Interview with Anna Burroughs Cook
by Bonnie Cehovet
I recently had the opportunity to review the book Tarot Dynamics, by Anna Burroughs Cook. Anna has developed a system for reading the cards that is focused on the cards as they work in the real world, as opposed to esoteric associations. I found it quite interesting the take that Anna has on the cards, including having her phone clients shuffle and select their own cards from their own deck, and the grouping of t he Aces with the Court Cards, and placing them at the beginning of each suit, and not at the end, which is the traditional placement for court cards.
Anna has graciously agreed to do an interview, so, without further ado, I am going to turn this over to her!
BC: Anna, you have studied and read the Tarot for over thirty years. How did it first come into your life?
ABC: I’d be happy to, Bonnie! In 1977, I was presented with the opportunity to reconnect with the people who had (and, at that time still) owned and operated the Tearoom I remembered so well from my childhood.
BC: Can you tell us a little about the teaching and lecturing that you do in the fields of Tarot and Psychic development?
ABC: That also came about by a happy “accident”, Bonnie. In 1980 as I was concluding a reading, the client (who was well-versed in Astrology, no less) touched my hand, looked me the eye and said, “ I want to learn the Tarot -- from YOU.” Feeling flattered and flustered, I replied that I was much too new to teach, didn’t have any classes underway and hadn’t a clue about how to start one; to which she replied, “You’re more than ready to teach. I can promise you five to six students, maybe more. Let me know when you want to begin and tell me what we need to bring.” I though she was simply being kind.
Much to my surprise, she called me two weeks later with the same offer and would not desist until I’d selected a starting date. Long story short, we had a great time, and after that first class I continued teaching whenever and wherever I could. Since we all know that psychic ability manifests itself according to what is most comfortable and natural for each person, in addition to the Tarot my classes also included dreams and psychometry (the reading of objects). Whenever possible we’d also pay a visit to an allegedly “haunted” house, which I of course, checked out beforehand. It was such a treat to see the smiles on the faces of students who were struggling with the Tarot, once they discovered that psychometry or dreams was their ticket!
Best of all, back in those days, if I didn’t know someone who was teaching a class in dreams or psychometry I could find a reliable someone who did, so it’s safe to say “a good time was had by all.” In 1984 I was invited to deliver a series of lectures on the Tarot and psychic development for an adult education course, entitled “Do Something Different ” for people who simply didn’t know what they wanted to do. It was fun, and a good way to improve both my speaking skills and delivery.
BC: I love the tone of “Tarot Dynamics” – very Seeker focused. How did this book come about?
ABC: By 1998 whether due to the growing fascination with computers or the advancing preoccupation with instant self-gratification (and maybe both) it was becoming unusually difficult to get a Tarot class together. Stranger still, virtually all of the students who signed up had some very, well, downright odd, preconceptions concerning what they wanted to know and why. As if that weren’t enough, almost everyone had actually wanted to learn Astrology, but found it too difficult, time-consuming or both; while the Tarot “sounded and looked much easier and faster.”
When I explained that learning the Tarot wasn’t simply a matter of waltzing into class and saying “I’d like three super large secrets of the universe, and make em’ to go, please ” Oh! Bonnie! You should have seen the annoyed “how-long-will-this-take” look on their faces. I felt like the master of disaster. Although I doubt that that class learned anything, I sure did. THEY taught me that if the Tarot was to survive (at least in my part of the world) then certain aspects of my teaching and presentation needed to change with the times.
However, I didn’t know where or how to begin. Think about it, Bonnie. How would you go about reintroducing the Tarot without undermining its’ principles or completely rewriting it ? So while preparing for another Tarot class in 2003 I devised something new (Tarot Dynamics) for prospective students--a mini FAQ reference & study guide that enabled them to decide if the Tarot was for them and what to expect in class. It worked like a charm; even for students who had previously tried and failed to learn the Tarot or Astrology from other sources. Being able to immediately choose the Tarot deck that most appealed to them made each student more receptive to the class material as well as their own intuitive ability. Best of all, each student who completed the class was able to deliver readings that were comprehensive, highly intuitive and remarkably accurate (not cookie-cutter) readings!
