Tarot Symbolism by Robert O'Neill
Review by Nina Lee Braden

For the person who has read Cynthia Giles' The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore and wishes to do still further study, Robert V. O'Neill's Tarot Symbolism is an excellent choice. O'Neill has a Ph.D. in Biological Science, and his study of Tarot is thorough and logical, as one might expect of a scientist.

O'Neill's Tarot Symbolism begins with a short introduction to each of the Tarot trumps, the 22 Major Arcana. O'Neill then takes these 22 cards and takes them on a historical time parade, more or less. He looks at each card as it was envisioned or understood from the earliest days of Tarot. Then, as Tarot became overlaid over the centuries by Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Christian Mysticism and more, O'Neill shows how these movements and philosophies have left their mark on Tarot.

Tarot has definitely evolved over the years, and O'Neill's book is excellent for tracing this evolution and for learning about the forces which have shaped the cards into their current state. His book was first published in 1986.

Like Giles' book, this is not a book for anyone who wants to learn to read Tarot. It is rather a book for someone who wishes to understand the growth and development of Tarot across the centuries. Cynthia Giles acknowledges her own debt to this book, calling it "the most carefully reasoned, wide-ranging, and well-supported treatment of Tarot imagery yet written" (218). I heartily concur.

Review 2003 Nina Lee Braden
Page 2003 Diane Wilkes