Dictionary of the Tarot by Bill Butler
Review by Nina Lee Braden

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Bill Butler has written an interesting and useful book on tarot, called Dictionary of the Tarot in the United States. (Its original British title is The Definitive Tarot.) Although this book is extremely useful, its title is misleading. This is no dictionary of the tarot. (In fact, I know of no dictionary of the tarot.) What this is is a highly selective but useful cross reference of card meanings.

After a brief introduction and history of tarot, Butler takes each of the seventy-eight Tarot cards, beginning with the Minor Arcana, and describes the cards from several different decks. Butler also gives excerpts from the works of a number of different tarot authors on these cards. The book is illustrated in black and white, but no attempt has been made for the illustrations to be encyclopedic in nature. The decks that Butler describes are the Marseilles, Waite, Aquarian (Palladini), Crowley (Thoth), and New Tarot for the Minor Arcana. In addition, for the Major Arcana, he describes the 1JJ Swiss, Oswald Wirth, B.O.T.A., Bembo (presumed Visconti artist), Gringonneur (an early-hand painted art deck), Insight and Italian decks. The authors on tarot whom Butler quotes are Paul Foster Case, Aleister Crowley, Alfred Douglas, Eden Gray, Paul Huson, Stuart Kaplan, Gareth Knight, Frank Lind, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Papus, A.C. Thierens, A.E. Waite, Paul Christian, Golden Dawn (Israel Regardie), Grimaud, Mouni Sadhu, Arland Ussher, Yitzhac Khan, and Mayananda.

Butler is not without his own opinion, and he also gives his own interpretation for each card. In addition, the quotes that he has chosen to use from each author are not given in context and are sometimes misleading. Nonetheless, this is an extremely valuable resource for the student of tarot. Butler also describes a few spreads and gives a chapter- length glossary of Tarot terms and symbols at the end of his book.

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Review 2000, 2003 Nina Lee Braden
Page 2003 Diane Wilkes