Tarot Tells the Tale -  Explore Three Card Readings Through Familiar Stories by James Ricklef
“But whatever you consciously know about a card is only a finger pointing toward its true meaning within a specific reading. Each card in a reading has a story to tell—one that has never been told before exactly the same way—and it is a delicately intuitive process to hear that tale and to understand what it means.” – From the book










For most Tarot enthusiasts, learning the cards by memorizing key words is the first step towards making sense of a reading. However, interpreting Tarot cards in the context of spreads—layout positions with assigned meanings—gets a bit tricky. For example, how would you read a traditionally positive card like the 2 of Cups when it lands in a position like “what’s working against you”? Or how would you read the 10 of Swords in the “what’s working for you” position?

Another challenge for many readers is interpreting a spread in terms of how the cards weave together to tell a unique story. No card is an island, and context is a crucial element to reading the Tarot effectively and accurately when interpreting a spread.

In his book Tarot Tells the Tale: Explore Three Card Readings Through Familiar Stories, Tarot master and author James Ricklef allows readers to peek over his shoulder as he demonstrates the art of using 3-card spreads to answer a variety of client questions. Using his popular “Ask KnightHawk” format, Ricklef poses hypothetical questions from famous mythological, historical, and fictional characters and then answers them using a 3-card reading. While the author could have “cheated”—drawing appropriate cards based on hindsight or knowledge of a story—he instead deals random cards and interprets them in light of the posed question.

Using a variety of decks—including the Universal Waite, Sacred Rose, Hanson-Roberts, Spiral, and Aquarian Tarot—Ricklef’s alter-ego KnightHawk compassionately and insightfully answers questions posed by Thomas Jefferson, Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), Joan of Arc, Pygmalion, Marja Sklodowska (Marie Curie), Hamlet, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jekyll and Hyde), Albert Einstein, The Prodigal Son, Cinderella, Psyche, and many more. In addition to relaying the interpretation to the “client” as if it were a “real” reading, Ricklef provides in-depth commentary on the cards that show up and why he interprets them as he does.

For example, it’s downright uncanny how the Magician shows up in Cinderella’s reading (can you say “Fairy Godmother”?) or how the reversed Queen of Wands shows up in the reading for Marie Curie (a brilliant physicist and chemist who definitely had “problems with radiance” since she died from leukemia caused by radiation exposure).

Believing that clients are ultimately seeking hope from a reading, Ricklef skillfully demonstrates how even “difficult” cards can impart advice, encouragement and hope. Countering the idea that this approach is Pollyannaish, he asserts that it is really “a reflection of the balance of life, as well as a choice to find a meaningful lesson in every experience.”

Although the bulk of Tarot Tells the Tale is the 3-card Ask KnightHawk readings, there is an abundance of additional information included in this book, including:

How to construct a good question or re-phrase a less-than-ideal question
The many permutations of the basic 3-card spread
How to break down the Celtic Cross into mini-spreads
The “5 D’s” of reading reversals
How to create your own spreads for specific needs
Numerological and elemental associations
Ethical considerations
Comments and advice for each of the 78 cards

The “Ask KnightHawk” template is not only a unique way to demonstrate how 3-card spreads can be created and interpreted, but also amazingly instructive for both Tarot beginners and seasoned readers. Written with engaging prose, Tarot Tells the Tale is a fascinating book showing the depth and breadth of 3-card readings, as well as the art of constructing and interpreting client-specific spreads. You’ll not only become a better Tarot reader after reading Tarot Tells the Tale, but also gain additional insight into the cards themselves. For example, it never occurred to me that while the Hermit withdraws from society, The Hanged Man withdraws from activity. The difference is distinctive, and is but one of the many helpful tidbits you’ll find in Tarot Tells the Tale.

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