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Tarot for Beginners
A rather new offering from Llewellyn, this book is little more than an advertisement for
their various decks disguised as a book (not unlike their “magazine”). The author, who
“feels she has reached the level of The Star in her own studies”, provides nothing new to
the beginner book genre and in fact muddies the waters with her wishy-washy section on
the history of the cards, and by illustrating her book with decks which are really not
applicable to it, like the Healing Earth Tarot and the Tarot of the Orishas. The only
innovation she presents is dividing her interpretations into two sections, one for fortune
telling and one for more serious study. Here’s how it works: Each card description starts
with a sentence giving the card’s number and it’s corresponding Hebrew letter. She never
explains the significance of the Hebrew letters though so why include them at all? Next
comes a sentence that describes what the card represents. What this appears to be is a
short interpretation, but the author describes it as a “Brief explanation of the state of
being, or stage of spiritual development, that the picture on the card is meant to illustrate”.
This is followed by a generic description of the illustration you will find on the card in
most decks. She states that some parts of the illustration are so basic and important that
they appear on all decks. Huh??? This is even more dismaying when one looks at the
illustrations in the book. For example she has a page with the caption “The High Priest in
the Tarot specifically represents religious authority....” (pg. 32). She illustrates this with
The Master from the Healing Earth Tarot, The Hierophant from the Legends deck and
The Babalorisha from Tarot of the Orishas. Unfortunately The Babalorisha is equivalent to
The Magician, not the Hierophant. There is then a section called “Meaning”, which
consists of a few paragraphs about the card. These paragraphs flow from one card to the
next in a kind of storyline. They provide food for thought on the card and are basically
descriptions of the card’s meaning. They are decent interpretations and useful in
understanding the meaning of the card. However the reader who wants to use the Tarot
for fortune telling is advised to skip this section and jump straight to the last section “In
the Reading”, which provides interpretations akin to those that come in the little booklets
that come in the box with a deck of Tarot cards. Upright and reversed interpretations are
provided. Much of this section is a rehash of the section on Meaning. Following the card
interpretations portion of the book, there is a section on Divination. The standard advice is
included here, such as how to pick a significator, how to pose a question etc., and three
spreads, Celtic Cross, 7 Card and 5 card spread. The author provides little advice as to
how to learn the meanings of the cards. how to interpret them in light of the spread and
the other cards around them, and generally ignores the whole concept of how to read,
other than looking up the meanings in her book and gaining experience over time.
Overall, there are much better beginner books available today. This one offers little in the
way of practical advice on how to read, and is the usual fare of 90% interpretations, 10%
instruction. In fairness to the author, Llewellyn probably made her use the illustrations and
required her to keep the book as generic as possible, though no book could possibly be
written which is generic enough to cover their diverse range of decks. If you get this book, I
recommend you read the entire thing. The "Meanings" section which one is told can safely be
ignored, is the best part of this book.
Tarot for Beginners
Author: P. Scott Hollander
ISBN: 1-56718-363-8

In order to do an accurate reading, you have to know the meanings of the cards, but
unless you have total recall, simply memorizing all that information is an impossible task.
And even with a photographic memory, it’s a pretty pointless one. The lists of words and
phrases given as dictionary interpretations are meaningless in and of themselves. You have
to use them in a reading to understand how they apply to real life situations. Which makes
it a kind of Catch-22: in order to use them you have to know them, but in order to know
them you have to use them.
In addition for both the Major and Minor Arcana, I told you that not all of the definitions
given for any one card apply at the same time. You not only have to know all the
definitions, you have to know how to pick the one that makes the most sense in the
context of the reading.
Determining the exact interpretation of any card in a reading is simply a matter of
experience. You learn over time, what each of the listed interpretations actually mean as
they apply to real situations. And you also learn how to determine what is the most logical
interpretation is in a specific reading
(Tarot for Beginners, page 347)
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Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson