Tea Break Tarot School: Tarot Playbook

We began this journey in January 2019. I was eight months into living with my folks and helping care for my mum, still caring for children and trying to manage some work on the side. Rather than the freedom I had hoped for once my children reached adulthood, I found the walls closing in again with renewed caring responsibilites. Oh woe and so forth.

I spent a while feeling sorry for myself and then decided I needed to do something about sorting that out.

I began working through the Artist’s Way. I was also coming up on three years of working with tarot, which had been an incredible support during significant health needs and big personal transitions.

At that time I was still deeply in the mindset that I couldn’t do things unless “an expert” showed me how, or I got a piece of paper which said I was “qualified”. I was also conscious that tarot could be an expensive interest. When I was a young mum in the late nineties there were times when we couldn’t afford food, and I knew that not everyone in the world had access to the resources to pay for classes and materials.

I imagined that younger version of me, toddler in the hallway, baby on hip, prepping pasta and canned tuna for dinner in a one bed flat. What would she need to learn tarot? She didn’t have much time, what with two children under two. She didn’t have much energy and she didn’t have much money. She would need small bite lessons, not more than ten minutes, she would need an encouraging voice, she would need something light and fun and inexpensive.

I decided to create a free tarot class, and a blog was the affordable way to do it. I also wanted to experiment and see if I could really “read” tarot from just the images on the cards…

I gathered the decks I had and began.

Now some two years later I’m gathering the blog posts together to publish them. They are still essentially blog posts, though I have rewritten them, and added material throughout. In some cases my views of the cards are different now, life has moved on and with it my understanding of spirituality and tarot, so the updates reflect this. I was a literature student at university. I learned that meaning doesn’t exist in the book itself, rather I make meaning as I read, I am a co-creator of meaning. With this in mind the writing is creative and reflective, hopefully to encourage folks to work with their own imaginative and creative selves as they engage with the cards. The intention is that readers will create their own meanings for cards which draws on their lived experiences. In this way we can add to the understanding of tarot as a book of wisdom for our post-modern mystical lives.

The book is structured as a “playbook” (I liked that better than “workbook”), with space for notes and comments, sketches and doodles. It won’t tell you what to think but I hope it will encourage you to explore further with tarot and play with your own emerging meanings.

I’m hoping to have it “out there” by the end of April 2021.

Empathetic Tarot

When I began working with tarot I learned to read intuitively. I studied the Rider-Waite deck, as so many modern interpretations use this system, but I also learned to use my intuitive abilities and inner-knowing to read. I would take the card and notice the images, seeking connections in memory and imagination to draw out the reading.

What has struck me recently is that alongside this way of reading I also read tarot empathetically.

I spent the first few years of writing this blog living with the cards. As I wrote each of the original card posts I found that it resonated in my lived experience, when I was working with the cups I was dealing with deep emotional work, with the swords major adjustments in thought patterns and shifts in ideology.

I don’t know whether the cards where influencing my focus in a subtle way, or whether I was facing these situations in any case and the cards resonated; I suspect it was a mystical symbiosis of the two.

In any case I discovered, as you may have also, that I could “feel” the cards. The ten of cups would bring a deep sigh of contentment and satifsfaction, with a bittersweet realisation that this bliss could and would not last forever; the devil would bring me back to a sense of my patterns and well-worn ruts, I could feel the stuckness, the cycle of repetition and the drowsy numbness it induced, safe but also frozen, deadening.

I am coming to realise that for me this is how I read. When I pull a card it is not just the image which captures my notice now, not just the idea of it; I feel it throughout my body, like a plucked string, vibrating. In a reading this means that I can “feel” something perhaps of what the querent is feeling; in a deeper way I can “see” the situation that they are inhabiting, and also the way they might take to get through and out.

Maybe this is true for all readers, but I have felt that this is something we don’t talk about when we speak of intuitive readings, not just our mental faculties, also the knowledge of our bodies and their wisdom. We are one species, and our species has shared the experiences of life we see depicted in the tarot, over millenia. It is a common language of feeling.

How can we deepen our working with this understanding of the cards?

In the Tea Break Tarot live class we are working with a card each week. The card becomes our companion as the week progresses, perhaps we keep it on our altar, or carry an image of it with us. We notice its energies at play in daily life; in the people we encounter, in daily routines and experiences. We know how it feels, for instance, like the Emperor, to take charge of a situation, to put plans in place, whether we are engaged in a creative project or planning a house move. We know how it feels to wait suspended like the Hanged One, relaxing into a situation over which we have no control, consciously choosing to surrender.

Connecting these lived and felt experiences to our readings brings them to life and, when we share readings with others, adds an extra layer to our understanding. We can never assume that we know what someone else is experiencing but using our empathetic abilities alongside our imagination enables us to read with compassion and humanity.

Well meaning

This post is inspired by the folks over in the Tea Break Tarot Facebook group.

Discussion yesterday explored the idea of tarot card meanings. This was one of my biggest blocks with tarot when I began working with the cards…how on earth would I learn what they all meant, how would I recall that information during a reading? Seventy-eight different cards, and the variety of different combinations found through working with several cards at once had me in a spin.

When I started out I did choose to explore the Rider-Waite system and worked through a teach-yourself-tarot book to get me underway. However what I realised afterwards grew out of my experiences as a life-long bookworm and English literature student.

I came to understand that to give a fixed meaning to tarot was similar to saying that Van Gogh’s Sunflowers had one set, authorised meaning, or that a particular poem could only be understood in one way. I came to see that tarot was like the books and plays I had studied, that while the writer might have had certain thoughts when they recorded their text, once it was “out there” the reader had at least as much of a creative role in developing their own meaning as they read, from their own perspectives and lived experiences.

I believe the same is true of tarot. While there do seem to be common, archetypal themes within the tarot, situations that are shared as part of human experience, each individual tarot reader brings their own “reading” to the cards. Each of us looks at the cards with our own unique “lenses”. These are made from each of our individual life stories, and are constantly evolving as we do.

While it is helpful to reference the tarot collective for information and wisdom, it is as important to allow the “meanings” of the cards to come to us through our own intuitive gifts. There is no awarding body able to rubber stamp or authorise our interpretations, and while some people believe that there is only one right way to do tarot I personally think that’s a bunch of gatekeeping nonsense (I substituted this for my original more Anglo-Saxon word choice). Give yourself time but in the end this is a personal journey, as much as any creative and intuitive practice; others can support you in gaining skills but how you go from there is your gift and also your contribution to the collective wisdom and understanding.

I am also struck by the notion that the “traditional” Rider-Waite system is a mere hundred or so years old (and given that tarot is at least 600 years old therefore not that traditional) and created by white, well-off Victorian folks who were mostly male. Whatever we take from these cards it will be helpful necessary to filter it through the perspectacles of inclusivity watching out for racism, able-ism, sexism, homophobia and other bias along the way.

It can feel scary and strange to wake up to the realisation that there is no “ultimate truth” to learn or uncover in tarot. Ultimately there is no single answer to the question “what do the cards mean?” Divination is a journey, a means to guidance, not the destination. For me, that is the wonder and gift of oracles, exploring the key, unlocking the magic, having the discussions, uncovering the path one step at a time.

Needles and pins

A friend recently shared some information about household divination. This brought me back to how I got started in Tea Break Tarot School; the desire to make magical practice and divination inclusive and accessible. I have often wondered what I would do without Amazon or Etsy or Facebook and Instagram to show me smart new oracle decks and divination tools? I wonder what my foremothers did when they needed to seek answers?

Reading tea leaves, using a block of laundry blue in a bowl of water, making a needle pendulum, dropping marbles, candle wax…these are methods of divination under the wire, without the approval of a publisher or brand, no certification available, only a trust in your own wisdom as you work your way, inching forwards, with ancestral whispers for guidance and support.

I love these older methods of practice. I love them because they are at hand. I want to do some pendulum work; I find an old needle and a piece of thread and I can begin. There is no need for excess income or to wait for a delivery driver. In a society driven by the need to consume there is a magical freedom to discovering and practising a form of divination without a book’s guidance or YouTube video.

