The Girls' Guide to Tarot by Kathleen Olmstead
Review by Diane Wilkes

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

Young people often express fascination with the tarot to me. While I usually encourage them to wait until they are 16 or thereabouts to do readings, I have often utilized storytelling and other tarot play with them. I never found a book I could heartily recommend to younger people...until I found The Girls' Guide to Tarot.  I found it on the cheap and was not expecting much--and, as not often happens, was pleasantly surprised.

The credit must go to the author, Kathleen Olmstead, for her sensible, non-patronizing, non-didactic style. Writing for adolescents is tricky business and she manages the feat with aplomb and surprising depth, for all the book's simplicity. She acknowledges, then skewers, old wives' tales such as wrapping your deck in one particular kind of cloth or not allowing anyone else to touch your cards. And while some may debate the accuracy of stating that the Death card does not really mean physical death, it's clearly the wisest approach to take with teenagers.

The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck is used to illustrate the card interpretations, which take up a good part of the book (the author recommends the RWS, but suggests the novice seek out a number of decks to choose from). The interpretations are simple, but universal for the most part--they could be applied by individuals from ten years of age to 80, in most cases (see excerpt below).

While I think these interpretations are excellent for their target audience, they aren't what excites me most about this excellent book. The author offers some unique spreads (I feature one of them as the April 2003 Spread of the Month) that I haven't seen anywhere else. While some are specifically adolescent in tone, many are not, though all are age-appropriate. Olmstead also offers birthday and party spreads, information on how to devise your own spreads, simple tarot numerology (personality card computation), storytelling, a brief bit about tarot ethics, keeping a tarot journal, and even instructions for making your own tarot bag! She even suggests that advanced students might want to create their own deck with a friend. And she finds a way to shoehorn all this information in 128 pages, including the Index.

The illustrations, by Sandie Turchyn, are whimsical but never cloying, and add a touch of charm to the book. If I can find more copies of The Girl's Guide to Tarot, I plan to give them to all my young friends who are interested in reading the cards. I figure it's as safe and intelligent (how rarely those two words combine!) a guide as could be found for their path. And maybe, in return for my generosity and discernment, they'll make me some tarot bags.

A girl can dream, can't she?

The Girl's Guide to Tarot by Kathleen Olmstead
Publisher: Sterling Publishing
ISBN#: 0806980729

Excerpt:

Strength

There are two kinds of strength -- physical and spiritual -- and you need both to reach harmony. Someone would have to be pretty brave to get that close to a lion, pet it and touch its mouth. This woman has overcome her fears--pushed them aside and tamed the wild beast. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? Well, that probably isn't a coincidence.

Divinatory

Reverse

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


Text cited İ 2002 Sterling Press
Review and page İ 2003 Diane Wilkes