So in 2007 I decided it was time to bring the Tarot all the way into the 21st century, by expanding Tarot Dynamics and begin seeking a publisher. Strangely enough, since the financial collapse that shook the world in 2008 most people have become more self-aware than ever before. However, due the economic uncertainty their attention spans and “free time” are also shorter than in 1998. So, here too, Tarot Dynamics, like Scheherazade assists in maintaining their interest by enabling them to differentiate more easily between what they want to hear and what they need to know—when they need to know it most.
BC: How did you come to list the Court Cards at the beginning of each suit?
ABC: Well Bonnie, when I was learning the Tarot, aside from my Eden Gray paperbacks I also had a copy of Numerology and The Divine Triangle, by Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker. I found it easier to associate the name and of each card according to Ms. Javane and Bunkers’ numerical sequence for cards one-through seventy-eight. Once I was able to think “74” and say “Aha, Six of Pentacles” then I began adding keywords. Strange as this may sound, it also worked well in my classes. With an eight week course, for the first ten minutes of the first four weeks you’d hear me calling out random numbers from 1 through 78 and you’d hear the replies coming back!
BC: How did you come to list the Aces with the Court Cards?
ABC: Like many people, I too learned to read using the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. From there I went on to purchase the Aquarian Tarot then the Morgan-Greer—decks that do not print the Number 1 on their Aces as does the Marseilles Tarot, and many of todays more modern Tarot decks. Furthermore, listing each Ace as a number one breaks the numerical sequence. Happily enough, for more experienced readers Tarot Dynamics simply provides a new way of interpreting the Tarot, no matter how long you’ve been reading or from whom you learned to read the Tarot. However, by blending the more personal or human function of each Tarot Card with basic keywords and definitions that todays’ students can identify with more easily, I’m hoping that Tarot Dynamics will inspire the people of today to once again begin learning Tarot as a first choice rather than a last resort.
BC: You have an interesting take on phone readings – you have your clients draw their own cards. Can you explain your feeling about this for us? What do you do when a potential client doesn’t have a personal deck?
ABC: I can give you two reasons, Bonnie. The first reason is that, being human, I have good days and bad days just like everyone else, Bonnie. Although separating myself from my own concerns has become a surprisingly automatic process once the clients says, “hello”, there’s always a remote possibility that when shuffling the cards for them one or two of any cards I turn over for them might possibly contain a faint echo of my personal anxiety. That’s a risk that I’m simply unwilling to take.
However the second reason is even more significant. No matter what I may “feel” I never, ever go against what the clients cards have to say. Having the client shuffle their own cards enables me to clarify everything I begin to feel from the moment they say, “hello”. I also suggest that the client choose a time of day when they feel that they are at their “best,” so that their cards will reflect as much as possible of what they need to know concerning the weeks and/or months ahead.
Since the majority of my phone clients never owned a Tarot deck prior to our session, I make it point to email them a pdf file that explains everything they need to know, from how to prepare themselves before our session, to where they might purchase their deck. There are also two diagrams, one that illustrates how to cut the cards and one that shows the numbered layout that we’ll be using. Last but NOT least, there are also four jpeg.s’ featuring the Ace of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles accompanied by a numerical translation for the Roman Numerals appear on so many Major Arcana cards! Best of all, I’m now able to record their session on a CD, so no more tapes!
BC: How do you feel about Tarot reading becoming more of an industry than an art?
ABC: Terribly disappointed, but not surprised, because no matter what your profession, you really can’t change or control human nature. At the beginning of the twentieth century our profession, was permanently downgraded to “for entertainment purposes only” thanks to the unethical shenanigans of those who preceded Madame Cleo, whose scandal still haunts us today. Yet, from Art to Medicine and everything in between each profession has always had its’ share of, well, shysters. Why, just recently there were hundreds (if not thousands) of phony real-estate agents attempting to sell or rent houses that they had no legitimate claim upon to buyers whose only mistake was in placing more trust in the phony real estate logo than the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true it usually is. However, the difference between our profession and real-estate, is that the fraud perpetrated by phony estate agents won’t reflect on the entire industry, nor will the real-estate continue to be ridiculed or punished for the shysters ethical malfeasance.
