I have been using the Crowley deck for years-it was my first deck. I never had a "starter" deck like the Waite, and when I try to use other decks now my results aren't nearly as good. (Guess I'm spoiled.) Unfortunately, this means that I have had to pave my own way with the cards, because virtually all of the existing Tarot guides are for the standard types of decks. Thus, while they may be fine books, they miss the mark for the Crowley deck. While learning the cards for yourself does help you to interpret and bond with them better, it can be very difficult for someone who has had no prior Tarot experience. The small booklet included with the deck isn't nearly comprehensive enough, and Crowley's own book on the cards is far too dense for a beginner. That's where this book comes in.
The title is started with "Keywords," but this is a much more valuable tool than that word implies. It start with a simple history of the Tarot, and then discusses several basic questions about Tarot-reading that most beginners want to know but are too shy to ask. One word of warning here though-the authors make some of the answers sound too concrete. While most of them are, things like whether or not to focus on your question while shuffling are very much debatable. It has been my experience that each reader needs to find out what works best for them. Just keep an open mind while reading this section.
I was very pleased with the spreads offered by the book. They are easy to understand and logical in their arrangements, and I have had great success with them. (They also include one of the best interpretations of the Celtic Cross that I have ever seen.) The book is also very helpful in that it includes a nice section on the quintessence, which is (again) easy to understand. The book doesn't look down on its readers, but it doesn't bog you down with information that really isn't necessary to have a working knowledge of the deck.
The largest section of the book is dedicated to the individual interpretations of the cards. This book does this the best of any Tarot book I have seen-including those for other decks. Instead of just listing a whole bunch of words, it breaks them up based on what area of life they pertain to, the more "positive" and "negative" sides of the cards, etc. And while the book does provide a little more information on the major arcana, I was thrilled to find out how much detail was still given to the minor as well-an area that is sorely lacking in many books.
But there is one thing that really sets this book above and beyond all others to me, and that is the explanations of the imagery on the cards. The Crowley deck includes symbolism from many different areas. While this makes it accessible to a wide range of students, it also means that people may miss out on certain areas that they aren't as familiar with. For example, I know plenty about the numbers, elements and astrological symbols seen on the cards, but I am still learning about the Kabbalah. "Keywords . . ." fills in this hole for me. And I cannot imagine trying to use the cards without at least a basic working knowledge of the astrological symbols seen on the cards-for people who do not study astrology, this book is invaluable.
In addition, it picks out the most prominent general images from the cards and provides interpretations for them. Even if you think that you know the cards inside and out, this book might surprise you by pointing out an aspect that you've missed. I find that learning the meaning of the more important images on the cards has greatly increased my ability to remember the lesser-known aspects of each card during readings-allowing me to see meanings and interpretations that I before would not have considered.
This book does not pretend to be a treatise on the magickal theory behind the cards, as the title clearly states. If that it what you want, you should read Crowley's works. But it is an excellent tool for working with the cards on a daily basis, and for learning ever more about them. And for once, the quote on the back is true: ". . . for students of the Tarot, from absolute beginner to advanced practitioner." I wish it had been around when I started with the deck.