Readers Studio 2018: First-Timer’s Insights

Readers Studio 2018 was both my first time as an attendee and first time as a presenter. The tarot community is truly one-of-a-kind. Having now experienced the astrology community, pagans, Taoists, and Buddhists as social collectives, the favorite is hands down my tarot peeps. You won’t find a warmer, more enthusiastic, more diverse, more welcoming, more integrated and united, or more supportive tribe.

The Readers Studio is a weekend extravaganza of three master classes, breakfast roundtables, general sessions, tarot incubators, study groups, showcases, and many delicious event offerings. They also feed you, so there’s a cocktail party, luncheon, formal dinner banquet, and breakfast buffet. Ongoing throughout is the merchant faire where you can buy amazing goodies from small artisanal proprietors or get a tarot reading from one of the Studio’s selected celebrity psychic readers.

This post is going to be a review of my first Tarot Readers Studio experience. I’m sure I’ll be attending in 2019– and next year as an attendee and eager student only– no onstage pressures (yay) so I’ll be able to focus entirely on mingling, learning, and of course, sharing an unconscionable number of live tweets and Instagram posts.

The Tarot & Psychology Conference

For the fifth year, a Tarot and Psychology conference preceded Readers Studio. This year, the conference featured three sessions: Ellen Goldberg on tarot archetypes, Jenny Suzumoto on tarot healing, teaching us powerful reading techniques, and Art Rosengarten on his latest book, Tarot of the Future where tarot for raising spiritual consciousness was covered.

The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck is a compendium of Hermetic philosophy. . . . We start our spiritual quest because we’ve been bitten by the shadow.” – Ellen Goldberg

I’m sharing two of my favorite quotes (which I’ve strung together) from Ellen Goldberg’s session that I had jotted down into my notes. I learned so much during this conference, such as drawing the equivalence  between the Mars Force and Kundalini in The Emperor card. I also love the emphasis on counseling, spiritual healing, and using tarot for guidance rather than fortune-telling that the presenters shared.

My reading and notes from Jenny Suzumoto’s presentation. Deck pictured: Tabula Mundi Tarot by M. M. Meleen.

Thursday’s Tarot & Psychology Conference kicked off my weekend and I started it by hanging out with two of my tarot sisters, Jenna Matlin from Queen of Wands Tarot and Ethony Dawn, headmistress of the Tarot Readers Academy. Psst… we’re getting close to that time of the year for Tarot Summer School at the Academy. You ready? Yeah of course you are. So keep your radar on for announcements about registration.

Opening Session

Friday morning is when Readers Studio officially begins after a few of our tarot elders call in the elements and set sacred space. During the opening session, we get to meet the three master class instructors headlining the event, do our initial foundation readings, and experience a first-timer welcome ritual led by Liz Westwater of West Star Health & Healing.

Readers Studio first-timers get a gift. This year it was a pine cone and mine is for sure going to be a treasured fixture at home. I wanted to share an insight Tammi shared with me.

Left to right: Me, Tammi of remedywithin.com, and Al Juarez of alstarot.com. Photographer credit: Simone Salmon, author at ssalmonauthor.com.

Tammi from Remedy Within noted that she could see how the character of the pine cone randomly gifted to each newbie would also happen to match the character and personality of the recipient. When I thought about it, I was like, oh my gosh, yeah! You’re totally right, Tammi! Anyway, above is a picture of the pine cone I got. Interpret away what you think it says about who I am.

Photographer Credit: Ferol Humphrey.

We then proceeded with the initial foundations reading. I spy Jenna and Ethony. But can you spot me in the above photo? Probably not. Here, let me clue you in.

You can just make out my dark head of hair.

The foundations reading feature of Readers Studio is brilliant. At the start of the conference, you partner up and do a 15-minute tarot reading in any method and style you like. You make note of the spread, cards, and interpretation, and then move on. Then at the close of the conference, you return to your partner and re-examine the reading, this time by applying all the specific techniques learned during the master classes.

My foundations reading partner was Marieke, a screen writer and filmmaker, and I’ve got to tell you– the random coincidence of getting paired with her is a funny story. We first met at the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium in 2015 and that initial meeting of the minds happened over a tarot reading. We had a reunion here when we got partnered up and once again, met over a tarot reading. Also, we both asked about our respective literary projects and laughed as we both drew The Tower card for each other. Y’all know how much writers and creatives love getting The Tower card. (Not.)

Interviewing the Headline Presenters. Photographer Credit: Angelo Nasios. Angelo, I’m watching you like a tiger mom.

One of the hallmark features of the Readers Studio that differs from other tarot conferences is you don’t get to know what the master classes are going to be about until the opening session of the event. I kept my topic top secret and didn’t tell a soul, not even my bestest tarot friends, until that opening session. Believe you me– it wasn’t easy, because I’ve been doing copious research, hands-on tinkering and experimentation for the last twelve months and devoting a ton of myself just to present what I presented, so the fact literally no one but Ruth Ann, Wald, and to a lesser extent the hubby James knew what I would be talking about is pretty remarkable.

Photographer Credit: Rhonda Alin. If you’re in the northern New Jersey area, be sure to check out her tarot meetup.

As headlining master class presenters, we get to choose someone from the tarot community to interview us during the opening session, and I asked Ethony. She graciously said yes. I gotta tell you guys. She’s already a tarot household name, yeah, but it’s only going to get bigger in the years to come. Not to toot the horns of my own insights, but I’ve known from the get-go that her style, point of view, and pedagogical approach to tarot as a teacher is going to define my generation.

Photographer Credit: Theresa Reed, The Tarot Lady *aka* someone both Ethony and I admire to the moon and back.

EDIT | Doh! I completely forgot to tell you about how I got blessed by Mother Theresa, the Tarot Lady! She basically anointed me, did all this cool stuff, and everything went from “holy hell to the shit what am I doing here” to “it’s all good; I got this.” I think it really worked so credit has to go where credit is due. I did well this weekend because I got anointed by The Tarot Lady! She’s probably going to hurt me for doing this, but now I’m going to advise all future Readers Studio presenters to hunt down Theresa Reed prior to your master class and get anointed and blessed by her before you go on.

Mary Greer: Tarot Symbol Work and Intuition Training

I’ve taken several master classes with Mary Greer before so I knew exactly what I would be in for during her session. My caption to the below photo I shared on Instagram says it all.

Greer taught about conscious training of the unconscious operations within us, specifically through focus on distinct symbols in the cards rather than trying to read the entire card in the classical manner. She shared Socratic dialectic techniques for having a dialogue with yourself that helps you to probe deeper into your own inner motivations.

My reading and notes from Mary Greer’s master class. Deck pictured: Tabula Mundi Tarot by M. M. Meleen.

To my right was Marieke, my foundations reading partner, and to my left was renowned psychic, medium, and animal communicator Mitchell Osborn. I loved that during the master classes, the instructors would facilitate time for us to confer with the other readers at our table about our own readings. Marieke and Mitchell each gave me so many more layers of insight into my own reading that I hadn’t seen for myself. So just wow. What a privilege it was to have both of them by my side while I worked through the new techniques learned from Mary Greer.

I’m also looking forward to the upcoming release of Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story by Stuart R. Kaplan, Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, and Melinda Boyd Parsons. Greer shared with us her process, research, and learned insights from working on that tome. The book comes out in celebration of U.S. Games’s 50th anniversary, which I think is just amazing–1968 to 2018.

Presenting My Master Class

My presentation was titled, “Accessing Genetic Memory Through Tarot: For Ancestral Connections and Past Life Recall.” I shared what I had been learning about the cutting edge research into the new frontiers of neuroscience, bridging what we know about memory functions in the brain with what we know about memory functions of the mind, and how such research could apply to how tarot works, why tarot works, and guiding the attendees through two powerful operative techniques for genetic memory retrieval.

This past year I’ve been deep-diving into examination and scrutiny of the links between genetics, inheriting memories from our ancestors, and those inherited memories being retained within our neurons. In other words, we need to ask the question: is there a deep reservoir of psychic knowledge resident within our own genetic or cellular memory that we can access? And, more poignantly, access for connecting to our ancestors and, in consideration of “soul DNA,” recalling past life memories?

Outline of topics covered during the master class, part 1

I talked about using tarot as a tool for triggering an altered state of consciousness (ASC), facilitating retrieval of genetic memory from our unconscious mind through ritualized methods of tarot reading, and how to transport these tarot techniques to different levels of genetic memory retrieval. Though I talked about past lives, I kept it as objective as I could, and secular. I talked about how a past life tarot reading does not require you to believe in reincarnation. Rather, a past life reading can be a fable or metaphor for the greatest recurring challenges you face in your present life and the narrative of the so-called past life will instruct you on the best possible ending for your own life story.

Outline of topics covered during the master class, part 2. Deck pictured: Triple Goddess Tarot, Lo Scarabeo.

How do you overcome recurring mistakes and finally learn those life lessons you know you need to learn? Past life tarot reading is one of the most reliable techniques for facing personal error because by projecting the story as someone else, we’re able to be more objective and honest with ourselves.

Finally, as I wrapped up, I confessed how I had pulled a bait-and-switch on the attendees. My presentation was, after all we had said and done, not about what I said it was about, but rather, it was about the science of mediumship and the comparative analogy of invocation vs. evocation when talking about accessing genetic memory vs. mediumship.

Photographer Credits Left to Right: Ruth Ann Amberstone, Jenna Matlin (Queen of Wands Tarot); Lori Lytle (Inner Goddess Tarot); Angelo Nasios (Unlocking the Arcana)

You can ask what attendees had to say about the presentation, but if you’re asking me how it went from my perspective, it was such a personal release to finally get to share everything that has been swimming around in my mind for the last year.

After Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone invited me to present for Readers Studio 2018, and without having attended RS before so having no sense of precedence, I decided to go about prep work my way. That meant I really wanted to challenge myself. I really wanted to present something that pushed the envelope of our present body of knowledge.

Ultimately, though, my message was what it has always been: intellectual and esoteric populism. Power to the people and in this case, psychic power to the people. When it comes to the occult, metaphysical, spiritual, and religious realms, I lean toward anti-establishment and I hope that was the message I delivered not by telling, but by showing. The techniques I presented was about proving to you and you proving to yourself just what unlimited powers your own psychic mind is capable of.

But hey. Don’t take it from me. You’ll probably want to weasel the unfiltered truth out of the attendees and see if that happened or if I’m just talking out of my ass.

Rachel Pollack: What is the Tarot for?

This was my first time meeting the legendary, the one-and-only Rachel Pollack. I got a front table seat, and with eyes and mind wide open, pen on paper the whole time, that fangirl gleam all over my face, I experienced my very first master class with Pollack.

Her presentation covered the breadth and scope of what the tarot has been used for, from games and fortune-telling to magical doorways, Insh’Allah–discovering the Divine Will, arguing with God, and studying the visual form of magical doctrines. It was a deeply philosophical, self-reflective, and meaningful instruction.

There was a fun what-my-college-self-would’ve-called “PoMo” tone to Rachel Pollack’s master class. For instance, in the practicum portion of the presentation, we did self-referential group tarot readings asking the tarot what the tarot is for, what is a tarot reader, and what happens between the cards and the reader, etc. Basically, we did an interview of the cards to ask about what the meaning of tarot is and what the cards are meant for.

The Hanged Man is the key to the entire tarot. You cannot understand the tarot without understanding The Hanged Man.” – Rachel Pollack

Pollack shared several tarot reading spreads for us to work with, including a Four Voices five-part spread inspired by the mythology of Athena, which I’m definitely going to try out this weekend.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mary Greer before and attending her past master classes, but this was my first time meeting Rachel Pollack. I was on cloud nine!

Okay, Now Let’s Party

Left to right: Arwen Lynch Poe, Professional Joy Seeker at Tarot by Arwen; Joanna Colbert, creatrix of the Gaian Tarot, and me with my eyes closed for some reason. Photographer Credit: Simone Salmon.

A formal banquet dinner is included in your conference package. You even get a choice in the menu options. Then from 10 pm to midnight [correction: I ended up extending my reading slots to just before 2 am; didn’t get back in to my hotel suite until around 2, with the dance party long over] is the Readers Studio Rave, though sadly I wasn’t able to make it since I signed up to do tarot readings for the Celebrity Psychic Fair. Though I’m bummed to have missed the dance party, I love connecting with people through tarot readings, so it’s a toss-up.

See above for the fun sign-up sheet I left out Saturday morning. Oh, wait. You probably can’t read what I wrote off the above pic. Let’s try this again.

People, did you know Rachel Pollack hand-crafts these amazing gemstone necklaces and she infuses them with her powerful signature of personal juju? Okay fine, you probably knew that. Well I didn’t. I just eyed the collection on her table for the full duration of the conference. Sadly, by the time I was ready to get one, she was sold out! Of course she’s sold out. Of course.

Concluding the Conference

Sunday is the last day of the conference. I loved the thoughtful breakfast roundtable with one of my tarot tribe sisters Jaymi Elford of Inner Compass Tarot Coaching. Her message is all about learning to live a tarot-inspired life. For the breakfast roundtable, she led a discussion about using tarot for social justice and creating positive change. It was really powerful, and to hear how various professional tarot readers and tarot artists and writers around the country have used tarot in social justice was incredible.

