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The Heart of the Matter,
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This review is from: Heart of Tarot: An Intuitive Approach (Paperback)
The authors of this book are partners who met in 1992 at a Wiccan event and made their commitment to each other two years later at a handfasting. Together they have conducted many workshops at various Pagan and Wiccan gatherings. They live in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Individually, Amber K was initiated as a Wiccan Priestess in Chicago, where she was also ordained. She has worked in an admin role for the Covenant of the Goddess, and taught in a training programme for a national Dianic network. She has a son, Starfire, who is a Wiccan security officer.
Azrael Arynn has had a very varied career, including being a police officer, racing-car driver, stockbroker, and architectural designer, as well as being a talented costume designer and ritualist.
The authors' intention in writing this book is to "honor his memory and preserve a fascinating technique by sharing this book with the world" (p.xiv). The person to whom they are referring is John McClimans, the creator of the Gestalt method of reading the Tarot. Amber K had a very strong connection with him right up until his death, and held him in the highest esteem.
The book is presented in a logical and methodical manner, starting with information on the history, origins and uses of the Tarot, along with a look at its structure. Next is an explanation of Gestalt Tarot itself and how it differs from other methods. Interestingly, when discussing Gestalt therapy and its origins, the authors make no mention of its founding father, Fritz Perls, preferring to leave such information until Appendix 2. Perhaps the most important point about Gestalt, whether in a therapeutic context of Tarot reading is that the client/querent is viewed as the 'expert' - i.e. the expert on themselves. The authors state that "What we are going with Gestalt Tarot is giving querents time and tools to think about their lives and come to understand themselves a little better" (p.15).
Following on from this is a chapter on the Major Arcana, using the Morgan-Greer deck for illustration. For each card there are some traditional meanings, three alternative meanings, and a space in which the reader can write down their own interpretations. This approach seems very balanced and encourages the learner to tap into their own intuition.
The authors take a similar approach with the Minor Arcana, but only actually show a small number of cards, stating that "Not all of the Minor Arcana will be included, but just enough cards to get a feeling for the possibilities" (p.63).
Next follow a section on the Gestalt Tarot Spreads, i.e. a longer and shorter version of the same one. they are heavily astrologically based and the reader would probably benefit from having at least some basic understanding of astrology. also included is some excellent information on looking for patterns in spreads.
The following section - 'Getting Started with Gestalt' - gives excellent descriptions of a wide variety of Tarot decks, providing the reader with a base from which to begin thinking about the sort of deck they might want for themselves, e.g. Rider-Waite, Visconti-Sforza, Robin Wood, Golden Dawn and Fantasy Showcase; also some interesting exercises to help the beginner to "see your Tarot Deck through Gestalt eyes" (p.110).
Having mentioned briefly some of the difficulties of reading for oneself, Amber and Azrael next present information about reading for others, which includes practicalities (time, place, fee etc.), and setting the scene. Much of this goes into unnecessary detail and seems prescriptive, e.g. "A simple, uncluttered decor is ideal. A vase of flowers, a nice painting or two and a couple of art objects would be fine; but too many magical or New Age knick-knacks will only distract from the reading" (p.120). This detail seems a little at odds with the Gestalt idea of the person working it out for themselves - they might only be suggestions but there are lots more details similar to the above. The chapter continues with the process of a Gestalt reading, including the various types of questions which would/would not be helpful.
Following on from this is a chapter giving two verbatim sample readings, demonstrating very ably the Gestalt process in the reading, and offering valuable insights into the skill required to be a really good Gestalt reader. Further spreads are then described, e.g. Snapshot Spread, Name Spread and the Yes-No Spread.
The section on Professional Reading addresses various issues such as motivation, legalities, telephone readings, along with details of how to welcome the querent, and 'Dress and Grooming', citing two extremes of dress, i.e. 'gypsy fortune-telling v business suit', and then suggesting that the best thing to do is to "......dress in normal semi-casual clothing......but with a striking piece of jewelry to mark the occasion as something special" (p.214). Again it seems somewhat prescriptive and directive.
The last aspect on reading professionally discusses the type of 'Querents Who Present Special Challenges', and is a fascinating look at e.g. the Sceptic, the Monosyllabic Reply, Guru Seeker, the Scaredy Cat and the Omen Watcher.
The penultimate section is devoted to teaching the Tarot, and includes a basic but very interesting outline for a series of six Tarot classes. The book concludes with a chapter on self-transformation through Tarot magic, using techniques such as self-cleansing, tapping into the elements and various spells to achieve e.g. prosperity and abundance, protection and the use of talismans.
So, have the authors carried out their intention of honouring John McCliman's memory and presenting his method of Tarot-reading? Perhaps only the man himself could truly answer this but what is apparent is that this book presents a new and unique approach to the Tarot which could be seen as a challenge to the more traditional reader - a challenge to be faced and tested. There is undoubtedly a lot to be learned from this book and as such it is highly recommended - a fascinating read.