Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Report from Omega: Storms, Heat, and a Little Tarot Magic

in Classes & Workshops, Community, Tarot, Travel

Omega Institute, in the Hudson River Valley of New York, is like a big summer camp for adults, with a mind/body/spirit flavor. The grounds are lovely, filled with trees, gardens, cabins and classrooms. When I visited last week, the place hummed with activity, with hundreds of people visiting. But there was an undercurrent of peace that held it all together, possibly from all the meditating, yoga and other spiritual practices constantly taking place. I especially appreciated the emphasis on sustainable living, and the local, organic food. There were plenty of gluten-free alternatives in the dining hall, and little signs that let us know which local farm or dairy supplied the greens, the yogurt, the honey. Loved that.

Mary Greer, Caitlin Matthews and I did a little shopping — uh, exploring — the day before the conference started. We drove alongside the Hudson River, stopping to walk the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion and to visit the home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. (So many interesting stories there!)

Caitlin sang to a tree . . .

and she and Mary found a replica of a “divination plate” that was used for parlor games a hundred-plus years ago.

The weather was a little crazy-making. It was either so hot that I was constantly sweating and strategizing ways to stay cool (like keeping my water bottle filled with ice), or there were sudden deluges that turned the Omega pathways into muddy waterways.

On the evening of the Big Storm, Caitlin and I sat on the front porch of the Bittersweet B&B, watching lightning flash behind the trees across the road, listening to thunder and the sound of plunking raindrops on the portico roof. We were lucky; the worst of the storm passed us by. We didn’t even lose power.

Caitlin, of course, sang to the storm, soothing and calming it. Soothing and calming us.

There were five teachers at the Omega Tarot ConferenceMary Greer, Rachel Pollack, Caitlin Matthews, Bob Place, and me. I have been reading books written by these four and collecting their decks since the mid-80’s, so it was quite an honor to share the “stage” with them.

We had a great group of folks join us, most of whom were new to me (and the Gaian was new to them). The thread that ran through all our presentations was how creating our own decks changed our relationship to tarot. We had lively discussions about tarot history and how subsequent generations reinterpreted the cards; how we each reinterpreted the cards to reflect the themes of our own decks; and whether or not one can be “wrong” when creating new decks. (We decided that no one is wrong, or everyone is! How’s that for tarot fundamentalism: All decks are wrong!!) We also each told the story of how we found tarot (or how it found us).

In my workshop, I spoke about the different things that people have taught me about my own deck, and how I feel it has taken on a life of its own. I gave birth to it (after a nine-year labor!), but now it is making its own way in the world, and is creating its own set of new relationships.

We did lots of hands-on exercises. Everyone’s favorite part! In one of the exercises I did with Rachel (led by Mary), I got clear direction on which of several creative projects to focus on next (an oracle deck based on the Wheel of the Year). That was huge for me, as I have been dithering a bit.

Saturday night, we held an open house for anyone on the Omega campus who was interested in coming. We answered questions about tarot from a packed audience, and taught a little tarot history. Then we each did a few sample readings. It was fascinating to see how each teacher had a different way of reading the cards.

The first reading I did turned out to be one of those extraordinary moments of tarot magic that you just can’t plan.

A young woman wanted to know whether or not the timing was good for her to try to get pregnant. I helped her get clear about her question, and we finally asked for “deep wisdom about starting a family.”  I turned up three cards: Justice, the Gardener, and the Child of Fire.  The first thing I noticed was that all three figures were wearing red — the color of life, of blood, of fertility. It tied all three figures together, making them a family. I asked the young woman if anything from the cards jumped out at her, and she pointed to the Justice card and said “my husband is bald.”

“Ah,” I said. “And notice that the Gardener is pregnant. So we have Papa (Justice), Mama (the Gardener), and Baby (Child of Fire).

Happy family. Happy family . . . there really isn’t anything else to say.”

I felt the air thicken, always a signal to me that the spirits are near, and the young woman was so moved she started to cry. There were sighs and murmurs all around.

Her friend said, “Time to start picking out boys’ names!” (The Child of Fire is a boy.)

It was a beautiful thing.

Mary smiled and commented, “Moments like this are why we all do this — why we’ve made tarot our life’s work.”

The conference ended with hugs from lots of new friends. Later that evening, I shared a delicious Thai dinner with Mary and Rachel in a Rhinebeck bistro, then one last night at the Bittersweet B&B. My travel day on Monday was 19 hours long, with two trains, a plane, a bus ride and interminable waiting inbetween. I read two mystery novels and Michael Moore’s new memoir on the way home.

I’m glad to have seen the Hudson River, and to have made the acquaintance of a number of Plant People in the Rhinebeck countryside. And I’m happy to have bonded with other members of the Shining Tarot Tribe.

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Cari Ferraro Tue - Aug 07th 2012 9:51 am

    Such a lovely report, Joanna. Love the juicy reading you did at the open house, beautiful! I would have loved to hear Caitlin singing to the storm! Glad you home safe and sound.

