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Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning - Review by Michele Jackson

This book has been available in its entirety on the World Wide Web for a couple of years. I have recommended Bunning's site to beginners looking for Tarot information on the Web many, many times. Her course is by far the most comprehensive one available on-line. It is now one of the most comprehensive available in book form.

From what I can determine, Bunning's book is identical to her on-line course. There may have been some minor changes due to the editing process, but they were not apparent to me. I am not going to spend time going over each chapter since you can read the book in its entirety here. In broad terms, the book begins with basic "how to" information such as how to formulate your questions, setting the mood (for those so inclined), analyzing the cards, etc. A section with exercises is next. The exercises are what sets this book apart from most others. Beginners will find them useful, but I think that more seasoned readers will find them interesting as well. Bunning provides "suggested" answers to the exercises and I found that I did not always agree with her suggestions, but the exercises certainly made me think, and it was quite enlightening to contrast and compare my answers with the suggested answers. A beginner who works through all of the exercises in this book will have a solid foundation on which to build. Card descriptions follow the exercises. This book is one of the few that does not provide detailed descriptions for the Major Arcana, while short-changing the Minor Arcana. Both have fairly detailed meanings that have key words, and descriptions. Another idea that I found interesting was that of opposing cards and reinforcing cards. Noting similarities and differences between cards helps reinforce the reader's understanding of not only the card being discussed, but also the cards being compared and contrasted.  The last chapter is a detailed explanation of the Celtic Cross Spread, which includes some sample readings. There are several appendices that provide various lists, advice on shuffling, and step by step procedures for doing readings, as well as some other information. There is a fairly comprehensive bibliography and an index.

The question that immediately springs to mind is "Why should I buy this book when I can get it for free on the Web?" The only practical reason that I can give is the convenience and portability of the book. I do not think that the book was written to compete with the WWW version, rather I think it was written to make this information available to the people who do not have WWW access, and for those who do not want to go through the trouble of downloading a 300+ page book, printing it out, punching holes and putting it in a binder, etc.

Overall I found this book to be excellent. Bunning does not hem and haw in her opinions. I may not agree with everything she says, but I have to give her credit for not being afraid to state her ideas with conviction. She recommends that readers trust their instincts and she demonstrates that she practices what she preaches. Her interpretations of the cards are traditional for the most part, but she includes her personal understanding of each card's meaning as well. She does not discuss Astrology, Qabala, Tarot history, etc. While I would have liked to have seen some background information of this type, I hope that anyone who works through this book in its entirety would have their appetites whet for more information.

I recommend this book for beginners and as a reference for more experienced readers. Tarot teachers will find some good ideas here for classes.

You can get more information about this book, including how to get an autographed copy, here.

Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners
Author: Joan Bunning
ISBN: 1578630487
Publisher: Samuel Weiser

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Review Copyright 1997  Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes