Book Reviews

I have been collecting Tarot books for about 30 years, and some of the books in this section are now out-of-print, whilst others have been re-published in new editions. My aim in writing these reviews is to give you an overview of each book, along with its strengths and weaknesses, plus my personal opinion. The section is by no means complete as I have lots more books to review, so keep your eyes on my blog for news of additions.


The Definitive Tarot

Author: Bill Butler
Publisher: Rider and Company
Year Published: 1975
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-09-121010-6
The author's intention in writing this book is stated clearly at the beginning of the introductory chapter - "This book attempts to look at the symbolism of the cards themselves and at the commentaries on the Tarot of a number of writers. Based upon these two sources, a theory of the Tarot is formulated which works for the writer and may work as a way-station for some-one else" (p.1). Although Butler seems to be saying that 'hopefully' others will find it helpful, in his opening statement he says that a great deal of rubbish has been written about the Tarot in the last 170 years. The implication of this is that Butler actually knows what he is talking about compared to all these other people - an attitude reminiscent of Waite's own - and is reflected in the title of this book.

The book follows a fairly standard format, offering an introduction, the history and structure of the Tarot, the Tarot's connections or otherwise with Egypt and Thoth, the Minor and Major Arcana, concluding with a chapter on spreads and divination..

The author's account of the Tarot's history is both interesting and insightful. When writing about the way that various individuals have developed the Tarot over the years, he points out that each one is very much influenced by his own experience and world view.

The question of whether the Tarot's origins lie with Egypt is explored through the story of Thoth, a fascinating account. Butler reaches the conclusion that the Tarot is of unknown origin, yet is "the sum of a system of belief in death and resurrection........one of the largest figures is, call him by what name you will...... Hermes, he is Thoth" (p.13).

Moving on, Butler next addresses the Minor Arcana. For each card he describes the designs of Marseille, Waite, Aquarian, Crowley and the New Tarot, followed by a list of interpretations by thirteen different people, including Huson, Douglas, Kaplan and Thierens. At the end of each card he gives his own suggested interpretations, many of which seem archaic and not particularly helpful, e.g. Ace of Pentacles - "The Active Principle of Solar Fire, sensation conscious of its existence. Vulcanism. The first card of the Tarot deck. Beginning" (p.19); Nine of Cups - "The senility of intuition. Blind faith. This card may describe some miracles. It also describes the beneficiaries of blind faith, fat churches" (p.75).

Butler's penultimate paragraph in this chapter is a scathing comment about Stuart Kaplan in which he states that Kaplan's work is greatly indebted to the work of Waite and Gray, yet is extremely inferior and of no value. This is another example of Butler's arrogance and intolerance.

The author's treatment of the Major Arcana is very similar in that he gives design descriptions by twelve people including Bembo, Waite and Gray; also, interpretations of nineteen people, such as Grimaud, Knight and Waite, followed by his own suggested interpretations. For some of the cards Butler gives historical information, but not for all because "For many of the cards it is simply that they are so common.....as to make commentary unnecessary. In the instance of other cards, the description......has been lacking or sketchy because of a lack of sympathy on the part of the author with that particular card" (p.191).

The next logical step is to look at Tarot spreads and divination. Butler describes several spreads, most of which are far from simple. The two simplest are the Celtic Cross and Churchyard Spread. Besides these, he gives three spreads which use all seventy-eight cards - Mathers Third Method, which, according to Butler, takes several slow hours; the Planetary Arrangement; and Crowley Divination. This last is extremely complex and according to how the cards fall, there are several points at which the reading may have to be abandoned. Unfortunately, Butler doesn't give any sample readings.

In his closing chapter, the author makes a couple of very interesting points - ".....central truth of the Tarot.......is the facility which they afford a receptive mind to........evoke an already-formed answer in the Querent's mind".......and "The answer already exists........the Reader and the Querent locate them; and it is for the Querent to understand them" (p.209) - words of wisdom indeed. And in contrast to that, the final words of his book are "There is too much mystery. Too many experts. Too many books on the Tarot" (p.211). One wonders what Butler must think about the thousands of books and Tarot decks available today.......

As to whether Butler has fulfilled his intention, he has definitely done so, presenting his material at times in 'list' form which is dry and lacks passion, and at others in fascinating detail. Butler comes across as a contradictory character, yet his book is all the more interesting because of it. Recommended.

I have been unable to find any biographical information on this author.

The Tarot - How To Use And Interpret The Cards

Author: Brian Innes
Publisher: Black Cat
Year Published: 1987
Edition: 2
ISBN: 978-0-7481-0014-9
The author's intention in writing this book is not explicitly stated within the text, but the title is straightforward and self-explanatory. He begins with a look at the history of playing cards, which makes for a good lead-in to, and an exploration of, the Tarot's origins. This in turn is followed by an examination of the Tarot's links with the Qabala.

Innes goes on then to address each Major card in depth, before writing in brief about the Minor Arcana. The logical progression from there is to address Tarot-card reading, and then a final, seemingly misplaced chapter about the problems of finding genuine links between Tarot, Astrology, and Alchemy.

The opening sentence of the book in relation to the origin of playing cards is fascinating, as "Nobody can truly say where playing cards have come from" (p.4) is just what has been said about the Tarot times without number. Although this chapter is perhaps of passing interest, Innes' approach to the origins and history of the Tarot is absolutely superb. It is written from a very particular slant, beginning with a quote from Court de Gebelin stating that "........this Egyptian book survives today......this book is.....the game of Tarot" (p.7). Innes then traces the developments that sprang directly from Gebelin's 'knowledge' of the Tarot being irrefutably Egyptian. From Gebelin, Alliette developed his own ideas, followed by Eliphas Levi, Jean-Baptiste Pitols, MacGregor Mathers and then Arthur Waite.

The author follows this up with his own confident statement - "Where do these pictures come from? Of one thing we can be quite sure: their source is not in Ancient Egypt" (p.10). He further states that "It is clear then, that the Tarot pack as we possess it today........is a conglomeration from a variety of sources" (p.13). Innes further questions the links made by writers such as Alliette with the Qabala, more or less deconstructing the 'evidence', and demonstrating the unlikeliness of it.

In an abrupt leap from history to the Major Arcana cards, Innes presents three groups of cards for examination - those of historical importance; traditional designs; and 18th and 19th century designs, each group being represented by at least two different decks. Full colour illustrations are used throughout. It is important to note that although the author gives details of the whereabouts of some of the original cards, many of them will by now have changed ownership/museums.

For each card, the author describes the various versions of it, followed by an interpretation. Having said that, he gives a lot of information about where the various symbols may have come from and what they might mean, followed by a few words which are intended to be used in a reading, e.g. the Empress - "She is the vegetable world, beauty and happiness - but perhaps with a hint of over-ripeness, and even decadence" (p.22); the Hanged Man - ".......may mean what you will.........means change - not the slow inevitable change of the Wheel of Fortune, but sudden violent change, demanding sacrifice" (p.42).

Innes' approach to the Minor cards is very different, and he gives only the briefest of 'traditional' meanings. He points out that there are so many variations in the Minor deck that "When you come to practice divination......it is only important that you know what each card means for you" (p.68).

In writing about Divination by Tarot, the author makes a rather amusing observation - ".....If we take only the 22 trumps, they can be arranged in 1,124,727,000,777,607,680,000 different sequences....." (p.72). And this is why, he tells us, that spreads matter. Innes presents the reader with several spreads, ranging from the simpler one, e.g. Celtic Cross and the Horseshoe spreads, to Macgregor Mathers spreads which use up to all seventy-eight cards. Four sample readings are given in relation to the short spreads, but no samples are offered with the longer ones. Undoubtedly it would take a whole book just to demonstrate Mathers' and Crowley's ways of working.

In another abrupt leap from Divination to the final chapter, Innes again shows why the surmised links between Tarot, Astrology and Alchemy are so tenuous as to be very unlikely to exist at all.

This is a book of many qualities. The author's own take on the Tarot history is fascinating, and much of the material presented throughout the book is of an intellectual nature. The true focus seems to be on this, with rather less emphasis on the practical aspects of Tarot. At times, the transition from one chapter to the next is a leap rather than a glide, and although it is probably not the best book for a beginner, it is nevertheless a gripping read. As a Tarot student of many years, I have learned much from this book, and recommend it highly. I have been unable to find any biographical details about Brian Innes so if anyone can point me in the right direction, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

How To Read The Tarot

Author: Sylvia Abraham
Publisher: Llewellyn
Year Published: 1994
Edition: 1 Tenth Printing
ISBN: 978-1-56718-001-5
Sylvia Abraham is an American woman who lives in California where she owns and runs a metaphysical books and supplies shop. She has been reading and teaching others to read the Tarot for over twenty years.

Abraham's intention in writing this book is very simply and directly conveyed in its title - 'How To Read The Tarot', and the book, like the title is presented in a very accessible manner. It is well-structured, easy to read and very interesting.

The book follows a logical progression, starting with a look at the origins and history of the Tarot; getting started; a breakdown of the Tarot deck and Tarot's connections with the elements; an explanation of each card in the deck; the Court cards; Tarot spreads, and finally, a chapter on Tarot symbols.

Abraham's introductory chapter encompasses the origins and history of the Tarot, Tarot divination, choosing a deck, and reading the Tarot, all of which is contained within eight pages. As a result, each aspect is visited very briefly. For a person with some Tarot knowledge and experience this would serve as a reminder, but given the book's title and obvious target audience of newcomers, it seems a little bit like a skimming stone bouncing off the surface of a lake. More information on each aspect would undoubtedly have given a more substantial grounding on which to build.

Following on from this, the author describes the Tarot's structure, the meanings of the elements, and presents her unique 'Keywords' approach to the Tarot. This system involves each Major card having a key word or phrase to sum up its meaning, e.g. "The High Priestess - I Know", "The Hermit" - Wisdom Through Experience" (p.11). All the Minor cards bearing the same number as their Major counterparts and also use the same keywords, e.g., "2 of Wands - the key phrase of the High Priestess, Key 2 is "I Know", so the 2 of Wands is "I know my work and social activities" (p.11).

Abraham progresses through the cards in groups of numbers, e.g the Magician and the Four Aces etc.. For each Major card she gives its keyword, it's ruler, its element, the corresponding Minor cards, positive and negative attributes, interpretation of the symbols, comments on the ruling planet, and the upright and reversed meanings. Whilst this might sound like a lot of material, it is presented succinctly and in a way which brings all aspects of the card together. The Minor cards simply show the upright and reversed meanings in a spread. Black and white images of the Rider-Waite Tarot are used throughout.

The author's approach to the Court cards is very interesting. She takes a traditional approach but also offers interpretations for some combinations of Court cards, e.g. "If 2 Queens are side by side - friends, lovers and relatives" (p.181); "If several Kings are in the spread - problems with authority figures or police" (p.181). Another innovative approach to the Court cards is that of 'time', e.g." Queen of Wands, (ruled by) Leo; time - weeks" (p.191); "Knight of Pentacles, (ruled by) Taurus; time - year" (p.203).

In her chapter on spreads, Abraham presents five Tarot spreads - the Celtic Cross, 17-card, 7-card, Astrology, and Tree of Life. Each one has at least one very useful and informative sample reading.

The author's final offering is a chapter on symbols, explaining their importance, and giving a very extensive and fascinating list of symbols and their meanings, e.g. "Bird - freedom, messenger, telepathy" (p.249); "Ice - frozen mental attitude" (p.252); "Wall - limitation (man-made)" (p.257).

So has Abraham delivered on her intention to teach people 'How To Read The Tarot'? The answer has to be a resounding yes. The limited amount of information given at the beginning of the book is more than compensated for by the wealth of information presented throughout the rest of it. Abraham's innovative approach to the Tarot makes for a very refreshing read. A must-have.

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom Part 2

Author: Rachel Pollack
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1983
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-85030-339-1
Rachel Pollack has been a scholar of the Tarot for many years and is a leading authority on the subject. She has written numerous books, both non-fiction and fiction, on the Tarot, and has designed her own deck, 'Shining Woman Tarot'. Her work has been translated into several languages and she has world-wide recognition.

This book constitutes part two of the author's seminal work, 'Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom' and is written with the intention to "create a 'humanistic' Tarot.....to give a rounded picture of who we are, how we act and what forces shape and direct us" (p.10). The author leads up to this statement via an explanation of why the Rider-Waite deck in particular became so fundamentally important. Prior to its creation, the Minor Arcana showed only 'pip' configurations, but Pamela Colman-Smith's illustrations of Waite's Minor cards, although "crudely drawn pictures, awkward, often out of all proportion or perspective.....somehow have led thousands of people into an understanding not just of the cards, but of themselves" (p.12).

Continuing with the Introduction, Pollack describes in depth the meanings of the elements; looks at the Minor Arcana's link with Tetragrammaton (the Hebrew name of the unknowable god), and concludes with an explanation of what she calls the 'Gate' cards.

The main body of the book is given to each card of the Minor Arcana; an introduction to Tarot divination; a look at types of readings; how to use Tarot readings; the use of meditation on the readings; and a final chapter on what can be learned from a reading.

On looking at the Minor cards, Pollack describes the creative and destrucrive aspects of each of the four elements. For each card she gives a description or partial description of the illustration along with upright and reversed meanings, moving through each suit from King down to Ace.

Moving on to her Introduction to Divination, she addresses the dilemma of Tarot as a divinatory tool, i.e. on the one hand, it has been trivialized by the stereotypical image of a seaside reader with 'gypsy' scarf and earrings; but at the other extreme, scorn and derision has been vented on this by e.g. Waite (quoting from the Pictorial Key to the Tarot), "the allocation of a fortune-telling aspect to these cards is the story of a prolonged impertinence" (p.124). The point Pollack is making is that both attitudes lead to the misuse of readings and it is her wish and intention to address the dilemma - "This section of the book hopes to give at least a sense of just how complex and deeply instructive a tool Tarot divination can be" (p.125).

The author's chapter on types of readings gives in-depth explanations and accounts, accompanied by very helpful sample readings of the Celtic Cross (a descriptive process); the Work Cycle (based on advice); and the Tree of Life (a complex reading using all seventy-eight cards).

In writing on how to use Tarot readings, Pollack points out the necessities if a person is to become a good Tarot reader, e.g. practice, study, the development of one's own meanings through one's intuition. She also looks at some of the possible responses by the querents to their readings; and emphasises the importance of learning to form a coherent pattern during a reading.

As a follow-on step from this, the subject of meditation on individual cards from a particular reading is discussed, as a means to furthering the querent's understanding and making the best use of the reading. The 'mandala', "a pattern formed from several cards" (p.193), is also deemed to be very useful in developing even further understanding of the reading and of one's own processes at an ever deepening level.

Finally, the author sums up just what can be learned from a Tarot reading, i.e. specific information; direction; how to create a balance on one's life; to pay attention to one's internal processes with a view to making genuine choices; that everything happens within a context rather than in isolation.

Having reached the end of the book, it is abundantly apparent that the author has indeed fulfilled her intention, and perhaps the best way to finish this review is to quote the final paragraph......"Finally, the practice of Tarot reading teaches us something else. Because the cards are not neutral in their attitude to life, because they embody certain approaches and beliefs, and renounce others, they change us. We begin over time - always over time - to see the balance of this, the steady harmony within the constant shift and flow of life. We become aware of the Strangeness always waiting beyond our ordinary experience, we learn to recognize the gifts we receive from existence, and our own responsibility to understand and use them. Most of all, we begin to grasp the truth the Tarot always urges upon us - that the universe, the whole universe, lives. And what we can know of ourselves we can know of everything" (p.206). A remarkable read.

Tarot

Author: Geddes and Grosset
Publisher: Geddes and Grosset
Year Published: 2005
Edition: 2
ISBN: 978-1-84205-534-2
The authors of this book appear not to have made a statement with regard to their intention in writing it, but as it presents very basic Tarot information, it could therefore be seen as an introduction to the Tarot.

The structure of this book is very simple, in that it consists of an introductory chapter, and a chapter each on the Major and Minor Arcana. In the introduction, Geddes and Grosset give a brief history of the origins and development of the Tarot; structure of the deck; a look at the four elements; how to choose and store a deck; how to divine by Tarot; three spreads - Celtic Cross, a forty-two card spread and a three-card spread; and finally, advice to the Tarot reader. All of this is crammed into seventeen pages, rendering it impossible to present any genuinely helpful information and/or instruction on how to interpret a spread. The expression 'economy of words' would be a gross understatement.

For the Major Arcana, the authors offer Pictorial Symbolism, Divinatory Meaning, Reversed Meaning and Special Consideration. The Minor cards are addressed similarly, but due to the use of (black-and-white) illustrations of the Marseilles deck, there is no reference to symbolism.

The book ends without a concluding chapter or paragraph. However, there is a series of appendices which present information on divination by playing cards; tea leaves; palmistry; numbers; dominoes; and dice. This is by far the most interesting and informative section of the book.

I have been unable to find any biographical information about the authors. Overall, this book is overwhelmingly uninspired and uninspiring, and as such, cannot be recommended.

How To Understand The Tarot

Author: Frank Lind
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1979
Edition: 2
ISBN: 978-0-85030-177-9
Within the body of the text, Lind does not state his intention in writing this book but its title does convey that information, i.e. he is writing in order to enable people to understand the Tarot.

The book is very simply structured in that there is a foreword, a chapter on each of the Major and Minor Arcana, plus a chapter on Divination. It is a very short work of less than one hundred pages and has, therefore, a limited amount of information.

The author of the foreword, Brian H. Wallace, gives a potted history of the Tarot and a breakdown of the deck, but the main point he makes is that ".....the Tarot can be used for fortune-telling but to do this is to debase its transcendent significance" (p.10), which statement sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The black-and-white card images used were supplied by the Insight Institute and the deck is basically the Rider-Waite with modifications. So Lind launches straight into the Major Arcana without any pre-amble. For each card, he gives a description, an explanation of some of the symbols, makes references to the Kabbalah; and gives both esoteric and exoteric meanings, i.e. a wealth of fascinating information conveyed in a few words, due to his economy of style. Two examples of card meanings are - a) The Chariot - esoteric, "as Papus gives one to believe......this seventh card represents 'man performing the function of God the Creator' " (p.28); exoteric, "the figure on the card has completely mastered his animal passions" (p.29); b) The Hanged Man - esoteric, "the upside down position of the figure symbolises the incarnation of spirit in Matter (the inverted reflection, as it were, of the Divine)" (p.41); exoteric, this card signifies voluntary sacrifice" (p.41).

Moving on the the Minor Arcana, Lind does not address the cards individually but chooses instead, to concentrate on the suits/elements, first and foremost, whilst also discussing the suit symbols and their astrological correspondencies. In this section, the author say that "Waite was wrong in all his inferences as to the Tarot suits, save that of Cups......(p.73), then goes on on page 82 to say that "Anyone who makes a study of the Tarot will very soon find that writers upon the subject frequently take unwarranted liberties with the cards.........;; they are at variance often upon points about which there can be no question of doubt.......I am,however, content to accept the Tarot as I find it, to reproduce as nearly as can be what I believe to be the original symbolism with the right interpretations". This strongly implies that he is doing just what he accuses other of doing, i.e. being arrogant enough to propose that his own interpretations are the right ones whilst other writers are deluded.

In Lind's final chapter on Divination, he paradoxically says that "it is impossible in the confines of a book to give instruction for divination" (p.85). He then goes on to give a sample six-card reading, conveying in a couple of pages how he applies all that has gone before, rich and complex as it is, in a very down-to-earth manner which is entirely relevant to the querent.

There is a point of confusion over whether Lind uses the whole deck for his reading, or just the Major cards, as he introduces the reading by saying that he is using the whole deck (p.86) but then states that a more detailed reading could be obtained by using both Major and Minor Arcana, and not just the Major as he has done. But most importantly, he ends this chapter by saying that "The cards, like the stars, can gives us good advice, but they cannot compel us to act in one way or another. We must not make the Tarot guilty of our disasters"(p.89).

Lind's final summing up is to remind the reader that the mystery of the Tarot can guide people to make wiser decisions about their future, and to discover the deepest inner self.

So, has Lind fulfilled his intention? As far as the brevity of the book will allow, he has conveyed a lot of information in assisting people to understand the Tarot, all of which is greatly clarified by the presentation of a sample reading. Although this book was written many years ago, it is still invaluable and relevant today.

I have not been able to find any biographical details about Frank Lind so if anyone has that information, please get in touch. Thank-you.

Tarot Readings and Meditations

Author: Rachel Pollack
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1990
Edition: 2
ISBN: 978-1-85538-049-3
Rachel Pollack has been a scholar of the Tarot for many years and is a leading authority on the subject. She has written numerous books, both non-fiction and fiction, on the Tarot, and has designed her own deck, 'Shining Woman Tarot'. Her work has been translated into several languages and she has world-wide recognition.

This book was originally published in 1986 under the title 'The Open Labyrinth', and is a follow-on from 'Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom Parts 1 and 2'. It develops the art of Tarot divination, building upon "the brief examples given in that book" (p.9) (i.e. Seventy-Eight Degrees Part 1).

Pollack's intention is stated very clearly - "This book attempts to show the mind of one reader at work" (p.10), and later on the same page she points out that "every reader develops her or his own method". The author also makes it clear that the readings in this book are not predictive, but "illustrate the Tarot's possibilities for illuminating a person's life" (p.12).

The book is divided into four sections - A Three-Card Reading; the Celtic Cross; the Work Cycle; and Meditation. In her introduction, Pollack describes the process of reading, types of reading, and what readings can accomplish, along with an interesting look at the difference between Tarot and psychotherapy. This is followed up with a discussion of the importance of the reader having a personal relationship with the Tarot if one is going to do a 'symbolic' rather than a 'literal' reading, i.e. a reading involving extensive use of intuition and seeing an overall picture rather than 'rote' meanings.

She begins the main body of the text with an exploration of the usefulness of Three-Card Readings, and although she considers them to be of limited use, she gives a superb example of how much can actually be gleaned if the reading is done at just the right time. Pollack explains the example reading according to what was going on in her mind at the time, revealing a truly fascinating process.

Moving on the the Celtic Cross Spread, she begins by describing the layout before giving two sample readings. In each of the readings, the author goes into much detail about what she is gleaning at each stage, revealing not only information that is about the querent, but also conveying a great depth of knowledge and understanding of each card. At the end of the second reading the author describes four meditations that she suggests for the querent. The reason for this is explained thus: "The reading itself helps by bringing attitudes to consciousness and showing her what she needs. But she wanted a way to use the reading to take positive steps" (p.92), i.e. to grow and develop. Each of the meditations is described in detail, followed by the querent's discussions with Pollack about them. Some of the work done is very profound, and not really for the faint of heart.

The Work Cycle Spread was developed by Pollack to help people deal with whatever situation they were facing - 'work' meaning what to do , whilst 'cycle' is about laying out further sets of cards if the first don't give a clear enough picture. She presents three very detailed Work Cycle readings, again showing the reader very ably the process at work, and how the querent was able to use the reading to move on in life.

The final section of the book is devoted to 'Meditation' - the archetypal meditation, using some Eastern meditation techniques, designed to "join ourselves to images" (p.150); meaning that by meditating on a particular card the individual can access the energy of the archetype,and use that energy to bring about a gradual transformation in themselves. Finally, Pollack offers two meditations, one on the Fool and one on the Eight of Cups. They are written down as she would speak them and as such, can be used exactly as they are. They also tacitly suggest ways of using any of the Tarot cards for guided fantasy.

Although there isn't a concluding paragraph or chapter, it seems irrelevant as so much has been said already and ending with the two meditations does seem to leave the reader with a sense of completion.

So, Pollack's stated intention of showing "the mind of one reader at work" gives the lie to the wealth, breadth and depth of what is found within the pages of the book. It may be 'only one mind' but it is clear that this mind is very exceptional and belongs to an 'old soul'. To read this book is to sit at the feet of a Tarot guru, and wonder.

Tarot Life Planner

Author: Lady Lorelei
Publisher: Bounty Books
Year Published: 2005
Edition: 2
ISBN: 978-0-7537-1135-4
Lady Lorelei's career began with an electrical engineering degree, then she became a nun, before she took up the Tarot. She lived for ten years in a Vedic temple, studying ancient texts and religions, and she has travelled extensively throughout India and Mexico. She is a Certified Tarot Master (USA) and professional Tarot consultant and lecturer. Her first book, 'Gypsy Fortunes', was published in 2003.

Lady Lorelei's stated intention in writing this book is "to share the many uses I have found for the tarot and encourage you to use it to reinvent yourself, just as I have, to get closer to the person you really are" (p.7). Throughout the book, she uses the Classic Tarot, originally engraved in 1823, and published much more recently by Lo Scarabeo.

The book is divided into two main parts - part one, 'Understanding the Tarot' and part two, 'Using the Tarot for Positive Change'. In part one there is a brief introduction, addressing in a few pages the issues of 'What is Tarot', 'The Tarot Journey', 'Reversals', 'Tarot Magic', and 'Tarot Spellcasting'. The author's offerings so early on in the book, presented as they are at breakneck speed with regard to spellcasting and magic, seem misplaced. Very little information is given, but having said that, she does point out that "You are completely responsible for your actions and reactions" (p.14). However, under the circumstances it seems woefully inadequate.

Moving on to the 'book proper', Lorelei looks at the Major Arcana in a very interesting way. Each card title has a sub-title, describing that stage of the Fool's journey, e.g. "the Lovers - the Choice of the Journey" (p.30), and "the Devil - The Temptation of the Journey" (p.48). For each of the Major cards there is a description, upright and reversed meanings, its appearance in a spread, how that card can be used to bring about positive change in one's life, and a useful exercise to help with learning, plus example readings and/or case histories.

The author begins the section on the Minor Arcana with a brief introduction to the suits/elements, along with a short paragraph on the Court cards. In moving on to look at the number cards, the author looks at all the Aces, all the Twos etc., introducing each number with a single word meaning, e.g. 3 - Growth (p.68) and 7 - Possibility (p.78). This is then further followed very simply with the upright and reversed meanings of each individual card.

Lorelei's method of addressing the Court Cards is quite similar to her presentation of the Major Arcana. For each card she gives upright and reversed meanings, an affirmation, and it's appearance in a spread, plus very useful exercises to help with understanding the Court cards.

Part Two of the book is all about 'Using the Tarot for Positive Change' (p.100), and gives a phenomenal amount of information, exercises, and aspects of one's life that can be changed through use of the Tarot. Lorelei makes a very important point, one that needs to be remembered at every stage, that "These Tarot spreads show you how to reclaim your ability to guide and direct your own life. You have all the power and knowledge you need within you. You were born with it. You still have it. The Tarot helps you to see it with your external, physical eyes so that you can more easily claim it and put it to use" (p.102). In other words, the Tarot is a mirror, reflecting back to you whatever is within yourself, rather than telling you what to do.
Some of the issues/spreads that Lorelei offers are:- your present and future life; what is most important to you and why?; personal manifestation (creating change on outer levels); career choice (for which the author gives a list of jobs appropriate to each one of the 78 cards); and financial investment.

Following on from this is a section with the focus on the use of the Tarot to explore one's inner processes, including the use of the Minor cards for affirmations.

The final part of the book has spirituality as its focus, with instructions for scrying, meditation, magic, a look at 'Deity decks', and the use of Tarot cards as a focal point for an altar. The book seems to end somewhat abruptly as there isn't a concluding paragraph or chapter.

Has the author fulfilled her intention in writing this book? Her simple statement, quoted at the beginning of this review, gives the lie to the wealth within the book. She has indeed offered MANY uses of the Tarot which could enable anyone who worked seriously with them to come to know themselves much better than before - which in turn means that the individual is then in a position to make more genuine choices in every area of life. Definitely a book worth reading.

Fortune-Telling By Tarot Cards

Author: Sasha Fenton
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1985
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-85030-369-8
Sasha Fenton has written numerous books on the Tarot, having begun her career as an astrologer, palmist and Tarot card reader in 1974. Since then she has spent six years as astrologer for ‘Woman’s Own’ magazine, written articles for many magazines and newspapers, both in her native England and abroad, appeared on many TV and radio stations and has written an astonishing 120+ books on a wide variety of subjects, including Tarot, palmistry, having a baby, diabetes and how to make money. Fenton has also designed her own attractive Tarot deck, called simply, ‘Sasha Fenton Tarot’. Her ever-evolving career is such that she no longer offers one-to-one readings, and she continues to be as busy as ever.

The author begins with an explanation of why she has used the Prediction Tarot to illustrate her book. The deck was brand new at the time of writing this particular book, and she was inspired by having been fortunate enough to have viewed the original paintings, which she found to be extremely powerful.

Her intention is very clearly stated - "I have written this book for people who want to understand the cards on a practical down-to-earth level.......in this book I only seek to help the novice reader to enjoy and make use of their pack of Tarot cards" (p.13).

The book is simply structured in a well-recognised format, giving a very small amount of information on the origins of the Tarot, followed by the rather grandiosely-titled three-page chapter - one page of which is an illustration - 'Ritual and Procedure', including advice on how to treat the cards, the attitude to be adopted by the card-reader, and how to shuffle and deal.

The bulk of the book addresses first the Minor Arcana, showing how to choose a significator, a black-and-white image of each card with 'meaning' and reversed meaning', followed by a handy quick reference lift which Fenton calls 'Quick Clues'. In addressing the Major Arcana, the author states that "the majority of professional readers do not reverse their cards at all..............this is especially true of the Major Arcana cards. I have broken the explanations down into 'positive' and 'negative' to make them a bit easier for the novice reader to understand" (P.87). As with the Minor cards, there is a black-and-white illustration of each card, along with 'positive' and 'negative' interpretations.

The final section of the book is devoted to a variety of spreads, including the 'Six-Card Choose-It-Yourself', 'Consequences', and 'Question and Answer' spreads. For each spread Fenton gives an excellent succinct sample reading, also pointing out that for some of them, the actuality of a reading can be much lengthier, but for the purposes of her book - aimed, as it is, at beginners - the scaled-down versions give adequate information.

Whilst there isn't a concluding paragraph or chapter, Fenton has very ably fulfilled her intention of offering a down-to-earth, hands-on approach for the beginning reader. A good, basic text.

Dali Tarot

Author: Johannes Fiebig
Publisher: Konigs Furt
Year Published: 2004
Edition: English
ISBN: 978-3-89875-650-1
Johannes Fiebig was born in Cologne, Germany in 1953 and he has sold more than 1,000,000 copies of his Tarot books, making him one of the world's most successful authors on the subject. He lives with his partner Evelin Burger and their two children in Klein Konigsforde, an area in Northern Germany.

This book was translated from German into English by Manfred Miethe, along with contributing writers - Annegret Bolke-Heinrichs; Evelin Burger; Harald Joster; Annette Koger-Kauffman Ph.D; Margit Krysta; Pedro E. Seiler; and Peer Ziekz.

Fiebig's format of the book is fairly typical of many books on the Tarot in that there are several short introductory chapters addressing the structure, interpretation and spreads of the Dali Tarot, followed by all the Major, then Minor cards, approached individually, and accompanied by oversized full-colour reproductions of the Dali Tarot; finished off with a look at Dali's sources of inspiration, the creation of the deck, and the significance of the Dali Tarot in the modern world.

In terms of the intention in writing this book, the author states "It is my hope that this book will help to shed light on the subject of the great artistic and symbolic importance of Dali's Tarot" (p.9), whilst Annegret Koger-Kauffman, in her introduction to the book, makes her own interesting comment - "This book may be considered a first comprehensive attempt at combining an overview of Dali's artistic sources and a modern psychological interpretation of his version of the cards. It is an attempt to decipher the mystery that was Salvador Dali" (.p.8).

Friebig's intention is fired by the fact that, as he is at pains to point out, Dali's Tarot is missing from most of the catalogues of his works, thus implying that these works of art are of less interest/value than the rest of his paintings.

The author gives a succinct but very interesting account of Dali's life, from his birth in 1904 to his death in 1989, followed by a look at Dali's place in the surrealist movement, also pointing out that Dali was actually "more on the sidelines" (p.12), inventing his own method which he termed 'paranoid-critical'.

All of the above information provides the reader with a good grounding from which to move on to an examination of the Dali Tarot itself. The author then writes a few pages on the structure, the recurring motifs (butterflies, crutches, silhouettes), and gives some fascinating information on how to interpret this particular Tarot deck. Some examples are as follows - "Your personal dialogue with the card - Only by establishing a dialogue with the card, can you tell what personal message it holds for you. What catches your attention right now? What are your current questions?" (p.15); "Double Faces - This element may clearly be seen in cards like Ace of Cups and Two of Cups. One could say that each card is a picture puzzle because each card changes its form and meaning according to the viewpoint of the observer" (p.14-15).

Following on from this is a two-page section on how to read the cards, showing three spreads, after which follows the bulk of the book, an examination of each of the Dali Tarot cards. Fiebig follows a particular format throughout, beginning with a few words summing up the essence of the card; then a few paragraphs describing in detail what the card is about, and ending with some 'Practical Advice', which is essentially the interpretation of the card in a reading. A couple of very interesting examples of 'Practical Advice' are:- 1X The Hermit "This card sometimes stands for rest and withdrawal, but more often for commitment and effort in a material as well as a moral sense. Increase your own wealth and well-being as well as that of your fellow human beings" (p.36); Two of Coins "Pay attention to your knees (do not let them become too soft or too rigid), your eyes and ears. Your sense might go crazy for a while. This is because all your perceptions will change and expand when you attain a new focus in life. What is needed now are new results. They constitute your new task and will support you" (p.158). A point worth noting here with reference to the Minor Arcana is that the ordering of the Court cards is slightly different to the usual King, Queen, Knight, Page, in that the positions of King and Queen are swapped. No explanation is given for this.

In the final pages of the book, the author and his team have recorded Dali's sources of inspiration for each card, some of which are inconclusive or awaiting further information. There is also a rather interesting evaluation of the making of the Dali deck, with all of its ups and downs, fits and starts, and the eventual publication in 1983/84 of the complete set of cards. Following on from that is what is probably the most important piece of information in the whole book, i.e. the significance of the Dali Tarot is summed up in the following words - "The Tarot now had one of the most popular modern artists as a protagonist. And by using the works of the old masters Dali made clear that Tarot does not use a special language or symbolism, but is just another form of concentrated symbolism. the contents of the Tarot is inspired by the entire cultural heritage of Western civilisation which - at least in principle - is available to everyone (........)" (p.187).

Finally, the author's final summing up tells us what the Dali Tarot has achieved - "The Tarot Universal Dali builds a bridge from the Renaissance into the 21st century. In many ways it is a focal point and one of the most beautiful expressions of the modern Tarot" (p.190).

So, has the author fulfilled his intention in the writing of this book? He has undoubtedly done so, having produced an absolutely fascinating insight into the most complex of artists.

Reviewing this book has been a little bit like walking a tighrope, i.e. an attempt to address the book itself, rather than Dali, or the Dali Tarot, and inevitably at times the boundary has been blurred, crossed or ignored - nevertheless, an exquisite experience for me, and hopefully not too confusing for you.

The Tarot Revealed

Author: Eden Gray
Publisher: Signet
Year Published: 1969
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-451-08374-6
Eden Gray was the stage name of Priscilla Pardridge, who was a renowned actress on Broadway for many years, before having a change of career. She became interested in the Tarot in the 1950s whilst working as a lecturer in the Science of Mind, and set up a bookstore and publishing company, selling Tarot cards and books, along with offering Tarot classes. As a result of her students complaining of the difficulty in understanding some of the books, Gray began writing her own books on the Tarot, including 'The Complete Guide to the Tarot' and 'Mastering the Tarot; Basic Lessons in an Ancient, Mystic Art'. Gray died in 1999, having earned the title 'Godmother of the Modern American Tarot Renaissance'.

Eden Gray's intention with this book is "I have....tried to present the ancient lore of the Tarot in a form that the beginning student can utilize....I have tried to put the meanings of the symbols and the interpretation of the cards in simple language, so that the beginner can easily take the plunge and begin to use the cards in divination and contemplation" (p. un-numbered 'Introduction').

Her book is simply structured in that she starts with a very basic introduction, followed by the presentation of, first, the Minor Arcana, followed by the Major Arcana. Then follows a chapter on spreads, and a final section about Tarot in meditation. There is also a Glossary of Symbols. However, the author's simple structure belies the quality and depth of the information contained in the book.

In Gray's brief history of the Tarot, she also looks at its influence on ".....recent scholars and philosophers" (p.17), including T.S. Eliot and W.B.Yeats. At the end of the Introduction, she states that the book is mainly about divination. Her expectation of what can be learned from a reading includes ".....answers to some of the important concerns of life.....a method for interpreting character and throwing light on the future.....revealing unconscious motivations, hidden fears and anxieties...." (P.13) "......and we learn from the Tarot some of the things we need to know to better order our lives" (P.14). It is apparent from this that Gray is keen to use Tarot for the purposes of analysis leading to personal development and a consequent greater satisfaction with life.

Moving on to the Minor Arcana, the author, using black and white images of the Rider-Waite Tarot for illustration, gives a description of each card, plus very brief upright and reversed meanings a la 1960s/70s mode. In her later introduction to the Major cards, Gray states that "They comprise a psychological study of man in his relationship to the world of the spirt and to the physical world" (p.145). This is accompanied by a paragraph about the power of the Tarot, thus - "With an understanding of the meaning of the cards....and....additional information, the student will be well on his way to understanding the great mysteries and wisdom of the ages" (p.146).

In addressing each of the Major cards, Gray gives a description of each one, a few lines about the symbolic meaning of it, and very brief upright and reversed meanings.

Following on from this is a chapter on divination, which she begins by addressing the reader's preparation. She then recommends learning the card meanings by rote, with very little reference to the use of intuition. She also goes on to say that "there are several packs of acceptable Tarot cards on the market at present" (p.197), in stark contrast with the ever-increasing number of decks available today. In keeping with the author's suggestion of rote-learning, she says that looking at the cards in a reading, one should be "checking with the meanings given in this book" (p.198).

The two spreads that Eden Gray offers are the Celtic Cross and the Tree of Life, both of which are accompanied by diagrams. Following her description of the Celtic Cross spread, Gray gives a sample reading, summing up that reading by stating the question asked, giving each card's position in the spread, a very brief interpretation of the meaning, and a few lines of the reader's comments about the card in relation to the question. There is a similar format for the Tree of Life spread (Gray's own version of it), presenting a general reading done for an absent client. In this reading, she simply makes the briefest of comments on each card, yet the spread being considerably more complex than the Celtic Cross spread, and requires at the very least a basic understanding of the Tree of Life. Gray writes to the client with a "brief summary of what the cards conveyed" (p.221). In contrast to this method, in this day and age, the absent reading would probably be conducted by email or telephone.

The final section of the book gives the reader some very interesting and useful instructions with regard to the use of Tarot in meditation, e.g. "Go deep within in meditation....and you will understand by direct intuition that which the Tarot only hints at......Prepare to pass through the beautiful gate of symbolism into the starry world beyond" (p.226) - stillness being something of which there is less and less as the pace of life becomes ever more frantic. Gray gives two example meditations, on 'Strength' and 'The Lovers'. The possible results of Tarot meditation are summed up thus - "You will begin to have a firm philosophy of your own, based on the eternal Truths so beautifully revealed in the Tarot. Your new philosophy will help you deal with people and life situations that you would have previously found difficult to handle. You will take courage from the fact that you are following in the footsteps of the wise men of all ages...." (p.229).

Throughout the book, Gray's passion, respect for and dedication to the Tarot come through loud and clear, and she has indeed fulfilled her intention. In my opinion, this is one of the best Tarot books of its time and is an absolute must of a read.

Tarot Theory and Practice

Author: Ly de Angeles
Publisher: Llewellyn
Year Published: 2007
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-7387-1138-6
Ly de Angeles is an Australian Tarot consultant who regularly works on an international basis, and has done so for over thirty years. Similarly, she, as High Priestess of the Coven of Wildwood Gate, has coveners all over the world. Her interest in the occult began whilst she was still a young girl, and beside this book she has written a number of others, including 'When I See the Wild God'; 'Witchcraft, Theory and Practice'; 'The Quickening', and 'The Shining Isle'.

The author's intention in writing this book is to share her own teaching techniques which she acquired herself via an oral tradition. She originally put off writing this book on the basis that there are already so many Tarot books out there, but eventually felt that her time had come.

Overall, the book is divided into four parts, and further broken down into twelve units which are summed up very succinctly in the introductory section of the book. Some examples of this are - 'Unit One - Time and Multiple Reality' (p.xv); 'Unit Eight - The Seventy-Eight Cards and Their Meanings' (p.xviii); and 'Unit Twelve - Going Professional (p.xx).

In 'the book proper', de Angeles starts by looking at the nature of time, including how it is measured and some of the different perceptions of time. This is followed by the author's understanding of the Big Bang Theory, encompassing the idea that all events, past, present and future already exist. Alongside this she is asking the controversial question of whether the Tarot causes the events it predicts.

Unit Two is a very brief look at what the Tarot is and isn't, e.g. it is "NOT a tool of comfort, advice, past-life analysis, or spiritual/emotional/psychological analysis....." (p.22); "Tarot is a word to describe a technique of prophecy that works" (p.22). Following on from this, de Angeles looks at the nature of reality, and at what constitutes death, posing the question - for people who have had near-death experiences, did they ACTUALLY die and come back "in another of their bodies?" (p.30). She then gives four case studies which suggest that death is only an illusion.

The author makes an interesting statement that only that which is destined to happen, happens, followed, strangely, a couple of pages later by a seemingly contradictory statement that some predicted events can be avoided by the very virtue of having seen them coming.

Unit Five is an exploration of the importance of the Tree of Life in relation to the Tarot, stating that "the principle of understanding Tarot is based on a foundational understanding of the Tree of Life (also known as Qabbalah), and certain corresponding associations of both astrology and the four elements" (p.45).

As the author begins to move towards a presentation of all the seventy-eight cards, she gives an exposition of the Soul's Journey as expressed through the Major Arcana. She goes through each card, the first sentence of each being a succinct summing up, e.g. "The Emperor is the crossover between learning and unlearning" (p.75); "The Wheel of Fortune can very often represent 'Groundhog Day', or the tedium of routine tasks" (p.79).

The logical progression from this is to take a look at each of the seventy-eight cards of the deck - the deck shown in this case is the Llewellyn Tarot, in black and white. For each of the cards, de Angeles gives a number of ideas and interpretations including some useful very mundane meanings, and as is the case in many Tarot books, there is less information for the Minor Arcana than for the Major. At the end of this section, the author offers a somewhat quirky look at time sequences as told by the Pages, e.g. "Page of Cups and Death card - the time of Scorpio" and "Page of Pentacles and Hierophant card - the time of Taurus" (p.168).

On the subject of Tarot spreads, the author tells us that in each consultation she uses eight spreads, and describes each spread in detail, demonstrating how each one builds on the previous one. She then details two lengthy, full consultations conducted like this.

The final section of the book is about reading Tarot as a profession, in which she addresses many very important considerations, such as how to deliver bad news, keeping boundaries and knowing one's own limitations. Right at the end, De Angeles acknowledges the complexity of her book thus - "the way I have.....taught in the book form is...., from my personal perspective, a perceived limitaion, even though I realize that there are enormous and copious quantities of notes, lists and concepts" (p.254). Her final paragraph is brief but exquisite - "Tarot is like crop circles - the universe's trick; the unravelling of 'what ifs' and 'justs' into a paradox of the unanswerable. It's presence leaves us feeling touched by an awesome divinity" (p.255). There is then an Appendix which gives many interesting card combination interpretations.

This book is very different from most other Tarot books in that truly profound questions are explored, those of the nature of time, reality, death and destiny, and whilst these issues could come across as dry and scientific, the author's enthusiasm, huge curiosity and very personal style of writing makes the reader want to know more. If at times, there appears to be contradictions, this only adds to the fascination as different ways of perceiving things become apparent.

Her use of eight spreads does seem somewhat daunting and no doubt there will be those who may not have wanted such an in-depth reading, but on the other hand, many are undoubtedly happy for such a reading. The author has given the Tarot 'community' a truly fascinating book, one which is absolutely worth reading, and then some. A must for all serious students of the Tarot.

