In recognition of TABI’s 20th anniversary this year, we have asked some of the earliest members of TABI to share some of the history of the organisation’s founding, as well as their personal memories, observations, and thoughts about the future of TABI. This first post is a history of how TABI was founded. We’ll have more to share from TABI’s founder in Part Two, as well as interviews with other early members throughout this year.
By Diana McMahon Collis, known on the Forum as DianaMC
What was your role in TABI’s beginnings?
I suppose the short answer is, I wanted something like TABI to exist as an organisation and began to imagine it as a reality. I was keen to create some kind of community hub in the UK that could support tarot readers and help them feel less isolated. At the time, I happened to quite quickly meet other people interested in tarot and whilst, for some, it was just something they were fascinated by, several of us were keen to actively increase our involvement in professional tarot work. As we talked, this idea started to crystallise into something real. For my part, I imagined a set up that would put readers in touch with work opportunities in tarot, as well as help them to work safely – and to their best ability – when coming to the point of actually carrying out readings for the public. These were things I’d been shown were important when I’d trained in London as an astrologer. I had also had mixed experiences, as a recipient of readings by professionals – and knew of people who had not been treated appropriately by teachers of tarot. So all of that background was influencing my thinking and telling me that we needed an organisation with good ethics, which would work at supporting people coming into contact with tarot at all levels – and help ensure it had a good name, as a subject of interest that can really help people when handled the right way.
Actually, maybe that’s not the shortest possible answer! But the decidedly longer answer is, I was looking for a fresh direction in my working life, which might sound weird when I tell you that I’d been a freelance writer and consultant for almost a decade by then. That is, I was writing and consulting for my living –really quite lucky to be combining a love of words with a passion for divination, and doing work that was all about inspiring and helping other people. It’s not what everyone was able to do in the 1990s after leaving university and working in the corporate world for a while! However, there I was, fortunate to be working as a media astrologer and magazine columnist – I regularly taped forecasts for phone lines, and was writing on various ‘mind body spirit’ subjects (tarot, crystal healing, numerology, psychology, alternative health practices, etc). I had also had the opportunity to study at a proper astrology school and one that also happened to like tarot (all quite unusual back then). I had some amazing tutors, who encouraged me to get formal certification and practice professionally. So, I became used, quite quickly, to seeing clients for chart and card consultations.
The experiences in the astrology school really influenced my thinking about developing an organisation dedicated to tarot and how it would run effectively. I had found that being around other people with a passion for these kinds of subjects helped immensely with my learning and understanding – I grew so fast as a reader, because of them – hence, having a training corps became an early focus for TABI. Reading for others can be a lonely job in some ways, though – and there was not much in the way of supervision for anything like that, at the time – at least for tarot. But I used to book supervisions with other, more experienced practitioners at the astrology school, so that my work was mentored; this really helped to build my confidence and then I felt more supported when I was offering consultations to the public. As you can probably guess, some of this thinking underpinned the idea to offer readers a mentoring system, at TABI.
Although I was really fortunate in experiencing success in my chosen branches of work, success sometimes comes at a price. And I was feeling quite jaded due to the high level of output required to sustain such an alternative career. Writing columns and tarot phone line input, and recording my own astrology service forecasts were mainstays of my regular work remit – and I was getting RSI from typing, not to mention a bit tired of the repetition of speaking into a tape recorder every day, starting each section with “Hello Aries [or any of the other twelve zodiac signs]; this week looks like being an interesting one…[etc, etc]” for the type of format I had to follow! Don’t get me wrong – it was great fun for the first ten years! But I was writing for other people as well and my head was jam-packed with everything astrological all the time. I really wanted to extend my tarot interest further, alongside other parts of the mind-body-spirit focus that had always captured my imagination.
I did see clients for face to face readings, too, and was getting into writing more in-depth articles on healing and alternative health interests – but the whole of my work remit was adding up to a lot of output and I sensed I was getting drained; I clearly needed more balance in my working life! And this is where divine intervention stepped in, as I sought out a reading with a spiritual psychic to help me work out how to develop freshness and more variety in my career involvements. She was foremost a medium, who included a few tarot cards in our connection, as a ‘way in to connect with spirit’, as she put it. I was hugely enthused about tarot, at the time, and we inevitably talked about that; she told me that she could see I was going to be one of several people helping a new wave of tarot to come into being! She said it was something she’d already been told about (by Spirit) and it seemed I was one of the first people coming along, to make this a reality. I was quite thunder-struck – it seemed extremely exciting! It really is quite magical to be told that someone already knew you’d be visiting (rather James Bond-like, but in a good way; you know: “I’ve been expecting you…!”)
A bit before that reading – I’d found a weekly tarot course in the new area I’d moved home to, outside of London. It was a really radical subject to find in a local, ‘adult ed’ offering, back then, in little old leafy Surrey, but there it was! And the lady running it, who was also a medium, helped me understand more about the cards and building my confidence further with my face to face reading ability. Tarot reading is possibly a more intuitive style than I was used to with astrology chart interpretations, so I had been feeling a bit out of my depth in my early tarot consultations and experiences. But this tutor was excellent because she encouraged me to trust my intuition and just say what I saw in the card, or what I felt about it. That experience has never left me and I’ve found it a good way to mentor people who get tongue tied when trying to carry out a reading.
My personal circumstances, in those early days, soon required yet another move of home; little did I know it would be to somewhere I’d soon hook up with a fellow tarot fan, though – and one who was to become one of the co-founders of TABI with me! She has since moved on to other pastures; but her involvement was pivotal back then, especially as we got involved in working at psychic fayres together – a whole stepping up of the experience of reading for the public, for sure. I’d met her through YahooGroups online, which had started to catch on in the UK – if you can imagine the context that we hadn’t had the internet around as a regular thing at all long, this all seemed brand new, and extremely exciting!
Via the internet connections, I began meeting other people through tarot chats – both on email and in person, in the South East of England. Some were also across the pond, part of the American Tarot Association, where I signed on as an online reader and soon became a mentor to other tarot readers. Some of the ATA folk were Brits like me, too, and we knew one another from a variety of international and UK online groups that had started up. In Britain, around my new Surrey/Hampshire borders home, my new neighbour had also met other local people interested in tarot and we hooked up as a sort of shifting band, sometimes locally, sometimes online – but all loosely interested in the idea of forming a collective that would focus primarily on tarot. We talked a lot! This was via YahooGroups, email and in person, but wasn’t just ‘chat’ and pipe dreams. It became obvious, fairly quickly, that some of us were serious about this ideas, and so we came up with a clear sense of what we would create in reality. As a team, we had a mix of experience to bring, from previous organisations, involvements and interests. For myself, this included a few marketing and PR skills – which were areas I happened to know a bit about from working as a freelancer and in the media for so long.
I had also worked as a trainer in my former working life, which included teaching groups of people and writing training manuals for courses. So I was happy to get involved in a plan for TABI to offer training and mentoring to new tarot readers. I worked with Vivianne (Ribbitcat) and Mick to establish the Training and Mentoring systems for TABI Free Reading – and we all actively worked as TABI Free Readers and Mentors to other readers, testing the system out as we went. I can’t tell you how ground-breaking and thrilling it all felt!
In our pioneering exploits, there were also practical admin tasks to handle, which kept everything quite grounded (no bad thing!) I took on the Treasurer role, as we established moving to a paid membership – and Mick Frankel and another member (who has since moved on) travelled to Farnham to help me open the TABI bank account; I’d done the research on which local bank could help with a suitable, community account but needed more than one signatory and witnesses to open it, so they made a generous pilgrimage to Farnham and off we all went, as a happy little band, to my local Barclays branch!
Somewhere around that time, I also became Editor of TABI’s Ezine – which was a fairly natural progression from working as a freelance writer and editor (which I still do, now, in my professional work). At TABI, we no longer produce the Ezine, but did so for quite some years, for which I established a format that was followed by some of the subsequent editors. I guess the format may have influenced output in some of our other publications/broadcasts, too, as, in the early days, we called it a ‘newsletter’, rather than an Ezine – and it was designed to help tarotists get access to tarot-related content in lots of ways. We featured local groups and events, tarot deck reviews, interviews with book and deck authors, tarot’s appearance in the media – and so on.
In the meantime, I brought my astrology learning to play in casting an astrological chart to select the best date for the official launch of the association (which involves some specific, ancient techniques). Once we had that in place, I assisted with TABI’s marketing drive to help publicise that we had gone live. This was fun and very exciting! I enjoyed being able to connect more with the publishing world that I loved – and where I’ve coincidentally ended up working more closely, in the past decade, through increased editorial and writing involvements. Back then, though, I had no idea I’d later end up supporting other authors as a consulting editor, helping them to get published. Nor did I imagine I’d be involved in creating tarot decks and booklets of my own. The former work came along in relation to long-term experience in the Mind Body Spirit sphere and as a writer/editor. But the Tattoo Tarot and Movie Tarot decks, that have come out in the past four years through LKP and Orion, came my way initially through being a reader at TABI, can you believe! I never imagined anything like that would happen – I just thought I might be lucky to attract a bit more consultancy work from people wanting professional readings. Anyway, I haven’t checked the chart about my own development at TABI (though it might be interesting to see what the astrology shows) but it was used to help give the organisation as sound a start as was possible at the time. We used to have it displayed on the TABI website’s home page – I don’t know what’s happened to it in more recent times. But I still have a copy somewhere, in my old and probably quite dusty files!
My earlier involvements with a professional astrology association (and the school I’ve mentioned) helped a lot with developing some of the formats and directions for how to run TABI – which we discussed as a team, of course. This included the idea to encourage a strong system of ‘reader ethics’, which could support TABI’s readers and the public, alike. I also suggested we develop a main panel to help steer the organisation in a supported direction, and served on TABI’s main steering committee panel for quite some time, including holding the role of Chair. I was also acting as the Secretary, for a while, which might have been combined with the Treasury role at first, in welcoming new members into the organisation.
It was a bit overwhelming, eventually, though, having so many roles, and, as the organisation grew, I was glad to start passing some of them on to other volunteer members. I have remained constantly on the panel for assessing new reader applications, however, as it’s something I’ve always had a passion for – not least because it’s fascinating to meet new readers and see what has influenced them. I’m lately doing more as an active Free Reader at TABI again, too; the magic of tarot will never really lose its fascination, for me, and I like to keep my hand in, whether or not I’m doing a lot of professional readings work at the same time!
To put all of the above in context, what happened with TABI was a very long way from my early start of finding tarot through Prediction magazine, and reading around on various ‘mind, body and spirit’ subjects. This was in the long ago setting of a teenage girl, living in a remote, tiny village on the Surrey/Sussex border, where very few people even knew about subjects like divination, let alone discussed them openly! I had come across tarot, astrology, spirituality, psychology and alternative health focuses, since they were all areas that captured my imagination, at a time when I was looking for answers in life. I had really wanted to understand myself better, as well as appreciating what made other people tick. I had no idea any of this was going to put me on the path of helping found a major national organisation! But, if I think about it, I can see how one thing led to another… It’s probably true for everyone; there are some things in your background and chosen pathways that represents the seeds of what you will implement in a bigger context later on. But now this is sounding a bit like part of a tarot reading…so let’s move on!
If people want to connect with me, personally, they can do so internally through our Forum membership messaging system (Forum name: DianaMC), or externally via my blog at https://celestialspot.blogspot.com/ or on Twitter @DianaMcM_Collis and Facebook @MindblissNews