Most books you find about the Tarot only tell you about the interpretation of the cards, and are all basically the same. This explains all the cards, Major, Minor and Court, with good detail. It shows quite a selection spreads,easy and harder ones. It also shows a way of meditation and contemplation and advises us on things about reading for other people. There's a part about dealing with reversed cards, it doesn't matter to me personally, because I choose the top of the card before turning a card over, but I'm sure it'll help a lot of people.
Usually, I don't buy books about the Tarot and just flick through them in the store, but I was strangely attracted to this book and brought it rather quickly. I think the layout of the book is easy to use/read, and that it is quite useful to me, because I've been trying to gain a better and clearer understanding of the Tarot.
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Barbara Venn-Lever is eminently qualified to produce this book and has drawn upon her vast experience and background to do so. She is a Tarot consultant and teacher of many years standing, having written for Destiny magazine, written a Tarot course and has a regular show on '', not to mention running her own Mind, Body, Spirit shop.
The author's intention in writing this book is summed up in the following words........."and here is a good, sensible and comfortable guide for helping you to both learn and understand the Tarot" (p.2). But taking those words out of context may give the misleading impression that the reader is about to put on a pair of comfy slippers and get ready to live a comfy life, so to speak. In the Preface, Venn-Lever states that when a person's spiritual curiosity begins to stir, "the High Priestess within steps to the fore and bids us welcome her qualities...." regardless of gender (p.v). The reader is invited to approach the Tarot with an open mind, to connect with the wisdom of the inner High Priestess and to embark on a journey of discovery, whether a complete newcomer to the Tarot or a more seasoned student.
The chapters of the book progress methodically, through the history and development of the Tarot, choosing a deck, intuitive reading, the Minor Arcana, Major Arcana, Court cards, Tarot spreads, and personal growth through the Tarot. As with the author's stated intention, the chapter headings give the lie to the actual contents of each chapter as her approach to every aspect of the Tarot is innovative and imaginative. She gives exercises, often fun and interesting, throughout to encourage the individual to keep connecting with the inner High Priestess and the author's passion for the subject leaps off the page at every turn, keeping the reader wanting more. At the end of each chapter is a section titled 'Wordplay' which is an exericse in free-association to words relevant to each particular chapter. To quote "Allow yourself to make free associations, split words up and even look up the defining words. Think about how you have been taught to understand them, challenge old understanding, and learn to be open-minded and a free thinker" (p.6). This is typical of Venn-Lever's approach to the Tarot, encouraging each person's own unique connection with it.
In the section on choosing a deck, the author cites several superstitions with regard to Tarot decks, one of which is worthy of a special note here as it is one that hasn't often been addressed in other books on the Tarot - 'Stolen Tarot cards work better', in response to which Venn-Lever says that "To steal a deck is definitely something I would not recommend. What comes around turns around".
The author has described a number of spreads accompanied by diagrams showing how to lay the cards out, giving very clear 'instructions' on how to use them, but has not given any example readings which may have been helpful, particularly to anyone who is new to the Tarot. An unusual feature of Venn-Lever's book is that there are no pictures of Tarot cards at all, which could be off-putting to some. On the other hand, pictures of one particular deck could be seen by some as possibly restricting the reader's imagination, and it is likely that if a person is interested enough to be reading a book about the Tarot, the absence of pictures is unlikely to be a stumbling-block.
So, do I think the author has achieved what she set out to do? Absolutely, and more besides. The journey through her book is like setting out on a wonderful adventure - at every twist and turn there is something new and exciting to be discovered, and by the time you get to the end of the book - well, the inner High Priestess is wide awake, and the adventure must go on.
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