Llewellyn's 2005 Tarot Reader: Your Annual Guide to News, Reviews, Tips & Techniques
Review by Diane Wilkes

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

At the end of 2003, both Llewellyn and US Games discontinued publishing tarot calendars. I had to search for replacements, and the tarot community jumped into the breach and provided several options, my favorite being Arnell Ando and Leslie Cochran's contribution.

For 2005, however, Llewellyn offers not a calendar, but a planner-of-sorts, though it's really more of a cornucopia of articles to read and spreads to use in the coming year. The real appeal of this relatively inexpensive ($9.95) volume, though, is in the panoply of articles and reviews contained within it. Llewellyn has gone out of its way to reach out to and represent members of the online tarot community, as well as highlight its own authors. The results are savvy and knowledge-specific articles that offer both beginning and experienced readers worthwhile information and easy-to-use hands-on techniques.

The book (and at almost 300 pages, I can't call it anything else!) has six sections:

The Fool: Tools for the Journey -- This section contains articles on learning the tarot, and are particularly appropriate for beginners. I am particularly grateful for Mary Greer's "The Birth of the Tarot," in that novices who read it won't absorb the historically inaccurate myths that pervaded much of tarot literature in the past, and continues to infect much of what is released in the present (though not by Llewellyn in the last year or two!). Even experienced readers will find much of value here--the Meditation for the Majors supplied by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone cleverly offers a basic approach for beginners and more advanced information for journeymen and women (who are traveling the Fool's Journey, of course!). Mary Greer's offering on Tarot Reversals is essential reading for anyone who hasn't read her book on the subject and I love Mark McElroy's Test the Tarot, which offers a weekly tarot challenge for the skeptical-but-interested family members and friends of tarot readers.

The Magician: Practical Applications -- The title of this section seems self-explanatory. One of my favorite articles is Finding Your Voice by Nina Lee Braden. Based on a workshop she presented at the first New York Tarot School event, this exercise encourages the reader to discover his or her unique and individual reader's "voice." This is practically a religion with me, in terms of my approach to teaching, and I plan to adopt some of Nina Lee's techniques and share them with my students--giving her appropriate attribution, of course. Corrine Kenner has long been someone whose work I've admired, and while I still have personal reservations about reading for children, her 12 tips on the subject have given me some food for thought, as did her piece on spicing up romance readings.

The Wheel of Fortune: 2005 Almanac -- This is where the daily planner comes in, centered in the middle of the book. If you have a busy schedule, I am not sure the relatively small sections for each day will offer sufficient room for all of your appointments. The daily information contains the astrological sign in which the moon resides, as well as the four main phases of the lunar cycle. Holidays are also demarcated. My only wish is that the almanac section contained information on the Crescent, Gibbous, Disseminating and Balsamic cycles, too.

The Hermit: For Further Study -- This section contains more advanced or off-the-beaten-path techniques, though Winter Wren's excellent piece on Tarot Journaling could have easily found a home in the The Fool's section instead. Techniques for combining the tarot with dreamwork and walking the labyrinth are included here. While the Tarot Reader is not marketed specifically for those following the Wiccan path, this section contains a Mabon Tarot Ritual by Nina Lee Braden. I was disturbed that Bonnie Cehovet's article on Comparative Tarot didn't mention Valerie Sim-Behi. Sim-Behi coined the term and popularized the technique through her email list called Comparative Tarot. (I am not sure who was the first to write about this method, though I can safely assert it wasn't Bonnie!). Since Llewellyn is publishing a book by Sim-Behi this year that focuses on this technique, I am even more puzzled by the absence of Valerie's name in regards to this article.

Judgment: Deck Reviews -- Another self-explanatory title, this section contains reviews of six tarot decks, only three of which were published by Llewellyn. I think this catholic approach serves Llewellyn and the book equally well, since sprinkled throughout the book are one page "Closer Look[s]" at various Llewellyn decks. These promotional pages include several black and white thumbnails of sample cards, as well as "selling points." This is a clever move on the part of the publisher and doesn't jar the reader, because they are presented in an informational manner, as opposed to looking like advertisements, which they don't.

The World: Spreads -- Fifteen spreads, including the classic Celtic Cross, close the 2005 Tarot Reader. Other than the Celtic Cross, these spreads are culled from books from various Llewellyn tarot authors, including Christine Jette (I love her Dark Goddess Spread, which "invokes the energy of the Dark Moon") and Teresa Michelsen, whose book on Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads is the best book on the subject of spreads, period.

My last cavil is one that won't really be relevant to most people who buy the book. Because I tend to read a lot of tarot books and am also familiar with a lot of online tarot sources, I had read quite a few of the articles contained in this book prior to receiving it. (Some of the articles are taken wholly or partially from tarot books published by Llewellyn, most of which I've read.) Since I have a unquenchable lust for new tarot blood (there's an attractive image), I had a twinge of disappointment that there wasn't enough of it for my bottomless vampiric appetite. Still, I do recognize that the book wasn't published solely for my benefit and suspect that 99 percent of the people who buy the 2005 Tarot Reader will be 100 percent delighted with it.

Llewellyn's 2005 Tarot Reader
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN#: 0738705381

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

*** Journalistic integrity requires me to mention that I contributed one article and two reviews to this book. I think it's obvious that these contributions did not influence my approach to the review in any way.

Review and page 2004 Diane Wilkes