I sit at the table, looking over a rainwashed sky and thread my needle. It swings wildly and enthusiastically in a wide circle of yes as I test it out, then a definite back and forth line for a no. It seems happy to help, keen, like a puppy, to retrieve answers, quivering over my palm as it comes to rest. I have used needles countless times in my life but never for this purpose. I wonder what other tools are waiting to be uncovered among kitchen cupboards and bedroom drawers.

This year I am working with the idea that less is more, embracing the resources already at hand, shedding the unused or surpassed. I feel a shift within as I acknowledge a way of knowing lost in the sterilised and sanitised work of mass-produced oracles, the rawness of magic teased from everyday tools hovering expectantly, waiting for me to wake up to its presence, and my own power.

Desert Island Decks

When I first started using tarot I was looking for answers. A personal health crisis and news of a life-limiting illness within the family, coupled with mid-life transitions had me brim full of questions and eager for guidance as I navigated these previously uncharted waters.

I spent a long while buying decks. I think on some level I was looking for the one that would finally provide the missing piece (or is that missing peace?).

It was over two years into my tarot journey when a small voice spoke up, somewhere at the back of my conscious thoughts. Hold on a moment, she said, arms folded, what if the answer isn’t “out there”, what if you won’t find it in a tool or teacher…what if it’s inside you and you just have to give it time to get out?

I had been looking all over for my answer and found, like Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist, that it was right where I had been all along.

With this in mind I grew to realise that my decks were helpful allies in my inner quest, and for supporting me as I steered life’s oceans, but the answers were ultimately something I had to uncover within. I realised that on some level one well-known deck would be enough.

We’ve been having a discussion about favourite decks in the Tea Break Tarot group, and it inspired me to ponder this. If you were cast away on a desert island, which would be your desert island deck? Which one deck would you take for support and guidance? On the radio show they get eight tracks, one book and one luxury…what would this look like for your own magical and divination practice, what are the handful of tools that you really need?

In the run up to the festive season we can easily get caught up in purchasing and longing for “new” and while that can be fun it can also leave us tight and dissatisfied. Maybe now is a good time to take a step back to be thankful for what is here already, the tools which have brought us this far, to ponder whether new is going to bring what we are seeking or whether there is an ally in our existing supplies that we could get better acquainted with…rather than going further out, can we go deeper in?

Bright Blessings, Fiona x

Tea Break Tarot School live

At Samhain I went to Curiosity Coffee in Canterbury to host some ten-minute intuitive tarot tutorials. It reminded me how much magic exists in live teaching interactions, how sharing learning opens up new insights and possibilities.

With this in mind I’ll be opening the doors to the first live cohort of Tea Break Tarot School in January.

Back when I started this project the aim was to provide ten-minute lessons that could be accessed over a quick cuppa in the middle of a busy day; while the baby was asleep for half an hour, or the spuds were boiling…the materials will remain open access here.

The live class will be held over two years and includes:

A monthly live Zoom mentoring call (recorded for access if you’re not able to join live).

Peer pairings for practice and support

Regular reflective assignments to track your progress and map your learning journey

A certificate of completion detailing topics covered on receipt of your final reflective assignment.

Class will begin on Saturday 23rd January 2021 at 6pm GMT and the calls will be recorded for those who aren’t able to join live. Bookings are open now at the early-bird rate of £111, contact me if you’d like to discuss payment options.

I will be available to answer questions in the group, come and say hello 🙂

Counting down to Yule

We are beginning to think about our Yule preparations here. My children are grown up now, however the excitement of the festive season lingers. One of my favourite traditions is the advent calendar.

While advent calendars and candles are closely linked with Christian traditions, I was pondering how I could find a way to “count down” to Yule and celebrating the return of the light with a more witchypractice.

I am conscious at this time of year of reflecting on the months past and pondering intentions for 2021. With this in mind I’ve created 22 days of tarot prompts, following through the Major Arcana.

These will be posted in the Tea Break Tarot Group (which is free to join!) and on my Instagram from Sunday 29th November. A chance to reflect and regroup at the year’s close and connect the Fool’s Journey with our own lived experiences.

Brightest blessings.

Storytime continued

In the last post we looked at telling the story in one card, exploring colours, images, the characters and possibilities seen there.