The Pictorial Key To The Tarot

Author: A.E. Waite
Publisher: Rider
Year Published: 1971
Edition: Two
ISBN: 978-0-09-109370-9
Arthur Edward Waite was a famous figure in the British spiritual movement of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. He was born in Brooklyn, United States of America but spent most of his life in England. The Roman Catholic church was strongly influential in his life, and he firmly believed in the existence of an esoteric Christian church – it was upon this belief that his involvement with magic and the occult was built. For a long time he was closely associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He wrote books on ceremonial magic, freemasonry, the Holy Grail and the Rosicrusian Brotherhood, and died in 1942.

Waite’s stated intention in writing this book is expressed in three parts – “I have dealt with the antiquities of the subject and a few things that arise from and connect therewith” (p.viii). Secondly, “I have dealt with the symbolism according to some of its higher aspects” (p.viii). Thirdly, (with regard to divination), “I have given prominence to one method of working……..having the merit of simplicity” (p.ix).

As a whole, the book is also presented in three parts – i) the seemingly obvious outer symbolism of the Tarot, making a brief visit to both Major and Minor Arcana, and an exposition of the Tarot in history; ii) a more in-depth look at the Major cards; and iii) the Minor Arcana, and divination.

At the beginning of the book Waite is at pains to point out that he has only written it in order to pre-empt anyone else’s attempt to explain the Tarot. He states that “The fact remains that a Secret Tradition exists regarding the Tarot, and…………it will be as well to go before the event and to warn those who are curious in such matters that any rendering will contain only a third part of the earth and sea and a third part of the stars of heaven in respect of symbolism” (p.5). As an initiate into High Magic, he is zealous about protecting the real meaning of the Tarot and, therefore, seeks to have control through the writing of the book.

As the author begins his initial exploration of the Major Arcana, it immediately becomes apparent that he cares little for what anyone else thinks about it, as in writing about many of the cards he makes seething remarks over what he sees as particular individuals’ foolishness and self-deceit. Some examples are as follows:- “Justice – Court De Gebelin believed that he had extracted what he wanted from the symbol of the Hanged Man……wherein he deceived himself” (p.22); “The Star – This is one of the cards which Court de Gebelin describes as wholly Egyptian – that is to say in his own reverie” (p.26), (or in modern parlance, ‘in your dreams’!); “The Last Judgement – M. Bourgeat hazards the suggestion that esoterically it is the symbol of evolution – of which it carries none of the signs……….Court de Gebelin makes himself impossible as usual…..” (p.28-29). These examples are the first signs of Waite’s arrogance in believing that he knows the truth about the Tarot whilst others are merely deceived or self-deceiving.

Waite then moves on the look at the Tarot in history, taking the opportunity to criticise and condemn many of his contemporaries and antecedents, and even states that his reason for addressing the history is so that many ideas about the Tarot “may be disposed of once and for all” (p.34). Waite condemns, amongst others, Court de Gebelin, Dr. Papus, Alliette, Dudesne, Singer, Chatto and Eliphas Levi.

Moving on from that, the author next addresses each of the Major cards from a more esoteric viewpoint and in more depth, along with black-and-white pictures of each one. For each card, Waite gives a literal description plus some thoughts on what some of the symbols might mean, being mainly ideas that are not often addressed today, e.g. “The Magician – In the Magician’s right hand is a wand raised towards heaven, while the left hand is pointing towards the earth…….it shews the descent of grace and light…(p.72); “The Empress – She is the inferior Garden of Eden , the Earthly Paradise” (.80); “The Devil – What it does signify is the Dweller on the Threshold without the Mystical Garden when those who are driven forth therefrom have eaten the forbidden fruit” (p.131). There are other examples also, conveying without doubt Waite’s Roman Catholic influence.

The final part of the book focuses on the Minor Arcana, and divination. Waite seems to take a no-nonsense approach, dispensing from the outset with the idea that numerology can play a useful part, and stating that the Minor cards are simply for fortune-telling. For each card, again accompanied by black-and-white pictures, he gives a very brief description, plus upright and reversed meanings. Having previously offered no divinatory interpretations for the Major Arcana, there is then a list of divinatory words/phrases for each one, in much the same style as other Tarot writers of his day. This is followed up by a list of further divinatory meanings for the Minor cards. It is not clear what Waite’s thinking was in having two separate sets of meanings. An additional piece of very interesting information that the author gives is the possible meanings of “the Recurrence of Cards in Dealing” (p.295), e.g. “4 Queens = great debate; …….3 Sevens = infirmity;……..4 Twos = contention;…..2 Aces = trickery” (p.295-297).

Finally Waite describes three spreads – the Celtic Cross, a forty-two card spread with complex laying-out instructions, and a thirty-five card spread. Sadly, he doesn’t present any sample readings. And on the last pages, Waite urges” any one who is a mystic” (p.315) to consider the Major cards in terms of two groups, one of which contains “the legend of the soul” and the other he refers to as “the accidents” (p.316). He does not, however, offer any explanation of what is meant by this or of how he came to this conclusion.

So, has Waite achieved his intention in the creation of this book? He has indeed considered the Tarot in history; discussed some of the esoteric aspects of Tarot, and offered a few methods of divination. Whether the author has achieved his goal of revealing only a third of the truth about the Tarot can only be answered by Waite himself. The book is intellectual, complex, the product of a man of both arrogance and genius. He is the giant on whose shoulders all consequent exponents of the Tarot have stood. In this respect, he can be compared to Freud whose ideas on psychotherapy are now outmoded yet from whose propositions modern-day therapy has developed. It would be fascinating if it were possible to listen in on a conversation between Waite and some of the modern writers, maybe Cassandra Eason, Stuart Kaplan or Rachel Pollack! Perhaps there is a book or play in there somewhere...........Waite for it.........

How To Use Tarot Spreads

Author: Sylvia Abraham
Publisher: Llewellyn
Year Published: 1997
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-56718-002-2
Sylvia Abraham is an American woman who lives in California where she owns and runs a metaphysical books and supplies shop. She has been reading and teaching others to read the Tarot for over twenty years.

Abraham’s stated intention in writing this book is abundantly clear in its title, with the vast majority of the book devoted to spreads and how to use them. In her introductory chapter the author gives “thumb-nail sketches” (p.1) of the upright and reversed interpretations of each card, including a keyword or phrase for each major card, e.g. the High Priestess – “I Know” (p.5), and the Devil – “Materialism and Deception” (p.17). Her approach to the Minor Arcana is most innovative in that she applies the keywords of the Major cards to the Minor ones, e.g. “……the four fours have the same Keywords as the Emperor: I realize……..Four of Wands Upright:- I realize my work and social activities” (p.8); “the four nines have the same keywords as the Hermit – Wisdom Through Experience……….Nine of Pentacles Reversed:- Experiences have not brought wisdom or understanding…….” (p.13-14).

The rest of the book is broken down into nine chapters, each one giving spreads for particular areas of life, e.g. ‘Love and Romance’, ‘High Finances’, Spiritual Seekers’, and ‘Just For Fun’. For each area there are several different spreads, e.g. ‘High Finance – Business Spread, Lawsuit Spread, Work Spread’ et al., and for most of the spreads there are several real-life sample readings which demonstrate very well the application of “thumb-nail sketches……of the meanings of each card” (p.1) in a real reading. Throughout the book there is an interesting mix of predictive and exploratory spreads, some more serious and some more frivolous. Although there is, disappointingly, no concluding paragraph or chapter, Abraham does include some worksheets which could be useful in helping to identify the most salient points in a reading.

There are a number of points which are worthy of particular note. At the beginning of the book the author states that “The reader has an obligation to the client which must not be taken lightly. Be responsible with the information……” (p.3), a very important point to make. On a maybe slightly less responsible note, the author has included a ‘Magical Lottery Spread’ (P.265), offering a way to come up with lottery numbers, and trying to ascertain whether a particular day is a good one to buy a lottery ticket. She is not professing to guarantee a lottery win, but she does say “If the totals in each of the six boxes are within lottery limits, go buy a ticket. Do not wait for another day – do it now!” (p.267). A sample reading she gives for ‘Arlene’ says that ‘Arlene’ did not win, and Abraham’s following comment is “Buy a ticket on the day you put out a positive spread” (p.269). However, in the final analysis, it is the individual’s personal choice whether to buy a ticket or not.

A surprising point that Abraham makes in the introductory chapter is “Do not read too many spreads for the same person on a single day………Tell this individual that they must wait a week before you read for them again” (p.3). This seems to tie in with the issue of perhaps creating an unhealthy dependence on the Tarot for obtaining knowledge that may be obtained in other ways. In the ‘Lover’s Spread’, one of the questions is “Do we have similar desires and goals?”, and another “Does my lover have high standards and good values?” (p.46). Both seem like questions that would be best answered by discussion with the lover.

Having said the above, there are many interesting and useful spreads in this book, and the author has demonstrated most ably how to use all the spreads in it. A useful addition to anybody’s Tarot library.

Tarot Talks To The Woman Within

Author: Cassandra Eason
Publisher: Quantum
Year Published: 2000
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-572-02614-1
Cassandra Eason originally trained in teaching and psychology with a view to becoming an educational psychologist. Due to events in her life she became interested in Tarot and many other related disciplines and since 1994 has written scores of book on a range of subjects such as angels, witchcraft, herbs and dreams. She offers workshops, courses, teaching, counselling and has also written for magazines and newspapers. Her work takes place mainly in the United States but offers one-to-one readings in England also.

The author’s intention in writing this book is explained thus – “We (i.e. women) have lost the sense of silence and solitude and the natural ebbs and flows that mirror a woman’s inner tides, so that many women feel constantly stressed and unable to relax………..It is important no matter how busy your life may be, to create a special time, your Tarot time…….” (p.15). To expand on that a bit, Eason is addressing the issue of how modern-day living has resulted in women living ultra-hectic, busy ‘solar’ lives and consequently losing touch with the inner ‘lunar’ self.

Eason begins her book with a beautifully simple introduction to the Tarot, whilst also looking at the difference between women and men in terms of their approach to understanding the human psyche. She also emphasizes the importance of women making specific time each day to go on the Tarot journey if they are serious about it.

The whole book is written as a thirty-day journey/learning experience at the end of which the reader will have learned about all the cards, a number of spreads, Tarot magic, meditation and visualization, which seems rather a tall order. On the other hand, the thirty days could be spread out over a longer period of time, the main thing being to maintain the momentum.

The first day is devoted to acquiring and looking after your Tarot deck; energizing and protecting it, including a really interesting focus on the protection of elemental angels; and fostering the most helpful ‘Tarot attitude’ (my words), i.e. respect, dedication and taking it seriously. The author uses the Rider-Waite deck but does point out the importance of any woman working with the deck that she is most drawn to.

Days two to ten follow a pattern of introducing a few of the Major cards followed by reading/spread practice. For each card, the author explains its particular pertinence for women, e.g. ‘the Magician’ – “is a very powerful card for women, providing the impetus for innovation by sheer energy, enthusiasm and not a little magic. Associated with sexuality, this card indicates a woman who is in control of her own body……” (p.29); ‘Temperance’ – “On the surface, Temperance seems to be going against everything that modern women have fought for, displaying patience and moderation more suited to a Victorian lady or at least Little Miss Perfect from your school……….Some women are natural drama queens……….This card talks of the need to avoid what may be extreme reactions in others” (p.60); ‘the Devil’ – “Some women still fear anger in themselves………Let your family, friends, lover or children know if you are feeling pre-menstrual, depressed or resentful” (p.62).

Eason’s take on many of the Major cards is often innovative and eye-opening. She gives examples of each card in the context of women’s real lives, with a focus of frequently involving relationships. There is one reference to a lesbian couple but most of the examples refer to heterosexuals. Her attitude seems to be summed up in ‘the Lovers’ – “Women tend to be the glue in relationships, the ones who keep disparate people and their egos in what passes for togetherness. Left to their own devices, many guys would tear one another limb from limb……or wander off to indulge in male bonding rituals such as drinking and watching football matches” (p.38).

Days eleven to twenty-seven introduce the Minor Arcana, including the relevance of each suit to women, followed by a day for each of the Aces, Twos, Threes, etc.. Disappointingly, there is a great deal less emphasis throughout the Minor cards on their particular pertinence to women. Eason does, however, have some interesting things to say about each number in its introductory paragraph, e.g. “Tarot Five……….catalyst for re-assessment for areas of life that seem stagnant” (p.111); “The Eights……….mirror frustrations and limitations that may lead to abandoning not only what may be redundant but situations that could be salvaged” (p.123).

Days twenty-eight and twenty-nine address a number of spreads with useful sample readings, Tarot magic, meditations and visualization. On the final day, Eason asks the reader to think about ‘Where Now?’, making a beautiful comment – “………..the best source of wisdom will always be your own unconscious mind that can tap the Tribal Voice of other women in other times and places, who loved and worried and laughed and cried down the millennia – and you speak with that same Voice” (p.185).

So, has the author achieved her intention? Having set out to offer women a way to get back in touch with their lunar selves through the Tarot, Eason has most definitely provided just that – although, paradoxically, to follow this programme in literally thirty days could be seen by some as a ‘solar activity’, rushing at breakneck speed from start to finish to complete the journey. Definitely worth reading.

Living the Tarot

Author: Amber Jayanti
Publisher: Wordsworth Reference
Year Published: 2000
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-84022-513-6
Amber Jayanti has been studying/working with the Tarot and Qabalah for very many years and in 1975 she founded the Santa Cruz School for Tarot and Qabalah Study. She has studied personally with the Builders of the Adytum, and is an honorary Grandmaster of the American Tarot Association. She has written a number of books, including ‘Tarot for Dummies’, along with several articles.

The author states in writing about her intention with this book that “This book addresses how the Tarot has, and is, fostering …..transformation in myself and others. It is about how the Tarot may be used as a powerful practical tool to guide us through the process of transforming our attitudes, actions, ourselves and our lives” (p.16). This is further backed up by her statement on p.22 – “I have found no better way to learn the Tarot than to make it real, to make it a part of my everyday world. The main purpose of this book is to teach, inspire and invite you to do likewise”. Throughout the book Jayanti writes with great passion and from her own very personal experience of her journey with the Tarot, demonstrating the strength and depth of her connection with it. To quote a sentence which sums this up – “The Tarot, as I have come to know and love it, is a potent means through which to encounter life from an awake and aware perspective” (p.26).

Jayanti presents the material in an erudite yet accessible manner, beginning with ‘The Four Steps to Tarot Mastery’, i.e. getting familiar with the Tarot; applying its rules to daily living; doing so until they become second nature; and achieving enlightenment through the Tarot.

Moving on from that, the author then describes the ‘The Four Gateways of Life’, found in the Major Arcana, which parallel the Four Steps, outlining these as childhood, adolescence, adulthood and wisdom.

