“Absolute beginners want to know more about Tarot, but they also want an answer to a very important question: ‘What exactly will Tarot do for me?” Ask this question of people already enjoying the benefits of working with the deck, and they’ll say that Tarot helps them in a variety of surprising ways.” – From the book
He’s shown us how to take the Tarot to heart, put it to work, and discover exciting bright ideas. Now, author and teacher Mark McElroy introduces this wicked pack of cards to a new a generation of readers with the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tarot.
Witty and practical, this 376-page book offers an engaging tour through the Tarot, including a brief history of the cards, choosing and caring for a deck, and details of performing a reading. He also discusses how to define a good question when consulting the Tarot, as well as selecting an appropriate spread. McElroy covers the gamut of Tarot structure—Majors, Minors, elements, suits, numbers and court card rankings—while presenting both analytical and intuitive methods for interpreting the cards.
Dogma-free, the author’s refreshing approach encourages individuals to engage the cards on their own terms, while outlining the benefits of considering traditional methods. Would you prefer storing your cards on a shelf, bound by a rubber band, or would you rather store your deck in an ornate wooden box? What about reading reversals or performing rituals before a reading? Do what works for you, recommends McElroy. He presents a myriad of options for consideration, but forces none upon the reader.
Arguably, the most interesting sections of the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tarot are the ones dedicated to the cards. Arranged on one page for handy reference, four images from four different decks provide visual cues: The Universal Tarot, Gilded Tarot, the author’s Bright Idea Deck, and the Tarot of Marseilles. McElroy offers a wealth of information about each card with easy-to-read sections:
• Range of Meaning (Light and Shadow)
• Advice – What the card may be saying about Relationships, Work, Spirituality, Personal Growth, and Fortunetelling
• Symbols and Insights – Discussion on the various symbols and images on the card
• Questions to Ask – Three questions encouraging you to look within for answers
For the Major Arcana (cards 0-22, also known as Trumps), he presents an Archetype, Hebrew Alphabet/meaning/number, Planetary/Astrological/Elemental correspondence, Mythical/Spiritual associations, and Story line.
For example, the Mythical/spiritual associations for Trump 8 Justice are “Themis or Justitia. Ma’at. Solomon dividing a baby. The Sword of Damocles. The giving of the Ten Commandments”. If you’d like to create a story, the theme for this card could be, “During the main character’s initial challenge, his or her ability, knowledge, or personal suitability is found to be lacking.”
McElroy gives the Minor Arcana equal treatment in the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tarot, except that the Correspondences section covers Numerology, Astrology, an Affirmation, and Story. Therefore, the Three of Cups is associated with Mercury in Cancer, and the related affirmation is “I allow my actions to reflect my true emotion”. For the Court Cards, the author discusses the Personality of each in the Correspondences section, as well as the elemental association, an Affirmation, and Story line.
The book devotes an entire chapter to giving and receiving readings, including how to distinguish ethical Tarot readers from con artists, reading styles, tips from the pros, and accessories to have on hand for readings (e.g. tissues). The last chapter outlines thirteen fun things anyone can do with Tarot, such as comparative readings and visual brainstorming.
The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tarot is unlike any book on the market, providing multiple perspectives (and card images!) for readers to ponder. Excellent for those beginning their Tarot journey, seasoned readers will also discover useful, stimulating information about the cards. As a professional Tarot reader, reviewer, and writer, I often receive queries about the “best” book/s for beginners for learning the cards. From now on, I’ll make sure I steer querents to this book first!
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