What Tarot Can Do for You:  Your Future in the Cards by Barbara Moore

Review by Lee Bursten 


Barbara Moore is the tarot acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, and she has written an excellent introduction for tarot beginners.


What Tarot Can Do for You is a small book at 182 pages, but it’s the perfect size for someone who is new to tarot and wants to understand the general parameters of the current tarot scene.  This is not a course on how to read the cards or a collection of card meanings.  Instead, Moore takes us step by step through the various things one can do with the cards, all in keeping with the prevalent view of tarot as a tool for self-discovery and self-empowerment.


The author has a real knack for targeting and summarizing specific issues in a user-friendly and non-intimidating manner.  I was frequently impressed with her ability to capture the various facets of the tarot world in a few breezy paragraphs and at the same time manage to avoid superficiality, often presenting interesting ideas and permutations which go deeper than what you find in many much lengthier books.


After introducing the deck and its structure, the following subjects are covered:  Divination (including predefined and self-created spreads, significators, reversals, numerology, intuitive reading, developing one’s own meanings, the reading process, reading rituals, and sample readings); Problem Solving (using randomly selected as well as consciously selected cards); Meditation (guided meditations and free-form dialoging); Journaling (with different types of exercises); Magic (spell and ritual work); Self-Improvement (using the Life Card and Year Card approaches pioneered by Aleister Crowley, Angeles Arrien and Mary Greer, and a Major Arcana spread by Rachel Pollack); and Selecting a Deck.


In the Divination section, Moore states her preference for a less deterministic model which leaves aside fortune-telling.  “As the use of tarot has developed in conjunction with changing world views […] these notions have lost their charm.  Instead, more tarot readers are adopting the idea of personal responsibility and empowerment.  The ways they read and use the cards reflect this change, allowing people to take a more proactive approach to their lives rather than a reactive, passive one.”  I was pleased to see this because it accords entirely with my own view of tarot, and I like the way the author presents this viewpoint right up front, so that beginners will understand from the get-go that this is not a fortune-telling type of book.  I also liked her emphasis on the importance of the question in a reading, and why “What is the root of my uncertainty about marriage to Joe?” is a better question than “Should I marry Joe?”


After discussing various practical matters such as significators and reversals, she presents several spreads.  One of my very favorite things about this book is that the author is generous with sample readings.  She presents one for each spread given.  And, even better, several of the readings throughout the book use the same people and revolve around the same issues, which allows the author to present a continuum of several readings for a single client and how the client’s concerns progress from one reading to another.  I can’t think of any other book which does this.


I also like Moore’s suggested procedure for determining one’s own in-depth meanings.  She recommends combining insights from a single reference book (whichever the reader chooses) with one’s own insights, and engaging in a gradual process of writing down meanings from both sources in a notebook, expanding them into narratives and condensing them into short phrases, and finally distilling out a single keyword for each card which will bring to the reader’s mind the whole system of associations that have been created in this way for each card.


In the chapter on problem solving, the author presents her Achieving Your Goal Spread, which seems to be a somewhat simpler version of Rachel Pollack’s Work Spread.  Cards representing the current situation and the goal are selected face-up by the reader, and then more cards are chosen randomly to represent the steps to be taken between the one and the other.  I liked this combination of selected cards and randomly-chosen cards in a single spread.


The chapter on magic presents introductory ideas for ritual and spell work.  The suggested exercises have a pagan flavor, but not heavily so; with slight modifications they could probably be used satisfactorily from a creative visualization standpoint for those who might feel uncomfortable with the idea of magic or spells.


I was delighted to see the Tarot Passages site mentioned in the Selecting a Deck chapter as a resource for learning more about decks.


The sample spreads are illustrated with cards from three decks:  the World Spirit Tarot, the Nigel Jackson Tarot, and the Universal Tarot (De Angelis).  Seeing the World Spirit and Nigel Jackson decks as they’re used in the book actually inspired me to take them off my shelf and have another look at them, and I intend to use them more for readings now than I have in the past.


One small caution:  with the exception of the Rider-Waite deck, only decks and books published by Llewellyn are mentioned in this book.  Thus, the “Suggested Reading” list in the back of the book is a little, um, one-sided.


Overall, I like this book very much, and I wish I could have read it 25 years ago when I started my tarot journey.  If you know anyone who is interested in exploring the tarot but isn’t sure where to start, this book would be the perfect gift.  And there are plenty of interesting ideas and methods in it which make it a worthwhile purchase for experienced readers as well. 


What Tarot Can Do for You:  Your Future in the Cards by Barbara Moore

Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide

ISBN #:  0-7387-0173-4


Lee Bursten has been studying the Tarot for 25 years. He is the author of a new tarot deck which will be published by Lo Scarabeo in 2004 or 2005. He owns over 170 Tarot and oracle decks and over 50 books on esoteric subjects including the Tarot, playing cards and astrology, and has written over 70 Tarot deck reviews for Tarot Passages.  He is available for professional e-mail readings at Aeclectic Tarot. 



Review © 2004 Lee Bursten
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes