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Pictures from the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary Paperback – Tarot, 21 Aug 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press; 1 edition (21 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312291280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312291280
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.4 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 814,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Sandra A. Thomson is the author of "Cloud Nine: A Dreamer's Dictionary," "The Heart of the Tarot: The Two Card Layout," "Spiritual Tarot: 78 Paths to Personal Development," and "The Lovers' Tarot." A longtime expert on the tarot and the newly elected president of the American Tarot Association, she lives in Los Angeles, California.

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jayne on 29 July 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lots of information about tarot symbology. A very good investment for every tarotist.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
A Reference for Beginners and Experts Alike 30 July 2003
By Mark McElroy - Published on
Format: Paperback
The product of exhaustive research, PICTURES FROM THE HEART organizes into alphabetical order detailed notes on the symbolism and meaning of Tarot cards.
This is the book I wanted years ago when my study of the Tarot began. What kind of bird is that in the background of The Star? Why is the word DIN concealed within the art on the Magician trump? Why is there a lobster (or is that a lobster?) on the card called The Moon? PICTURES FROM THE HEART answers these questions -- and hundreds more -- in simple, concise language.
PICTURES FROM THE HEART supports both a systematic and intuitive study of the cards. Those people looking for comprehensive, comparative information on specific cards will find it. Others, having been drawn to a specific detail on a card, will be able to discover at a glance the concepts associated with it.
In addition to the dictionary, Thomson includes:
- a brief (and objective) history of the Tarot
- insights into the origins of familiar card meanings
- balanced reviews of twenty-five decks
- an introduction to card reading and spreads
In short? This is a great reference and resource ... made all the more accessible thanks to its organization in a dictionary format. If you're curious about Tarot or interested in seeing familiar cards in new ways ... buy this book!
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Pictures from the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary 6 Aug. 2003
By "joshm1230" - Published on
Format: Paperback
When looking at the Five or Six of Pentacles card in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, did you ever wonder why there were beggars on the card? What do they mean? What is the significance? In Thomson's Pictures from the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary, this symbol and many more are explained.
More than just a dictionary, Pictures from the Heart is a journey through the symbols and terms used by Tarotists. This book is good for both the baby beginner and the experienced Tarotist.
I first met Sandra A. Thomson when she was teaching a Tarot class at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz, CA. I was a baby beginner. When I had questions about the meanings of symbols, cards, etc., I had to ask questions. It would have been so wonderful to have the research material available at my finger tips. Now, as I explore many different tarot decks, I finally have the research material I have so longed for.
Thomson is a Tarot Grand Master. She has been certified by both the Tarot Certification Board of America and the Canadian Tarot Network. She is the elected president of the American Tarot Association. Other works by Thomson include; Cloud Nine: A Dreamer's Dictionary, and works written with Robert E. Mueller and Signe E. Echols, which include The Heart of the Tarot: The Two-Card Layout, Spiritual Tarot: Seventy-Eight Paths to Personal Development, and The Lovers' Tarot.

In order for the book to stand alone, Pictures from the Heart includes a brief history of the Tarot. Thomson writes, "Imagine yourself sitting around the campfire at tarot camp, listening to your tarot counselor tell stories. She begins, `Once upon a time there were a group of people known as Gypsies.' Here she smiles knowingly and adds, `because they came from ancient Egypt.'" How many of us have heard that version of tarot history? It is nice to be able to smile at the versions of tarot history that circulate. Thomson goes on to give a more factual version as well.

Pictures from the Heart also includes summaries of 25 of the most common Tarot decks. The decks are also categorized. One of the categories includes Multicultural Decks. Under this category, Thomson lists Shining Tribe (Llewellyn) and The Ancestral Path Tarot (U.S. Games). I find this beneficial for those of us who like to explore decks and genres.
The book also contains some insight into spreads. Thomson writes, "Spreads (also called layouts) form the structure of a reading. They create or provide order to information received from the cards. Otherwise, you might as well throw the tarot deck into the air and read `meaning' into how and where the cards fall in the room. It if weren't so complicated, that in itself wouldn't be a bad idea, but since it might take a lot of bending over and stretching upward (to reach those cards dangling from the light fixture), a spread becomes one way of simplifying and clarifying the reading process."
Dr. Thomson, as she is known for, cites all of her sources. This is very helpful for those who like to really get into a symbol or definition. It allows the reader to access works from several well-known Tarotists.
Pictures from the Heart is called a dictionary, but it is so much more. It is a plethora of information in one book. The information is concise, some times humorous (where appropriate), and above all fascinating. I wonder how Thomson was able to put so many tid bits of information, from so many traditions of study, into a collective work and still make it meaningful. It is a must for anyone interested in the Tarot.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Pictures from the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary 30 Sept. 2008
By Robert E. Mueller - Published on
Format: Paperback
Pictures from the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary: A Tarot Dictionary
A Book Review by Robert E. Mueller

Let me say at the outset that the author of this book, Sandra A. Thomson, is my teaching partner. She is invigorating and wonderful, and so is the book. That said, what else is there to say?
Well, a lot actually.
The first 54 pages of this volume serve as a basic introduction and contain two chapters that give summary information about the Tarot, a chapter that contains brief reviews of 25 top decks--selected from a brief survey of well-known Tarotists--and a fourth chapter that looks at the kinds of things that spreads can do, from a one-card reading to a section titled "Beyond Five Cards" and one titled "Creating Your Own Spreads." Compared to the material about these topics that we teach, these are relatively short chapters, but then our courses take some 16 weeks.
The remainder of the 466-page book contains alphabetized entries, some historical, as well as possible meanings of particular symbols, numbers, and colors on the cards. Mythologies that might apply to some cards are also included. There are brief biographical entries of some historical Tarot personages. It was a conscious decision not to include bios of any contemporary Tarotists.
Dr. Thomson states at the outset that the reader should consider all entries as "suggestions pointing to ideas you may not have considered. Allow them to trigger and amplify your own ideas and reactions."
For instance, consider the entry for "globe." Thomson writes, "Depending on where and how it appears in a card, it can represent dominion over nature of the world (New Palladini Emperor), or the process of unlimited worldly creations or manifestations. In several Two of Wands cards (Morgan-Greer, Rider Waite Smith-RWS, Robin Wood, Spiral), it suggests a person with far-ranging interests. See also royal orb."
The entry for "waterfall" says, "Water falls in the background of several Empress cards (Aquarian, Morgan-Greer, New Palladini, RWS, Spiral, World Spirit) and represents the stream of consciousness and the fecund creativity of the flow of the unconscious. The grain-near-a-waterfall motif was a Gnostic symbol of fertility, later adopted by Freemasonry to symbolize earth-sea fertility."
Did you know that? Have you even seen the waterfall in the RWS card (Many of our students have not and are surprised when it is pointed out?)
Whether you agree or disagree, each symbolic entry may nudge you to rethink where you stand with respect to the symbols on a card.
The most important and lengthier entries deal with each card in the Major and Minor Arcana, defining it, comparing cards from several decks to each other, and, finally, listing key words or phrases to consider. The entry for The Tower takes up 2 1/2 pages, and compares the card from the viewpoint of the Alchemical Tarot, Legend: The Arthurian Tarot, Osho Zen Tarot, Robin Wood Tarot, Nigel Jackson Tarot, Mythic Tarot, Wheel of Change Tarot, the Haindl Tarot, and, of course, the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS).
Information tangential to Tarot work includes, among others, such entries as alchemy, amplifying cards, background (of a card), certification (Could Thomson, being a Certified Tarot Grand Master-CTGM, keep it out?), polarities, reading frequency, world axis, and shadow (on which Thomson is an expert with regard to Tarot cards).
One of her fun tangential definitions is that for "corrected deck." If this is new to you, it refers to a tongue-in-cheek term applied to tarot cards with keywords and/or borders removed, known as having received a "borderectomy." Tarotist Mark McElroy coined the term as an in-joke and a jibe at occultists "who position their personal systems as 'corrections' or 'rectifications' of earlier decks. The entry was included with McElroy's permission and oversight.
Tarotist/astrologer Elizabeth Hazel wrote all the astrological entries for the dictionary. The book is heavily referenced, as it should be, crediting the sources of Thomson's ideas and information. A section on Internet Resources existing when the book was published, completes the book.

