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 post is a continuation of the interview with TABI’s founder. Click here for Part One. We’ll have more interviews with other early members throughout this year.
TABI’s Beginnings (Part Two)
By Diana McMahon Collis, known on the Forum as DianaMC
What is most memorable to you about the early days of TABI?
Probably the thrill of creating something that seemed totally radical and innovative – but also important (a national association seemed like quite a big deal!). I sensed we would help other people, as well as this being of personal interest. I was also keenly aware, at the time, of how tarot had seemed quite a closed world up until then – all very High Priestess-like, surrounded by an air of mystery – centred a lot on readers at psychic fayres – alongside a bit of Magician-like, skilful energy, perhaps embodied in the fayre organisers I came across, who seemed to have a good business sense. One of the most fun things we did in the early TABI days was set up a mini conference, which Viv (Ribbit) kindly hosted; several of us gave workshops/talks on various tarot subjects, and Mick Frankel and I offered readings to local people, on TABI’s behalf. None of this seemed too difficult to do – we just discussed who would cover what, and got on with it, designing workshops, delivering them within a well-organised agenda, and providing readings. Someone even managed to design a little poster for the venue (which was a large pub). We were very lucky to be able to get together like that, across a weekend – Viv and her husband generously provided accommodation for us. My husband was there, too and I seem to remember he and Mick Frankel having a pretty good game of pool, before we got onto the main tarot day.
In all areas of TABI endeavour, we founders and the new volunteers who joined us had a lot of energy among us, as a team! There would be lots of discussions about how to publicise TABI within communities, and what we could offer the TABI membership as a whole. For example, we designed a TABI logo and organised merchandise – TABI-branded bookmarks, keyrings, pens, t-shirts and so forth; there were some talented folk helping us with all of that, who are sadly no longer involved in TABI – but we were very grateful for their input.
As a team, we were constantly looking at how to grow the organisation and refine what we were offering. As with any innovative and developing organisation, there would be times when members didn’t all agree, too – which is bound to happen in any creative environment. But we’d then come up with creative solutions on how to manage such situations! It was all a part of learning how to be an effective presence on the internet, as well – which was a fairly new thing back then (believe it or not!) Flame wars were a new phenomenon and needed nipping in the bud, so we got used to working with a moderator set up. I don’t think trolls had quite arrived, at that point, thank goodness! But if we had outside challenges to handle, those would be discussed and a productive way forward found, too.
I do remember when the organisation went through relatively early phases of major overhauls and wondered how those would work out; but time has shown that each new set of people adds something special. And, besides, as an organisation grows, it’s inevitable that roles and responsibilities also grow – and some of them need to be shared out. A few people, for various reasons, fell by the wayside, or decided to not stay on the TABI path long-term, but no doubt found other options that suited their particular needs. Most of all, though, I remember the sense of friendship and excitement in linking up with people with similar interests. That’s quite a special thing, because a subject like tarot was not a common focus back then, certainly in local communities.
Our organisation coincided with the internet opening up a wealth of interests to people scattered all over the world. We were originally quite closely linked with the American Tarot Association, when starting to gather our ideas about how to go forward – partly because several of us had obtained training in online reading and mentoring there. But I distinctly remember a fairly early decision, within TABI, that we wanted to run our organisation ourselves, as a UK enterprise, and that we would be independent. It felt like a brave move, at the time! We discussed a range of titles for the organisation, knowing that we wanted it to be unique and relevant, whilst also inviting/friendly, alongside encompassing a professional element. We already had a mix of volunteers from different parts of the UK, so we knew we wanted to represent all of the British Isles, but there was already a ‘UKTarot’ group on YahooGroups. British Tarot Association would have been shortened to ‘BTA’ and there were already plenty of quite differently focussed groups with those initials. Then we came up with ‘Tarot Association of the British Isles’, which seemed to fit the bill, and as lots of the members liked cats, the connection of the short version, ‘TABI’, with a tabby cat sat well, too!
TABI had a real warmth to it, right from the start – and I remember when Viv had her daughter, who was very likely TABI’s first baby! I wanted us to acknowledge such a big event, anyway, for one of our central TABI volunteers, so suggested we club together and get her some gifts. We had a whip round, and one of the other members then arranged to get flowers and chocolates organised. Little touches like that – I think they matter, and hopefully reflect the kind-hearted spirit of the organisation.
