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A Tale of Two Videos: Tarology 2012 and Tarot Network News 1988

Even if you’re not interested in the Tarot de Marseille, Enrique Enriquez’s Tarology video is worth having for the bonus interviews with a dozen contemporary taroists like Rachel Pollack, Donnaleigh de la Rose, Marcus Katz and Robert Place. Enriquez’ video inspired me to dust off my VCR and pop in the VHS tape of interviews produced by Gary Ross in 1988. Ross was a fixture on the San Francisco tarot scene for three decades and was the editor of Tarot Network News, which he published a few times a year in the ’80s and ’90s.

The two videos are separated by geography rather than time. Tarology gives us a tour of Enrique’s New York City with visits to the homes and studios of Robert Place, Rachel Pollack and other East Coast tarot luminaries. The 1988 video features prominent Bay Area tarot practitioners of the 70s and 80s like James Wanless, Angeles Arrien, and Vicki Noble. Mary Greer transcended time and geography as the only person to appear in both videos. In 1988, she was interviewed extensively in her San Francisco studio about her first three books: Tarot for Yourself, Tarot Constellations, and Tarot Mirrors.

The 1988 video celebrates California’s contribution to tarot. Jack Hurley, the publisher of Tarot Network News, was interviewed extensively about his breakthrough deck, The New Tarot, created at Esalen with John Horler when they both lived there from 1966 to 1970. Also featured in the 1988 video are James Wanless and his Voyager deck, Vicky Nobel and the Motherpeace deck, and Chuck Apel who photographed the original oil paintings by Frieda Harris for Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

The only deck given special attention in the 2012 video, aside from the Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille that Enriquez reads with, was Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe deck. We’re taken to her home in rural New York where she shows us her original paintings as she talks about the cards’ symbolism.

The youngest person interviewed in the 2012 video had harsh words for the freewheeling, counter-culture generation featured in the older video. Shawn Nacol sees the 1970s as rife with group-think and pop psychology that resulted in superficial “strip mall tarot”. He mocks the view that any interpretation of a card or symbol is valid because we each have our own truth; and he asserts that card interpretations by people with limited worldviews has given us a lot of fluff.

In 1988, everyone said the most influential decks were the Rider Waite, Case’s BOTA deck, and Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. In an interview with Diane Wilkes in 2002 posted on tarotpassages.com, Gary Ross said the tarot community used to be polarized between the Rider Waite Smith and Thoth decks; but to his surprise, none of his students at the 2002 Bay Area Tarot Symposium used decks based on these patterns. I had the opposite experience at BATS in 2011 and 2012, where the RWS deck seemed to be the default paradigm and workshop presenters assumed everyone had Waite Smith images stored in their mental file cabinets. It seems the recent flood of RWS knock-offs and beginners’ books illustrated with these decks has created a RWS monoculture.

Both videos advise tarot readers to simply describe the cards, tell a story, and let the recipients make connections to their own lives. You’re told you don’t need an overlay of theory — just be present to the image and observe what comes up. Enriquez uses this reading style with the Tarot de Marseille, and it’s identical to the “Projective” reading style discussed at length in the 1988 video. Tarot Network News featured this technique throughout the 1980s, advising readers to just “see a picture – tell a story.” This freer, more intuitive reading style was revolutionary in the 1980s, and had to be explained and defended. Three decades later, it’s the accepted paradigm and old-style fortune tellers are on the defensive (although you can find them sneaking in the back door wielding Lenormand decks).

Here’s a link to the Youtube trailer for Enriquez’ Tarology video.

For historical context on the projective reading style, check out this page in the history section.

 

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