Tarot and Magic by Donald Michael Kraig
Review by Diane Wilkes

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Tarot and Magic is another volume in what is turning out to be an excellent series published by Llewellyn, Special Topics in Tarot. Authored by Donald Michael Kraig, whose Modern Magic is a critical and popular success (how rarely those two go hand in hand!), this slim book is a lucid primer that offers many ways to utilize the tarot in all manner of magic.

Kraig's style is clear and specific, yet non-dogmatic, giving the novice in both tarot and/or magic the tools to go quite far without the need to obtain additional resources and spells. He introduces both subjects in his introduction, and includes questions for the reader to answer at the end of each chapter. While some of these questions test your reading comprehension, the majority of them assist you in clarifying your own understanding of various concepts and your feelings about them. Kraig also offers images from the three main tarot decks he uses to explicate his book: the Universal Tarot, Thoth, and the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot by the Ciceros, and also describes the Shadow Tarot, an out-of-print deck by Linda Falorio, a deck which he focuses on extensively in the last chapter of his book.

The next chapter title, Tarot Spells, is self-explanatory. To my great satisfaction, Kraig stresses the importance of raising and directing energy and eschews (for himself) the need to create sing-song-y rhyming poems, asserting instead that moving, heart-felt words are the vital ingredients for spellwork. He offers some simple correspondence lists and provides sample spells for love, work, safe travel, and healing. Kraig suggests the first step, prior to doing any spellwork, is using divination to see if it's a good ritual to do at that time. He does not, however, provide any suggestions as to how to perform that divination with the tarot. It would seem to me that an example of this would be welcome, as it's listed as an essential first step for any spell. While I recognize that this book is designed for those with tarot experience, Kraig gives examples of everything else but that necessary first step.

The next chapter offers information on Astral Projection, Pathworking and the Tarot. I found this chapter a wonderful introduction to the Tree of Life for kabbalistic novices, because Kraig really shines when it comes to simplifying complex material and making it accessible. Dancing the Tarot teaches the reader how to mimic the positions found in the tarot images we wish to release and/or embrace in our own lives. Here again, Kraig invokes the Tree of Life and shows how to integrate the tarot by physical pathworking--or should that be pathdancing? 

Creating Tarot Talismans and Amulets is the subject of the next chapter. I have been teaching a class on this subject for years, yet I found some valuable information that I will integrate into my next workshop, even though Kraig and I use different means and methods. Kraig then tackles the subject of The Tarot and Ceremonial Magic, an area in which his knowledge is clearly extensive. Again, I can't say enough good things about the clarity and specificity of his writing style. He breaks down information that is often too obscure for the layperson and makes it not just digestible, but appealing. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not wanting to try out some of his suggestions.

The Tarot as Magic is geared for individual ritual work, using synchronicity and chaos science as its underpinnings. The Tarot and Sex Magic offers a "Basic Sex Magic Tarot Ritual" and offers a suggested sexual act and/or position for each of the Major Arcana. This last section reminded me of Tarot Sutra and how monotonous and silly these can read when taken in toto ("The High Priestess. She is sitting. Try sex in a sitting position."). I am not saying that enacting sex magic is monotonous and silly, but as reading material, it is not what you would call deathless prose. Then again, Kraig's suggestion for the Moon card has me thinking of "mooning" in a whole new way.

The last chapter, Tarot and Magic--Continual Evolution, speaks of tarot decks that offer new visions and schemas. Kraig focuses on the aforementioned Shadow Tarot by Linda Falorio, which in turn is based on Kenneth Grant's Nightside of Eden's Nightside Tree, which is some pretty dark stuff. Because this deck is out of print and somewhat out of the mainstream, I found the attention paid to it a bit quirky, but not unwelcome.

There is something for everyone's tastes and inclinations in Tarot and Magic. Anyone who is interested in both  will want to make this book an essential part of his or her library, though Kraig encourages the reader not to be merely an armchair enthusiast of the subject. If you want to create magic, creation involves action. If you get nothing else from Tarot and Magic, you will get that message, loud and clear.

Excerpt:

Divination Magic

Most people define the term divination as a means of making oneself divine. However, the definition of the suffix "-ation" is "an action or process." For example, strangulation does not mean to make oneself strangled. Rather, it means the action or process of strangling. The definition of divination, therefore, should be "an action or process of the Divine."

For thousands of years, the process of determining the effects of divine forces on us has been examined with synchronistic methods. Runes, the Tarot, the I Ching, and the observation of signs such as the flight of birds are all forms of divination. However, we have to interpret the meaning of those signs and synchronistic events.

This leads to a discussion of one of the popular expressions of the followers of Aleister Crowley: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." Some people believe that this means you are free to do whatever you want. But as Crowley and many of his followers have made clear, wilt means your True Will. This True Will is your ultimate purpose in life. Further, it is seen as totally harmonious with the Will of the Divine. Therefore, as Crowley writes in The Book of the Law, "Thou hast no right but to do thy will."

Of the number of people who begin a course of study and practice with magic, most fall off the path. This is usually because they have certain expectations and preconceptions about what magic really is. When their expectations are not fulfilled, they become disappointed and disillusioned and seek elsewhere.

But many budding magicians discover a true secret of magic:

Magic is not about power over others--
It is about power over yourself.

If you would like to purchase this book, click here.


Text excerpted 2002 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to purchase this book, click here.