Tarot for Today by Joanna Watters
Review by Diane Wilkes

When I was a child, Reader's Digest was the magazine of choice for my G.P., and I'd entertain myself by "paying to increase my word power" and reading jokes about "Life in These United States." (No way was I going to read about Joe's Brain or Kidney!) My doctor's practice was primarily for adults, and I associated the magazine with an elderly mindset that was rather stodgy and old-fashioned.

Well, RD has come a long way, baby--they now publish books and have recently released one on tarot--Tarot for Today by Joanna Watters. And while this book is neither stodgy nor old-fashioned, it's filled with wise, down-to-earth, and intelligent words on the tarot, reminding me that I have never had a more caring doctor (he even made house calls!) and that I first read my favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird in an abridged Reader's Digest format.

At first glance, Tarot for Today looks like a coffee table book. Since almost all of these types of books tend to contain pretty pictures, Marseilles-type deck illustrations, and old-hat definitions, I tend to shun such volumes. But while this book does contain pretty pictures, the text bespeaks a reader who is both experienced and wise, as well as one who is conversant with modern tarot methodology and understanding (and even knows and includes some astrological insights).

In fact, Watters talks about the difference in how tarot and astrology are perceived in her introduction, with astrology seen as a craft, and tarot being associated with having a "psychic gift." The author's stated aim is to show that tarot is also a craft that can be learned. In the introduction, she also addresses the structure of the tarot and the tri-fold role of the reader (Diviner, Interpreter, and Counselor).

The first chapter addresses such issues as differentiating between clairvoyance and divination, as well as symbolism. The author also presents an astrological primer which is quite cogent, but seems premature in its placement and could confuse novices who are having enough trouble learning the 78 cards. Her reasoning is that you don't need to know much about astrology to use it in conjunction with your readings. That may be true for a seasoned reader, but a beginner needs to focus on the cards before branching out.

Next, we move on to card definitions, starting with the Majors, which get two pages of text each (Minors sometimes are defined two-to-a-page, but each Court Card gets his or her own full "page"). The definitions are a combination of the predictive and the psychological, which I like very much. Most coffee table-styled books only focus on the predictive aspects. The card definitions, as in most tarot books, dominate the book, taking up approximately 100 of the 160 pages.

The next section of the book, Becoming a Consultant, is what impresses me most about this book, even as I wonder why so many pages are devoted to going pro in a book for beginners. However, these 12 pages are filled with savvy and specific suggestions, with an understanding necessarily born of personal experience. I must admit, I admire them as much as I do because I not only agree with most of what she says, I say the same things to my own students!

Lastly, the author gives a few basic spreads (the one card reading, past, present, and future, Celtic Cross, Relationship and Horseshoe layouts). Much as I admire the author's section on Becoming a Consultant, I think the average reader would be better served with a sample reading or two and less on becoming a professional.

Having said that, people who decide they want to learn more about tarot and are drawn to a coffee-table styled book for that education could do a lot worse than picking up Tarot for Today. While Jette's Professional Tarot is obviously the superior resource for "going pro," even advanced readers will find something of value in Watters' section on the subject.

Based on my reading of the copyright page, it seems that this book was published in Great Britain in 2003, and Reader's Digest was impressed enough with it to bring it out in the United States under their imprint. To put it in perspective, if we return to their protocol of condensing great books, Tarot for Today is no To Kill a Mockingbird, but it's a terrific coffee-table book on tarot.

Excerpt:

The Six of Cups

With old buildings in the background, the country clothes of the two figures and the cups brimming with flowers, this card depicts a rural setting, suggesting innocence and simplicity.

The two figures could be either small adults or children, and this ambiguity is in itself informative. The Six of Cups often points to the past and our reminiscences--how we sometimes sentimentalize our younger years. It may indicate a need to return to simple values, or it may be that we are being overly idealistic or naїve.

In my own readings I have often found that this card speaks of an old flame making a reappearance, or someone special coming back into our lives, possibly someone we have known since childhood or at least for many years. Or it speaks of an ongoing relationship with strong roots in the past.

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Excerpt 2005 by Readers Digest by arrangement with Carroll and Brown Publishers Ltd.
Review and page 2005 Diane Wilkes