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jmd's Avatar
Join Date: 05 Aug 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Tarot Certification Board of America - a critical appraisal

This thread arises out of discussions in the thread certification or not?!???..., in which suggestions have been made that certification has positive consequences. I personally not only totally disagree, but have only grave concerns should such develop and become either more generally accepted or, worse, expected.

As I have now mentioned in numerous other threads, I am in favour of any process that increases general background knowledge and practise of Tarot. It is not any course, any mentoring, nor any discussions that are at issue. It is, rather, two other aspects that are at times placed into the mix: a 'certification' (or 'official endorsement') of a reader, and a 'code' of ethics (ethical considerations are vital, in my personal view, but cannot properly be 'codified').

I state the above as background information about my own views, as I do not in the least expect others to peruse the quite longish posts I may have made in various other threads on the matter (and, of course, in the context of those threads).

Let's have a look at the Tarot Certification Board of America. It is not the only USA based organisation offering such certification, nor the only North American (there are also Canadian ones), nor the only one in the whole of America (which for the world generally, implies the numerous countries finding their location in both the North and the South American continents).

The TCBA currently has seven 'levels' of certification, each of which (except for the first) assumes that one has already mastered the level before.

To be clear as well, the third level does not appear to require that one has paid the previous two levels of certification, only that one demonstrates 'mastery' of those levels (this is a little ambiguous, but am assuming the best-case scenario).

The first three levels are (in their nomanclature):
  • Certified Apprentice Tarot Reader (CATR);
  • Certified Tarot Reader (CTR); &
  • Certified Professional Tarot Reader (CPTR)
Now, I wonder what could be meant by:
'Knows the meanings of the 78 tarot cards in the upright position' (required for CATR); &

'Knows the meanings and uses of reversed cards or can explain an alternate system that contains equivalent information' (required for CTR).
In a reading situation, the most basic level of 'meaning' is a description of the image as it appears. Surely, unless blind, the person can do this easily.

What could be implied by passing such a 'test'? Unless of course a particular and imposed view of Tarot is propounded as the 'correct' one.

There is also, for those two 'levels', an assumption that an increase in the number of cards used is somehow indicative of greater reading skill. In my personal experience, this may in fact be quite incorrect. A reader who enters the divinatory 'space' may narrate a whole hour's reading (as an example) using only a single card.

A reader who only ever uses up to three cards in their reading is nonetheless presumed to somehow be, by the TCBA, inferior to those who use greater number of cards in a spread.

In fact, from their own description, a successful professional tarot reader such as the one I have just described would never be able to gain that board's certificate.

If we continue to turn our attention to this third 'level' of certification (which may cost the applicant up to US$150 if they decide to do the previous two steps one at a time), there is now a further presumption that there are 'impossible questions'.

I suppose there are. For example: 'Has the TCBA stopped not charging for its certificates?' .

It seems that really, the 'criteria' that the person 'is able to rephrase improper or impossible questions' means no more than being able to rephrase questions in ways in which s/he accepts in their particular usage of Tarot... or is that, rather, in ways that the TCBA accepts as 'proper and reasonable'?

Also, their next to last criteria is of real concern ('knows how to teach others how to read tarot cards'), as I presume that this has to incorporate, as presented earlier, 'the meanings of the 78 tarot cards in the upright position', which clearly would already have to be those acceptable to the TCBA - even though we are talking about readers, not about historical generation or iconographic analysis.

We now enter the other 'levels', each of which requires that one is already certified in a previous level by the TCBA (and has hence also contributed to its certification process).

Right at the very next level, we find things totally extraneous to Tarot. To become a 'Certified Tarot Consultant (CTC)', the person, in addition to being already CPTR (Cf above), has to be able to 'attribute the seventy-eight tarot cards to another esoteric or occult paradigm and justify their particular attributions details'.

Why would a Tarot consultant have to be able to do this!?!?!?

Just because the Golden Dawn and some other organisations, some authors, and various other people do so does not make such either necessary nor even desirable for Tarot per se - let alone for a reader!

Having undertaken all this, the person, after a certain period of being a 'CTC', may become a 'Certified Tarot Master (CTM)'.

Here, again, are huge assumptions. Either this or my concept of 'mastership' and theirs just don't meet.

Why would having a review of seven tarot decks be a necessary qualification (and that only in 'approved' publications)? After all, and as an example, I have only ever reviewed fewer - and tend to (with one exception so far) review Marseille-based Tarot.

I personally doubt that either Kris Hadar, Jean-Claude Flornoy, Philipe Camoin or a host of other people who in their own right may be called 'Tarot Masters' have reviewed, for the sake of reviewing, the range of decks generated by Tarot.

Likewise for book reviews and writing articles on using Tarot.

In many cases, a single post within these very Forums by someone with a particular insight may be of more worth then simply what is advocated - and certainly having such publications shows that the person is adept at reviewing in written form decks and books in a way desired by the 'approved publications', rather than any Tarot 'mastery'.

As for the next one, this seems simply a framework by which to generate and ensure that the TCBA continues to generate income. After all, if one wants to be called a 'Grand Master' under TCBA certification, then they first have to be a 'Certified Tarot Instructor (CTI)', which has, as part of its requirement, that:
Taught students who qualify to become certified for a total of twenty-five certification levels
25 times US$50 is, for each 'CTI' under the TCBA, US$12 550, and for each Certified Tarot Grand Master, at least US$12 600.

Of course, by then, the person would want to see increased influence of the TCBA, as it would only aggrandise their own standing.

None of the above, as far as I am concerned, lends argument for the certification of Tarot readers. Quite the contrary.
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #1
Rusty Neon 
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Why single out the TCBA? The certification criteria of certain other tarot certification boards aren't much different.

