The Tarot Chain: Interview #1 Alison Coals

I “met” (virtually) my first interviewee in my Tarot Chain Series, Alison Coals through the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI) where she volunteered as the new member readings co-ordinator and later as coordinator of the mentoring process. I met her subsequently at the annual TABI conference, where I requested that she be my first guest in this interview series. Alison blogs over at Alison’s Alembic. Her blog is an interesting, thought providing and very personal account of her journey with the Tarot. I am particularly interested in the way Alison combines Astrology with the Tarot in both the readings she offers and in many of her reflections in her blog posts. (Very fascinating!) Alison’s interest in Tarot started when I was a teenager. She says that although she was initially attracted to the artwork she was fascinated with the idea of reading the cards.

Here’s my full interview with Alison:

  1. What made you start a Tarot website/blog?

Peer pressure! All my Tarot-reading friends were setting up websites, and writing blogs, but I resisted it for a long time. I never felt that I had anything new to say, and I’ve never been good at self-promotion. I was also very reluctant to expose myself to the online world – I’m sure that comes of having a Scorpio Ascendant! It was actually some friends of mine who run an internet business focused on marketing, as well as website design, who finally persuaded me. I even went on an internet marketing course! So, several attempts at a website later, here I am with my blog.

I never intended to become a blogger, but I do like writing (Mercury in the 5th house, rules the MC) so it seemed an obvious way to go.

Because I’m also an astrologer as well as a Tarot reader (and visual artist too), I decided to try and mix those tools up to come up with something that’s …well, perhaps not unique, but that would give me a different approach. So far I think it’s worked – and I’m still managing to come with things to write about after 4 years, which amazes me!

2. What’s your approach to the Tarot when working with clients in readings (if you offer Tarot mentoring or coaching please talk about your approach with these)?

Having also trained as a therapeutic counsellor, I would say my approach to working with clients comes from that part of my background. Congruence, empathy and being non-judgemental formed the core of that training, and I still work from that base – both in tarot readings and astrology consultations. If I’m doing face-to-face readings, I do like to involve the client/querent – making it more of a dialogue, but that depends on the person who’s asking the question! Obviously that’s not possible in emailed readings, although I do often end up having an email conversation with the querent after they’ve had time to assimilate the reading. My main aim is ‘empower’ (not a word I generally like using, but it’s appropriate in this instance) the people I read for: I try to offer possibilities to the situations they find themselves in, or show them the potential for changing their circumstances – or for changing the way they react to those situations they can’t change.

I also act as a mentor for TABI (Tarot Association of the British Isles), working with new readers over a period of time before they ‘fly solo’ for TABI’s Free Reading Service. My approach to working with a mentee is much the same – I feel I’m accompanying them on a journey, throwing light on their path when I think it might help, or if it seems they might be veering too far from their goal. But it’s always a dialogue – sometimes it’s just a matter of re-phrasing something (the readings are written and emailed) to make something less ambiguous.

3. What has working with the Tarot taught you?

Mostly I’d say it’s taught me to trust my intuition. When I first started reading, I stuck mostly to the ‘traditional’ meanings, but often there’d be this little voice in my head saying ‘yes, but what about…’. Although I listened to it, I was very wary about saying those words out loud, or committing them to paper. It wasn’t until I started working with the Thoth deck (one of my favourites – it’s so honest and direct) that this changed: the messages that the deck were giving me were all about being honest – letting that intuition be part of my readings. I know it worked from the feedback I received from that point onwards!

4. What frustrates you about being a Tarot reader?

Oh, that’s a loaded question! Lack of feedback from clients (from emailed readings): I never know if it’s because they haven’t received the reading, or if I was really off the mark, or if they just can’t be bothered to let me know. Not being able to connect to the querent (in a face-to-face reading) – especially if they’ve said, or that I’m picking up on the feeling, that they don’t actually believe any of this … the ‘prove it’ attitude.

I used to find other people’s attitudes towards the Tarot very frustrating, but I think I’ve moved past that (mostly!). I started out my varied career as a scientist and engineer, and I still like to know how things work – but I also accept that there are things in this world that we can’t explain (yet – and perhaps never will). I’m not the only person from a scientific background who thinks this way, but we still seem to be the minority in that regard. I do think, though, that there are more of us out there…they’re just not ready to admit it yet!

5. What does the Tarot have to teach/offer the world? ( we’re getting deep here, everybody)

It’s a great tool for providing insight into what’s going on in our lives. I think it helps people to come to terms with the uncertainties we all face at various points in our lives. I did an email reading recently for someone who was facing what seemed like insurmountable problems on many fronts, but (according to the feedback) she was able to find the strength to go on based on what the cards had shown. The Wheel of Fortune was one of the cards that came up in the reading, and I often think this epitomises what the tarot has to teach or offer – that nothing in this life is constant except change.

6. Who would you nominate for the next interview and why? (name and email)

Uhh… wait up. That’s in our next instalment. Find out who Alison has nominated and why next month when I come back with a whole new interview with another amazing reader.

Keep reading, lovely people 🙂