Pictures from the Heart (ISBN 0-312-29128-0) is published by St. Martin's Griffin. Available at
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Fabulous book, horrible paper 17 July 2006
By Shandhara - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The content of this book is superb! I echo every good thing said about it. However, the paper is the worst newsprint I have ever witnessed. This is a book I would want to have in hardback, but it does not seem to be available. I feel like it will disintegrate in no time.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful Tarot Reference 17 Dec. 2014
By Diana Faillace Von Behren - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For those who are intrigued by the imagery of the Tarot, Sandra A. Thomson in "Pictures From the Heart:A Tarot Dictionary" provides a thorough encyclopedic glimpse of the 72 cards from the perspective of a number of different tarot decks.

A word of caution: for those, like myself, who purchase this as a Kindle version be prepared for some frustration. Dictionaries, in general, do not work well on the e-book platform unless indexed and cross-indexed. In order for me to use this Tarot Dictionary quickly, I must either use my search function or return to the Table of Contents and then scroll through an alphabetized listing of every card and keyword. There is no quick way of just jumping to those items listed under specific letters of the alphabet unless, of course, you type in a search. As I use this book as a reference, I would have preferred to purchase the paperback version which sadly, is priced out of my reach. I am sure that some readers of the Kindle version will object to this comment, but it is a matter of personal preference. I like such books to be of paper format for quick flipping.

That said, Thomson's book provides a wealth of information about the symbology of the tarot. Mainly, it discusses the depictions on the Rider-Waite deck(s), but might pull in inferences from a number of other decks the list of which includes:
1. Rider-Waite influenced decks like the Robin Wood Tarot, The Morgan-Greer Tarot and The Light and Shadow Tarot Aleister Crowley's
2. Thoth deck
3. Mythic-Themed decks like Arthurian Tarot, and Mythic Tarot
4. Classic decks like the Marseilles Tarot
5. Collage decks like Voyager Tarot
6. Multi-Cultural decks like Shining Tribe
7. Feminist decks like Daughters of the Moon
8. Esoteric decks like Osho Zen and World Spirit
Thompson does not get in the realm of fantasy decks at all. Her message is a simple one when it comes to the selection of a personal favorite--choose a deck that resonates with you--where the allegories depicted on the cards call to mind something of personal importance or recollection.

Thompson provides an adequate history of the tarot in her opening pages. She mentions ways in which to make one's personal journey of tarot more understandable by speaking of numerology, color choices, astrological inferences, religious symbology, mythic symbology and alchemy. Her introduction is tantalizing, but, I personally would have enjoyed more introductory information about the tarot's association with the Qabbalistic Tree of Life in her opening pages. Thompson does speak of this association in individual entries, but I would have liked a mention, let alone a more thorough study of say the fifth vessel of the Tree of Life when looking up her entry on "fives". This omission is my one big disappointment with this book. (For more on this topic, check out, Tarot and the Tree of Life: Finding Everyday Wisdom in the Minor Arcana which is quite good--I wish Kliegman also did a book on the Major Arcana in reference to the Tree of Life.)

Otherwise, studying "Pictures from the Heart" and using its ideas will jump start further exploration. Her information is good and obviously is a good summation of many years of study.

Bottom line? Sandra A. Thomson's "Pictures of the Heart: A Tarot Dictionary" is a good volume to purchase for those who want to use the tarot as a tool of self-discovery. In concise language, she provides insight that will help aid in selecting your own deck while understanding the concept the the allegories depicted on individual tarot cards are meant to stir large and small recollections regarding events in human life. Wish there was more information on tarot's connection to the Qabbalistic Tree of Life. Kindle version, like most dictionaries transformed into ebooks, doesn't work as well as an actual print copy in terms of reference use. Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
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