The Tarot According to You by Nancy Garen                    Review by Michele Jackson

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I was fortunate enough to be sent an advance copy of Ms. Garen's The Tarot According to You*.  It is a workbook designed to teach you to use the tarot by means of pulling a card for the week and recording it, reading the meanings provided for the card and then recording what you experienced and observed during the week. You then examine the pictures on the card and record anything that stands out about it, or anything that you feel should have been in the picture that was not included. You continue this process until all 78 cards have been covered. As the title indicates, the meanings derived from this method can be highly personal in nature. A daily, vice weekly, approach can be used can also be used.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One has an introduction and three chapters. The Introduction is very brief and attempts to answer the question, "What is the tarot?"  The "Egyptian Masons" theory of tarot origins can safely be ignored. If you are interested in the history of the cards, I suggest you look elsewhere.  Ms. Garen views the cards as "... a symbolic history of events, which, when properly interpreted, can be used to foretell or guide an individual's future."

Chapter 1 - The Basics explains the composition of the tarot deck, describing the significance of Major and Minor Arcana cards in a reading, and describing the suits and court cards. The descriptions are fairly traditional, though Swords are rather negative, being described as signifying "...discernment, struggle, sorrow or sickness." A brief section on numerology is next, followed by an introduction to Astrological Planets and Signs. The last part of this chapter is a short symbol dictionary. 

Chapter 2 - How to use This Book describes the process of using the workbook and explains the meanings of the different categories the author uses to explain the meanings of each card. A series of broad categories with appropriate questions to ask yourself is also provided, to be used in case none of the categories provided with each card seems appropriate.

Chapter 3 - Making the Most of Your Cards describes how to do readings. The Celtic Cross Spread is described, followed by advice on formulating good questions. Specific reading concerns like Yes/No questions, timing, and reversals are also discussed. The author's personal methods for dealing with these issues is provided. The author does not use reversals, but does provide a brief description of methods for interpreting them should you decide to use them. 

Part Two contains the individual card meanings and a sheet for recording your weekly cards. Chapter 4 - Walking the Royal Road begins with what the author calls a "Query Sheet." This sheet is used to record any questions you ask the cards, in addition to your weekly card. The meanings for the Major Arcana are next. Each card meaning is provided in sections:

Major Arcana - describes the significance of getting a Major Arcana card in a reading. 

Planetary Influence - Here Ms. Garen breaks from tradition and provides her own system. Astrological signs are assigned to the Court Cards. Knights are not assigned a sign. Planets are assigned to the Major Arcana. Note the plural - two planets are assigned to each card, as she feels this gives a better description. 

Numerological Association - describes the meaning of the number.

These sections are followed by a question about your experiences with the card. The question is followed by card meanings for several categories:

Several more questions follow the category meanings, and the section for the card ends with "Something to Reflect Upon."  The reflection can be a quote, or an exercise, a series of questions, or a meditation. They put one in mind of "Self Help" type books, in that they are generally positive and uplifting, especially those for the less positive cards. If you are familiar with Ms. Garen's first book, Tarot Made Easy, you will recognize some of the meaning categories and will also note that some of the information in the categories is similar in both books, with the major difference being that Tarot According to You phrases the information as questions.

However, there are some new categories as well. The layout for the Minor Arcana is similar to that supplied for the Majors. It provides the meaning of the suit, followed by any particular special meanings attached to the card --for example, Aces represent seasons, followed by the numerological significance of the card's number. Two sections not provided for the Majors are next - Constructive and Undermining. These are short key word/key phrase meanings. Constructive meanings are positive, Undermining meanings are negative. Tens for each suit do not have these meanings as the author views them as being similar to ones in meaning. I did not see the relationship between some of the questions asked in the categories and the traditional meanings of the card at hand, but this could be useful to more experienced readers in expanding your view of a card by looking at it from a different point of view.

The sections for the Court Cards begin with the astrological sign. This is followed by sections titled:

Next the suit is described, followed by a description of the Court member. A meaning for the particular card is next followed by questions, category meanings, more questions and "Something to Reflect Upon." 

Chapter 5- Recording Your Cards provides a sheet for recording your weekly cards by month. While space is provided throughout the book for answering questions, recording your observations, etc., the space is rather small. I recommend getting a separate notebook to allow yourself room to write as much as you want.

I like books that are experiential, and this book gets the user involved by answering questions and journaling. Ms. Garen has a personal system that works for her, which she shares, telling the reader that it is her personal system and not necessarily the one the student should use. If the student is a rank beginner, he or she has no alternative system to use unless they buy other books, so the book is, in effect, teaching Ms. Garen's personal system, which is often quite different from Golden Dawn-based systems. Ms. Garen tells us up front that this book is not about strict adherence to Tarot traditions,  and that the only thing that matters is what is meaningful to you. She then goes on to provide numerous associations, correspondences, and categories of meanings. If I knew absolutely nothing about Tarot, Astrology, or Numerology, I think I would find this wealth of information intimidating and confusing. Although Ms. Garen states that the book was not written for beginners, the promotional information on the book cover seems targeted at beginners.  However, the information provided would probably be of more use to someone who was already familiar with tarot, and possibly astrology and numerology, as well. That way, they would have a frame of reference to use in comparing Ms. Garen's system with their own and/or more traditional approaches. In my opinion, books targeted for beginners should contain more traditional information. That doesn't mean that the author's personal take should not be provided as well, but I think that a complex, rather idiosyncratic system like Ms. Garen's is more suited for intermediate to advanced students. 