Following this, she suggests a number of ways which assist with learning the Tarot, e.g. divination, dreaming, reflection and affirmations, offering very useful and relevant exercises for each one.

Most of the rest of the book is devoted to looking at the Major Arcana in terms of the Four Gateways. The Gateway of Childhood – the Fool through to the Chariot; the Gateway of Adolescence – Strength through to Death; the Gateway of Adulthood – Temperance through to the Moon; and the Gateway of Wisdom – the Sun through to the World, examining the challenges and rewards of each. For each card Eason presents several aspects – general information and symbolism, which delivers excellent descriptions and explanations of the imagery; how each card relates to its Gateway; appropriate divinatory questions; the author’s own experiences; examples of her students’ experiences, and finally, suggestions for the application and integration of the learning into everyday living. The quality of what the author offers is second-to-none and includes material that can be revisited time and time again, always with new possibilities.

The deck used for illustration purposes is the Builders of the Adytum and the pictures are black and white. At the end of the book, Jayanti gives colouring instructions, plus a table of correspondencies which includes, unusually, musical note, scent, herb and chakra. The only disappointment with regard to the book is that there isn’t a final chapter or summary but this is a small thing compared with the excellence of the rest of it.

So, has Jayanti delivered on her intention? She does indeed offer tools throughout for the student ‘to have and to hold’ (my words) and if each person gainfully employs these tools and rules, it is beyond doubt that s/he will indeed grow and develop in every way. A superb read, not to be missed.

Tarot Divination for Today s Woman

Author: Cassandra Eason
Publisher: Foulsham
Year Published: 1994
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-572-01812-2
Cassandra Eason originally trained in teaching and psychology with a view to becoming an educational psychologist. Due to events in her life she became interested in Tarot and many other related disciplines and since 1994 has written scores of book on a range of subjects such as angels, witchcraft, herbs and dreams. She offers workshops, courses, teaching, counselling and has also written for magazines and newspapers. Her work takes place mainly in the United States but offers one-to-one readings in England also.

Eason’s intention in writing this book is stated very briefly and simply as follows – “By reading this book you can use the Tarot to work out where you are right now, and where it’s possible for you to be in the future” (p.6).

The format of the book is interesting, and different from many other introductory books on the Tarot. The author begins with an explanation of how her interest in the Tarot was first aroused when she went for a reading as part of her research for a book she was writing. She refers to the Tarot reader as ‘Clara Clairvoyant’ (p.1), a term which is used by Eason in a scathing and judgemental way throughout the first nine pages of her book as she proceeds to tear to shreds a number of commonly-held and respected views about the Tarot. Some examples are as follows – “You are supposed to shuffle or to mix them with the left hand…….oh, don’t forget to sleep with the pack under your pillow wrapped in a dark cloth and never, never let anyone else borrow them (helps sales of new packs). Now your psychic mark is on them and they may start transmitting” (p.5); “If you think that’s too complicated and a load of mumbo-jumbo as I do…..” (p.5); “Get one card in the wrong place and you’ll blow the whole reading, and what is more, the Great Tarot Mistress in the sky will look down and make it rain just when you’ve put the washing out” (p.5). All these comments, and others, suggest that Eason is ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’ (my words) . She goes on to say that her book is the one that really shows you how to do it – i.e. how to ‘cut through the crap’, so to speak.

Although the book is aimed at women – and she doesn’t at any point say why she has chosen a book with women in mind – it seems odd that she has chosen a woman – Claira Clairvoyant – to symbolise all that she dislikes about Tarot attitudes and beliefs. It is worth noting that with regard to Eason’s focus on women, she makes no mention of same-sex relationships, focussing instead on heterosexual – usually married – relationships.

The Tarot deck used by the author is the’ Tarot for Busy Women’, showing black-and-white pictures of the Major Arcana and the Four Aces. Many of them depict amusing parodies of the original Tarot which illustrate some of the dilemmas that modern-day women may face in day-to-day life. The artist is not named.

In spite of such an attacking introduction, the rest of the book does indeed present the Tarot in such a way that learning is simple, direct and relevant to modern times. Eason takes the reader on a forty-two day journey, introducing the cards one by one, with spreads, practice readings and excercises along the way. The interpretations she offers are summed up exquisitely in a few words, e.g. the Emperor- hard to please (p.21); the Hermit – withdrawal from a no-win situation (p.34); the Devil – negative emotions – acknowledge yours (p.50).

For the Minor Arcana, Eason uses only the four Aces, stating that “Just the 22 cards we have learned so far, when mixed with the four basic suit cards, can reach the places other Tarot methods don’t” (p.72). She describes the Aces as “…..the mood cards because they aren’t quite like the other cards but simply a guide to the most helpful way to react at a particular time” (p.72), and although this is an unusual approach, her example readings demonstrate very ably its usefulness.

Towards the end of the book the author gives an extremely useful and succinct summary of the both the cards and the spreads.

So,has the author delivered on her intention? She has remained focussed throughout on teaching women how to divine with the Tarot, albeit in her own unique and ultimately fascinating way. Excellent reading.

Super Tarot - New Techniques for Improving Your Tarot Reading

Author: Sasha Fenton
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1991
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-85538-017-2
Sasha Fenton has written numerous books on the Tarot, having begun her career as an astrologer, palmist and Tarot card reader in 1974. Since then she has spent six years as astrologer for ‘Woman’s Own’ magazine, written articles for many magazines and newspapers, both in her native England and abroad, appeared on many TV and radio stations and has written an astonishing 120+ books on a wide variety of subjects, including Tarot, palmistry, having a baby, diabetes and how to make money. Fenton has also designed her own attractive Tarot deck, called simply, ‘Sasha Fenton Tarot’. Her ever-evolving career is such that she no longer offers one-to-one readings, and she continues to be as busy as ever.

The author’s stated intention in writing this book is summed up thus – “This book has been designed and written in response to many requests which I have had over the years from people who manage to learn the meanings of the Tarot cards off by heart but then find that they cannot put them together to make a worthwhile interpretation. The ideas, advice, exercises and games in this book are designed to help you overcome this problem once and for all” (p.11).

Fenton begins her book with a very brief look at tips which both ‘Beginners and Improvers’ can benefit from (p.13), e.g. borrowing/buying an appropriate deck/books; going to classes and workshops; and looking after one’s cards.

Throughout the book the she uses a wide variety of Tarot decks, which could be confusing for the beginner; on the other hand, it could also demonstrate to the beginner just how various decks can produce good results, as well as seeing some of what was available at the time of publication in 1991.

For the chapter on the Major Arcana, e.g., Fenton uses the Celtic Tarot, giving for each card the key ideas, supplementary meanings, and negative meanings. Following on from this, she offers some excellent exercises to help build the reader’s skills, first for use with a single Major card, then combining two cards, showing some very helpful examples in order to give the reader a ‘head start’ (my words). One of the good things about this book is that Fenton constantly encourages the reader to practice, practice, practice with friends, encouraging their honest feedback.

Moving on to the Minor Arcana, in this section she makes an excellent introduction by looking first of all just at the suits/elements, describing what qualities/issues can be attributed to each one. The suggested exercises are aimed at helping the reader to identify the most prevalent kind of issues showing in a reading.

The author’s logical progression is to address next the use of the whole deck, using two different four-card spreads to begin to analyse what might be going on for the client. The Court cards are addressed in a separate chapter and looked at in terms of both the suit element and the type of person, providing excellent descriptions of each court card, using the Prediction Tarot deck. Fenton then goes further with the Minor cards, giving very down-to-earth interpretations and for some cards also giving the negative connotations.

As is demonstrated so far, the author’s presentation of material is such that layers of skills are being developed, building on strong foundations, which leads to a good solid grounding in how to interpret the Tarot. To build further on skills, she offers again some four-card readings as in the earlier ‘using-the-whole-deck’ exercises, but this time bringing to the readings the added knowledge of individual Minor card meanings. She accompanies this with a very useful real-life example. Following this example, she gives several sets of four cards for the reader to practice with, also giving “a brief clue to the interpretation” (p.71).

Fenton moves on from there to a particularly interesting ‘experiment’ – “the theory of ‘Super Tarot’ is to work in a completely back-to-front manner by choosing the cards which will illustrate a particular story, rather than by looking at the cards which turn up in a reading and trying to interpret them” (p.74). The demonstration reading shows how to develop the reading further and further by using what she calls ‘overlay’, i.e. another four cards addressing questions which arise from the first/subsequent set of four. Several more ‘games’ follow, including ‘Snakes and Ladders’ (cheating encouraged!), the Flow-Chart, and the hilariously-illustrated ‘Trivial Pursuit’.

There then follows a number of questions which are often asked by people beginning with the Tarot, such as reading for oneself, breaking bad news, issues around reading professionally, and what to charge. On this last point, Fenton says “I have always used my own patent ‘hairdresser’ scale, which means that I charge roughly the amount a woman (most clients are women) is prepared to spend on a good hairdo” (p.113)! Towards the end of the book, a number of different types of spreads are demonstrated, e.g. random reading, speed-reading a-la-radio style, readings to predict time, focussing on a particular issue, and reading for the year ahead.

Interestingly, Fenton devotes a chapter to ‘Groupings’ in which she puts together a set of cards all relating to the same issue, e.g. problems with the car – ‘the Chariot’, ‘the Knight’, ‘Seven of Swords’; the woman in a man’s life – ‘Queens’, possibly ‘Knights’ and ‘Pages’, ‘the Empress’, ‘the Priestess’, ‘the Moon’ (if all is not going well). Sadly, the author mentions only heterosexual relationships, omitting any reference to same-sex ones. As with many other occasions throughout the book, she is at pains to point out that these particular groupings are hers and “yours need not be the same as anyone else’s” (p.136).

And finally, there is a rather amusingly-titled appendix named ‘the Witch Report on Tarot Spreads”, which is an evaluation of what different spreads have to offer.

So, has the author delivered on her intention? There is no doubt anyone working systematically through this book will learn many fascinating, fun and fabulous new techniques ‘for improving your Tarot reading’. An absolute must-have,

The Tarot

Author: Alfred Douglas
Publisher: Penguin
Year Published: 1973
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-14-003737-1
Alfred Douglas' interest in things esoteric began whilst he was still at school in the 1950s. He became a member of a teaching order in the western magical tradition where Douglas pursued his Tarot studies, inviting his partner's son, David Sheridan, to design a Tarot deck to illustrate his book. More recently, in 2007, Douglas' classic work on the Tarot was relaunched, along with the Tarot deck itself.

The author's intention in writing this book is not stated in so many words apart from it's actual title - it is a book which is presenting standard information on the Tarot i.e. it's origins, meaning and uses. Sheridan's deck used for illustration purposes throughout the book is shown in black and white, whilst the coloured version is actually very highly and beautifully coloured, well worth a look.

Douglas begins with an examination of some of the theories of playing card origins, including China, Korea, India and France, following this up with some discussion about the Tarot's origins. Possibilities suggested are the Knights Templar, a connection with the Qabalah, and Egypt. He then goes on to look at how the original playing cards and the Tarot's Major Arcana may have been joined together to become one deck.

The author's natural progression leads him to then look at the possible symbol sources of the Major Arcana with emphasis on the medieval Renaissance movement; the Gnostic religious sects; and Celtic, Norse, Christian and Islamic imagery. For the Minor Arcana, he states that the suits are possibly related to and deriving from the four main divisions of european society; the four Grail Hallows; and the Four Treasure of Ireland, rounding off the chapter by pointing out that much of this is based on speculation and supposition rather than hard-and-fast facts.

Following on from this Douglas describes the Major Arcana as a progressive journey to enlightenment, each stage of which much be successfully negotiated before genuine progression to the next, making several references to C.G. Jung. He then outlines each stage of the journey through the Major cards, commenting that each one can be experienced at different levels, i.e., in the real world; "an expansion of mystical consciousness' (p.38); the development of personality; and physical and psychic pitfalls which may be encountered.

Douglas' work so far has looked at the Tarot from both academic and esoteric viewpoints but he moves on from that to a presentation of each of the Major cards. For each one he gives a description of the depiction, followed by images from other decks and what they might mean. This is then followed up with upright and reversed meanings.

Before going on to look at the Minor cards, the author briefly introduces the reader to several people of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who expounded various esoteric views of the Tarot, e.g. Gebelin, Etteilla, Eliphas Levi and Papus, taking the reader up to the beginning of the twentieth century with Aleister Crowley and A.E. Waite. He finishes this section with a very brief look at the influence on the Minor cards of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn of which both Crowley and Waite were members.

Douglas's treatment of the Minor Arcana offers slightly less then the Major Arcana. For the Court Cards, he gives a simple description of the image, plus upright/reversed meanings, whilst the number cards show just the meanings.

Logically, the next chapter focusses on preparing to do a reading, and spreads. Douglas offers three spreads, the Nine Card, the Circular and the Horseshoe, for each spread giving a useful hypothetical reading. It is important to remember that the book was first published in 1971 and Douglas' approach reflects the time in which it was written.

The penultimate chapter is devoted to meditation with the Tarot, for which he gives clear instructions, including, importantly, how to 'close down' at the end, thus facilitating a return to everyday consciousness. He describes meditation as ".......a means of training the mind to use symbols as steps or gateways on a journey of exploration which leads from the egocentric field of the conscious mind through to the larger and richer domain of the higher self" (p.205). His description of all the Major cards in this section of the book have been "prepared specially for this book as clear, usable interpretations of the Tarot images"(p.208), stating also that "By basing your meditations on the drawings and the descriptions of them given here you should be able to develop your powers of visualization with minimum difficulty" (p.208).

The concluding chapter gives the rules and scoring for the ancient game of Tarocco (Tarock, Taroky, Tarrochini) which is played with Tarot cards even today in some circles.

So, has the author delivered on his intention? There can be no doubt that he has given a wealth of information on the origins, meaning and uses of the cards. This is much more of an academic and esoteric work than many, particularly more modern books, presenting the reader with lots of fascinating background information on the Tarot. It is a book of its time, one which is a must for every serious student of the Tarot, bringing as it does so much more-recently neglected yet rich material.

Tarot For All Seasons - Celebrating the Days and Nights of Power

Author: Christine Jette
Publisher: Llewellyn
Year Published: 2001
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-7387-0105-9
Christine Jette has in the past studied nursing and psychology, holding qualifications in both subjects. For the past thirty years she has studied 'all things Goddess' and is a healer, and a tarot consultant specialising in health readings. She has written several other books on the Tarot, including 'Tarot Shadow Work'.

The author's initial statement of intention in writing this book is....."Playing with tarot cards is a simple but powerful way to create a seasonal connection with the Mother. We can honor the days and nights of power with tarot images and other festivities" (p.xi). This is further clarified on the back cover...."Honor the rites of the Old Ways as you deepen your connection to the Goddess through the archetypal images of the tarot. 'Tarot for All Seasons' shows you how to work with the magic of the tarot as you celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year..................Written for those with a basic to advanced knowledge of the tarot, this book invites you to explore your talents and gifts through the tarot as you evoke the divine feminine in her triple aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone".