    • Joanna Tue - Aug 07th 2012 10:21 am

      Thank you Cari. I would have loved to have had you there!

  • Jo | Crafting the Sacred Tue - Aug 07th 2012 10:38 am

    Sounds like such a wonderful camaraderie between you and the other teachers – what a treat that must have been to everyone who attended! Lovely hearing the reading process and outcome of the fertility question – of course the earthy wisdom of your Gaian deck is perfect for such questions.

    I’d love to hear more about what you’ve learned about your deck from those of us who use it.

    • Joanna Tue - Aug 07th 2012 10:46 am

      Thank you Jo!

      Yes, those 3 cards turning up just kind of amazed everyone. You can’t make this stuff up! 🙂

      I think I’ll write a blog post on the topic of my talk . . . thanks for letting me know it would be interesting to you!

  • Carolyn Cushing Tue - Aug 07th 2012 11:27 am

    Thanks for the report and allowing us to dip into the magic. My spine tingled to think of Caitlin singing to the wonderful trees of the Hudson Valley and upon seeing your beautiful reading. Then I so loved the idea of all decks are right or all decks are wrong. Ha, ha!

    • Joanna Tue - Aug 07th 2012 11:51 am

      Thanks Carolyn! Yes, Rachel in particular got a wicked glint in her eye when she suggested that we proclaim that all tarot decks are wrong! 😉

      And I should have mentioned in this post that, going along with the theme of learning from others about my deck, that I shared *your* wonderful spread for “Sacred Practices of the Gaian Tarot” with Path, Practices and Posture. We should share it here soon, don’t you think?

      • Carolyn Cushing Tue - Aug 07th 2012 3:05 pm

        True, I think that most of the sharing about the 3Ps has been in the GTC. It would be great to have it up here.

  • Angelica Jayne Taggart Tue - Aug 07th 2012 4:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing about the event — and I’d love to see that Path, Practices and Posture reading!!

    Blessings, Angelica

    • Joanna Wed - Aug 08th 2012 6:49 am

      Angelica, Carolyn is going to write a guest post for us on that very topic!

  • Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady Tue - Aug 07th 2012 9:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing the report and the pictures!

    • Joanna Wed - Aug 08th 2012 6:49 am

      You’re so welcome, Theresa!

  • Waverly Tue - Aug 07th 2012 10:14 pm

    Loved hearing about your experiences. Truly a remarkable gathering and a graceful and gracious account.

    • Joanna Wed - Aug 08th 2012 6:50 am

      Thanks, Wave!

  • Judith Wed - Aug 08th 2012 5:21 am

    I read the Michael Moore autobiography this year too and was impressed with his…assertiveness and concern about the world.

    The Tree Affirmations deck calls trees “The Standing People” and I always greet them that way when I walk in the woods. Imagine singing to them? Way to be Caitlin. I have a favourite tree on my property that I hug. I often pat them, but my singing voice is a bit wobbly.

    And Rachel has let her hair go grey–yippee I’m not the only one.

    • Joanna Wed - Aug 08th 2012 6:54 am

      Judith, I think the Tree Beings appreciate any loving energy we give them, just like people do!

  • Rachel Pollack Wed - Aug 08th 2012 6:16 am

    Wonderful write-up, Joanna. Great photos. Judith, I’m glad you appreciate my letting my hair go gray, but the sad truth is that my friend who usually helps me with dyeing it was out of town. The box of herbal hair color was right there on the kitchen counter the whole time I was at Omega. LOL.

    • Joanna Wed - Aug 08th 2012 6:55 am

      Thanks Rachel! And thanks again to you and Mary for inviting me, and for your hospitality. I had a wonderful time.

    • Judith Wed - Aug 08th 2012 8:13 am

      Rats Rachel!! I thought I had found a buddy to start the grey hair trend.

      Actually, I get compliments on my hair colour. It always astonishes me, but I think my skin colour looks better with grey hair because skin changes colour too as you age.

      Are you sure you gals don’t want to join me? We could consider ourselves at the forefront of extreme hipness. Rippling tresses of grey singing to trees and storms….

  • Lu Thu - Aug 09th 2012 10:43 am

    Ha! Joanna, I remember asking about a deck based on the wheel of the year a couple of years ago, I think on the forum at Gaian Tarot. At the time, I “got” that you would work on that, but you said you didn’t want to work on another deck right then–which was totally understandable because you still deep into the Gaian. SO glad you got to experience the Hudson Valley; I have fallen in love with it from my time spent in Woodstock/KTD (Buddhist center). If you ever have a chance to visit that area in October, do it–it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

    • Joanna Fri - Aug 10th 2012 7:21 am

      Hah! Lu, I totally do not remember that at all! Could it be that you planted the seed back then? 🙂

      I don’t have any plans to go back to the Hudson River Valley anytime soon, but I have visited Maine several times in October, visiting my kids, and I do know how incredibly beautiful is.