Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Booknote: Pathworking The Tarot

Leeza Robertson, Pathworking the Tarot: Spiritual Guidance and Practical Advice from the Cards. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2019. ISBN: 978-0-7387-5787-2.

Book release date: October 8, 2019 (according to NetGalley).

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination, cartomancy
Format: e-galley
Source: NetGalley

The book's arrangement is simple. We get fiver chapters, including three chapters on the cards: the Major Arcana, the Minor Arcana, and Court Cards. However, this is not just a book of card meanings. Robertson is presenting a method to study and learn the cards in depth. The method is pathworking.

For starters, Robertson comes across as more humble in her teaching. Unlike other recent books on Tarot I've read, Robertson acknowledged that there can be and are other decks out there (i.e. RWS is not the end all be all), each with a story to tell. The book then addresses beginners as well as those with experience, though the book does seem more geared to beginners. Still, it leaves room for those who are further along in the Tarot journey. In fact, a strength of the book is her very encouraging and nurturing tone.

On different decks, the author writes something I found reassuring:

"Tarot cards themselves can be confusing and overwhelming to novices. Each card is a complex construction of symbols and design features, geared to tell a very specific story. The version of that story will differ with each deck, as each deck creator will tell and re-tell that story in a  unique and different way, emphasizing some elements and dismissing others. This means that the deck you hold in your hands right now is telling one version of a tarot story. Regardless of which deck you hold in your hands, you are looking at a unique interpretation of a story" (1). 

Robertson then goes on to define pathwork. She does mention that while there are various ways of pathworking, she is teaching a specific arrangement. Each Major Arcana card get its own set of pathworking exercises. Minor Arcana gets exercises grouped by number, i.e. one set for the ones, for the twos, so on, and so do the Court Cards, i.e. one set for the Pages, the Knights, the Queens, and the Kings. These pathworking exercises are the core of the book, and they are designed to encourage study and reflection. She presents three ways of pathworking with the cards: intentional, intuitive, and wandering, and she does explain these terms in the book as well. She does emphasize that "there are no real hard and fast rules here. Use the book intuitively. Allow the exercises to guide you and help deepen your understanding of the cards, your spreads, and your work with Tarot" (6-7).

Robertson also encourages journaling as you do the exercises. Journaling in Tarot is considered by many to be a good practice, and I am glad to see it recommended here as well. I already keep a Tarot journal, but I may consider a second separate one for the exercises in this book. She also includes journal tips and prompts to help readers along the way. Do note journaling is encouraged, but not required.

One thing I would have wanted is some illustrations. Robertson often makes references to her own Animal Totem Tarot deck. It could have enhanced the text a bit to include some photos of cards she refers to. Besides, Llewellyn, the publisher of this book, also publishes the deck, so I'd suggest this could also make for some good synergy and cross-promotion. I also wish she had developed a bit more the topic of pathworking spreads, which is briefly addressed in the end. Maybe, and this is me just hoping, that topic will be another book for her in the future.

Overall, this is a good and solid book to learn Tarot with more than just meanings. It provides a flexible way to reflect and explore the cards in order to better integrate the lessons into your practice. I know I'll be taking time to work with this book. I really liked it, and I recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars.

 * * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

A definition of pathwork:

"Pathwork, just like tarot, is a story, which is constantly constantly retold over and over again because it keeps changing and evolving. It is a walking meditation that guides you through the concerns, concepts, and philosophies that we call existence" (2). 

Author's hope for the book:

"My hope is that this book will inspire you to go further, deeper, and wider with your knowledge and understanding of how the cards influence your daily experience and assist you in expanding your spiritual being" (3). 

 On choosing your pathwork deck:

"Although technically any tarot deck will do for this sort of work, you may want to either go through your deck collection to find a deck that fits this sort of work or buy a new deck. I myself have decks that I don't read from but I do use for pathwork, spellwork, and journal work. These decks tend to have less traditional images and offer space for the imagination to take over. A couple of decks I enjoy using for this sort of work are the Gaian Tarot, the Ravens Prophecy Tarot, and the Paulina Tarot. These decks are visually intriguing beyond their assigned tarot meaning" (11).

Still, and she says it in the book find the deck or decks that work for you on this. I admit that I would really need to check my collection and see what options I have. I am sure I have one or more decks I can use for pathworking. On a side note, of the three that she listed above, I have two: the Gaian Tarot and the Ravens Prophecy Tarot. I have used and worked with the Gaian Tarot (link to my review); the Ravens Prophecy I still have to work with. I have seen the Paulina Tarot, and I know it is one that is not for me.

On finding a teacher:

"Find teachers who are joyful, abundant, authentic, who believe in integrity, and above all are loved and give love back willingly. In other words, don't pick an asshat" (31). 

That bit of advice, also a way to look at the Hierophant card, made me laugh. It is also a bit of what I aspire to be as an educator and teacher.

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