Two years ago, I went to my first North Star Tarot Conference and figured I’d be back the following year. That didn’t happen, but I was able to make it this year.
Structure- and schedule-wise, not much changed. The conference started on Friday evening and wrapped up on Sunday around lunchtime. I got there in that liminal period between when I could check into my hotel room and the beginning of the conference, and ended up watching vendors set up. Indeed, I bought my first tarot deck of the weekend (of two) before the conference even officially got going.
This year, knowing there’d be a swap table, I remembered to bring a few things for it. They mostly disappeared, and I feel much better about setting them free in the world rather than slipping them into a recycling bin. In return, I’ve acquired a laminated card of tarot keywords. Do I need one? Not particularly, but I’m interested in how other people summarize the cards, and it’s not like it takes up a lot of space. Perhaps I will set it free on another swap table someday.
It must be traditional for the conference to start with a beginners’ program and a session on tarocchi running concurrently. I still have minimal interest in tarocchi, so off to Nancy Antenucci’s beginners’ session I went. From a handout of statements, we chose ones that described our daily lives and the current themes in our lives. We then pulled the cards that were linked to those statements and read those cards to a partner. It was a flashback for me, because the statements were taken from Gail Fairfield’s Choice-Centered Tarot, which was one of my first tarot books back in the ’90s. The evening continued with the opening Imbolc ritual. Unlike two years ago, at least I managed to stay awake through it! I would dazzle you with stunning photos of the altar piled with blue cloths (to be blessed by Brighid), but I’d left my phone back in my room and was camera-less. After that was “Late Night Tarot Hoopla,” which I must leave up to your imagination as I went back to my room after the ritual.
Every year, the conference features one or two cards from the Major Arcana as its theme, and this year, the cards were Justice and the High Priestess: “Speak the Truth You Know.” On Saturday, Jeannette Roth from the Tarot Garden gave a talk on the evolution of the Justice card. I enjoyed the talk, and the pictures of how the design of the Justice card has changed over the centuries were fascinating, but, um, well, the card still doesn’t appeal much to me aesthetically. Still, the discussion brought up interesting points: should Justice have wings or sit between pillars? How about the name of the card? Is “Justice” good, or do you like Crowley’s “Adjustment” better, or maybe something else? Where does karma figure into this? (Does it at all?) After lunch, Michael Foster discussed ethics and tarot reading: what do you do when the cards say one thing, but you’d prefer to advise the querent to do something else? He shared a spread he’d created that evokes the essence of Justice to distinguish between the two. The third speaker of the day, James Wells, explored “How to Be a Priestess of Justice.” I’m glad this had handouts that I can review in my own time, because it involved some thinking and writing, and needed more time than the schedule allowed. Saturday night’s programming was a movie night with games, but again, I headed back to my room.
On Sunday, we were back to two options in programming, with Chuck Boe doing an introduction to Lenormand cards and Melani Weber doing something that sounded artsy-craftsy. Since I know Chuck and I wanted to see his presentation, that second track remains a mystery to me. Chuck started with the story of Marie Lenormand and the invention of the cards. He then led everyone through a brief introduction to the Grand Tableau.* I assume the presentation was a success: at least one person at my table sounded interested in learning more, and perhaps acquiring a deck. (Plus I hear the Tarot Garden sold lots of Lenormand decks.) After that, there was a reading practice session from Nancy Antenucci and Michael Foster, and a final ceremony that closed the Imbolc ritual from Friday night.
Besides the tarot decks, I got a nice door prize. It was a two-parter: a blank book with a Temperance card printed on the front cover, and Your Tarot Your Way: Learn to Read with Any Deck by Barbara Moore. A book by Barbara Moore I haven’t read yet: cool!
*The Grand Tableau is a layout that uses all 36 cards in the deck. (This is less scary than it sounds.) If you’ve studied tarot, you know that the Celtic Cross spread is included in almost every introductory guide, even though it’s not the easiest spread for a beginner. Well, it’s the same thing with the Grand Tableau and introductory Lenormand guides.