Taking the Tarot to Heart: Fun and Creative Ways to Improve Your Love Life by Mark McElroy
Review by Diane Wilkes

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

If you purchased your first tarot deck when you were in your teens, your focus was likely the same as mine was at that age: Does ________ like me? Will ________ ask me out? Will we get married? Again and again, the same questions with new names inserted every few months, like clockwork (if the aforementioned clock was on hormones).

McElroy has written a book on using the tarot for relationship questions, but it's geared for proactive grownups, not passive, mooning adolescents. In addition, the author's background as a corporate trainer has engendered within him a love of and passion for brainstorming and other techniques that are meant to expand possibilities at every phase of the reading process--so my teenage questions would have had him re-phrasing like Tony Robbins on speed--a frightening image, but there you have it.

Speaking of images, the first chapter focuses on brainstorming using one--the image on the card. McElroy does this prior to providing much background information on tarot, precisely because he wants the novice reader to understand that his favorite technique is based on personal creativity, not previous tarot knowledge or mindless memorization.

In the following chapters, which are chock-full of anecdotes, McElroy makes the case for creating a fertile environment for love to develop using thoughtful planning and the efficacy of brainstorming with the tarot as part of that planning. He offers an engaging and concise tarot primer that addresses such items as deck structure, spreads, reversals, and selecting a deck, too, but the real fun begins with Chapter Five (All Hands on Deck!)--literally. It's filled with self-exploratory games that provide insight and guidance on the Shifting Seas of Love (in keeping with the chapter's nautical title) for a novice who needs some "quantity time" with the cards.

The author then offers a more detailed and concrete approach to reading the cards. He clearly knows how to proffer carrot and brandish stick in equal measure. His "All Purpose Power Tools" include the ubiquitous one card draw...and the identical Major Arcana interpretations he brought to life in his Putting the Tarot to Work--five possible ideas on "What Would Each Tarot Card Do?" While it was apropos for that audience, it is less so here--the author would have done well to tweak these responses to be less career-oriented and more romantically inclined.

All is forgiven, though, because he offers--in the very next chapter--a Personal Romantic Profile for each of the Majors. With each card, he offers a love/relationship based description and room for your own observations. More uniquely and helpfully, he asks five personal questions at the end of each card description. Each question explores a particular facet or theme of the particular card--but he only asks you to respond to one. While this has the potential to be time-consuming, it's valuable on a number of levels--even essential. How can you find an appropriate partner if you have no clue as to your own needs, desires, and personal patterns?

I think this is the strongest section of the book. I particularly like that no two people's responses will be the one--talk about removing the one-size-fits-all approach to the tarot. I suspect it's the one on which most people are least likely to actually do the work, and that's a shame.  Someone who answered every question for every card would have a stunning sense of self-awareness--and a really good understanding of the Major Arcana, too.

Once McElroy arms you with self-knowledge (via your Personal Romantic Profile), he provides sample readings on issues as diverse as finding your soul mate to recognizing and changing self-defeating romantic behaviors and patterns. As you may have guessed, the author isn't big on the whole "soul mate" model. Starry eyed-seekers whose view of the one-and-only perfect partner finding them in one moment of magic often find themselves in divorce court. So, of course, his approach to that question is grounded in actively seeking the imperfect partner who is right for you--and recognizing him/her when you find him/her.

The book ends with two Appendices--one that provides interpretations for all 78 cards and the other a list of tarot resources. So, while this book is absolutely wonderful for the more experienced tarotist who wants some new and empowering approaches and responses to the perennial relationship questions, it is also perfect for a tarot novice who just bought his/her first deck for the sole purpose of getting answers to those questions listed in the first paragraph of this review. Reading this book will either empower and mature that seeker--or get her to switch to the Magic-8 Ball, which is all she deserves if she can't grasp the gifts of Taking the Tarot to Heart.

Okay, that's a little harsh. And while I think the proactive, brainstorming approach has its place in relationship readings (though to a lesser extent than career-oriented ones, ironically enough), I don't think it is always the appropriate one for every romantic issue. Sometimes a querent doesn't want answers and options, but validation. Or simply to be heard. Or to spend time and energy on each separate, conflicting emotion before going on to a solution. Sometimes the person brimming with "can-do" attitude is more of an irritant than a resource.

But there are plenty of tarot books that can help you navel-gaze to your heart's content (so to speak). This is the best--and most--proactive--tarot book on the subject of relationships I've seen and I give it a hearty recommendation.

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


Review and page 2005 Diane Wilkes