Friday, January 22, 2016

Booknote: The Illustrated Guide to Tarot

Jane Lyle, The Illustrated Guide to Tarot. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2011. ISBN: 9781607104308.(Amazon record, as WorldCat is just sketchy).

Note: book is included in a package set, "The Tarot Box." 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: game systems, Tarot, self-help, spirituality.
Format: paperback
Source: Holidays gift

I received a deck of Marseilles Tarot cards as a holiday present; I collect playing cards and some other card decks, mainly for the art. In addition, this past year, I attended an event at the public library where a local Tarot card adviser/reader gave a presentation. If you are interested in the rest of that story, you can read more in my commonplace blog. Otherwise, just note that the cards came with a book, and I am reviewing the book in this post.

The book is a basic guide to the card meanings and how to read the cards, including some basic card spreads. The book is arranged into four chapters:

  • Introduction. This gives some of the lore and history of Tarot cards. As someone who enjoys history and trivia, I found this part interesting. The chapter also  goes over some of the influences on the Tarot such as Jungian psychology and archetypes. 
  • The Major Arcana. This chapter provides a description for each of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Each card section includes myths and symbols, and interpretation for when the card is laid straight or reversed. Note that not all readers read reversed interpretations according to the book. As I learn to read them, that is a decision I will have to make. Furthermore, each card is also identified with a planet or zodiacal sign, bringing in the symbolism of astrology as well. Each card gets about two pages of material.
  • The Minor Arcana. This chapter covers the remaining cards, divided in four suits: wands, cups, pentacles (or coins), and swords. As the author writes, "while the Major Arcana embodies large, universal concepts, the Minor Arcana weaves amongst them, filling the details" (67). there are 56 cards in the Minor Arcana. This chapter also looks a bit at influences such as the four elements, Jungian archetypes, astrology, and correspondences. After that, it goes over each card by number: aces then each aces, so on. The explanations here are more brief, but you still get straight and reversed interpretations. The chapter ends with a small note on combinations, say if you get four aces in a spread. 
  • A step by step guide to reading the Tarot. The chapter starts with a few words on choosing a deck, how to handle it, and a bit on developing your intuition along with learning the cards. This chapter goes over some basic spreads and how to read them. It then provides six spreads with explanation of how to set them up and read them plus reasons to use a particular spread. The chapter ends with two sample readings explained to illustrate how the process works. 

Though the book came with a Marseilles deck, it also uses Rider Waite card illustrations.  While Rider Waite is a popular deck, often used as inspiration for other more modern decks, it seems the book after a while favors the Rider Waite illustrations a bit more for the latter part of the book, which makes me wonder if that is a reflection of the author's preference or bias. Or it could be due to the fact that the Minor Arcana in a Rider Waite is better illustrated with more symbols and details compared to the basic suit depictions of a Marseilles deck.

In addition, the book features various illustrations in color of other historical Tarot cards and decks as well as other historical symbols and images, such as classical paintings. These add some historical context and show the rich tradition of the cards.

For a small book, it packs a lot. While it is far from definitive, the book provides a good, basic start for people who wish to learn how to read the Tarot for personal  meditation and focus. Depending on where your studies take you, you may wish to explore other books to expand your knowledge such as books on Tarot or other areas like astrology and even numerology.

In the end, it is a utilitarian book. Though I liked it, I know that I will be supplementing it with others down the road. Still, the book is an easy read that is accessible and easy to use, so I will likely keep consulting it as needed.

A brief note on the cards: they are about 5 inches tall by 2 3/4 inches wide on a standard card stock. As mentioned, the Minor Arcana card are suit cards, very much like modern playing cards. In fact, they remind me of Spanish playing cards (naipes). In fact, it is clear this art style crossed various card decks in Europe over time. 

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

No comments: