Interview with Alyssa Montalbano (2010)
by Bonnie Cehovet
I had the very good fortune to have Alyssa Montalbano’s “Tarot Journal” cross my path a couple of years ago. It was so innovative, and such fun to use that I became enamored with it. My Tarot Journal is a literal chronicle of what I was going through in my life at that time.
The “Tarot Journal” is 9” by 12”, with two pages devoted to each reading. On the left hand side is a blank page for the recording of the template for the reading and the cards drawn, while the right hand side records the date, deck used, question asked, and card interpretations. At the back of the book are several pages of stickers that are taken out, labeled with the card drawn, and marked as to whether the card is upright or reversed. Each page will hold up to a 22 card reading.
Recently Alyssa (aka Ari Stone, her artist persona) developed a very well done video explaining how to use her journal on You Tube. I was interested in what prompted Alyssa to develop the video, and she agreed to answer a few questions.
BC: I loved using your journal – it was a tremendous help during a difficult time. I also really loved your video! How did the video come about?
AM: I am very into education, in all forms. I love putting things together to make them easier for anyone to understand. I have had years of training as an actor, artist, graphic designer and some studies in video/film production/editing. Admittedly, I was very nervous recording my voice over (even though I was the only one in the room) as I am kind of shy about vocally speaking up sometimes. Eventually, I envision myself working up to speaking at “tarot” events and working in tandem with more tarot teachers to create more products to aid in the study of tarot through the use of the visual and tactile learning modals. According to Early Childhood Education and development (which I am currently studying and want to step into curriculum development) children learn through active exploration and doing. My main contention is that adults also still learn that way too. I have made the additional learning styles; of visual and tactile; available to the tarot community via the Tarot Journal and its smaller standard journal sized partner Daily Spread Tarot & Oracle Journal.
Aside from my passions for learning and creating, I have received many questions about what the journals are and how they work. Being an artist, as well as a tactile learner I knew a video would be worth more than a thousand written words. However, the ultimate tactile learning experience and tactile understanding comes with the actual hands on use of the journals and living your life after the card reading.
I plan to put together another simple video for the Daily Spread Journal as well.
BC: I had to laugh at your method for taking the stickers from the back of the book – I do the exact same thing! Can you talk a bit about how the stickers are best used?
AM: Card Stickers are best used by sticking them on your arms, fingers, and face. After you have peeled off the number of Card Stickers that match your actual tarot (or oracle) card reading and stuck them on your arm and fingers (and face where needed), you are ready to place them in the layout space areas. LOL I laugh, but I do this and it’s a great way to transfer a lot of Card Stickers without flipping back and forth from the sticker sheets in the back.
On a more serious note, each journal has stickers that are designed slightly different. In Tarot Journal the Card Stickers have lines on them; whereas Daily Spread’s Card Stickers have no lines. When I use the Tarot Journal I tend to write the name of the actual tarot card drawn, at the top of the Card Sticker. Then, I write the description about the position the Card Sticker is placed in on the lines placed centrally on the Card Sticker. I will fill in the circle at the bottom of the Card Sticker, if I am reading in reverse that day and draw the card in reverse. With Tarot Journal I tend to make my notes about the tarot card meaning(s) and reading interpretation in the note space on the opposite page. My recording method is somewhat different with the Daily Spread Journal, in that I will write a very abbreviated card meaning in the little box on the Card Stickers, as opposed to the position description.
BC: You cover using the right hand, information side of the reading in your video. Can you tell us a bit about his?
AM: Actually, I intend on improving that section of the video, in order to make it more clear and easy to see in detail what I am talking about. Due to the need to have some form of video up for tarot students, teachers, and metaphysical business owners to view, I went with the basic footage that I had and will make a better quality version soon.
As it specifically relates to using the right hand side information page, I tend to first fill in the information about the reading at the bottom, then write in my question (at the top), after that I will take my card deck and shuffle and layout my actual card reading, then I will place the Card Stickers to match my actual card reading layout (sometimes I will place the Card Stickers first, just depends on my mood), once those are in place I will usually fill in the blanks on the Card Stickers and then I will write my notes. I tend to still use a book (though I do recognize the basic energies of cards fairly well now, but I still like the element of surprise in using a book. My favorite book to use is for interpretations is “Power Tarot” by Trish MacGregor and Phyllis Vega, because their interpretations are usually very positive and encouraging in nature. I also like that they have made sections (Romance, Health, Spirituality, etc) for each card if it’s being read regarding a particular area of interest. Once all of the main blanks have been filled in on the information side of the journal, there is a special note taking area for Occurrences / Later Happening. This is one of the best aspects to assist one in learning tarot, because this note area will be filled in at a later point in time to document (write) about what actually happened. In this fashion “the reader” can start to learn “what cards” turn up for them when “x” types of physical events take place. It really helps one learn even more about the cards through more fully engaging their tactile learning modal of “doing it”, looking at the former reading (visual) and writing more information (audile learning modal).
BC: The journal page is structured so that notes can be made on the day the reading is done, and then at a later date. How did this come about?