BC: Can you tell us a bit about the Tearoom that you first began reading in? I found that to be a most interesting place to get a start in the field of Tarot!
ABC: It was marvelous Bonnie! Although Cay died in 1969, Cays Tea-Room continued to operate according to Cays rules for nearly twenty years after her death. When Cay opened her Tea Room shortly before the second World War she was determined to employ only the best readers, so no-one began to work immediately after their interview –not even me, not even in 1979. Whether you read Astrology charts, Numbers (Numerology), Playing Cards, the Crystal Ball, Palms, or Tarot your interview consisted of reading for the boss and your starting date depended upon how soon one of your predictions came true. Then and only then, were you able to begin a three to six months probationary period.
The first month was the longest because the boss monitored your readings by steering their fussiest and most difficult clients YOUR way. As long as those clients were satisfied with your reading,(and woe to you if they weren’t!) you could relax--but only a little. Your place wasn’t assured until you began to build a solid word-of-mouth clientele of your own! Then, as now the true merit of any reader depended upon the readers skill. Since word-of-mouth always has been (and still is) the best form of marketing, Cays’ business was founded upon its’ reputation for delivering a quality reading, so they brooked no nonsense from their employees, such as spells and curses. After all their reputation was on-the-line with every reading, so the proprietors vigilance meant that each customer could be certain of obtaining a quality reading.
In fact, when I began reading in 1979 (about forty years after Cays opened) it wasn’t uncommon for a client to remark that having a reading at Cays Tearoom whenever they came downtown was a family tradition that began with their grandmother, or a favorite Aunt. In fact, you’d be amazed at how many “ old-time readings” passed into family legends and are still being repeated today. Upon their daughter or granddaughter “coming of age” it wasn’t unusual for a regular client to introduce the young lady to their favorite reader, very much like inheriting a family heirloom. Remember too, that in Cays heyday any number of the Tearooms clients also came from families who (for whatever reason) considered readings to be “taboo” yet, still believed in “feminine” intuition—as long as it came from their mom, or grandma or Aunt Sally! One can only imagine what the families response would have been if they knew the secret behind mom, or grandma or Aunt Sally’s revered intuition!
BC: You have a site that you are developing to expand on the information in the book. (www.tarotdynamics.com) What are your plans here?
ABC: Back in 2003 when Tarot Dynamics began bringing the Tarot into the 21st century Bonnie, it was only sixty pages long. Due to some misadventures in publishing I had only one month to rewrite, edit and transform sixty pages into 220 pages! So, on one-hand my Web-Site will help clarify some points, and streamline everything else. Naturally, I’ll continue adding pages. In fact I have another section presently underway that I hope to include this Fall or Winter, that will pave the way to another book! However, there will also be an “Ask Anna” section where viewers can request more information concerning whatever portions of the Tarot that THEY want to know more about. I’m hoping that that will also be a source for presenting additional material.
BC: Is there anything that you would like to tell our readers?
First of all, I’d like to thank you, Bonnie for your kindness, support and approval as well as extending the opportunity for me to discuss Tarot Dynamics with your readership. I also hope that my remarks concerning the “average” student of today “waltzing into class and requesting three super large secrets of the universe, to go,” and that learning the Tarot is becoming more of a last resort than first choice, will rattle some cages, because both statements are as sad as they are true. For those of you who love the Tarot as much as I do, I truly hope that you will also begin or continue writing Tarot articles and books that will preserve the Tarots’ reputation as a beacon of genuine and total enlightenment in the metaphysical hierarchy.
I would like to thank Anna for sharing her thoughts with us. Her system is very easy to use, and will appeal to all levels of readers – it is a fresh perspective on how cards are read, and a very down to earth approach to helping the Seeker.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.
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