If you were to choose three Tarot cards representing TABI’s past, present, and future, what would they be?
Wow – it is possible to really pin it down that simply? I’ll have a quick try, with the three cards that first come to mind – so this is very much ‘out of the ether’, rather than me sitting with a deck and blind-selecting some cards. The High Priestess featured on the T-shirts we had made, to wear at festivals, psychic fayres and conferences, so maybe she represents the past, including the spiritual essence of the organisation – did I say that we used the divination side of astrology to help us elect a launch date for making TABI live? Plus I’d been to see a psychic medium, who had told me about a new wave of tarot people appearing, and was sure I was one of them!
I think the Magician might serve for the Present, because we have a fairly well-honed system in place now, with lots of great, dedicated people keeping the wheels well-oiled, in the key areas that need maintenance; masters of their fields, if you will! (although that might be mixing metaphors rather a lot…)
With regard to the future, The Fool comes to mind, probably because I think that any organisation needs an element of risk and change to keep growing – we all need a breath of fresh air, sometimes, don’t we? And TABI’s been pretty good at managing that in the past – so why not, again, for the future?
What are the biggest changes to TABI since its founding? How does it compare with what you envisioned when you started?
There have always been people with strong, leadership and creative energy within TABI. Whether their involvement has been short or long term, they have left a mark on how TABI has functioned and developed. Many of the Chairs we have had have been memorable and brought strong growth energy to the organisation. I used to really enjoy the Ezine, whoever was editing it, and rather miss that we don’t have that anymore; it had developed from a newsletter, quite soon, into more of a magazine format. We moved back to having a newsletter and then the Blog came along – so we moved with technology, in a way. This possibly reflected a trend for a publication medium that encompassed short, sharp bursts of information, which could work in an internet or e-reading format. I’m sure it also means that in a continuing way, more people can be reached, which is a good thing.
I believe TABI has less of a training arm at the moment, than we used to, but so many other organisations are now offering tarot training, on a paid basis, perhaps it puts a different perspective on what TABI’s role ought to be. Ours was a free course at TABI and I wonder if we would have needed to make it more professional to make it totally fair for everyone, because it does take a lot of manpower and commitment to organise, run and maintain courses. But moving in a more professional direction adds its own complications, which may have presented other complexities for TABI. However, I don’t know if there is a more long-term strategy in place for this area, within the organisation. I think it’s amazing that we still continue to run a free reading service and the mentoring support for it. We really do have some very dedicated people on our teams for these areas of TABI service.
When TABI was first taking shape, we used to run our discussions on YahooGroups, and then moved these to the Forum set up everyone is now familiar with. I’m glad we still have the Forum, as it’s a wonderful mine of information for old and new members, alike! Because I’m someone who has always had a joint interest in tarot and astrology, I used to wonder if we might develop more of a multi-discipline focus. But tarot has been the mainstay and we probably tend to keep it to how subjects like astrology, numerology, alchemy, kabbalah, crystal healing – and so forth – are relevant to and within tarot. But people can also chat about their particular interest areas, as they wish, within the Forum set up. I think it’s nice that members who have broader interests can do this, and that these are covered to some extent within forum discussions. But I equally think we all know that the core topic at TABI is tarot – and there’s already plenty to say and learn about this one, main subject. We have active study groups as well as opportunities for people to practice tarot reading, whether or not signed up to our public readings service. We also have the facility to simply ask questions about tarot experiences, and other fascinations, within our community – and to offer and request personal reading opportunities via our exchange. There’s honestly so much on offer in this organisation, it’s quite a cornucopia! In that way, I think it offers much of what I originally envisaged, plus more besides. Something I didn’t necessarily anticipate was that we’d have a worldwide reach and interest – but think it’s rather wonderful that we do.
Some things have stayed much the same over time, of course – and others have been refined to help them work more efficiently, such as the public reading service. I think it’s amazing that we manage the manpower to overhaul areas of TABI, from time to time. And maybe not surprising that, in a volunteer-based organisation, some things end up a little bit stuck in a rut. But, overall, my view is that we have achieved what we set out to do and any changes that occurred did so because they needed to. If some areas remain the same, maybe they are supposed to!
TABI still feels like a friendly place where you can learn a lot about tarot, in one way or another. What I probably didn’t expect was that TABI would build such a solid reputation for being a place to truly hone reading skills – although, if I’m honest, I think I secretly hoped for some sort of greatness for TABI, as it felt a bit like rearing a rather special baby! Baby’s done good!!
Something I’ve noticed, in recent times, is that we have returning members, and, even, returning readers, too. In other words, people may have had a break, or they went off to do other things, but have then returned to the fold. I think that’s rather nice. It suggests there’s something of value here, and maybe even a sense of ‘home’ for people who enjoy tarot.
Thinking about needed changes, though, I’ve noticed such things don’t always happen automatically, even if, in theory, they’d be quite simple to manage. That’s probably true in lots of organisations and areas of life! Personally, though, I think changes occur mostly because someone comes along and notices they are needed – and has the courage to say something, along with the scope to back it up with action. For instance, there was a shake up around the TABI Endorsed Readers area recently and some of us who realised we did want to continue in this role, but had lapsed for quite a while, stepped back up to the plate. Probably not a bad thing! When I personally did this, I also realised that the information we were sending out to readers, who were re-starting, could do with updating, to be a bit clearer and make reconnecting with the process quicker and easier. A few chats with Yvonne (our trusty co-ordinator), over email, and we had some new documents in place quite soon! I was fortunate to have a rare few days spare to help organise things and, when I looked at the situation, realised it just needed a bit of thought, really – some rewriting and a bit of testing things out in practice. I suppose there was also the emotional bit – ie, being willing to speak up and say to my panel colleagues, “Look, this is a bit tricky – I could bumble along and figure it all out eventually, but I do want to get this reading out to the querent – so, help! Tell me what I need to do, and can we then put it in a document to make it easier for other readers, too, who re-join in the future?”
I suppose it’s timing and context, too – since it helped a bit, having long-term experience of what it’s like to work on the service, in the first place. But the main thing that struck me was that it’s easy to forget where to find things, if they’re located in a variety of places (which they may well be, at TABI) if you’ve been out of the loop for a time. But teamwork and feeling ok to just be human really helps, too. Through this process of discussion between us, and the willingness to put in some extra hours, with trial and error and rewriting things (plus risking looking like a fool, along the way!) we got it all more streamlined for people reconnecting as TABI Free Readers. So, there you go – being The Fool isn’t always such a bad thing!
What are your hopes for TABI over the next decade?
That it continues to be a friendly community, offering options and services that help people to enjoy connecting with tarot, and make it meaningful for others, whilst supporting tarot’s reputation as a positive force. I hope TABI members will continue to feel well-supported and happy to offer whatever they feel comfortable in being involved with. I have often thought it would be ideal to have a comfortable balance that accommodates both those who want to engage with tarot in a professional way and those who prefer to connect with it as a hobby or for other, more personal reasons. I suspect that, so long as intentions and focuses are positive ones, though, that’s the main thing. It’s great that people with individual needs and preferences can happily co-exist and benefit, under the same roof, so to speak! I’ve always liked that TABI doesn’t tend to run in an autocratic way; it mattered to us from the start to listen to each other and our community – and I hope we will always continue to do so. But, as with any organisation, with all its complexity, it needs to be run well, which means having certain procedures, strategies, rules and boundaries in place, too. I hope that the TABI community can continue to happily embrace these and find the areas within the organisation that particularly work well for them.
I’m a peace-lover, at heart, and like to think that TABI’s contributions to tarot and community help people find greater peace and connection, overall, whether through study of the cards, chat about them, reading cards for others and getting to be more adept and confident with that, meeting other tarot fans and professionals at conferences – or whatever the attraction may be. Tarot has become much more popular in the past decade and our organisation has a great deal of experience to offer, in opening up the space to a great variety of people. I hope TABI continues to be meaningful and helpful – and to thrive! I love that I’ve made some good friends in the organisation and hope TABI always remains a welcoming, sociable place.
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