I am pleased to share an interview with the very talented Teresa Michelsen. Teresa is the owner/operator of a Tarot list I am on called Comparative Tarot. She inherited the list from Valerie Sims. It’s a great list if you like to really get into different aspects of the cards. Think of it as a large guided (albeit gently) study group.
Arwen: What was your first encounter with Tarot like?
Teresa: My Mom’s boyfriend, who lived with us, did tarot readings. When I was about 13, he did one for me that really impressed me and was very insightful. As it turned out, he was kind of like a reversed Magician – charismatic and powerful, but a bit heedless of ethics and the effects of his actions. For decades I didn’t feel comfortable reading with his deck (Morgan-Greer) even though I like it very much. It rejoined me at a Reader’s Studio a couple years back and I’m reconciled with it now 🙂
Arwen: Who do you see as other Tarot luminaries? Who inspires you?
Teresa: That’s a long list! I would start with folks like Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, Mary Greer, Rachel Pollack, Thalassa, Solandia, and all those who have dedicated their volunteer time to organizations like ATA and TABI – these are the people who have created communities for tarot readers to grow and thrive in, both in the real world and online. I am also delighted to be part of an inspiring “new generation” of tarotists, among whom I count too many friends to number or even try to list here, busily creating wonderful decks, books, websites, and works of art for us to enjoy. And let’s not forget my favorite editor, Barbara Moore, and all the great publishing houses like Llewellyn, Red Wheel/Weiser, US Games, and Lo Scarabeo who have brought us so many wonderful decks and books.
Arwen: Teresa, you have have written two books. The Complete Tarot Reader and Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads which, by the way, is the book that gave me the confidence to start designing spreads. Who was your target audience for those books?
Teresa: Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads was part of a Special Topics in Tarot series by Llewellyn, and was really designed for the intermediate reader who was ready to go beyond what they had first been taught. The Complete Tarot Reader, on the other hand, was developed for students who, like me, work best in a structured manner. It has study goals and exercises, but at the same time it was designed to work with any deck and any philosophy of reading. I’m currently leaning more toward advanced topics for experienced tarot readers, including upcoming books on Astrology for Tarot Readers, and another that provides exercises designed to help you manifest the tarot archetypes in everyday life, called Living the Tarot.
Arwen: Other projects we can look forward to?
Teresa: The project I am most excited about right now is a self-publishing endeavor along freeware lines with an open copyright, something I have come to believe strongly in over the years. With open copyright, anyone can download the materials for free, including for commercial use or modification, as long as they link back to the source. Donations are an important part of the concept – I believe that tarot readers, like software users, will decide what the materials are worth to them and donate accordingly. In addition, we can publish much faster and at much lower cost, and there is the possibility of downloading individual chapters of books or reading books in progress as they are written. In the long run, I have a vision of a community of tarot authors making their materials available on the site, and readers coming to get the latest from their favorite author. The site is called TarotMoon Press. Currently I am in the processing of uploading all my existing materials, including articles, original spreads, course materials, and books in progress, and more will be added each month.
Arwen: You have a workshop coming up soon. Can you tell me a bit about it? Who will benefit from this class? What should someone who is taking it expect? It’s online, right?
Teresa: It’s a online 8-week course on Court Cards, designed to tackle one of the hardest areas of tarot for beginning readers and leave you feeling thoroughly familiar with the courts and able to use them in any situation. We will explore their personalities, elemental, psychological, and astrological qualities, address gender issues, experiment with significators, play with body language, and learn how to tell if a given court card represents the querant, someone else, or not a person at all. I post exercises and readings once a week, and we hold the class in a Yahoo Group, so that everyone can participate whenever is convenient for them, while still joining in the discussion. My favorite part of these classes is having participants from all over the world. Sign-ups are still open until Sept 14!
Arwen: Rider-Waite, Thoth or Marseilles? Which style do you trend towards?
Teresa: Tough question! I am open to just about anything. I inherited the Comparative Tarot online group from Valerie Sim, and the entire purpose of that group is to compare as many different decks as possible for the same card – the idea being to get beyond the individual portrayals and into the deeper core archetypes of each card. I can read with any one of these styles, and am also interested in current Continental decks, which are not necessarily based on any of these.
Arwen: Do you have a favorite deck to read with? Does that change if you are reading for yourself or for others?
Teresa: I believe in synchronicity, and I almost always chose the deck on the spur of the moment, regardless of who I’m reading for. I will choose one that matches the situation, their personality or that just feels right in the moment. When I read in public, which is seldom, I will normally take along three or four decks and let the client choose.
Arwen: Has the Tarot ever failed you?
Teresa: Not that I can think of. However, over the years, I have decided that it may not be the best tool for every question. My mother is an astrologer and as I’ve gotten more interested in astrology myself, I’ve begun to see how the two methods can work together. Astrology is definitely a better approach for questions related to timing and cycles, while tarot takes that vast backdrop of cycling energies and looks at how they can or have manifested in any given specific situation. Used together, they are very powerful. But if a tarot client comes to me with a timing question, I almost always refer them to astrology.
Arwen: What is the one hidden asset of Tarot that you think is overlooked?
Teresa: Really having a deep understanding of the cycles and archetypal patterns expressed in the cards, especially in the majors but also in the suits. These patterns and progressions are there for a reason – they reflect patterns in life. As such, they can be very helpful in understanding one’s own life and how to deal with it, even without a reading.
Arwen: If you could give one piece of advice to every aspiring Tarot lover in the world, what would it be?
Teresa: Never get stuck on one particular approach or one particular deck. Tarot has a way of leading you off in interesting directions, through which you never stop learning. It’s a vast, intricate web of knowledge and intuition that is ever-expanding and ever-deepening. Don’t ever allow yourself to become limited by complacency, habit, or someone telling you that it has to be done a certain way. Allow your imagination free rein 🙂