PM Experiment

It’s in the Cards

Learning the art of tarot


Karen Bentley Tarot is a one- woman show. The East Providence native, who now lives on the East Side of Providence (say that 10 times fast), makes a living by reading tarot cards. Similar to the standard 52-card deck, a tarot deck features four suits; in place of a spade or a club, however, you might find a cup or a sword. Oh, and you should probably watch out for that pesky devil card.

Combining her love for reading the cards and acting in theatre, the self-proclaimed “tarotpreneur” created Tarot On Your Feet, a workshop in which she teaches the art to others via adaptations of improvisational acting games. Students learn without “dreadful, scripted textbook meanings that stifle the intuitive process,” she explained prior to the class. She also filled me in on the materials I would need: a tarot deck and a pen or pencil. Karen provides journals and refreshments.

Workshops are tailored to the participant, location included. Eager to tune into my own powers of intuition, I asked the one question that plagued me most: What if I had to deliver bad news? She explained that she didn’t ‘cast the mark,’ and therefore I wouldn’t learn to either. Relieved that I wouldn’t be expected to predict deaths or divorces, I took the cards in my hands and began to lightly shuffle them.

“The purpose of this course is to enable the student to generate meanings and associations,” she said. “These games are meant to enhance creativity and loosen inhibitions.” Exercise one (of five) was on alliteration, designed to get the mind prepared and drum up concentration. “I do this in my office before readings and in my car before big events as a mental warm-up,” Karen said.

I was instructed to choose five major arcana (non-suited) cards. One at a time, I had to say words that began with the first letter of the card without stopping. Karen was sure to tell me not to censor myself and be as bold, silly or absurd as I’d like. The Magician: magnify, menacing, mystical, myopic... This felt good. And the words that sprung to mind made sense in context with the card, too. Strange.

Exercise two had me thinking fast by free associating based on the name of the card – for 60 second bursts without stopping. Justice: court, ruling, finality, decisions...

Exercise three was really interesting: I took court cards (the kings, queens and knights) and determined what each would be if it were a color, rock, flower, car etc. Queen of Wands: purple, quartz, rose, Bentley... Karen told me she associated that card with a Porsche, a car that screams status and success. “When you see that Queen in a reading, you know you’re dealing with an alpha female!” she said with a wink.

Exercise four brought me a bit deeper into story construction, as I was asked to build and connect beginnings, middles (conflicts) and ends (resolutions) using specific frameworks. Once upon a time there lived a dark, troubled man (Knight of Pentacles) that worked as a hitman (Ace of Swords)... Hey, I knew my story was a bit ridiculous but I had been instructed to let my thoughts flow. It was fun as hell.

We wrapped up with exercise five, in which I developed my speed: I faced Karen and as she flipped each card in the deck, I spoke a word association as quickly as possible. It was tough. Whenever I was taking too long in formulating my response, she’d tap me lightly in the face with a card, creating that notion of danger to keep me moving right along.

In the end, I wasn’t sure that I knew exactly what I was doing but I did feel confident that I could wing it as needed, and felt ready to practice my new hobby on some girlfriends. I also knew some of them would enjoy taking this course as much as I did. Guess who’s getting gift certificates for Christmas this year?


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