclusive and creates mutual respect for ideas and interpretations.  It also has the potential of growing an individuals’ vocabulary and ability to see nuance and express nuanced meaning.

Pointing engages the student and helps them to keep actively learning and helps the conversation stay on the image.  Each student in the group hears other students being acknowledged and sees what they have observed, allowing for collaboration.  It also ensures that the facilitator is accurately identifying what the student meant to point out!

Making links between one observation and another builds the ideas and allows the construction of new knowledge and understanding.  It helps everyone stretch their ability to reason and pointing out difference and building the meaning incrementally allows the student to experience the evolution of knowledge and wisdom.

The goal of the session is to have the students leave wanting more, more knowledge, more exploration, and to seek more “answers.”  The faciltator does not summarize, allowing the students to remember or choose what is most important or memorable.  And of course, compliment the students and encourage them for the skills they demonstrated.

As an individual Tarot Reader or student, how can you use these techniques to enrich your understanding of individual cards?  You may want to journal your response and practice on each card a couple or three times.  That way you create a conversation with yourself.  Say, you start on a Monday and repeat on Wednesday, you can look at Monday self and draw a connection,

Take a look at the card at the top of the page.  What is going on in the picture?  What did you see that made you say that.  For instance, I might say that it’s some kind of circus act with a woman and a lion.  I say that because if you look at her body, it/she is not pulling against the lion, but rather placing her open hands on his mouth.  It’s almost like they are doing a very strong, active dance together.  What more can you see?  The rope doesn’t seem to be a restraint, but rather something used to enhance their interaction and it forms an infinity sign.  It seems that the interaction between human and wild is an active one, that is a constant balancing act.  One that combines fearlessness with careful balance and discernment.  For both creatures, the ‘dance’ of their connection is through constant awareness and understanding.

I would stop there and come back and look at it another day.  I’m not terribly familiar with this deck.  On the basis of writing this blog, I went ahead and bought a copy so I could continue my interaction with more “hands-on.”  If you, Dear Reader, try this, let me know how it goes.  It’s fun to do as a group and great to do alone.

Be gentle with yourself and honor all your insights.

I Guess We Don’t Have To Do That Again

Einstein-on-insanityI’ve been talking to several people in different parts of my life about this statement:  “I guess we won’t have to do that again.”  It’s from my mother and it is considered another “Gailism.”  It is one of my mother’s classic phrases.   I first remember her using it when we went to this sub shop that we had heard about for years.  The food was supposed to be fabulous and wonderful.  It was some distance from our house and when we finally got to go there to eat, it was clear they were getting ready to close permanently.

It was a weird atmosphere and the food was lackluster and tasteless.  At the end of our meal, my mother said deadpan:  I guess we don’t have to do that again.”  Such dry humor, layered irony, and ruefulness.  We didn’t get to eat out much so a special treat really fell flat.  In so many ways.

And, of course, there is great wisdom in that statement.  We do not have to repeat bad experiences, we can move on, and we can live through disappointment.  And in my family, we move through disappointment into laughter as quickly as possible.  The statement is reminiscent of the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein:  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  As human beings, we do that so often.  We choose the same path, the same type of significant other, the same diet and so forth.  Then we wonder why there’s not better or different results.

In our wisdom, we do learn from our errors, our wrong choices, or even choices that were right at the time but wrong now.  Hooray for us!  We can move on to make new mistakes and new choices and to expereience more neSix of Wandsw [insert rude adjective] growth opportunities.  It’s our ability to learn from the past and embrace new choices that make us stronger and wiser.

Sometimes those old issues and errors fool us.  As one friend puts it, the mistakes get dressed up in new party clothes and seduce us again.  If we are smart and if we are lucky, we recognize the old thing in the new duds and catch ourselves before we fall.  Sometimes we learn that there are issues that repeat for us and we need to go deeper to learn the meaning of that for us.  The human experience is rich in texture and scars.

When we triumph over our old errors, the phrase “I guess I don’t have to do that again,” becomes an anthem of victory and accomplishment.  We can move from the irony of that statement into a celebration of the richness of our own experiential lives.

The Six of Wands in the Tarot is a victory card.  It depicts the celebration and triumph of a fight well fought and fairly won.  The funny thing is, the figure in the card is looking to the future and for more things to overcome.  But in this moment, he is taking the time to dress up and celebrate his scars and his resilience.

Students who want to be there…the joys and the terror!!

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.

Adults look at what as taught as an Experience which they take in and Reflect on it through the lens of past learning experiences and the style in which they learn. Then they process the subject and Connect it to their life experience, their thoughts, philosophies which tend to be more fully formed than when teaching children and young adults. When they make this connection [or not], they Decide the relevance of the topic.

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!

  • They will ask questions
  • They will evaluate your statements and make counter-arguments
  • They will be able to admit that they don’t know something and ask for clarification.
  • Adult students are interested, willing to examine beliefs and underlying assumptions.
  • They will listen and give feedback–there lies terror and joy!
  • They look for evidence, will check your facts
  • They will adjust their opinion
  • They will examine and reject information if they find it is incorrect or irrelevant

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.

The terror is that in their reflection on the material, if they don’t find it relevant and don’t make a connection to it, they won’t continue to learn it. I think that includes the idea that “this stuff is too hard to learn.” They are more likely to know that life is short and there’s much to learn. They will vote with their feet.
So we start with an advantage and we end up on the precipice. Like the fool, we step off the cliff into a grand adventure. Perhaps we will fly or perhaps we will land with a thud. I take reassurance in the fact that Wil E. Coyote always comes back for more. His relationship with the roadrunner is always on, always active, and always full of energy.

Teaching Tarot and the New Student…some initial thoughts

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.

Learning about the Goddess and the God

Learning About the Goddess & the God

Because of my academic background, I believe it is important to be grounded in scholarship but not be bound up in it. It’s a balance between what others can teach you and your own internal wisdom; sometimes called UPG, or “unverified personal gnosis.” Equally as valid and sometimes even more so as we learn to dance with the Old Ones.

Think about how you were in junior high. And then think about how you are now. Certainly you retain some of that essence but you have grown and become something different, haven’t you? Thank heavens I have!! So has the Goddess. She does not remain static as the deity of yesteryear. She moves through the heavens and dances with the stars, ever becoming.

This is something I wrote five years ago in Womonspeak, “What I believe…is that many of the goddess stories have been mis-tod and that we can retrieve her stories by asking Her what they are. Embedded in the HIStory stories are the real woman-centered stories of heart and soul….and I call upon her courage, wisdom and dark mystery. You won’t find the real [goddess] in Ovid or Bulfinch but you find her in your heart and soul. I believe that Perfection lies in process and we are evolving as is the Goddess. So the Goddess become what she becomes and the whole process is Perfection. The song, “I am a child of the Universe, being born every moment” has deep meaning if we believe that “I am goddess.” It means that the Goddess is not bound by the patriarchal writings of the past but is being born each moment.”

Just as we are not bound by our own past. We create and re-create ourselves whenever we stand true to our own ecstatic and wild nature.

So when I’m called by a Goddess or a God. I do the research. I am a librarian by nature as well as by training! And then I meditate, journey, pray and walk with this Goddess. I draw Her down and feel her wisdom.
Then I write or embroider or find a way to express the wonder that I’ve discovered.

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