TITLES FOR BEGINNERS
Learning Tarot: A Book for Beginners (Red Wheel/Samuel Weiser, ISBN 1578630487) by Joan Bunning, offers a methodical introduction to Tarot, including interpreting cards, framing questions, and different kinds of readings. Bunning explores each card in fair detail, including a concise discussion of its symbolism and imagery, lessons it may hold, and divinatory meanings (upright). To a lesser extent, she explores reversed meanings and spreads. On the other hand, some readers will find this book, like many popular contemporary introductions to Tarot, very weak with regard to traditional Occultism or Western Esotericism. The book is illustrated with a Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck, and is best used with such a deck; however, it may be adapted for use with a variation on RWS. This book is substantively the same as the authors free Learning Tarot: An On-Line Course.
Illustration (above): Cover from Learning the Tarot (copyright © 1998 Red Wheel/Samuel Weiser).
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom (HarperCollins, ISBN 0722535724) by Rachel Pollack, is an insightful introduction to interpreting and analyzing cards. She explores each one sensibly, including brief lessons and wisdom, concise analysis of imagery and symbols, and, to a lesser extent, common divinatory meanings. She also explores reversed meanings, spreads, and how to do readings. Pollacks writing is clear and straightforward. Even some experienced Tarotists continue to reference this title. On the other hand, some readers will find it weak with regard to traditional Occultism or Western Esotericism. The book is illustrated primarily with a RWS deck and best used with such a deck; however, it may be adapted for use with variations on RWS.
Illustration (above): Cover from Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom (copyright © 1997 Pollack).
Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for Personal Transformation (Second Edition) (New Page Books, ISBN 1564145883) by Mary K. Greer, emphasizes an intuitive or meditative approach to Tarot and suggests a wide variety of ways to begin exploring quickly the cards, avoiding the rigid application of “canned” divinatory meanings. She presents engaging methods and practical tips for learning how to use almost any deck and to apply it to many areas of life. Even some experienced Tarotists return to this book time and again. However, some users will find it weak with regard to traditionalOccultism or Western Esotericism. For each card, Greer suggests brief divinatory meanings (upright and reversed); however, she purposely de-emphasizes them. Her brief history of Tarot is generally reliable and up-to-date compared to the first edition of this book; therefore, the second edition is clearly preferable. Greer’s writing is lucid, direct, and easy to understand. The book is illustrated with cards from a wide variety of decks and other sources.
Illustration (above): Cover from Tarot for Your Self (copyright © 2002 Greer).
The Magical World of the Tarot: Fourfold Mirror of the Universe (Red Wheel/Samuel Weiser, ISBN 0877288739) by Gareth Knight, is an excellent, methodical introduction to reading and meditating on Tarot cards. It is one of few titles that integrates intellectual and intuitive approaches to learning Tarot. Like many introductory books, this one explains each card in fair detail (including brief divinatory meanings). However, Knight goes further: explaining engaging methods for meditating on the cards, including vivid visualization, to understand them in a personal, intuitive manner. He also explores the basics of divination (including a few spreads) and addresses common concerns of new students in a question-and-answer format. The book is meant primarily to be used with a Tarot of Marseilles deck, but the user may adapt it to others, including RWS decks and variations on RWS.
Illustration (above): Cover from The Magical World of the Tarot (copyright © 1996 Red Wheel/Samuel Weiser).
The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore (Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0671891014) by Cynthia Giles, is a good, succinct introduction to Tarot. Giles provides a valuable, objective overview of Tarot history, and briefly discusses lessons and wisdom that the cards may offer. This book will not teach you the specifics of reading Tarot. However, the author suggests practical do-it-yourself projects to increase your understanding of the cards. She also explores theories that may help to explain why the cards work; however, some readers will find them downright silly. Her writing is clear and direct, and she has a knack for presenting difficult ideas that attentive readers can easily grasp them. The book boasts a valuable bibliography, which includes synopses of numerous titles. Illustrations are from a variety of decks and other sources.
Illustration (above): Cover from The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore (copyright © 1992 Giles).
Tarot Plain and Simple (Llewellyn, ISBN 1567184006) by Anthony Louis, is a sensible introduction to using Tarot for divination. Louis insightfully examines each card, including divinatory meanings (upright and reversed), keywords, and phrases. He also suggests brief advice which may apply to the situation at hand and concise descriptions of people whom the card may represent. To a lesser extent, Louis explores spreads, doing readings, and how astrology and numerology may relate to Tarot. His writing is lucid and concise. On the other hand, some readers will find his approach very weak with regard to traditional Occultism or Western Esotericism. The book is illustrated with the Robin Wood Tarot Deck; however, it may be easily adapted for use with RWS decks, or variations on RWS.
Illustration (above): Cover from Tarot Plain and Simple (copyright © 1996 Louis).
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Copyright © 2002 James W. Revak. All rights reserved. (12/10/02).