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Tarot for Beginners

I met Barbara Moore a little while ago and when reading this book, it was easy to have a mental image of her talking directly and personally to me. I believe this will be the same whether you have met Barbara or not – such is the accessibility of the text.

Barbara is one of the founders of the Minnesota Area Tarot Symposium. She is an enthusiastic and active member of the Twin Cities Tarot Meet up Group and also performs readings at a local haunted house!

I first came across Barbara’s quirky humour and accessible style in her introduction to Mary K. Greer’s book, The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, where she wrote that reversed cards were similar to the scene in Dead Poets Society where the teacher asks the class to stand on their desks – to see the room from an entirely different perspective. Such gems open up Tarot more than sometimes thousands of words.

Introduction

Barbara’s introduction to her book is very motivating and describes how she got into Tarot. I like how she gets us wondering about the power of Tarot and from where that power comes. As she discusses and I know from personal experience, this is a personal thing that we each can develop. It is developed over time. I apply this to myself as I have done readings for people and they – and I – have sometimes been very impressed with the results. I have sometimes wondered “Where the hell did that come from?” as something felt really right or just seemed to fit in. It’s not always like that though!

Structure and Format

Barbara breaks the learning process down and compares it to how you would learn vocabulary in language. There is a glossary and there are some very interesting Facts and Fancy at the front – and at the back of the book, Barbara has added four appendices. These appendices are all relevant and the book list (appendix A) can give you additional book reading suggestions from Barbara.

Barbara doesn’t go into much of the history of Tarot but does try to add a different approach by summarising the different things we would already know if we have read other books on Tarot. If you are like me, you will have either done this – read loads of books on Tarot and / or have a developing Tarot book library.

I personally have seen at least one book in the Appendix which is already on my Wish List. I have always personally (like Barbara) been interested in the variety of stories in the history of Tarot. You can also read a book by Rachel Pollack called Forest of Souls which is a collection of such stories. Most Tarot students and readers in Tarot Professionals take the historical approach which is based on evidence. Barbara has done her research for this book and briefly covers the connections (or lack of connections) of Tarot to areas such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Kabbalah and Gypsies.

A majority of books and decks today are based on the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck and Barbara has used the Universal Waite deck in her book too – so it is nice from that angle that she has gone through two other decks as well.

Content

Getting onto handling Tarot cards, Barbara talks you through the basics of Tarot card readings and there is a chapter on spreads. In this theme, simple rituals are covered and can be anything as simple as basically cutting and dealing the cards in a considered manner.

How about the questions asked of Tarot readers? This is a good thing to think about as you have to phrase the question correctly. Barbara points out various aspects of phrasing questions.

Some of My Suggested Tarot Questions

What are some possible outcomes of this situation?

What can one do to change a situation?

What can be learned from a particular experience?

How will the person being read feel today, next month or a year from now?

Where can the person being read feel comfort?

What challenges can be expected by following a specific course of action?

Where is one’s career headed?

How can one prepare for a certain outcome?

What could surprise the person being read?

Will there be a significant other for the person being read, within the next year?

What are the prospects for the new business venture?

Barbara provides a review of the structure of the cards for beginners, pointing out that there are 78 cards made up as follows; 22 Major Arcana, 4 sets of the following forming the Minor Arcana, Cups associated with Water; Wands associated with Fire; Swords associated with Air and Pentacles or Coins associated with Earth. In each suit, Ace and then the numbered cards 2 – 10 and then Court cards King, Queen, Knight and Page.

Barbara explains that the 1 to 10 pip cards often represent things that can happen in daily life. She focuses on the Court Cards as their roles in a traditional way rather than the personalities and / or jobs. The Major Arcana, Barbara explains, represent major events in our lives.

What about journaling? Barbara gives us some great ideas for different types of journals and how to use our journals. Barbara’s discussion of free writing (page 27) is an exercise I am consciously going to try tonight. Tarot reading to me is about great story telling and it is one thing I would strongly encourage.  When doing readings, it’s great to be able to connect the cards in such a way that they seem to flow into each other as if you are telling a story. The one thing I do is to talk to myself a lot – and I also have a tiny voice recorder that can fit into my bag.  I can record things and play them back and can try to improve myself continuously to be the best Tarot story-telling Tarot reader I can be.

