Whilst the history of the Tarot card’s can be traced back to the early-17th century most of our current understanding of how it works as a fortune-telling device is a lot more recent than that.
Most decks these days draw their references from the early days of Tarot’s renaissance – a period of expanded interest in occult matters that occurred between 1880 and the 1930s. This was a time when Tarot was essentially used by only a few occultists and even only working within the context of the teachings of the secret societies of which they were members.
Drawing Upon the Roots
In Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Tarot physician and psychiatrist Anthony Louis offers what is advertised as ‘’The Definitive Guide to Reading the Cards’.
This large-sized publication draws upon those same modern roots of the Tarot and the philosophical structures that were put in place for the cards and which have cemented the way that they are viewed and interpreted today.
The book opens with a look at some of these early, ground- breaking decks; such as the Visconti-Sforza, Marseille, Golden Dawn, Rider-Waite and Crowley-Harris Thoth Deck. These are referenced again later on in the book when the interpretational meanings of the cards are included.
However, before reaching this point in his Tarot instruction, Louis investigates some of the more practical elements to Tarot card reading; including the importance of keeping a Tarot journal, the connection between Tarot and creativity, and Tarotwork as a spiritual practice,
A Secret Affair
Throughout its pages Llewellyn’s Complete Book of the Tarot features the teachings and correspondences of the Golden Dawn secret society quite heavily. This highly influential organisation has been instrumental in establishing the fundamental of the Tarot system and its relationship to the Kabbalah – and in particular to the Tree of Life. The author features the Golden Dawn system and includes their lesser-known teachings of Tarot dignitaries and card counting.
The main bulk of the book is, of course, taken up with the usual examination of each of the seventy-eight cards of the Tarot deck along with their astrological, numerological, Hebrew, and archetypal associations. Both upright and reversed card meanings are offered.
The book closes with a conclusion, bibliography and index.
In this day when so many good books on the Tarot are available for students it is important that any modern title has something new to bring to the subject.
Sadly this one doesn’t and relies instead upon drawing its material from many non-original sources.
In its favour the book does highlight core elements of Tarot philosophy but it aught to be said that these are freely available at no cost all over the internet. The addition of other work by Tarot researchers such as Mary Greer, the duplicate replication of pointless diagrams such as an empty zodiacal wheel, as well as the somewhat tired and over-used examples of established Tarot spreads makes this a book rather lacking when it comes to good original content.
Nevertheless it is what it is and whilst it fails to live up to it rather grandiose title I feel it’s adherence to core Tarot principles is definitely in its favour. Assuming that you have not already got the basic material in other books that you own or do not have access to the internet then this can be enjoyed as a solid and dependable approach to the development of a good foundation on Tarot basics.
For those who feel they have moved beyond the scope of this book, you may prefer Louis’s previous and rather more exciting Tarot: Beyond the Basics.