The book begins with a brief but succinct resume of the pagan Sabbats (eight festivals) and Esbats (moon rituals); and an equally succinct introduction to the Tarot. Jette makes the important point that intellectual knowledge and intuition are of equal importance when working with the Tarot - "You probably trust your intellect but learning to respect and trust your intuition is the focus of celebrating the seasons with the tarot" (p.10). She then goes on to explore meditation, journal-keeping and ritual as ways of connecting at a deepening level with the essence of the Tarot, providing suggestions for the practice of each.

Moving on from that, Jette discusses the importance of creating sacred space within which to carry out both seasonal and tarot work, offering her own suggestions for items such as incense, crystals, candles and appropriate beverages that are fitting for each particular festival/moon ritual. Throughout the book, the author is at pains to point out that these are only her suggestions and that whilst these, or some of them, may work for the reader, what matters most is to choose what is right for one's self - "No ritual is sacred unless it is sacred to you" (p.15).

The next section of the book is dedicated to the Esbats - the moon rituals, observed by many pagans, and in particular, witches, each month, i.e. the waxing moon (Maiden aspect of the Goddess), full moon (the Mother) and waning moon (the Crone). For each aspect of the moon/Goddess, Jette discusses the focus, the magic, the representative Tarot card/s, along with the relevant scents, 'brews' and candles etc. For each moon aspect there is a particular Tarot spread, enabling the reader to work with the energies specific to it. For each spread, Jette gives an excellent real-life example reading (with anonymity protected), demonstrating very ably just how the Tarot can translate into real-life situations.

The final section of the main body of the book is devoted to the Sabbats - the eight major festivals throughout the pagan year. As with the Esbats, the author makes initial comments about the meaning of each festival, followed by information on appropriate candles, smells, crystals etc., along with the representative Tarot cards, and finishing with Tarot spreads and readings according to each festival. As previously, Jette's spiritual work with the Tarot is very firmly grounded in the real world.

At the end of the book there is an appendix in which the author gives the meanings, both upright and reversed of all seventy-eight Tarot cards, each pairing being neatly summed up in two words, e.g. 'The Emperor - Stability/Rigidity'; 'Temperance - Easy Does It/Over-Indulgence'; 'the Moon - Mystery/Confusion'. They are given in an appendix rather than the main body of the book because the focus of the book is not on learning the card meanings but on using the cards for focus throughout the pagan year

So, has the author delivered on her intention? The answer has to be - without a shadow of doubt. Throughout the book, Jette has woven her very own brand of magic, offering a feast that is most definitely fit for a Goddess. Partake, and enjoy!

Encyclopedia of Tarot Volume One

Author: Stuart R Kaplan
Publisher: US Games Inc
Year Published: 1978
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-913866-11-5
Stuart Kaplan is one of the world's leading exponents of the Tarot and is reputed to have the world's largest privately owned collection of Tarot decks, published and unpublished, in the world. He has written numerous books on the Tarot, designed many decks, and has written a further three volumes of the Encyclopedia of Tarot, all of which are huge tomes in their own right.

Kaplan's states his intention in writing this book thus - "In this new work I have sought to bring together a large number of photographs and descriptive information abut several hundred different Tarot decks......"(p. xii). He further states that "One of the objectives of this work is to bridge the gap between (the art historian and the occultist) so that the serious card collector and art historian may learn about fortune-telling with Tarot cards.......and the occultist may learn about the historical and artistic background of early Tarrochi cards"(p. xiii).

Interestingly, Kaplan includes at the beginning of the book a poem, written by himself about the Tarot, simply entitled 'Ode', in which he brings to life the characters in the cards. In the final stanza he sums up his relationship with the cards by saying "Beautiful cardboard face I love you as an old friend....."(p. xv).

And so the author introduces the readers to the Tarot by first of all giving an explanation of Tarot terms, the Major Arcana cards as they first appeared, and astrological correspondencies. He then goes on to talk about the theories of the suit origins of the Minor Arcana and their relation to everyday playing cards.

Following on from this introduction, Kaplan examines many theories of the Tarot's origins, from the Italian Guelphs and Ghibellines of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to the Waldenses, a medieval Christian sect of dissenters. Many of these theories are obscure and are absent from most books on the Tarot today. Kaplan's logical progression is then to look in detail at the history of playing cards, concluding this section by looking at the earliest Tarrochi cards and the game of Tarrochi.

A large chunk of the book is devoted to an examination of some of the important families for whom the Major cards are known to have been designed. Consequently, the next few chapters look at the Visconti and Sforza families, giving information on where the original cards were located at the time of writing in 1978; the history, description and location of the Morgan-Bergamo deck; the other Viscont and Viscont-Sforza decks, including dating and some speculation about possible artists. He then looks at other partial decks, such as the Guildhall and Gringonneur, followed by further decks from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Kaplan moves on from there to look at decks created in the twentieth century, the first list of which at the time of writing were either not readily available in the United States, out-of-print or available only in limited editions. Some of these decks are the British Tarot, Glass Tarot, Lover's Tarot, Pop/Rock Tarot and Wollenhaupt-Brennes Tarot. All of them are accompanied by photographs.

Logically, the next chapter addresses popular decks of the twentieth century, giving a list of forty-nine then-currently available decks, including the Rider-Waite, Aquarian, Vandenborre and Oswald Wirth decks, again with photographs and descriptions. Towards the end of this volume, the author looks at modern-day interpretations of the Tarot, plus a few different spreads. Disappointingly, he gives only one sample reading.

In his conclusion, Kaplan states "Perhaps what compels most of us is the knowledge that what we see in the symbology of the Tarot derives in large measure from our intuition, and, once revealed, reflects back upon each of us to further enrich our lives" (p.345). Thus, in the last sentence of his book the author has neatly rounded off this huge academic work by bringing it all down to the pull of the Tarot for the individual.

Has Kaplan achieved his intention? He has indeed provided masses of detailed information, all illustrated by literally thousands of photographs, most of which are in black and white, with a few stunningly colourful ones. This book constitutes the first of four volumes and is testament to the academic prowess of an extraordinary man whose devotion to his subject is exemplary, to say the least. A fascinating book for any student of the Tarot with a sense of history.

Essence of the Tarot - Modern Reflections on Ancient Wisdom

Author: Megan Skinner
Publisher: New Page Books
Year Published: 2004
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-56414-748-6
Megan Skinner, an American woman living in Seattle, has been involved in Tarot, astrology and clairvoyance for over twenty years, after giving up a successful career in advertising when she felt 'the call'. Besides her work as a spiritual counsellor, she teaches and writes on the Tarot, astrology and psychic development, and has been interviewed on TV and radio numerous times.

The author's intention in writing this book can be summed up as follows:- ".........These stories help to make the cards real and alive, taking them out of the realm of metaphysics and into everyday reality. It encourages you, the reader, to develop your understanding of the cards by applying them to modern life and your own personal experiences" (p.14).

The book begins with basic information about the history of the Tarot, astrological, Kabbalistic and numerology correspondencies, an explanation of the difference between meditative and divinatory uses of the Tarot, and a chapter on spreads. The rest of the book is divided into two main sections and Skinner uses the Rider-Waite deck throughout.

In the first of the two sections, the author works systematically through the cards of the Major Arcana, delivering 'Ancient Wisdom' (see title). She goes into detail about the traditional symbolism of each card; looks at the astrological and elemental connections; gives a keyphrase for each card, e.g. 'The Emperor - personal sovereignty' (p.54), and 'The Devil - burning through' (p.95); this is followed finally by the divinatory interpretation.

The second of these two sections is devoted to 'Modern Reflections' (see title). For each card, the author examines modern-day interpretations and applications, giving concrete examples - e.g.1, modern-day 'Fools' might be Aleister Crowley, Madonna, Mick Jagger, or Eminem. She explains why she has chosen the particular individuals and whether they represent healthy or unhealthy aspects of the card. This is followed by examples of how 'the Fool' may appear in the everyday lives of ordinary people; e.g. 2, 'the Hanged Man' might be Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), or Judy Garland; e.g. 3, 'the Star' might be Martin Luther-King, John Lennon or Oprah Winfrey. The impact of this section is to root the Tarot most firmly in the modern world, demonstrating very ably just how relevant the ancient system of Tarot is in the twenty-first century.

The book seems to end a little abruptly as there isn't a final chapter, summing up or afterword but this is a minor point in comparison with what the book as a whole offers.

So, has the author delivered on her intention to make the cards relevant in ordinary people's everyday lives? Without a shadow of a doubt. This is an amazing book which offers something a bit different from many other books on the Tarot. Highly recommended.

The Inner Space Work Book

Author: Cat Summers and Julian Vayne
Publisher: Capall Bann
Year Published: 1994
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-898307-13-6
The authors state at the outset that this book "is intended to act as a catalyst to action: a key that may help you unlock your own magic" (p.1), and the book "provides a map for the journey of self-exploration" (p.1), summing up the purpose of the book in a way that gives the lie to the complexities that lie therein.

The book is divided into three sections, named 'Hexagram', 'Pentagram' and 'Spirit', all of which are interwoven with each other throughout. The authors use the Thoth Tarot deck and although they describe the deck, there are no pictures of the cards at all.

The 'Pentagram' chapters are aimed at newcomers to the Tarot and look in a relatively straightforward manner at the uses of the Tarot; familiarising oneself with the cards; reading the cards; spreads; and concludes with a useful exploration of how issues of 'time' might be interpreted in a reading.

The 'Hexagram' chapters address the subject of personal, spiritual and psychic development through the Tarot in a systematic and progressive way, and are aimed at people who already have some experience with Tarot. The authors begin with a chapter on getting to know yourself through the Tarot archetypes; the use and benefits of visualization, and blocks to visualization; developing an understanding of the different levels of consciousness in order to describe the universe and understand one's place in it; moving on from that to the development of being very consciously connected to and rooted in the real world; leading on from that, a detailed exploration of the individual's awareness of and relation to the four elements of earth, water, air and fire, both in the real world and spiritually; with a concluding chapter on the subject of 'where do you go from here?' (my words).

The third element of the book, Spirit, is for both beginners and the more advanced students, addressing first of all the learning process and it's three stages, including the discipline needed in order to progress; (interestingly, the authors suggest various yoga positions which may enhance concentration (p.18)); the structure of the Tarot with the main emphasis being on the elements, their importance and their significance; self-monitoring of one's progress; the development of relationships between self and others; centering and grounding exercises; and finally, reviewing one's own progress and dealing with the implications of learning about oneself.

At the end of each chapter throughout all three sections, there are exercises and meditations, many of which are esoteric in their nature and have potential for achieving a great deal of self-knowledge and knowledge of the universe. As already stated, the focus throughout the book is on psychic and personal development, with the Tarot being the medium through which this is achieved, rather than the Tarot being the major subject of the book. The book's title reflects that as there are no references to the Tarot on the front cover.

So, have the authors fulfilled their intention? They have indeed provided a map - a very comprehensive and complex one - which without doubt will lead the dedicated student on a journey through the process of psychic and personal growth. Summers and Vayne have produced a book which is absolutely fascinating, and which is best ingested slowly in order to gain maximum benefit and to avoid both intellectual and spiritual indigestion.

Tarot in Action

Author: Sasha Fenton
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1987
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-85030-525-8
At the time of writing this book in 1987 Sasha Fenton had written two previous books, having begun her career as an astrologer, palmist and Tarot card reader in 1974. Since then she has spent six years as astrologer for 'Woman's Own' magazine, written articles for many magazines and newspapers, both in her native England and abroad, appeared on many TV and radio stations and has written an astonishing 120+ books on a wide variety of subjects including tarot, palmistry, having a baby, diabetes, and how to make money. Fenton has also designed her own attractive Tarot deck, simply called the 'Sasha Fenton Tarot'. Her ever-evolving career is such that she no longer offers one-to-one readings, and she continues to be as busy as ever.

Fenton's intention in writing this book is summed up in this way - "I am playing the part of the craftsman and allowing the apprentice to peek over my shoulder and see how I have come to my conclusions" (p.9), and she further states "I have set my mind to discovering the values of different spreads" (p.13).

This book is packed with information. Fenton describes in detail a variety of spreads, grouping them into three categories - 'Focussed Spreads, 'Calendar Spreads', and 'Comprehensive Spreads'. These are preceded by what Fenton calls 'the Simplest Spread' where the client is offered a number of categories from which to choose, e.g. work, relationships, health.

Under the banner of 'Focussed Spreads' there are several sub-sections, e.g. 'the Consequences Spread', 'the Two Pathways Spread' and 'the Jung Spread'. The 'Calendar Spreads' are self-explanatory whilst 'the Comprehensive Spreads' cover, amongst others, 'the Pyramid Spread', 'the Romany Spread', plus further spreads which incorporate and draw on other systems of divination, e.g. astrology and Aleister Crowley's 'Tatragrammaton'. Throughout the book the author gives numerous sample readings which are easy-to-follow and very down-to-earth, using the Prediction Tarot for illustration.

So, has the author achieved what she set out to do? She has indeed created the means for the reader to watch the adept in action. The novice would undoubtedly benefit hugely from reading 'Tarot in Action', but not just the novice - even the most experienced Tarot readers could undoubtedly glean some rich pickings.

Personally, I found this book to be a riveting read, an absolute feast. I have no hesitation in recommending it, and although it was written in 1987, it is every bit as modern as most anything which has been written in more recent years.

The Only Tarot Book You ll Ever Need

Author: Skye Alexander
Publisher: Adams Media
Year Published: 2008
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-59869-489-5
As the author of this book, Skye Alexander is eminently qualified in her field. She has been a teacher and practitioner of Tarot and other 'new-age' subjects for many years and has written extensively on a variety of mind-body-spirit issues, as well as being a novelist. She is also an accomplished artist and is in the process of creating her own Tarot deck, images of which are shown on her website.

The title of the book is very much tongue-in-cheek, as Alexander acknowledges that many and varied people over the last few hundred years have gone to great lengths to divine the Tarot's true nature. In-depth and more in-depth studies have been made, yet with the author's relatively small tome, she states that......"When learning a language, you begin with the ABCs. This book is intended to provide the fundamentals of the Tarot" (p.viii). So she is not even hinting that her book contains all the information that has ever been uncovered about the Tarot.

The contents of this book reflect the author's stated intention in that they visit all the fundamental aspects of the Tarot, e.g. history, structure of the Tarot, the importance of symbols, signs and colours, the Major and Minor Arcana cards, and spreads. The final chapter is titled 'Tarot's Potential Is Never Fully Tapped' (p.175), a particularly important statement in view of the book's title.

