Most of the beginner guides to learning the Tarot focus upon the task of getting the student up and running as quickly as possible, All too often, though, this is at the expense of teaching key Tarot philosophy concepts.
In her book Holistic Tarot, Benebell Wen takes this same traditional approach to teaching students the basics of Tarot card divination but significantly expands upon its core concepts and esoteric principles.
The very fact that her book is itself over 800 pages long and the size/weight of a small automobile is enough to leave the initial impression that, if nothing else, this is a publication that covers a lot of ground!
About the Author
Benebell Wen is a certified Tarot master with the Tarot Certification Board of America and Holistic Tarot is her first book on the subject.
Wen set out when writing this book to bridge that fine divide between teaching Tarot technicalities whilst at the same time keeping her advice practical and digestible.
Not an easy task at the best of time!
In the book she shares a wealth of personal Tarot card reading experience along with an explanation on the deep metaphysical principles that underpin the Tarot and practical insights that are drawn from her many years of study and practice.
One might say that it is a book pitched at the serious Tarot student rather than to the merely inquisitive!
Holistic Tarot follows fairly conventional Tarot teaching practice. It opens with a general look at Tarot philosophy, investigates the cards’ history and takes an extended look at many of the commonly-held beliefs held about the Tarot and the way in which it works.
Throughout its pages the author continues with the same familier framework with the reader being taken on a tour through card keyword meanings, the fundamentals of Tarot spreads and information on how a reader can unravel the hidden dynamics within a typical Tarot card spread.
Wen also advises on the correct psychic approach to make iwhen performing a reading; including the advantage of practicing meditation as a way of deepening the connection to the cards and their meaning.
Later on he author takes a look at the sometimes contentious practice of reading Tarot for yourself. This expands into a personal commentary on how to understand those deeply transformative universal forces that so often result in determining one’s destiny.
Tarot card readers do sometimes attract criticism from those who question the methods and motivations behind their work.
Wen challanges this by advising the student on how and why it is important to establish the correct set of protocols and ethics when offering professional Tarot services.
As most established Tarot readers will tell you the majority of questions that are asked by clients tend to focus upon issues related to romantic liaisons and relationships. In reflecting this Wen dedicates a whole chapter in her book to love and the close emotional ties that it creates.
Her book closes with a number of important and significant appendicees. These include articles on Tarot spreads as well as tables of astrological and elemental associations.
She also includes commentaries on the Major Arcana, a notes section and full index.
On the face of it this is wholly unremarkable book about the Tarot with only its immense size apparently differentiating it from any other introductory manual on the cards.
In fact a cursory glance at its table of contents would suggest that the book contains no deeper or significant information than that which might be found on any of the thousands of Tarot-related websites found out on the internet.
However, do not be mis-led, for rather than looking at it as a simple handbook, or training manual, it ought be considered more as an encyclopedia, so vast is its breadth of insight and revelation.
And yet, despite its depths and incisor-like approach to the art of the Tarotmancer the book is in no way dry or intellectually challenging for its profusion of illustrations and tables makes it a highly readable and entertaining piece of work.
For its card images, and like so many books on the Tarot, it draws upon the one of the Worlds’ most popular set of Tarot cards: the Rider-Waite deck.
However, unlike other books it does so with very good reason for in her teachings Wen has drawn upon the same occult points of reference that A E Waite introduced so successfully into his deck.
As someone that was brought up learning the Tarot via the teachings of the Golden Dawn society, the writings of Paul Foster Case, along with those dry tables of correspondences formulated by occultists such s Crowley, Waite and Levi I was utterlly delighted to find that in her book Wen has returned to this important body of occult work when explaining how and why the Tarot is constructed the way that it is.
Her understanding and appreciation as well as respect, for these teachings is astonishing considering that we live in an age when most newcomers to the Tarot want quick and immediate shortcuts to learning the art.
The consequence of integrating astrological, elemental, magickal and philosophical principles into the book may mean that more work is initially required to learn the Tarot but the result will make all the difference between that of becoming a competent Tarot reader and one who really understands and can master the art.
As far insight into the way that the Tarot works, how it can be used as a way of divining the future (rather than as a fortune-telling device) and how the cards resonate to a deep magickal philosophy then this is a book that unravels some complex metaphysical ideas in a easy to digest—but not overly simplistic—way.
The style and approach that Wen makes when sharing her love and fascination of the Tarot with her readers translates well and as a consequence, despite its epic size, the book is a remarkably easy to read and digest. Some thought has gone into its construction and it has paid off handsomely!
So, whether you are new to the Tarot, consider yourself to be an intermediate student, or like myself, a Tarot expert of many years experience then this is a publication that will astound you for its depth and richness.
There is no doubt to my mind, and I have been both a professional Tarot consultant as well as Tarot teacher for several decades, Wen has written what is clearly one of the all-time classic books on Tarot card divination—certainly one of the best to have ever been written about the Rider-Waite Tarot deck but also about the Tarot in general.
In short, if I was to suggest just one publication that students of all grades should reference when studying Tarot card divination then I would unreservedly make it Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen.
Holistic Tarot is a wonderfully brutal and bloody assault on learning the Tarot in a way that no other publication that I know of even dares to consider!