The Bookworm’s
Guide to Tarot
By James W. Revak


Elbert, Benjamine.  See C.C. Zain

Encausse, Gérard.  See Papus.

Echols, Signe E.; Mueller, Robert; Thomson, Sandra A.  (1996).  Spiritual Tarot: Seventy-Eight Paths to Personal Development.  New York: Avon Books.  ISBN 0380782065.  xv + 302 pp. + appendix, endnotes, biblio., index; illus.; softcover.
3 Stars Beginning  TTT
This title is a good introduction to divination by Tarot, including interpreting the cards, choosing a deck, framing questions, and using a variety of layouts.  The authors treat each card well; they include a concise discussion of its symbolism and imagery, lessons it may hold, divinatory meanings (Major and Minor Arcana, upright orientation), and what they term its “shadow aspects”.  To a lesser extent they explore reversed cards and using Tarot for meditation.  They also briefly relate Tarot to alchemy, astrology, Cabala, chakras, and what they call color symbology.  Their writing is clear and direct.  Illustrations are from the a Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Morgan Greer Tarot, and the Aquarian Tarot.

Fairfield, Gail.  (1990).  Choice Centered Tarot.  Smithville, IN: Ramp Creek.
• Revised Ed. (1997).  York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser.  ISBN 1578630150.  iv + 151 pp. + index; illus.; softcover.  The following review is based on this version.
2 stars Beginning  TTT
The author suggests that one use the Tarot not so much for making predictions as gaining insight into one’s past, present, and future, making informed choices, and taking control of one’s life.  In so doing she is in agreement with a significant number of contemporary Tarotists.  On the other hand, she suggests an idiosyncratic and sketchy system for using the cards (especially the Minor Arcana), which results in divinatory meanings often at odds with those used by many contemporary Tarotists and implied by images found in many popular decks.  Although her method may be workable, it may also confuse some new students and make it difficult for them to communicate with other Tarotists. Fairfield also briefly explores designing layouts and other aspects of card reading.

Faivre, Antoine; Needleman, Jacob (Eds.).  (1992).  Modern Esoteric Spirituality (which comprises volume 21 of World Spirituality: An Encylcopedic History of the Religious Quest, Ewert Cousin [Ed.]).  New York: Crossroad.  ISBN 0824514440.  xxx + 399 pp. + appendices, indexes; illus.; softcover.
3 Stars Intermediate to Advanced  TG
(Occultism or Western Esotericism, Religion and Spirituality – General)
This title is a collection of insightful, academic, and generally concise articles about diverse aspects of modern (i.e., post-Medieval) spirituality which depend from the Western Esoteric tradition, including alchemy, Renaissance Cabala, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and Romantic natural philosophy.  The well documented articles articles also assess the impact of critical figures (Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Rudolf Steiner, Blavatsky, René Guénon, Gurdjief, and Jung), and discuss the first appearance of the words esotericism and occultism during the nineteenth century.  Faivre’s contributions include a carefully wrought definition of Esotericism and an excellent article which surveys Ancient and Medieval sources of modern Esotericism.  Needleman’s contributions include a brief discussion of the relevance of Esotericism to the modern world.  Despite its generally wide scope, the book excludes or pays little attention to three significant, overlapping aspects of modern Esotericism, viz., New Age spirituality, Neopaganism, and, perhaps most notably, magic; it is the poorer for it.

Firth, Violet.  See Dion Fortune (directly below).

Fortune, Dion (pseud. for Violet Firth).  (1935).  The Mystical Qabalah.  London: Williams & Norgate.
• Republished (1984).  York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser.  ISBN 0877285969.  viii + 311 pp.; illus.; softcover.  The following review is based on this version.
4 starsBeginning to Intermediate  TG
Fortune, an initiate of the Golden Dawn and founder of the esoteric organization Fraternity of Inner Light, introduces the Hermetic Qabalah with special emphasis on detailed discussion of each Sephira (center of divine energy).  She locates each one on the Cabalistic Tree of Life, and discusses its qualities, roles, and lessons it holds in a generally lucid manner.  She relates the Sephiroth to a rich variety of correspondences, including God-names, angels, planets, spiritual experiences, virtues and vices, parts of the human body, esoteric images and symbols, colors, and Tarot cards.  She also often relates them to each other and explains their workings as groups.  However, her discussion of the Paths which link them is vague and incomplete.  Other topics include the Four Worlds, Negative Existence (including Ain Soph), the Three Pillars, and the Qlippoth.  Finally, she briefly discusses practical applications of Cabala, including meditation and visualization.  Unfortunately, the author is vague and fails to provide detailed instructions with regard to these applications; therefore, this aspect of the book may be unhelpful to many beginners.

Frater Perdurabo.  See Aleister Crowley.

Frazer, James, Sir.  (1890).  The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion.  (2 vols.).  London: Macmillan.
• Third Ed. (1911-1915).  (Greatly expanded with new subtitle). The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion.  (12 vols.).  London: Macmillan.
• Republished (1922).  (Greatly abridged with new subtitle).  The Golden Bough: Abridged.  London: Macmillan.
• Republished (1993).  (Greatly abridged).  The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion.  Ware, Hertfordshire, Great Britain: Wordsworth Reference.  ISBN 1853263109.  xiv + 714 pp. + index; illus.; cover.  The following review is based on this version.
3 Stars Intermediate to Advanced  TG
(Magic, Religion and Spirituality – General)
This title is the author’s abridgement of his massive anthropological study of magic and religion with special emphasis on preindustrial peoples both of the author’s time and the historic past.  He clearly differentiates between magic and religion, and argues – albeit often unconvincingly – that magic is a primitive approach to life and inferior to religion, which in turn, is inferior to modern science.  He is at his best when he eloquently describes numerous magical and religious practices and beliefs, including control of the weather, tree-worship, an enormous variety of taboos, the killing of the Divine King and the Divine Animal, many myths (especially the story of Osiris), the Mother Goddess, European fire-festivals (e.g., Beltaine), and numerous other European folk customs which purportedly depend from pre-Christian pagan religion.  Although many of Frazer’s interpretations of these practices and beliefs have been rightly discarded by many contemporary anthropologists, he nevertheless presents a fascinating account of magic and religion, which has inspired many modern magicians and Neopagans.  Unfortunately, this abridgment lacks footnotes and other documentation of the author’s sources.


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Copyright © 2001 James W. Revak.  All rights reserved.  Version 2.0 (8/10/01).