Ms. Garen's system is interesting. It  is evident that she has spent a lot of time developing it and honing it based on her considerable experience. As someone who has been working with the cards for a while, I find it thought- provoking, but I would not teach it to a beginner without explaining where it is different from a more traditional, Golden Dawn-based approach. The Golden Dawn system is not the only system, or the "right" system, but it is a system that the majority of tarot users are familiar with and it works well as a basic structure upon which to build one's knowledge and skill. An argument can be made that, while a lot of information is provided for each card, the student need only pick and choose what works for him or her. But how can a novice distinguish what is useful and what is not? Do I need to know that the Lovers is associated with Venus and Jupiter in Ms. Garen's opinion? And if I do, shouldn't I also be told of more mainstream opinions? Ms. Garen advocates a "the cards mean what they mean to you" approach, and then provides so much reference material that you could easily be overwhelmed. She provides little in the way of examples of how to use and integrate the various types of information provided.

I recommend this book for those who have some basic knowledge of the cards and are looking for ways to more fully integrate the cards to their day-to-day lives. I would recommend it for beginners primarily as a reference. The meanings provided give food for thought and will be useful in expanding your current understanding of each card. The use of categories makes this a useful reference, especially when one is stumped. The in depth questions and journaling are excellent tools for self exploration. The "Something to Reflect Upon" sections are often real gems and are one of my favorite features of this book. Ms. Garen's approach has some different ideas that will give more seasoned users food for thought. 

The Tarot According to You
Author: Nancy Garen
ISBN: 0684850443
Publisher: Fireside

* The final book may be slightly different. 



Cups represent emotions, pleasure seeking, intuition and spiritual awareness.

Numerologically, the number 5 indicates change, fluctuations in fate or fortune, conflict, experiential learning and the expansion of one's thinking. With the number 5, opportunities and challenges go hand in hand and one must look to both the material and spiritual realm if one is to triumph or understand.

Constructive: Discrimination. Resourcefulness. Revision. Re-creation. Self Reliance. Inner conviction.

Undermining: Little faith in one's self or abilities. Panic. Distress. Rebellion.

What stood out most in your experience of this card?

In addition to your recollection, here are some other possibilities you might want to consider:

FOCUS Were you worn down by challenges, reversals or delays? Were restrictions keenly felt? Were you so intent on what was wrong, you couldn't see what was right? Did your attachment to a person, place or thing change?
DESIRES Did you wish you had a satisfying relationship or long for something fun, interesting or fulfilling to happen?
LOVE Did you wonder what it would be like to have a love that didn't fade once the romance was over, or when (if) you'd fall in love again? Were you tired of having to contend with a relationship you didn't want/ If you were married, was it a happy union? If not, what would have made you feel more loved?
OTHERS Did someone's behavior annoy you? Did you outgrow (or end) a friendship? Were business meetings put off or answers postponed? Did you feel like you were getting the runaround? How did you react to these events?
HOME Were you waiting for news or a package to arrive? Did it come? Did an unexpected guest appear? If so, what were your feelings about him/her?
TRAVEL Did you travel for emotional or sentimental reasons? If you had to travel, did you want to go? If you were returning from a trip, was your house in order and your possessions intact when you arrived?
WORK Did you believe you had to keep on plodding or your work wouldn't get done? Was something (or someone) telling you to stop?
BODY/MIND Were you feeling fatigued or burned out? if so, did you rest when you were tired, eat when you were hungry and back off when you felt overwhelmed, or did you neglect your needs and push yourself even harder? Were you constipated and suffering from hemorrhoids? Was a poor diet making you irritable?
SPIRIT What did you feel lucky about or grateful for?
RELATIVES Were you depending on a relative's assistance or support? Did he/she come through for you? Were there any unavoidable obligations or sad partings?
FINANCES Were you worried about your finances? Did you have cause to be? Were you in a financial bind? Did you need to be more assertive or thrifty?
PROBLEMS Was your body tired and your spirit undernourished? Were you feeling neglected or victimized? if you knew something wasn't right for you did you have the courage to let it go? Did you make yourself a promise and then break it? If so, what were the consequences?
GUIDANCE Did it occur to you that you didn't have to feel the way you did, that your desires could be realized and there were other options and ways to look at things?
SUCCESS Did you Successfully overcome a problem? Was it because you asked for what you needed or revised something you started earlier?
ACTION Do you think you took positive, self affirming action? If not, what stopped you? What could you have done to get your needs met?
__________ (To be filled in by the user if necessary)

In light of your experience, what do you believe the Five of Cups signified?

What did you learn from it?

If you drew the Five of Cups in response to a question you asked, in what way did this card answer it?

Now take another look at your card. Is there anything that stands out about it you didn't notice before?

If you were to make your own Tarot card, what words, pictures r symbols would you put on it?

Something to Reflect Upon

We don't have to be victims. we don't have to fixate on our problems. We can stop right now, throw off our cloak of despair and turn our attention to the resources we do have. If we don't have what we want, we can bridge that empty gap by asking ourselves what we believe having what we want will give us and then looking at other things we can do to give ourselves the same feeling. We can stop waiting for life to give us what we want; we can give it to ourselves. It may take practice, but we have an eternity to learn.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it  not.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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

Review 2001 Michele Jackson
Page 2001 Diane Wilkes


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