Your Everyday Guide by Janina Renee
Review by Diane Wilkes
If you would like to purchase this book, click here.
I had heard excellent things about this book from people I respect, so I wanted to check it out for myself. It's an unusual book, because the goal of the author, Janina Renee, is to write a book that teaches you to use the cards to give advice...period. While that might sound somewhat limiting, Renee takes a refreshingly pro-active approach about with tarot cards, saying that they "merely suggest things you can do, not things that are going to happen to you." Then again, Renee's previous book was Tarot Spells, which tells you right there that she's a can-do, "don't wait around for your dreams to find you" kinda gal.
Tarot: Your Everyday Guide begins with a short preface and introduction. There is an equally concise "To beginners" page and a short blurb explaining which decks are used to illustrate the book. There are always three black and white photographs of the tarot card being described. The Rider-Waite-Smith is the "default deck", as Rachel Pollack refers to it, which is always one of the three cards shown. The others alternate between various Llewellyn decks, such as Legend: The Arthurian Tarot, the Shapeshifter Tarot, and the Sacred Circle Tarot, to name a few.
Following that is a lengthy chapter where the author explains her aim for the book, "Reading and Interpreting Tarot Cards for Advice." This chapter offers some guidelines for using the cards for advice purposes. For example, Renee suggests, "When you ask the Tarot a "should" question, notice whether the cards portray actions that imitate the thing you are thinking of doing, or the opposite." She also advises you to pretend to be the main character in the card, but suggests flexibility here, also, "if, for some reason, you feel a strong connection to, or identification with, another figure...go with your intuition and use your judgment to adapt the interpretation based on the attitude or actions of that other figure."
For the purpose of advice-giving, Renee proposes that reversals operate as "retrograde planets...which represent the more internalized aspects of the cards." She reminds us to ignore the gender on the card, and suggests that odd-numbered cards and the Yang suits (Wands and Swords) urge us to take action, whereas even-numbered cards and the Yin suits (Cups and Pentacles) advocate a slower pace and waiting to see what develops. Upright cards indicate "Yes"; reversals, "No."
These seem somewhat obvious, but are good suggestions to keep in mind. Renee also offers some ideas that aren't so apparent, such as, "Whenever your normal significator appears in an advice reading, it assures you that you should be yourself." This and other commentary throughout the book is the kind of advice that could only emerge from someone who is a) empowering and b) a card reader with significant experience.
As I read the book, I couldn't help liking the author. She is refreshingly honest and open. In the beginning section, she states upfront that, "I consider myself to be a pretty good tarot reader, but I get false readings often enough." This is a far cry from the old-time writers who claimed not only to be infallible, but promised to teach you to become equally perfect through the wisdom of their book. Later on, she talks about how she used to only do a reading if she felt "psychically attuned"--which meant she didn't work with the tarot on a regular basis--but has now changed her point of view. Both of these examples are perfect for encouraging novices to continue their tarot studies even if their readings aren't perfect and they aren't feeling "cosmic" on a daily basis.
As with most tarot books, the bulk of the text comprises the card-by-card interpretation section. Renee averages two pages per Major Arcana card and one-and-a-half pages on the Minors, not including the page that shows the three sample cards. In most cases, Renee's approach is sensible and free of that dreaded "gloom-and-doom" mentality that can terrify the tarot novice, but there are exceptions, such as when she uses the term "card's ill-omen"--always a phrase that evokes the dramatic organ music of Dark Shadows that invariably presaged a Barnabas bite.
But these exceptions are few and far between, and I found Renee's advice consistently sane and sound. Individuals who use decks that don't follow the R-W-S model or don't have pictorial pips will find Renee's advice is not necessarily reflective of their card imagery. I don't see that as an overwhelming drawback; the reader can grasp the process and become more adept at working with their cards' imagery. I also found some of her book suggestions for the beginner rather quirky. In one sentence, she recommends A.E. Waite's The Pictorial Key to the Tarot OR Scott Hollander's Tarot for Beginners. Huh? Talk about a kinky couple who have nothing in common!
But this is nit-picking at its most nit-pickiest.
After reading this book, I did an experiment. I asked two questions and pulled a card for each, and came up with my own "advice" based on the cards. Then I looked up Renee's interpretations for each card.
The questions? One: What does Al Gore need to be thinking about for his political future? I got the Knight of Swords, which suggested to me that he move fast if he was going to move at all. He needed to be focused single-mindedly on his goal and not try and hide his rapier intelligence this time around. I also thought he needed to be ruthless. Renee's text was much the same, but she had added insights, such as "The Swords court cards have a lot to do with legal advocacy and legal contests" (bullseye!) and "this card advises...to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may."
The second question, "What does George W. Bush need to do to improve his popularity rating?" The Ace of Pentacles showed up, which I thought was so synchronistic, as I asked the question in the midst of his popularity downslide due to the downturn in the economy and his perceived anti-environmental stance.
This card suggested Dubya start something new on the economic front--but also indicated he might need the hand of G-d to come down and give him a tangible gift. The garden imagery (I used the R-W-S, in keeping with the book) implied that he needed to show himself beautifying the environment instead of polluting it (and didn't those photo ops among the greenery start coming out immediately?). Since there are no people in the card, there was also an implication that he might wish to look for Divine Guidance.
Again, Renee and I were in synch and had very similar responses. I did get a giggle out of her comment that "Gold attracts gold." Could there be a more apt quotation for George W. Bush?
Since reading this book, I have turned to it in retrospect with some one-card readings I have done, and it has always offered a tidbit that shed additional light on the situation in question. While I believe that anyone with extensive experience working with the cards can use the tarot in the way Renee teaches in Tarot: Your Everyday Guide without using her book to do it, I think her innovative approach has never been expressed before in such an in-depth and pro-active way. This is an excellent book for beginners, and even old goats like myself will discover some new twists and wrinkles--not just in our bodies, but in the cards themselves!
You can read another review of this book here.
Tarot: Your Everyday Guide by Janina Renee
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
If you would like to purchase this book, click here.
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes