This last weekend, June 27th-28th, the historic Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality opened its doors to over a hundred tarot readers, authors, artists, students, collectors, vendors and enthusiasts for three days of sharing the very latest in the tarot world. In the first TarotCon™ event in Colorado, the Denver Tarot Meetup group, celebrating nine years since their own foundation, partnered with the Tarosophy Tarot Association to deliver a truly international tarot event.
Every Tarosophy TarotCon has its own unique character, which emerges naturally from the diverse venues, organisers, themes and attendees worldwide. The first TarotCon in Australia was held in a museum in Sydney, the Lake District venue in England is held in a theatre; one in Singapore had us in a fully-packed community centre and several of our TarotCon events across the US are held in hotels. So it was no surprise that the Althea center gave a warm and laid-back feel to the event, having been built by women mystics a century prior and now home to divine science meetings, yoga and belly-dancing, amongst other community events and services.
Our keynote speaker, James Wanless, opened the event on Friday by talking of the future of tarot, provoking discussion throughout the next two days on that very theme. It was evident that the future of tarot is created by people meeting each other and sharing insights, projects and collaborative opportunities. Our deck creation panel on Sunday was a delight, with diverse deck designers offering their experience and understanding of the creative process with an engaged and enthusiastic audience.
The panel represented tarot in its all diversity, from grunge-deck creator of Darkana Tarot and “inappropriate tarot” Daniel Donche; Beth Seilonen who has created an incredible number of decks; Toney Brooks whose Chrysalis Tarot (US Games Systems) with artist Holly Sierra won the INATS Deck of the Year award the same day; Erik Dunne whose Tarot Illuminati (Lo Scarabeo) paved the way for his deck in progress, Tarot Apokalypsis; and Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl and Andi Todaro, the creators of the Fountain Tarot, whose launch party was the Thursday prior to the event and attended by several of the TarotCon attendees; and Lisa de St. Croix, artist of the Tarot de St. Croix.
There was much more than can be captured in summary; workshops started on Friday for every level, from a beginner introduction by Renna Shesso, intermediate skills using numerology from Richard Hartnett and a more advanced session on elemental dignities with Joy Vernon, who was also producing the whole event. Sherry Shone then opened a tarot games night – and this was all before we even got started on the weekend!
Over the weekend, workshops ranged from the educational and amusing (Mo’s talk on the Thoth Tarot), to the downright practical; Beth Seilonen teaching us how to create a Lenormand deck and Lisa de St. Croix creating expressive Tarot Journals with us.
We also extended our range of subjects to include Astrology, with Austin Coppock sharing wide and deep knowledge of the history of the decans and their relationship to tarot.
We started with Mary K. Greer’s excellent history of the Fool card, looking then at the fool’s progress through the deck and a customised spread based on his symbolism. This was the first example of something evident through much of the convention – good solid research and history leading to innovative and practical applications of the cards in contemporary life.
These were in perfect balance to truly experiential workshops as was being held at the same time by Karen Harrison, in her session on connecting to spirit guides.
As we had to choose from sessions, it was impossible to attend all of those that followed; I popped into Lon Milo Duquette’s session on the Lesser Arcana, to hear people laughing and excited about the information being imparted in Lon’s easy style.
In another room, paper and scissors were the order of the day as that group got to grips with Lisa de St. Croix’s practical journaling workshop. Meanwhile, Renna Shesso was in the main sanctuary space introducing us to more astrology with the tarot relating to the constellations. These were all unique and informative sessions from presenters with incredible experience and knowledge.
As with all our TarotCon events, unique sessions were offered both as part of the program and as the event took place. Shaheen Miro held sessions both days on Tasseography, in this case reading from the bottom of tea-cups!
We also got to hold a session both days on Lenormand reading, where we just began to touch on the connection between Lenormand and coffee grind reading symbolism. We know this is one of many hundreds of conversations and connections that will extend far beyond the event – such as there being 36 decans and 36 Lenormand cards, for example.
The extension of our divinations beyond the cards was even more evident in Carrie Paris’s charm casting workshop, also using collection oracles – a very popular and emerging method in divination.
After a full day, the following morning found many of us on tours and trips to Denver gardens and museums, some of us in search of photographing images for a collectable deck constructed from the event photographs by Beth Seilonen. At the venue itself, the Althea Center director, Jonathan Ellerby, presented his weekly class, theming it on the power of intuition, dovetailing with the event.
We returned for the deck creators panel, followed by the penultimate presentations by Joy Vernon on the Empyrean Key and its relationship to tarot and Emily Jones unlocking the mysteries of devotional tarot. It was a pleasure to then conclude the event with Reverend Ivy’s magical session on casting spells with the tarot alongside our own mystery session on Kabbalah and Tarot.
Whilst participants then had a last opportunity to peruse the vendors, including Tarot Garden and Isis Books, who supported the event with local promotion, it was left to the incredible team of Denver Tarot Meetup volunteers and helpers to pack up the tables and chairs and work behind the scenes to wrap up all the arrangements.
In summary, so much happened it was impossible to do anything other than name the speakers, subjects and events rather than convey a full flavour of the experience. There were so many conversations, insights and illuminations, and an emerging realisation that this thing is bigger than all of us! One common piece of feedback was that participants found interest and access to new subjects that they had previously found irrelevant or impenetrable. Other participants got re-enthused by subjects they had left behind, and others developed deeper appreciation of subjects in which they were presently engaged. I suspect we threw everything at the wall, and a lot of it stuck.
It only remains to thank again the Center itself for the venue, Chef Hunter for the food (we received profuse thanks for supporting local business start-ups rather than simply hosting it in an anonymous hotel), Joy Vernon, Sherry Padilla, Sherry Shone, and everyone who volunteered and assisted, our incredible speakers, panellists and vendors – and everyone we have not mentioned.
As we send out our formal feedback requests, our over-arching impression is simply, “Denver Rocks”.