In this lesson we’ll look at working with two or more cards.

Begin by choosing two cards at random and set them side by side. Now imagine that these are two images in a story book, or still frames from a movie.

Repeat the exercise that you worked with previously (here) working with both cards.

In the first frame the story begins in the second it continues or we see a conclusion. Remember this can be as creative as you like. Free associating with the words that the images inspire, or with quotations or songs that spring to mind, helps us to construct our own meaning, and a “reading” that is both unique and drawn from our own experience.

How would you tell the story of these two cards?

For me this carries the energy of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers blocked by parental disapproval.

If I take that tale further into a reading, I would get a sense, from my story, of passion blocked by structures. Perhaps the desire to create blocked by the “ought” of being sensible and plugging in to the 9 – 5, an either/ or dichotomy.

Once you feel confident with your two frame story extend it to three with a traditional beginning/ middle/ end format.

You can turn this into a tarot game with one or more friends, each picking a card and telling the next part of the story, like the game Consequences…let your imagination run free!

All of these practices help you to connect to your cards and to your own innate storytelling abilities, they break down the barriers we often live with around “getting it right” or the “true meanings” of things, and allow our intuition and creativity to flow.

If you’re enjoying these posts then please do come and join us in the Tea Break Tarot group. It is a safe and inclusive space run by a queer witch for tarot mavens and explorers alike. Looking forward to welcoming you.

Story Time

When I was a primary school teacher story time was my favourite part of the day.

We’d get the class tidy and the children would come and sit on the carpet and choose a story (or three) for me to read to them. It was a gathered moment at the end of the day, a space when we could all have a few quieter moments after the busy work of learning.

Stories are a core part of human experience. We have been telling each other stories for thousands of years, drawing them on cave walls and in temples. Stories allow us to weave our histories, shape our own stories and experiences. Folk and fairy stories speak of the unspeakable, capturing the longing for understanding of our origins and exploring the mysteries of conscious existence.

For me story telling is a core part of tarot reading. The cards are the pictures in a cosmic storybook encouraging me to weave a narrative. When we read cards it becomes an art, a craft. To read tarot in this way allows for the interplay, the interweaving, of creative flow and intuitive insights. It binds common human experiences together and anchors them in the specific circumstances of our question or our querent’s query.

Practicum:

I first found a version of this exercise first Mary K.Greer’s 21 Ways to read a tarot card. I find it a great way to start readings, the process of detailing the card begins to get the creativity and intuition flowing and paves the way for deeper insights and messages to come through.

Pull a card at random. What can you see? What objects are there? Describe them in as much detail as possible.

Who is in the picture? What are they doing? Why might that be? How might they be feeling?

What else is going on? For instance here I am struck by the waterfall in the background. What would that sound like? What does it suggest to you? How would it be to stand in the meadow with this Empress, what sounds might be around you?

Now tell a story from this one card you have drawn. Give the figures in the card names, describe the setting, describe the emotional colour of the card, explain what is happening and what they will do next.

Your story can be as silly or sensible as you like. We aren’t seeking to create a fixed “truth” but to explore the emotional and experiential connections that arise from this card. Allowing ourselves to tell stories plugs into a sense of creativity and flow which unpicks the ruled lines of our book learning and rigid education-system experiences and allows us to connect to older ways of knowing and understanding.

We will be exploring this further in the next “lesson”.

School’s out for summer

We have cleared the walls of our imaginary class. You have your books packed up and have swapped numbers and IG accounts with others from the class.

I am brewing us a final cup of tea.

Today we close this part of our work together.

During the past eighteen months (at the time of writing) we have considered what tarot is, how to create sacred space and daily practice, we have explored the elements and their connection with tarot and travelled through the Major and Minor Arcana together.

I intend to continue to post here occasionally moving forward. For now it is time for a well-earned summer break.

If you would like to come and join the group of “real” people in the Tea Break Tarot School Facebook group you would be most welcome.

And if you would like to take your tarot studies further you can join me on Patreon for the Diving Deeper tarot class.

If I don’t see you in person I wish you well on your tarot journey and look forward to meeting with you again soon xxx