AM: While the above answer lightly touches on this question, I want to more fully expound on learning styles and how I learned about them.
When I first created the journals I was aware of 3 major learning modals; visual, tactile and audile. Prior to learning about my preferred learning styles of tactile and visual, I was an average student. Meaning I most got B’s and C’s during my high school years and even in my early college years. I worked just as much when I was younger to attain good grades, but still fell short without the integration of my favored learning styles. To make a long story short, I met a man by the name of Jeremy Whelan around 2001, when I was exploring acting as a career. However, what I learned from his acting system about learning styles changed my life forever, in how I approached my education and learning. I wound up illustrating and designing Jeremy’s fifth book titled Mosaic Acting System (MAS). From that experience I basically started my journey into my passion of developing “curriculum” and publishing. After finishing MAS in 2003, I began to focus on my art and in the next couple of years (2005) returned to school. It was then I truly understood the gift that I have been given in learning about my learning style, as I have been a straight A student for 5 years now, from math, to science, to business. I found that I was able to take any information and make is easy for my brain to understand and comprehend. This made learning even more enjoyable for me, especially since I understood how to ask questions to build the pictures in my brain that would ensure I understood. I can be found in classes taking notes and in my head imagining the scenarios we are talking about. I always highlight and draw images in my books to help me comprehend, the college kids who get my books after me, get rainbow colored books with some additional images! Lol - Simple stick like men, in some cases, is enough to help me visually understand what I am reading. Most every A I have earned since 2005 has been with a 96% or higher final grade in my classes.
While attending at ITT from 2005 – 2006 I came up with the idea of creating a “book” (Journal) that would make recording tarot card readings easier and that would also aid in enhancing learning / understanding the tarot. My love for stickers and tactile explorations, lead me quickly to the idea of creating Card Stickers for people to use to record card readings (instead of drawing boxes). At the time I was dating a man who also played with tarot cards and recorded card readings and I ran the idea by him and he agreed it was a great idea.
As I reflected back on learning styles, instructors and curriculum(s), I realized the times I did well in school was when my preferred learning modals were being engaged. I recall my 9th grade Spanish teacher who applied the main three learning modals mentioned above (visual, tactile, audile). She would bring in shoes and make the class say Los Zopatos, or she would have us walk around the room and touch things and say what they were in Spanish, she also had us make Spanish dishes for class pot lucks and made us sing songs with her in Spanish. I never fully understood (until after meeting Jeremy Whelan) why I had a high A in that class for the first 3 quarters (then it got more into sentence structures in the 4th quarter and I had a high B) and I didn’t even like that class. The reason why I tell this story, is because the beauty of learning styles is that you don’t have to understand ‘how’ or ‘why’ they work in order for you to learn. If the learning styles are being applied, then basically you will learn because you are engaging your preferred learning modal. It is natural to learn with all of your brain, through self motivated exploration and (of course) fun.
So . . . having said all that . . . now I can answer the main question above about the “Occurrences / Later Happenings section and how that came about. The main reason for this section is to engage the tactile learning modal in a major way. When you do a tarot card reading and look at it again, and compare it with what was ‘actually’ lived, a very important opportunity for enhanced learning and easier understanding of tarot is presented and understanding starts to come more easily. Not only is learning enhanced but its also very fun! Fun also has been proven to enhance learning. Learning through play is also what is being taught for teaching pre-school children. I also know that adults need to learn through play too. Soon the cards will start showing and revealing patterning in the card readings that will indicate real life events. The Occurences/Later Happenings section also begins to help develop self commitment. The commitment portion to yourself comes when you ‘make’ a date to return to your card reading (mark it on your wall calendar if needed) and when you follow through with writing notes about what actually happened.
Recently, I have begun taking ECE (Early Childhood Education) classes (have taken enough courses to be an Assistant Teacher in an Early Childhood Education setting) and have gained a more thorough understanding of the value of learning through play and exploration. I believe that adults still learn as ‘children’ do, through play and exploration. I have created the Tarot Journals to be a launching pad for play and exploration. When I first made Tarot Journal, my two main reasons were “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a journal for recording card readings that had stickers in it, so you don’t have to draw boxes?.” And my second main reason “Wouldn’t it be neat to have an easier and fun way to learn and understand tarot that engaged the tactile and visual learning modals?.”
Yes, this was my “nut shell” explanation . . . lol . . . and to put a finishing touch, after having created Tarot Journal for larger card readings; I became aware of the need to create a smaller daily version that allowed for a LOT more (smaller sized) card readings to be performed than Tarot Journal and thus Daily Spread Tarot & Oracle Journal came to be.
BC: What would you like people to take away from this video?
AM: The ability to easily understand how to use their Tarot Journal(s) and to be able to share the video with friends who may also be interested in having fun recording tarot card readings with stickers, while also enhancing their learning of tarot. Overall, Tarot Journal is about people learning to look to themselves for answers, guidance and direction. My main goal is to provide fun, accompanied with the vehicle to easier learning of tarot and practical journaling with Card Stickers.
© 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.