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'Tarot Tells the Tale' tells the tale
on 2 May 2010
The author's stated intention in writing this book is "preparing the novice Tarot reader for working with the cards", and to offer food for thought to the more seasoned Tarot readers. The book is divided into three distinct sections: - 1. Preludes, which looks at various aspects and correspondences including finding card meanings, reversed cards, and a code of ethics for Tarot readers.
2. Readings - numerous three-card readings and a Celtic Cross.
3. Two appendices, giving explanations of all the cards and card/reading cross references.
Ricklef has devoted 140 of the 269 pages to three-card readings (and the Celtic Cross), making for a very rich and varied feast. The three-card readings are a compilation of Ricklef's 'Ask Knight Hawk' column in an American Tarot newsletter, written as though people from history, literature and myth are requesting Tarot advice about their problems, e.g. Einstein asks for guidance over his conflict about whether or not to return to Germany; King Midas asks for help once he realizes that turning everything he touches into gold has landed him with major problems; Abel's (of Biblical fame) worries about his brother Cain's possible plans to harm him. For each reading, Ricklef has reframed the question - sometimes more, sometimes less - into three parts which are tailored to the individual, then draws three cards at random and interprets them. This strategy demonstrates very ably to the (book)reader just how the card meanings can be applied in 'real'-life situations, as well as implying the importance of the Tarot reader's willingness to be flexible.
A further point worthy of note is that the author has used modern English language throughout, in spite of the time period in which the questioner lived, thus making his work very accessible and relevant in the present day. Throughout the book he has used a number of different decks, showing pictures of the cards drawn for each reading. It's possible that some newcomers to the Tarot may feel confused initially about which deck they would like to work with, but it also means that they have a glimpse into the variety of decks that are to be had.
With regard to the meanings of the 78 cards themselves, Ricklef states that he "felt it was virtually obligatory to discuss the meanings of the 78 cards in a book targeted mainly at beginning Tarot readers" (p.xi). This is reflected in the fact that he has done so in a 56-page appendix rather than at the beginning of the book. This does seem to suggest that Ricklef wasn't 100% sure of who his main target audience was in writing this book - an appendix almost suggests an after-thought. The doubt over his target audience is also reflected in that the first 61 pages (Prelude) are all about different aspects of the Tarot, as mentioned earlier in this review, thus throwing the newcomer in at the deep end, so to speak; and it begs the question of whether the author has perhaps tried to address too many issues in a book aimed mainly at beginners.
One important aspect of being a Tarot reader that many authors have failed to address is that of a code of Ethics. Ricklef offers his own outstanding 11-point code which every reader who hasn't already got their own could adopt or modify to suit their own circumstances.
All-in-all, this is an excellent book and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone with an interest in the Tarot. Do I think that the author has delivered what he set out to achieve? Absolutely. In fact, I am left feeling that I have partaken in a huge banquet!