Totally Tarot: How to Be a Tarot Detective by Rev. Vikki Anderson
Review by Diane Wilkes

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

Any tarotista with a Pluto/Scorpio emphasis will inevitably be intrigued by a book with the words "tarot" and "detective" in the title.  Since I have several planets in Scorpio and Pluto in the first house, I was hungry to obtain and read Totally Tarot: How to be a Tarot Detective.

My appetite was initially somewhat put off when I received the actual book and gave it a cursory look-see.  The cover is somewhat garish and I immediately guessed that the "Rev" had received her title from the Universal Life Church (give them three minutes and you, too, can become a Rev, for free!). 

How did I guess this?  I based my supposition on the fact that most ministers who have actually gone to seminary school tend to the scholarly, and hence wouldn't allow the profusion of typos and errors with which this book abounds.  It starts out with a "Forward (sic) by Author" and wherever the word tarot is used, it is bolded and capitalized.  Anyone who ever majored in English would find this offensive, and I am no exception.  Additionally, the author links Atlantis and Egypt as possible birthplaces of the tarot, and only mentions the roots of tarot being in Italy in the form of a "child's card game" in her blessedly short tarot (TAROT) history. 

The presentation isn't the only problem.  Before reading very far, I came across the following statement: "Truly, this is the only tarot book you would ever need to accurately read with the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck."  After thinking somewhat derisively, "Shouldn't that be the Rider-Waite TAROT Deck," I found I had issues with the mentality behind that statement.  Who defines "accurately" and is that what the tarot does best--provide "accurate" answers?  Sounds like true-false or multiple choice tests to me.  But more than that, as someone who has been reading cards for many years, I find the concept that I only "need" one book both limiting and self-aggrandizing from any author who makes that assertion.  Talk about coming from a place of scarcity!

The author makes statements like, "Reversed cards won't come to pass for at least six months," without explaining that this is her particular and untraditional take on the matter.  We are directed not to use a deck for more than five years (Yeah, I'll be retiring my copies of the Blue Rose, Evolving, and Hero's Journey any moment now...hold your breath).  On page 36, we are given complicated and dogmatic directives on shuffling methodology.  The author echoes Eden Grey's archaic approach to the Majors, by stating that they refer to "God-given situations,"  following that up by advising to ask the querent about their religious beliefs so as to not offend Pagan clients.

In Anderson's descriptions of the suits, Wands are limited to jobs/careers and your status in them, with no mention of spirit or creativity.  Cups are about "love and happiness," with no mention of emotions.  Swords refer to conflicts, not communication.

Okay, you say, I've read enough.  Why keep reading, if the book is riddled with errors and dogmatic self-promotion?  You wasted your time, Diane, but is that any reason why should I waste mine?

Well, yeah.  Despite my noted and lengthy reservations about this book, the author's primary hypothesis is one that isn't stressed enough in many other tarot volumes.  The concept is to look for recurrent colors, background, and symbols and put those card clues together, becoming a "tarot detective."  This picture-based instruction includes sections on color associations, "scenery, people, color, and suits," along with a symbolism guide and timing methods.  While I don't necessarily resonate with all of the author's associations (white is a "sucker" color??), anything that encourages the budding reader to look at the cards is something I applaud.  And with this book, Anderson really does give the novice reader the tools to look at the cards and make important connections.  Granted, there are other books that do this better, but this one does have numerous insights into the Rider-Waite deck that are rarely, if ever, encountered in other tarot literature.

I also think this author is well-intentioned.  She frequently advises the neophyte tarot reader to find his or her own path, even though she is inconsistent in displaying this philosophy throughout the book in ways both subtle and overt.  She encourages the new reader to retain an attitude of optimism and not give gloom-and-doom readings to the client.  I think Anderson takes this too far, though, when she suggests you pull up to 21 extra cards in order to leave the client with a "cheery" card at the end.  Just keep pulling cards until one you like comes up...even the redoubtable Miss Cleo wouldn't approve!

In addition, this author is obviously an experienced reader, and gives pragmatic and specific descriptions that can only evolve from giving frequent readings.  Experience really does provide insights that theory and book-reading alone can not.  For the novice who wants to offer oracular, advisory readings, the card descriptions will prove very beneficial.  As with most books on the tarot, the bulk of this one is taken up with descriptions of the individual cards.  Anderson's interpretations demonstrate her own methods of detection and often contain specific allusions to her reading practice.  Sometimes they are overly negative and offer opposing statements, as seen in the excerpt (which I swear I chose randomly). 

Anderson also provides several tarot spreads: a modified version of the Celtic Cross, The Year Ahead (aka a modified version of the 12 Houses/Astrology Spread), "Your Own Spread," a "Beginner's Year Ahead Spread," a "Simple Cross Spread," "Yes/No Spreads," and a Birthday Card and Three Card spread.

Because the $20 price tag is steep, I would not recommend this book for most readers, especially since Anderson acknowledges that her associations only work well with the Rider-Waite deck.  It would be a good book for a too-dependent beginner who uses the Rider-Waite deck, but there are others that would be equally good or better.  It does offer new and interesting insights to the more experienced Rider-Waite user, and would also be good for one who collects tarot books.

Excerpt:

Queen of Swords

This Queen has much determination, privacy, as well as a little sadness.  She represents depression, embarassment, widowhood and separation. 

The Queen of Swords is very solid and stable.  Here we have a queen sitting on a cement throne, so no one will easily change her point of view.  She is centered, grounded, and fixed.  The clouds brewing in the blue sky depict some problem or conflict starting to form.  The black bird and trees to the left of the card show that there are things going on behind her back (secrets) that could harm her if she does not pay attention to details, or she might even change her present opinion if these facts were known.  She is ready to fight as shown with her sword drawn; however, she is carefully holding it on the throne's arm, while her other hand is inviting friends, family, and situations to present themselves to her in an open and fair manner.  The friendship bracelet on her left hand shows that she is more comfortable dealing with people in a trusting and loving manner.  She was probably taken advantage of in the past, indicated by her white gown.  The blue and white cape over the white gown indicates her compassion, empathy, sympathy, and sensitivity towards others and her efforts in trying to help everyone.   The sculpture of a cherub or angel on the side of the throne indicates that she gets spiritual guidance when she requires it.  The blue sky indicates that things will turn out for the best when she understands what or whom she is dealing with.  Her red hair indicates a fiery temper when pushed to the limit and the yellow crown indicates intelligence and her ability to see all sides of a situation.

THE MESSAGE OF THIS CARD IS this is a card saying that you will be fair, but ready to defend your honor, family, friends, or loved ones when needed.  Things are going on behind your back, but if you are careful to examine all the possibilities of a situation in an intellectual manner and do not let your temper get the better of you, you will be able to make a positive, accurate, and positive decision.

Totally Tarot: How to be a Tarot Detective by Rev. Vikki Anderson
Publisher: Rose International Publishing House
ISBN#: 193057424X

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

Quoted passage 2000 Vikki Anderson
Review and page 2002 Diane Wilkes