I recently read an amazing book. The Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen. When I say read it, I mean I dove headfirst into it. I hesitate to call this a tarot manual. It is that - but it's also the history of tarot, advice about how to do readings, Benebell's experiences with divination - AS WELL as a tarot manual. It's a lot of things- clearly written, obviously well researched and beautifully presented. I especially liked how Ms. Wen presented many, many ways of doing things - from handling cards, to shuffling, to reading - without placing judgment on the differences. It's very refreshing to read a manual that essentially teaches all ways and ends with "Do your thing". I definitely suggest it. As much as I love the hodge-podge learning style that led me to tarot, it would have saved a hell of a lot of time to have just sat down with this book. (It's so big, that my kids said, DUDE!!!, when I opened the box.)
Instead of doing a book review, I wanted to get to know the author a little better. I've been slightly obsessed with the Proust Questionnaire for a long time, and became re-obsessed when James Lipton started asking people his own version of the questions on "Inside the Actor's Studio". I think that a tarot reader is much more than their experience with the cards. Everything that informs a reader's life also informs how they divine. To that end, I think it would be fascinating to see a little more background from the diviners that I know - even if it's in the form of a silly questionnaire. I'm a fan of silly. I juggled some questions around from Proust and Mr. Lipton and added my own, and Ms. Wen was gracious enough to fill them out for me. :)
The Tarot Questionnaire - Benebell Wen
1. What you appreciate the most in your friends.
2. Your idea of happiness.
A mug of freshly brewed hazelnut coffee on a cold winter morning, with a down comforter wrapped around me. And socks. If it’s a cold winter morning, I also need to have on socks. Those thick, colorful knitted ones.
3. Your idea of misery.
Stale, room-temperature coffee on a cold winter morning. No comforter and no socks.
4. Where would you like to live?
I’m not overly preferential when it comes to physical place. I’d like to live where my loved ones are. That is all.
5. Your favorite color and flower.
I don’t have a favorite color. I used to wear a lot of black before a ginger and white cat named Prince Marshall moved in with me, but post-cat, less black. Blue is nice, too, but I’m not sure it’s at the level of my favorite color. These days for everything that I know is going to go in the house, I opt for colors similar to Prince Marshall’s fur. So looking around at all my things, you might think my favorite colors are ginger and white.
By the way, I'm intrigued that color and flower are lumped together under one inquiry. (It started as a copy/paste typo, but I liked it like that :D- LFT) My favorite flower: the bird of paradise.
6. Your favorite poets.
Okay. Too many. I’ll list a few. Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Graves, Dylan Thomas… I hope three suffices.
7. Your favorite heroes in fiction.
Would it be controversial for me to say Jesus here? No, I believe in the historical Jesus. And the mythologized version of Jesus Christ is certainly one of my heroes. I mean, he was a shaman who didn't charge fees for his magical work and focused his service on the poor.
8. Your favorite heroines in fiction.
I've always liked Moll Flanders.
9. Your heroes in real life.
10. Your favorite heroines in real life?
This is going to depend on how much of what we read about Lady Fu Hao is factual. Was she really a military leader and high priestess? If yes, then yeah, Lady Fu Hao.
11. What is your present state of mind?
According to the Deck of the Bastard Tarot, which is sitting on my desk right now (my version of the deck has keywords): moderation. That’s Key XIV: Temperance. I’m going to go with that.
12. What is your favorite tarot deck or divination tool?
My favorite tarot deck changes all the time. I go through phases. I have moods. And will vary by purpose. I’m really in love with Tarot of the Holy Light right now. However, I am and will always be a Rider-Waite-Smith devotee and like to stick to the original version when reading for others. As for favorite divination tool, well, of course, the tarot. However, the I Ching is up there with tarot.
13. Your favorite songs?
Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite, Op. 29, No. 2 and Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, though I've also always loved Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26. (Curious, I listened to all of these - beautiful! -LFT)
14. What is your favorite word?
I’m feeling quite shameful right now that I don’t have many “favorites.” Hum. Favorite word. Again, with the singular instead of plural. Some of my favorite words are cookie, cupcake, croissant, butter, bacon…
15. What is your least favorite word?
Cacophony. However, cacophonous is okay.
16. What sound or noise do you love?
The super cute slurping sound that Prince Marshall makes when he’s eating his Fancy Feast.
17. What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of sharp metal points across slate. Traffic jams when everyone suddenly feels compelled to honk all at once. People yelling at each other. I wouldn’t say I hate these sounds, however. I would say I am not particularly fond of them.
18. What turns you on?
19. What turns you off?
I don’t mind lack of knowledge, but I do mind people lacking knowledge of their lack of knowledge. (best answer ever-lft)
20. What is your favorite curse word?
Really, I love them all. I cuss like a sailor.
21. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“Welcome. And yes, Prince Marshall is here.”