We then revisited our foundations readings. I partnered up with Marieke and though I won’t discuss the specificities of our respective readings, let’s just say they were extraordinary, surprising, exciting, and I think I can say for both of us, confirmed just how much we learned in terms of tarot reading techniques in that one weekend.

Sunday was also the tarot incubators, where a powerhouse tarot teacher led a roundtable discussion at the many tables out on the conference floor. I went to Ethony’s on self-publishing your tarot or oracle deck and not only heard her insights, but also learned about many new and exciting self-published tarot and oracle decks that are going to be coming out in the near future! Whoa! Can’t wait!

I had to leave early before the closing session since the Hubs and I had to pick up our rental car and drive upstate to visit my parents. Mom and Dad would be up waiting for us, so we had to get a move on it and not arrive too late at night.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, you get a gift bag full of swag when you attend Readers Studio. U.S. Games and Llewellyn generously donated a lot of cool stuff. Since USGS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, we were all gifted with a really well made U.S. Games tote bag, which by the way I love and will be using a lot. In terms of decks, I got the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, the Zillich Tarot by Christine Zillich, and Natural Symphony Playing Cards, illustrated by Yiying Lu.

If you partake in the tarot community to any extent, consume a bunch of tarot and oracle decks, or read lots of tarot books, then you really need to get your butt down to Readers Studio one of these years. It needs to be on your bucket list. Truly the best part is how welcoming, friendly, and approachable these published artists, authors, larger-than-life media personalities actually are. You’re sitting side by side with the most well-known figures in the industry, the most extraordinary and talented professional tarot readers and mystics around the world— that’s right, not country, but world— doing tarot readings with them, running tarot techniques and exercises hand in hand, partying with them, and really getting to know them on a personal level.

The tarot community is exceptional in that way. I don’t know of any other community of industry professionals where there’s such sincere camaraderie, no drawn lines of hierarchy, and a fostered collective feeling of we’re-all-in-this-together-so-mind-as-well-get-cozy-with-each-other.

So, with all that said, I hope to be seeing you at Readers Studio 2019. Take it from me: you’ll adore the line-up. It’s going to be fresh, sassy, very high-vibe, and inspirational.

21 thoughts on “Readers Studio 2018: First-Timer’s Insights

  1. Hi Benebell,

    Is there any possibility that you will let us that wasn’t present to get access to your presentation/master class? I’m very interested and naturally I would be happy to pay for it.

    Kind Regards Inger Jansson

    fre 4 maj 2018 kl. 20:30 skrev benebell wen :

    > benebell posted: ” Readers Studio 2018 was both my first time as an > attendee and first time as a presenter. The tarot community is truly > one-of-a-kind. Having now experienced the astrology community, pagans, > Taoists, and Buddhists as social collectives, the favorite is ha” >

    Like

    1. Hi Inger: At this time I don’t have any intentions for developing the presentation materials into something beyond what it was for Readers Studio, a live in-person master class. 😀 ❤

      Like

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on RS18, Benebell. I went in 2016, and have signed up already for 2019. I loved it, and found it to be a friendly and fun community. Living in the East Bay, the SF Bay Area Tarot Symposium (BATS) has been my tarot community for over 20 years – then the Northwest Tarot Symposium (NWTS). Readers Studio is quite differently set up, and just as wonderful. I look forward to finally meeting you! I read and refer to Holistic Tarot often. 💕 Linda

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  3. I was so happy to see your pine cone and that it touched your heart! Your presentation certainly touched mine, not to mention my mind and soul! Thank you for a brilliant ( I am not being hyperbolic !!!) presentation…. I cannot wait to work with the spreads you taught us! And looking forward to seeing you next year at RS19!!!!

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    1. Oh, Liz, I *LOVE* my pine cone and it’s now sitting atop my altar. Thank you for it! I definitely look forward to seeing you again next year! ❤

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  4. You’ve inspired me to (try to) check this event out! Great review. And your class topic made my heart go all achy and say ‘oooooh’. Hope you offer it again sometime!

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  5. You were brilliant, and I ADORED the work you did. I cannot wait to dig deeper into it — and I hope you’ve got a book or a blog or a video in the works on this incredible work, because I thinks it’s revolutionary and genius. Thanks for all you do. –Ben Jolivet/Tom Benjamin

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