Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Booknote: Bringing the Tarot to Life

Scott Martin, Bringing the Tarot to Life: Embody the Cards Through Creative Exploration. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-7387-5262-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre; Tarot, divination, writing prompts, theater games
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This is a book that can be a useful tool to learn about Tarot. The author, a theater teacher who has also studied Tarot, brings those two passions together in a book that makes studying Tarot accessible and fun. In a nutshell, Scott Martin applies acting and theater techniques to studying and learning Tarot. The result is a book full of exercises, prompts, and ideas that you can use individually or in small groups. Whether you use Tarot for divination, meditation, or for creativity, you can get a lot out of this book. The book features 56 exercises; Martin states the book works for both beginners and advanced Tarot readers. For beginners like me, it provides new ideas for exploring the cards. For advanced users, the book may also provide new ideas for additional perspectives. If you are looking for something to add a little variety or even playfulness to your Tarot practice, this may be the book for you.

The book is arranged as follows:
  • Section One: Journaling Exercises. This is pretty what you do on your own. If you keep a Tarot journal as part of your practice, you'll find some good prompts here. Stumped for ideas on what to journal about? Try one of these prompts. 
  • Section Two: Tarot Theater Games. These are mostly things to do with other people, though there may be a few you could adapt to individual writing or reflection. For the group exercises, he also explains the exercise, provides examples, and offers reflection prompts to do after the exercise. It is a good, practical set up.
  • Section Three: Tarot Card Meanings. This is Martin's section on meanings for readers to use as reference as needed.

I found this to be a good and useful book. Martin has an easy to read prose and a friendly tone. This  is a book to pick up and browse, pick out what you like, and go from there. I really liked it, and I think it makes a good addition for any Tarot bookshelf. For libraries that collect Tarot and divination materials, this is a good addition to supplement other Tarot and divination classics. I also think the book can be useful in creative writing.

4 out of 5 stars.

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Additional reading notes:

A suggestion for beginners from Rachel Pollack, who wrote a foreword for the book:

"As I read these ideas, it struck me that it might be a wonderful approach for beginners, or people working with a new deck, to do these sort of journal interrogations before they actually read whatever book has come with  the deck" (xiv). 

On a side note, I am not sure how well the idea would work for a deck featuring non-human or abstract elements, for example, The Wild Unknown Tarot (link to deck creator's website; recently, Harper Collins has acquired it and made a version for the masses).  Martin uses the Llewellyn Classic Tarot deck (link to review on Aeclectic) as his reference point in his book; he states any pictured deck can be used (I take this to mean something like a Marseilles style deck would probably not work well for this).

Martin wrote this book thinking  "about what I know and love, and combine it with tarot" (1). There seems to be a small but rising trend in Tarot books: combine Tarot with some other outside thing to make Tarot understandable or accessible to the masses. For instance, I have seen books on business and Tarot. I also recall Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot (link to my review), which combines creative writing with Tarot.

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

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