A Magical Course in Tarot by Michele Morgan
Review by Diane Wilkes

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

I perused this once or twice in the local Borders (mostly the card interpretations) and decided it was not worth my time nor money. But when no less a tarot luminary than Michele Jackson expressed praise for it and said that she was using it on a regular basis, I knew it was time to take a second look.

This time I started reading it from the beginning (there's a novel concept). And again and again, I was struck by how similarly the author and I approached the tarot, both as readers and teachers. Sometimes I felt like I was reading my own words on the page, asking myself, "Did I write this?" (If I did, I haven't seen any royalties.) Morgan repeatedly and gleefully refers to herself as a rebel, but I don't find her approach nearly as scandalous as she seems to. She sees intuitively working with the images as primary (and eschews books for the first three months). She urges the novice to look at a lot of different decks and then purchase the deck that excites him or her the most. She does not recommend the Rider-Waite-Smith unless the individual is truly drawn to it.  Okay, I do suggest that novices purchase some variant, but I cannot expect Morgan and I to be clones. And while I would never suggest anyone eschew books altogether, I urge novices to form their own responses to each card before seeking validation from an author.

What I really like about Morgan is that she is not in any way didactic. She constantly urges the reader to find his or her own path.  And she really does offer very good advice.  Clearly, this is not a book for traditionalists, but it isn't the trailblazing document the author seems to think it is, either.  Ironically, the weakest part of the book is the card interpretations.  They are short and sweet, but this is both a virtue and a drawback.  I recognize that Morgan wants to free the reader, but too little information can be as restricting as too much.

Naturally, the book is not heavy on tarot history, and what there is isn't "cherce." But, for many, tarot history isn't that important. Anyone drawn to this book as his or her sole divinational source is likely to be in that category. 

Morgan has also written a book on witchcraft, so it follows that she includes a chapter on using the cards for creativity, ritual, and prayer.  Another chapter advises the reader about finding a trustworthy psychic.

While I think this book offers the most to beginning readers, advanced practitioners will gain some new approaches and insights, as well.  Morgan suggests that one begin expressing one's thoughts out loud alone in a room after laying out the cards, which sounded silly until I tried it. Then she suggests free associating colors, images, body language, and surroundings.  If one gets stuck, Morgan suggests asking the card characters what they have to say.  She compares this process to automatic writing.  Ultimately, learning to trust your responses "fortifies your intuitive muscle" and you become a stronger and stronger tarot reader the more you do it. When I followed Morgan's instructions, I found myself seeing things in the cards that I might have missed in a regular reading.  Gratifying as it was to see my point of view echoed in these pages, what I found really valuable were her innovative suggestions and unique perspective.

One more thing: the author's style is accessible and extremely engaging.  I recommend this book for beginners and for anyone looking for a non-traditional approach to the cards.

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

A Magical Course in Tarot by Michele Morgan
Publisher: Conari Press
ISBN#: 1573247065


Laying out The Cards

Shuffle your cards, face down, concentrating a moment on your question; draw three, and lay them out face up in a row, left to right, beginning with the first card drawn. (Another rule I overthrow: Placing the cards face down on the table and turning them over one at a time to interpret.  While there is a certain element of intrigue with this method, I prefer to see the imagery of the cards all at once, and all together, because I never know which symbol might spark me first and start the intuitive ball rolling.)

First off, simply notice the cards you pulled.  Let your eye be drawn to whatever entreats it; view the cards through the lens of your question, allowing the imagery to synchronize and present itself to you.  Feel it. (I know, I know... sounds all "New Age-y," doesn't it?  Just give it a shot.) Now, if there is one place where I break my own rule regarding no rules, it's here: Open your mouth and start talking.  I mean it.  Even if you're alone in your room pulling cards in the closet, do your reading out loud.  It's the single most effective way I have found to bypass the intellect and engage the intuitive soul.

If you sit and look at the cards in silence for too long, you'll start thinking about them. (Sort of like standing in front of an empty canvas with a creative idea bouncing around in your head -- if you don't pick up a paintbrush, eventually the idea will atrophy, and you'll end up standing there forever.) This is an open invitation to The Committee, and believe me, they are always the first to arrive at the party, and absolutely the last to leave.  So even if you have no earthly idea what to say, then say that!  Start with anything; speak about the color of the sky behind the Two of Swords, or the way the Prince of Cup's cloak is spread behind him like wings... just begin.

Start with the first card you pulled; free-associate with colors, clouds, body language, terrain.  Does the scene portrayed remind you of anything from your own experience?  Perhaps the King of Pentacles bears a resemblance to your new boss, or the landscape in the Four of Wands takes you back to childhood summers at your grandparents' farm.  Let the characters in the cards become the players of your inquiry, and ask them what they have to say.  You get to play detective -- hunting for symbolic clues in the scenery, analyzing the attitude and expressions of the card's inhabitants, and creating a dialogue as you piece the puzzle together.

Remember, the cards are telling you a story.  As narrator, it's your job to move with it; from the first to the second card, and to the third, connecting the images and giving them a voice.  I promise you, opening your mouth will open a doorway to great and mysterious things that might otherwise remain locked, perhaps always, in the castle tower of your doubting mind.

Review and page copyright 2003 Diane Wilkes