For example:

American Board for Tarot Certification

Canadian Tarot Network

... and having less, but still some, of the problems discussed in jmd's post:

Tarot Guild of Australia Inc.
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #2
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I totally agree that these other organisations have similar problems.

Included in this could also be TABI.

I have previously, in other threads, focussed criticisms for TABI and for the TGAus.

Each has differing points that can be criticised, and in this case focussed on one in greater detail.
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #3
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What if an university or a high school would include a course of Tarot in their curriculum? How impossible is it? Free choice (how much?) or a dogmatic procedure? Every philosophic school is based on some degree of dogma, after all. Would it lock the bird in a cage or just keep it on a leash? And what would we do without some kind of a cage? I mean certificate program ... I mean a structure... Tarot and structure are self excluding phenomenas?
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #4
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One may already include Tarot within a university course (I know a person that completed a whole deck as part of her BA in fine arts). A number of MAs and PhDs have also been completed in Tarot.

This addresses aspects certainly pertinent to Tarot history, art, or counselling (eg, Dr Inna Semetsky's Master's thesis was related to psychoanalytical research).

We are talking of certification for readers.
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #5
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The members

Did you happen to look up who the members were for TCBA. I think you might get a slight shock. I know I did. Most top respected Tarot authors are there.

If you read the whole requirments for each level there is further down on the page a discription of what it entails.

Be prepared to tell your examiner what each card means to you from memory
Be prepared to answer no less than five questions posed to you by your examiner
Be prepared to use one, two and three card spreads of your choice
Be prepared to explain how changing the sequence of cards in the spread changes the reading and the meaning of the cards
Be prepared to explain how exchanging some of the cards in your spread changes your answer to the posed question
Your examiner may ask you to replace certain cards in your spreads with other cards to test your knowledge of the cards
Your examiner may ask you to move certain cards from one position to another to test your knowledge of the spreads you use
Please remember your examiner is a volunteer who wants you to pass your examination
Please remember your examiner is a volunteer who wants to maintain a high standard for certification

OK this is not that easy and is pretty indepth for a beginner reader. I am not advocating it just saying it is not as bad as it sounds. After all most of those top teachers and authors are the ones doing the testing. Think about that. After all we all read study their books and recommend them. Maybe the testing is based from those same top authors and teachers.
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #6
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Join Date: 14 Jan 2004
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Originally Posted by cybercat
If you read the whole requirments for each level there is further down on the page a discription of what it entails.

Be prepared to tell your examiner what each card means to you from memory
Be prepared to answer no less than five questions posed to you by your examiner . . . {remainder snipped for brevity}
This is assuming you get examined. What if all you do is pay your fee and get your certificate in the mail?


"Well, if that's love, it comes at much too high a cost. I'd sooner buy defying gravity." - Elphaba
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #7
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With regards to the 'members' list (or rather, those who have been recipient of certification by the TCBA), it would of course be interesting to see who amongst this list has actually applied and followed each of the stated rules also stated on the requirements page, and who has been given these 'in honorarium'.

Just as a brief example as to what I refer to. The certification of 'Tarot Grand Master' requires that the person be 'not less than two years as a Certified Tarot Instructor', which in turn requires that he or she 'serve for a period of not less than one year as a Certified Tarot Master', that in turn requires that 'serve for a period of not less than six months as a Certified Tarot Consultant', that, again, in turn requires that the person 'serve for a period of not less than three months as a Certified Professional Tarot Reader'. As a minimum, should the TCBA obey its own stated rules, a Tarot Grand Master would have to have been affiliated with the TCBA for a minimum of three years and nine months.

When was the TCBA established?

Also, as each Certified Tarot Grand Master and Certified Tarot Instructor, if obeying the rules, would have each passed 25 others through certification processes within the TCBA, this would imply that the TCBA has certified a minimum of 71 (the number listed of CTGM & CTI) times 25 (that each would have to have established) = 1775.

Remember, this is according to its own rules, and excluding those who have applied for certification without being on the list of one of those 71 individuals' certification 'nominees' (I use the term for simplicity).

These 1775 individuals alone would already have generated, if, again, the processes as stated are true, an astounding US$ 88 750 for the TCBA - and that is without counting the other certifications.

Though the page is titled members, the list is only given as those with those allocated certifications.

Being on the list does not in the least imply that the person is part of the certification process.
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #8
Join Date: 26 Jun 2003
Location: East Anglia,England
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I believe Eileen Connolly on her website refutes any connection to the TCBA , although they have honored her with a certification ....

That's by the by ... :-)

An interesting critique , JMD . I wonder , if there is anybody who holds any of these certification levels who will present an argument in it's/their favor ? Surely , within a community the size of Aeclectic , there has to be one foolhardy soul prepared to pop his head above the parapet and sacrifice all for the greater good ;-)

As for myself ......I await my friend JMD targetting his guns on TABI in a specific critique of them before getting *really* involved LOL

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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #9
jmd's Avatar
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Remember, ribbitcat, that each organisation also has many wonderful aspects that I value - and as you well know have said the same in other threads too.

For what it is worth, I have sent an e.mail to both the TCBA and the ABTC with a link to this thread...

The criticism in terms of certification is especially pertinent to these two organisations, and also the WTN, each of which seem to have, as primary motive for being, the certification or equivalent of readers.

The TABI may still drop this aspect (and drop a 'code' of ethics) they have unfortunately added to their list of what they do. I would then be in full support of their work. At this stage, I can only support, as the late Pope said of other religions, that which is true and good (rather than the lot!).
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Old 13-04-2005     Top   #10
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