Yet to read the previous paragraph, it may lead people to believe that this is yet another basic Tarot book, and what can there possible be that hasn't already been said by a thousand other authors. Yet Alexander writes with passion, very ably demonstrated in the following statement......."Explore. Engage your curiosity. Use your imagination. Keep an open mind and an open heart. The Tarot isn't just for answering everyday questions or telling fortunes; it is a beacon that shines light into the darkest recesses of your inner self and illuminates the vast realms that lie beyond the limits of the conscious mind" (p.viiii). Her writing style is direct and she constantly invites the reader to open up to the Tarot's mysteries, giving excellent suggestions for how to develop the individual's own relationship with the cards.

Alexander has included three particular features which run through the text, adding extra interest and form to the book. 'A Truth About Tarot' is a series of succinct and poignant statements in relation to e.g. a card, a symbol, or idea etc.; 'Tarot Talk' is a series of statements or points of interest written by others authors; and 'Tricks of the Tarot' is a series of hints, tips and suggestions for connecting more thoroughly with the cards, thus deepening understanding. These features give the book an extra dimension and add to it's unique take on the Tarot.

It's true that there is a lot of material in a small book and as such, each aspect is visited briefly. This may seem frustrating to some who may wish to get their teeth into something more meaty, so to speak; on the other hand, there are so many things to pick and choose from that this book could also act as a jumping-off point.

Finally, in response to the author's stated intention, it begs the question of whether she has fulfilled her intent, and the answer has to be a resounding 'yes'. To read her book is to go to a buffet offering tasters of many different kinds of food. Some may not be to one individual's taste, but there is more than enough available for lots of different palates.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone just starting out on their own Tarot journey as an exciting introduction to a fascinating subject, and, indeed, even the most experienced Tarot student is bound to find something of interest within the pages. An excellent read.

Tarot Tells the Tale - Explore Three-Card Readings Through Familiar Stories

Author: James Ricklef
Publisher: Llewellyn
Year Published: 2003
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-7387-0272-8
James Ricklef is a Tarot scholar of many years standing. He has written numerous articles, created 'Tarot of the Masters', invented Tarot games and has also written 'Tarot Affirmations Book', 'The Original Tarot Colouring Book', and 'Tarot:Get the Whole Story'.

The author's stated intention in writing this book is "preparing the novice Tarot reader for working with the cards" (p.1), and to offer food for thought to the more seasoned reader. The book is divided into three distinct sections - 'Preludes', which looks at various aspects and correspondences including finding card meanings, reversed cards, and a code of ethics for Tarot readers; 'Readings' - numerous three-card readings and a Celtic Cross; and two appendices, giving explanations of all the cards and card/reading cross-references.

Ricklef has devoted 140 of the 269 pages to three-card readings (and the Celtic Cross reading), making for a very rich and varied feast. The three-card readings are a compilation of the author's 'Ask Knighthawk' column in an American Tarot newsletter, written as though people from history, literature and myth are requesting Tarot advice about their problems, e.g. Einstein asks for guidance over his conflict about whether or not to return to Germany; King Midas asks for help once he realizes that turning everything he touches to gold has landed him with major problems; Abel's (of Biblical fame) worries about his brother Cain's possible plans to harm him. For each reading, Ricklef has reframed the question - sometimes more, sometimes less- into three parts which are tailored to the individual, then draws three cards at random and interprets them. This strategy demonstrates very ably to the reader just how the card meanings can be applied in 'real'-life situations, as well as implying the importance of the Tarot reader's willingness to be flexible.

A further point worthy of note is that the author has used modern English language throughout, in spite of the time period in which the questioner lived, thus making his work very accessible and relevant in the present day. Throughout the book he has used a number of different decks, showing pictures of the cards drawn for each reading. It is possible some newcomers to the Tarot may feel confused initially about which deck they would like to work with, but it also means that they have a glimpse into the variety of decks that are to be had. With regard to the meanings of the 78 cards themselves, Ricklef states that he "felt it was virtually obligatory to discuss the meanings of the 78 cards in a book targeted mainly at beginning Tarot readers" (p.xi). This is reflected in the fact that he has done so in a 56-page appendix rather than at the beginning of the book.

One important aspect of being a Tarot reader that many authors have failed to address is that of a Code of Ethics. Ricklef offers his own outstanding 11-point code which every reader who hasn't already got their own could adopt or modify to suit their own circumstances.

All-in-all, this is an excellent book and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone with an interest in the Tarot. Do I think that the author has delivered what he set out to achieve? Absolutely! In fact, I am left feeling that I have just partaken in a huge banquet!

Tarot and Psychology - Spectrums of Possibility

Author: Arthur Rosengarten Ph.D
Publisher: Paragon House
Year Published: 2000
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-55778-784-2
Dr. Arthur Rosengarten is a psychologist and tarot reader of many years standing, during which time he has taught many students of both disciplines and written numerous articles.

The author's stated intention in writing this book is to make Tarot relevant to "those who desired greater spirituality in their lives, including the benefits of psychological insight and depth, without the baggage of affiliation that invariably accompanies any single set of beliefs" (p.5). His hope is that a clinician such as himself offering an in-depth explanation of the Tarot might tempt other such people to consider seriously the value of Tarot as a therapeutic agent. And finally, to encourage Tarotists etc. to see the benefits of understanding Tarot from a psychologist's perspective, thus opening another area for exploration (see p.6). All of which is summed up much more succinctly by Rosengarten towards the end of his book, "our mission, as stated from the outset, has been to blend the strange bedfellows of Psychology and Tarot, to get them to lie down together, as it were, without competing for the remote control" (p.242).

In order to accomplish his intentions, the author has divided the book into three sections. Section One, 'The Tarot of Psychology' examining how, why, when and under what circumstances Tarot can be seen and understood as a tool having psychotherapeutic value. This section includes some mini case studies to illustrate such possibilities. Section Two, 'The Psychology of Tarot', addresses the issues of how, why, when and under what circumstances psychology can enrich the Tarot's contribution towards the healing of the wounds of humanity. This is examined in-depth through an exploration of 'The Fool's Journey' (p.153). The Final Section, titled 'Empirical Studies' is based mainly around the documentation of a research programme to look at whether Tarot really can offer understanding and insight on a par with Psychology with regard to individual/social problems, i.e. use of Tarot as a way of identifying personality types, e.g. abuser/victim.

Right from the outset, Rosengarten is at pains to expose the shortcomings of both Tarot and Psychology, positing neither one nor the other as having superior value in terms of the therapeutic possibilities. Likewise, he is also very clear about the positive uses of both disciplines.

But the most compelling theme throughout the book has to be the ultimate recognition that both systems and the people they are aimed at helping have many more similarities than differences, and as such, Tarot and Psychology both have a great deal to offer. The author's final paragraph is a quotation from Eliphas Levi - "The Tarot is a monumental and singular work, simple and strong as the architecture of the pyramids, and in consequence as durable. It is a book which is the sum of all sciences and whose infinite permutations are capable of solving all problems; a book which informs by making one think. It is perhaps the greatest masterpiece of the human mind, and certainly one of the most beautiful things handed down by antiquity" (p.246).

So, has Dr. Rosengarten delivered on his intention? He has by very erudite means presented compelling evidence that both Tarot and Psychology can indeed work side by side and hand in hand - as can Tarotists and Psychologists if there is a willingness on both sides to do so.

On a personal note, I found this book to be very 'meaty' and an enthralling read. Highly recommended.

The Tarot Speaks

Author: Richard Gardner
Publisher: Star
Year Published: 1971
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-85528-003-1
Richard Gardner wrote this book in 1971 before the Tarot and most other divinatory systems were reaching the mass market. There were relatively few books available back then and this particular one is of it's time in terms of the way the author has presented the information. Gardner's intention in writing this book was to begin to make available to the general population the teachings of the Tarot in order that the individual may use the Tarot to further their own spiritual development (p.17), i.e. fulfil potential. His chosen method is to "present it in familiar guise the magic means of telling fortunes" (p.17), or metaphorically speaking, his method could be seen as feeding an infant readily-digestible food.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One, 'Setting the Scene', addresses the importance of understanding the elemental aspects of the Tarot and how they relate to the way people conduct themselves as they go through life, i.e. the patterns that people have learned and either knowingly or unknowingly employ.

Part Two, 'Fortune-telling Through the Tarot', goes through all the Minor cards giving brief divinatory meanings, followed by similar treatment of the Major Arcana. The concluding section of Part Two is a description of five Tarot spreads - unfortunately Gardner does not provide any sample readings.

Part Three, 'The Tarot Speaks', is devoted to the Major Arcana. The cards are given a voice by Gardner, through which they can convey much about their meaning, purpose and function. The subject of each card makes a lengthy, often impassioned speech about what it is really all about, and how people have become blind to it's secrets. The challenge is for humankind to re-connect with that which has been lost and to learn to live more fully. Gardner's profound communication through the Major cards is balanced by frequent references to modern-day or sometimes historical characters. Two good examples of this are "..........Then there was the dreadful travesty of me, the Christine Keeler case" (p.85 Justice); and "Ah, how Oscar Wilde often let me touch him but those of his time were too interested in what he was doing with his genitals to hear me through him" (p.139 The Fool).

So, has the author achieved his goal? Parts One and Two do offer very good information on using the Tarot for fortune-telling and as such, Gardner has successfully made the Tarot available to 'the masses'. This is followed by the much more esoteric Part Three - an expose of his deeper intention, that people begin to understand the nature and purpose of 'life' as expounded by the Tarot. And so, Gardner has achieved his goal in writing 'The Tarot Speaks' whilst at the same time providing the opportunity for those who wish to go further and deeper with the Tarot to do so.

It is many years since I last read this book and I have to say that it it a fascinating read. It is definitely one of the better 'old-school' books, bearing in mind that is is of it's time - well worth looking at. (I have been unable to find out any biographical details about Richard Gardner - if you know anything about him I would be delighted to hear).

The New Feminist Tarot

Author: Jean Freer
Publisher: Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1987
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-85030-563-0
This book was originally published in 1982 by Lamia Publications under the title of 'Toward a Reclaimed Tarot'.

Jean Freer is eminently qualified to write 'The New Feminist Tarot'. She is a long-time feminist who has been very active in the Women's Movement, having spent two years at Greenham Common, been involved in anti-war political protests and a priestess of the Dianic Wiccan tradition. She has studied many aspects of religion and spirituality as well as having trained in numerous schools of complementary therapies. Her tarot-reading career began in the back of a Glastonbury High Street shop in 1979. Freer has also travelled extensively, having lived in America, France and England, where she now lives in Brighton.

'The New Feminist Tarot' was written at the height of the women's Movement and it's content very much reflects that, yet almost thirty years later it's message is still relevant. The author states that she wanted to write this book "to explain the relevance of the cards for women today" (p.20). She also states that in the past, Tarot has been very much based on patriarchy, with women having fared poorly in terms of having a place in Western occult studies and practices. Therefore, if Tarot is more available to women, they will be more of a force to be dealt with 'in a man's world'. Inherent in the above, Freer's target audience is women. The book follows a fairly standard format in that it is broken down into an Introduction Section; How to do a reading; Minor Arcana; Major Arcana; Spreads, and an Afterword.

In the Introductory section, the author looks at the origins, history and development of the Tarot; how the contribution of women has been largely ignored; and her reasons for using cards from a variety of decks for illustration purposes, i.e. she couldn't find any one particular deck that would not be restrictive in terms of freeing up the intuition and psychic abilities of women.

At the beginning of the next chapter, 'How To Do a Reading', Freer writes "In reading questions in the cards you are entering the realm of fortune-telling and had best consult the law, particularly the Vagrancy and Fraudulent Mediums Acts" (p.64). When Freer was writing this book in the 1980s she was ahead of her time, and now in 2010, it is not just wise but compulsory to consult the law. Also, in this chapter, the author examines the issue of whether or not to include the 'King' court cards when reading for women.

The author's chapter on the Minor Arcana is written very logically and clearly, and includes information on numerical and elemental correspondencies, all of which is followed by her very 'punchy' interpretations of the cards. For the Major Arcana, Freer gives elemental, astrological and goddess correspondencies, and as with the Minor cards, her interpretations are very much woman-centred, and powerful.

Freer's final chapter on 'Spreads' describes in words and with diagrams seven different spreads, including 'The Stone Circle', 'The Lunar Cross', and 'The Eighteen Card Gypsy Method', but she has not provided sample spreads. This may be in keeping with her wish for women to make their own interpretations rather than see the cards through some else's eyes.

It has to be said that Jean Freer has indeed made Tarot more readily accessible for women, and made it relevant to women both in the 1980s and right now. Only those women concerned can really say if they feel that they are more of a force to be reckoned with as a result.

On a personal note, I got a lot from reading this book and have no hesitation in recommending it as a good read for both women and men.

Complete Illustrated Guide to the Tarot

Author: Rachel Pollack
Publisher: Element
Year Published: 1999
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-00-713115-0
Rachel Pollack has been a scholar of the Tarot for many years and is a leading authority on the subject. She has written numerous books, both non-fiction and fiction, on the Tarot, and has designed her own deck, 'Shining Woman Tarot'. Her work has been translated into several languages and she has world-wide recognition.

The author's intention in writing this book is clearly expressed in the sub-title - 'How to Unlock the Secrets of the Tarot' - a seductive promise of things to come in the pages of the book. The implication of the title - 'Complete Illustrated Guide' - is that this is the one and only book that any student of the Tarot will need, although it is unlikely that the reader is intended to take it literally.

Pollack offers an enormous amount of information, including a basic introduction to the Tarot, along with several theories about it's origins, in particular, it's link with the Kabbalah, and astrology. In addition, she writes about the well-known aspects such as the numbers, court cards, the elemental correspondencies of the Minor Arcana, plus other less-written-about elements, e.g. 'the Tarot Garden' and 'the Tarot Bestiary'.

Moving on from that, Pollack writes about the cards themselves, but in a very different way than many other writers have done. The journey through the Major Arcana is broken down into titled sections, e.g. 'Two Tarot Women' (the High Priestess and the Empress), 'Vision and Honesty' (the Wheel of Fortune and Justice), 'Storm and Release' (the Tower and the Star). For the Minor Arcana, Pollack begins by addressing the development of the Minor cards from hundreds of years ago right through to the present day proliferation of Illustrated Minors, and relates them directly to the Tree of Life pathways.

In her section on readings, the author describes a number of spreads, some of which have been widely written about, but also some lesser-known ones, e.g. 'Sacred Quest Spread' and 'the Body Spread', all of which give very helpful sample readings.

In part five - 'Things to Do with Tarots' - Pollack addresses some really interesting ways of using Tarot apart from divination. There are Tarot games; personality, soul and year cards; Tarot, Music and Storytelling, along with several other innovative things.

It may seem from this summary that the book is of necessity a very long and arduous read, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Time and again Pollack says in a few words what others have said in many. Her ability to extract the kernel from the whole is second-to-none, leaving the reader feeling that learning is absolutely no effort at all. Whichever aspect of the Tarot Pollack is addressing, she does so exquisitely, be it the Fool's Journey through the Major Arcana, her linking of the Minor Arcana with astrology, or any other aspect.

Pollack's insight and unusual uses of the Tarot set her apart from many other authors - how many have used Tarot to make exercise fun or concocted their own Tarot version of 'Name That Tune'! And all this backed up with numerous beautiful illustrations throughout the book.

So, has the author achieved what she set out to? No one book can offer a complete guide to the Tarot but what she offers in this book exceeds anything that the reader could expect. It is a compelling read, and if I could have one and only one book on the Tarot, this would be it. It is 'fine dining for the everyday diner'.

The Tarot Court Cards - Archetypal Patterns of Relationship in the Minor Arcana

Author: Kate Warwick-Smith
Publisher: Destiny Books
Year Published: 2003
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-89281-092-5
Kate Warwick-Smith is the founder of the Order of the Hermetic Rose which is 'an association of individuals pursuing practices and studies in the Western Mysteries' (www.hermeticrose.com). These practices are conveyed through the Tarot. She has been a member of the Servants of the Light School of Occult Science for over twenty years where she has been involved in training, teaching and supervising students. She has also written articles on the Tarot as well as this book.

The author's stated intention in writing this book is clearly expressed as follows :- "this book reveals a new way to interpret the sixteen court cards of the Tarot deck, a method that offers valuable insight into our personal relationships" (p.1) and "one goal of this book is to open up the world of support to reveal exactly who supports us, how they support us, and how we can bring more of that into our lives..........A second goal of this book is to demonstrate how the court cards reflect our inner life...." (p.3)., i.e. how we relate both to others and to ourselves.

The book is very well-structured, both in it's clearly defined chapters and in the information presented in each chapter. It begins with an exposition of how royalty, divinity, community and the individual can be seen to relate to the Tarot going back to it's beginnings several centuries ago. This is then followed by a detailed history of the Tarot Court cards with particular reference to their development in Asian, Arabic and European countries, neatly followed up by a look at the way the Court cards have been interpreted over the last two hundred years.

In the next section of the book, Warwick-Smith looks at the powerful connection of the Court cards with the Qabala, first in it's simplest sense and then in much more detail at the Tree of Life. Moving on from that, the author then looks at each of the sixteen Court cards in four ways - supporter, detractor, resource and challenge, giving keywords for each one, e.g. the Queen of Cups 'Supporter' is 'Confidante', the 'Detractor' is 'Victim', the 'Resource' is 'Compassion' and the 'Challenge' is 'Depression'. Each card is explained in full, and at the end of each section she offers a Divination Guideline. Also, each Court card makes a speech, anchoring all the above information in the real world, e.g. some of what the Page of Pentacles says is "I am the apprentice. I seek to understand my environment by using my hands.....I am interested in all things material. I knit, throw pots, build......and make things from the goods of the earth.........In my negative aspect I am lazy.........I expect to have skill and power in the world without earning it through hard work and patience...." (p.131).

The logical next step is to look at how the Court cards can be interpreted in the context of a reading, and in spite of the amount of information presented in this book, Warwick-Smith addresses an aspect of Tarot that has only infrequently been addressed elsewhere, i.e. using the Tarot - in particular the Court cards - to understand our shadow selves and how to work towards turning that into a positive.

Finally there is a section on meditation in both an active and a passive sense, plus a pathworking which involves "following a carefully constructed scenario with your creative imagination - visualising in as much detail as possible a series of events as they unfold in front of your mind's eye" (p.166).

So, has the author achieved in this book what she set out to achieve? Absolutely. The whole book is a journey of learning about how individuals relate to others and to themselves, a learning that is facilitated through the Court cards. If it seems like a fifteen-course meal, it is not compulsory to partake of every course. Personal edification can be achieved by a much simpler repast so don't be afraid to sit at the table.

On a personal note, when I first glanced through this book I thought it would be very hard-going but once I got started I found it to be a riveting read. Warwick-Smith has a way of presenting complex information in a readily-digestible form and if you, like myself and many others, find the Court cards to be a bit of a puzzle, then this is the book to read. Highly recommended.

Tarot Decoded - Understanding and Using Dignities and Correspondencies

Author: Elizabeth Hazel
Publisher: Weiser
Year Published: 2004
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-57863-302-9
Elizabeth Hazel has been studying and working with Tarot, Runes and Astrology since the 1970s. 'Tarot Decoded' is her first book and she also writes for various newspapers and magazines including the American Tarot Association and newWitch magazine. In 2008 she produced 'The Whispering Tarot' which is accompanied by a CD, 'The Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets'. Under her other name as Lady Vala, she creates incenses, perfumes and other such aromatic products.

The author's stated intention in writing 'Tarot Decoded' is ".......not to insist that Tarotists use the attribution system taught by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (..........) but to provide guidelines and basic instructions for utilizing dignities of both occult and cartomantic origins" (p.xvii). Her target audience is anyone who reads the Tarot and wants to "take your readings to the next level" (front cover).

The book is divided very clearly into sections. She begins the main body of the text by defining dignity as "the relationship between cards in a spread", followed by an introductory list of the different types of dignities, e.g. modal, numeric and locational. Following on from that, the chapters address in detail the various dignities and correspondencies, using sample spreads to demonstrate how the knowledge she is presenting may be applied in a 'live' reading.

In a separate chapter Hazel describes in great detail four Tarot spreads -'The Cosmic Axis', 'the Twelve House Spread', 'the Zodiac Spiral Spread' and 'the Vala Cross spread'. Her instructions for reading the spreads are very complex, as illustrated by the following - (Zodiac Spiral Spread) "......analyse the spread by house content and then by comparing cards with axial relationships. Review the inhabitants of the four hemi-spheres and four quadrants. The cover cards give additional emphasis to the Cosmic Axis within the spread and should be related to the final, central axle card. The reader should consider elemental and modal dignity, numeric dignity, and the impact of the planetary trumps if they appear in the spread. Finally, there is consideration of the locational dignity.........." (p114).

The final chapter is devoted to 'Demonstrations', i.e. examples of how to interpret the various dignities and correspondencies in a reading. There are six appendices showing tables of dignities, attributions and correspondencies, which are helpful in bringing together in a simpler form all that has gone before.

Has the author succeeded in her intention? She has certainly presented a great deal of information for the Tarotist to "Take your readings to the next level" but how easily this can be accomplished is open to question. Her writing style of using complex and lengthy sentences may be a stumbling-block for some, and the interweaving of complex material through the book means that at times the readers of the book may find themselves getting tied up in knots.

Personally, after reading Hazel's book, I had a severe case of intellectual indigestion and would probably have fared better if I had taken small bites at longish intervals. On the other hand, I do think that it is a very useful book to begin to get an idea of which, if any, of the correspondencies appeal and may be integrated into the individual Tarot reader's practice. Definitely not a beginner's book.

Tarot Card Combinations

Author: Dorothy Kelly
Publisher: Weiser
Year Published: 1995
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-87728-829-9
Dorothy Kelly is a reader and teacher of the Tarot, alongside other metaphysical subjects, of many years standing. Originally from Hungary, she now lives in Australia. Her inspiration for this book came from her observations that her novice students found it difficult to read combinations of cards.

Kelly's stated intention in writing this book is cited in the preface and is conveyed clearly and concisely, i.e. "the point of working with these combinations is to show you a variety of common, easy-to-read combinations so you can get acquainted with interpreting and linking the cards" (p. ix). The author's enthusiasm and passion for the Tarot come through loud and clear in her writing style. She writes with authority and commitment, keeping the reader turning the pages, using the Rider-Waite deck throughout.

In the introductory chapter Kelly briefly outlines Tarot basics, e.g. structure of the Tarot, Tarot myths, approaches to connecting with the cards, reverse positions, etc., giving just enough information for the beginner to build on. The author's approach to both Major and Minor Arcana is systematic. On one page she shows two cards (e.g. the Magician and the High Priestess, Five and Six of Cups), alongside of which she gives a brief list of (mainly single word) meanings for both the upright and reversed positions of each card. On the opposite page she shows three different combinations of the two cards - both upright, both reversed, and one upright/one reversed. Alongside the pairings she gives a combined interpretation. Later on in the book, Kelly gives many examples of up to five random card pairings, again using both upright and reversed positions with several possible interpretations for each group.

The final chapter of Kelly's book describes several Tarot spreads, e.g. the Yearly Clock Spread and the Rainbow Spread, with useful sample spreads of each, demonstrating how card combinations may be interpreted in an actual reading.

Has Kelly achieved her objective of showing how various combinations of cards can be understood and linked? Absolutely. Her book can be compared to a huge banquet as opposed to a snack or a three-course dinner. As such, it does beg the question of whether a banquet might seem like too much all at once, addressing the combining of cards right from the very first two cards of the Magician and the High Priestess. Having said that, the Tarot student can take it at a pace that suits their needs - perhaps frequent small meals, thus slowly digesting the information. Initially the book may appear to be prescriptive but it can be approached as a fun way of learning the Tarot by covering the author's words and making one's own interpretation. The progressive nature of the book lends itself perfectly to developing the Tarot student's own understanding and possibilities with the cards.

For myself, I had great fun comparing my own interpretations with Kelly's and consequently seeing how many different ways that the cards can be understood. I have no hesitation in recommending this amazing book so go ahead and let the feasting begin!

Tarot Cards for Fun and Fortune Telling

Author: Stuart R Kaplan
Publisher: The Aquarian Press
Year Published: 1970
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-0-913866-02-3
Stuart Kaplan is one of the world's leading exponents of the Tarot and is reputed to have the world's largest collection of Tarot decks, both published and unpublished. He has written many books and Tarot decks over the past thirty years and has produced a massive four-volume set of Tarot Encyclopedias, each one being a weighty tome in it's own right.

Kaplan states his intention in producing this book is to offer "an invaluable aid to the follower of tarot who wishes to learn more about the deck itself, the meanings of the card and the card spreads most frequently employed" (p.9). The deck to which he is referring is the IJJ Tarot. Interestingly, he also makes the statement that "it is not the author's intention to expound any theory or to propose any viewpoint with respect to the authority of fortune-telling with Tarot cards" (p.8).

This book is simply structured in that it offers an exposition of the Major Arcana, spreads for the Major cards only, the Lesser (Minor) Arcana only, and finishing off with spreads for the whole deck.

Kaplan's approach to the individual cards verges on the scientific. For each of the Major cards there is a black-and-white picture with the opposite page giving first, an excellent description of the card, followed by upright and reversed meanings. These interpretations are listed in the style that was most often employed back in the 1970s, i.e. a list of mainly single words, or short phrases, conveying technically good meanings, yet dry as dust due to an apparent lack of passion, reflecting to some extent both Kaplan's scientific approach and the time in which it was written.

The author's treatment of the Lesser Arcana is similar except that pictures and descriptions are shown of only the Aces and Court cards. This is a reflection of Kaplan's view that "persons using the Tarot IJJ cards for fortune telling may find the twenty-two Major Arcana quite adequate without the need of the Lesser Arcana cards" (p.13).

Having said that, he gives only one Tarot spread - the Celtic Cross - using the Major cards only and does not offer a sample spread which would undoubtedly have added a richness that is more-or-less missing. Following on from his 'lesser' exposition of the Lesser cards, Kaplan describes a number of very interesting spreads, e.g. the Fifty-six card spread, the Name spread, the Horse-shoe spread and the Gypsy spread, all of which use the whole of the deck but again, sadly, there are no sample spreads.

So, has Kaplan delivered on his intention? He has certainly produced information about the deck, the meanings and the spreads, but whether this book is an "an invaluable aid" is in doubt. My personal view is that many more modern books on the Tarot offer much more than this one in terms of richness and a more personal approach to reading the cards. Having said that, the book is worth reading as a basic Tarot text and as an adjunct to wider reading. To re-iterate, it is of it's time and Kaplan's abilities as a scholar can never be in question.

Tarot For the Curious Spirit - Awakening the High Priestess Within

Author: Barbara Venn-Lever
Publisher: O Books
Year Published: 2007
Edition: 1
ISBN: 978-1-84694-003-3
Barbara Venn-Lever is eminently qualified to produce this book and has drawn upon her vast experience and background to do so. She is a Tarot consultant and teacher of many years standing, having written for Destiny magazine, written a Tarot course and has a regular show on 'myspiritradio.com', not to mention running her own Mind, Body, Spirit shop.

The author's intention in writing this book is summed up in the following words....."........here is a good, sensible and comfortable guide for helping you to both learn and understand the Tarot" (p.2). But taking those words out of context may give the misleading impression that the reader is about to put on a pair of comfy slippers and get ready to live a comfy life, so to speak. In the Preface Venn-Lever states that when a person's spiritual curiosity begins to stir, "the High Priestess within steps to the fore and bids us welcome her qualities....." regardless of gender (p.v). The reader is invited to approach the Tarot with an open mind, to connect with the wisdom of the inner High Priestess and to embark on a journey of discovery, whether a complete newcomer to the Tarot or a more seasoned student.

The chapters of the book progress methodically, through the history and development of the Tarot, choosing a deck, intuitive reading, the Minor Arcana, Major Arcana, Court cards, Tarot spreads and personal growth through the Tarot. As with the author's stated intention, the chapter headings give the lie to the actual contents of each chapter as her approach to every aspect of the Tarot is innovative and imaginative. She gives exercises, often fun and interesting, throughout to encourage the individual to keep connecting with the inner High Priestess and the author's passion for the subject leaps off the page at every turn, keeping the reader wanting more. At the end of each chapter is a section titled 'Wordplay' which is an exercise in free-association to words relevant to each particular chapter. To quote, "Allow yourself to make free associations, split words up and even look up the defining words. Think about how you have been taught to understand them, challenge old understanding, and learn to be open-minded and a free thinker" (p.6). This is typical of Venn-Lever's approach to the Tarot, encouraging each person's own unique connection with it.

In the section on choosing a deck, the author cites several superstitions with regard to Tarot decks, one of which is worthy of a special note here as it hasn't often been addressed in other books on the Tarot - 'Stolen cards work better', in response to which Venn-Lever says that "To steal a deck is definitely not something I would recommend. What comes around turns around......." (p.27).

The author has described a number of spreads accompanied by diagrams showing how to lay the cards out, giving very clear 'instructions' on how to use them, but has not given any example readings which may have been helpful, particularly to anyone who is new to the Tarot. An unusual feature of Venn-Lever's book is that there are no pictures of Tarot cards at all, which could be off-putting to some. On the other hand, pictures of one particular deck could be seen by some as possibly restricting the reader's imagination, and it is likely that if a person is interested enough to be reading a book about the Tarot, the absence of pictures is unlikely to be a stumbling-block.

So, do I think the author has achieved what she set out to do? Absolutely, and more besides. The journey through her book is like setting out on a wonderful adventure - at every twist and turn there is something new and exciting to be discovered, and by the time you get to the end of the book - well, the High Priestess is wide awake, and the adventure must go on.