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 amazon.com