Illustrations & Teaching

Now to the best part of the book in my opinion, the section on the Tarot cards themselves! Barbara uses the following three decks to illustrate each card and gives insight into each deck as well as notes on the actual cards:

1)      Shadowscapes (Stephanie Pui-Mun Law)

2)      Legacy of the Divine Tarot (Ciro Marchetti)

3)      The Universal Waite Tarot (the 1909 deck, the one here is a close copy, redrawn and recoloured by Mary Hanson-Roberts)

Barbara has given brief notes on each card alongside the three decks so as to help your intuitive development. She has not gone into too much detail as she doesn’t want to put people off with long essays. The best way to use this book is to relax, take it easy and don’t push yourself.

Barbara on Reversals

Reading This Book

Have fun and start off by either turning randomly to a page and work with that card or do the same with a deck – pull a card out and find the information in this book. Try to learn key words for each card and keep a journal for these notes. You can do it one card a day or try to recognize cards in your daily life.  Life experience is a good thing!

The thing that can be slightly off putting but a good thing at the same time is the choice to use three decks instead of one but for beginners even though it can seem a bit odd, I think this can also open your eyes to the choice and availability out there. We can spend a fortune on Tarot decks and books if we wanted to! So this is like “see before you buy” of three very good decks for beginners.

Conclusion

I found this book easy to read and understand. I have sometimes had to put it down and come back to it but it is easy to stop and start. There are bite-size sections you can read through and I found the illustrations very appealing to the eye. Having one of these decks, I know what the colouring is like, so would have appreciated the same colouring in the book rather than black and white but it is still very appealing. It almost adds more to it and gives another way to see things.

I even had a brain wave whilst writing this review and I don’t know why I didn’t make the connection earlier but all of a sudden I realized that Rachel Pollack in her book, Tarot Wisdom, also illustrates each card with the use of multiple cards of the same card from different decks, for example, for The Star card (pg. 202 – first edition, 2008), Rachel uses Visconti, Marseille, Rider, Golden Dawn Ritual, Egyptian and her own creation – the Shining Tribe.

The difference between these two books is that Rachel does go into a lot more detail and for beginners, I would definitely recommend Barbara’s  book before moving onto Tarot Wisdom by Rachel Pollack as Rachel offers a more spiritual and deeper teaching which I do think is extremely interesting and worth moving towards.

Publisher: Llewellyn. Trade Paperback, ISBN 9780738719559 English, 360 pages, 5 x 8 IN November 2010

To buy this book, please go to Tarot for Beginners: A Practical Guide to Reading the Cards.

To explore Barbara’s Tarot reading site, click Practical Tarot Reading.

For Llewellyn Books, visit their main website Llewellyn Worldwide.

If you liked this, you may also like:

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot by Rachel Pollack (This book goes into esotericism; mythology and psychology).

The Tarot Revealed & Mastering the Tarot by Eden Gray (which is an amalgamation of gypsy fortune telling and secret society practises).

Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer (How to read the cards for personal insight and psychological insight).

It is interesting to consider how psychology and Tarot come together, for example, in considering the 16 types of roles taken by the Court Cards. These can be seen as the personality types first posited by Jung and later used in the Myers-Briggs personality profile. Marcus Katz has also utilised NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) in his Tarot book, Tarosophy.
Nadine Roberts is a Tarot reader, student and collector living in the North-West of England. She regularly attends Tarot conferences and is a Tarosophy Diploma holder presently engaged in the first cohort of the Tarosophy Tarot Degree-style program. She is Manager of the Tarosophy Tarot Book Club and works in a mobility centre, offering professional information, services, equipment and advice to individuals who have a medical condition or are recovering from an accident or injury affecting their mobility.

5 Responses to “Tarot for Beginners”

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  4. Toni says:

    Thank you for this post. The book I constantly recommend is “Tarot for Yourself” by Mary K. Greer. A wonderful workbook for newbies and pros.. Good to see we are like minded.

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