Tarot books – my short list

There is certainly not any shortage of books about the tarot and it can be difficult to navigate in the market and find the right ones. I have therefore picked three books that I think will get anyone a long way as a tarot reader.

The first one is “Holistic Tarot” by Benebell Wen. It’s a comprehensive book which covers everything from tarot philosophy, ethics. card meanings to various spreads with real life examples. It’s well-structured and easy to understand due to Benebell Wen’s pedagogical nature. This one is a tome and it is full of information. You can either read it from start to finish or you can use it more as a book where you look up certain chapters of interest to you. The best is probably to do both, because it is a lot of information and it can be difficult to take it all in at once. It’s simply a fantastic and well researched book and if you only can get one, this would probably be the one to get. It also has notes with references in case you want to check out the source material on your own.

The second book is “The Tarot and the Magus” by Paul Hughes-Barlow. It’s also a very good book, but this one only talks about the Opening of the Key (OOTK). It is one of the more advanced tarot spreads and would be a good book to pick up when you are getting comfortable with the cards and you have an interest in the OOTK. The OOTK is my favorite tarot spread by far, because it doesn’t force the cards into a pattern with pre-determined meanings. When you learn the OOTK, you learn to create a narrative with the cards and to interpret the meanings intuitively. The downside is that there are some rules to remember for how to create those narratives and that is why this book is handy.

It discusses card pairing, card counting, aspected and unaspected cards and elemental dignities (this is a great alternative to reversed cards). Most of the time, you will probably not need all of it for a tarot reading, but it definitely adds something special to your arsenal. If you compare it to Benebell Wen’s “Holistic Tarot” you will only find the first operation of the OOTK in “The Tarot and the Magus” though, but that is described  so well and in here that it is still worth it to pick it up if you are interested in learning OOTK. There are also some differences and variations between the two. It is recommended to read one chapter at a time as there is quite a lot to take in.

There are also some really weird chapters in there that I don’t really see much relevance of, but those can be skipped or just read by those who are curious. First and foremost I like his book for how he explains about the first operation of the OOTK. I have checked out some of his videos on Youtube where he speaks about the occult and various spirits, but that wasn’t my cup of tea at all. For that I have other sources that I prefer.

It’s impossible not to recommend “The Book of Thoth” by Aleister Crowley. At least if you have any intention to learn the Thoth deck. It’s full of information, but don’t try and read it from start to finish (I did and put my first copy in the bin). The text is quite difficult to follow, particularly  for us who aren’t native English speakers. It’s better to use it as a book where you look things up from time to time or else it might throw you off and you just end up putting it away. Take your time with it, look up what you need to look up and you will be rewarded eventually. It will require from you that you are willing to research from other sources as well.

And remember tarot is not only tarot, so it is well worth it to read books on other topics than tarot.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit



The Mystical Qabalah – an excellent book for an introduction to the Qabalah. Plus it will make your life with the Book of Thoth a little easier.

Sacred Space – is it important?

Most tarot readers have a set of rules they follow before they start a reading. Some say a short prayer or do a simple exercise to clear their mind. Others might not even do that. I, on the other hand, feel like going in the opposite direction and prefer to do a little bit more than what the average reader does. But is it necessary?

The answer is, yes, I think so. If it wasn’t necessary I wouldn’t be doing it. For me it is important to create a sacred space and feel that what I am doing has a purpose. If I don’t, I might not manage to take it seriously enough or maybe I feel that the connection to the divine either isn’t there at all or at least that it is weaker. Perhaps I could be doing my tarot readings on the bathroom floor and get good results, but I don’t think I would get the best results, simply because my mind would not be as focused.

Ok, so I don’t put on my robe and wizard’s hat (although this has been considered too…), but at least I like to make an altar of sorts and use a colored table cloth, dim the lights and light some candles. And to top it off, I also prefer to use some incense. Then I like to take a few moments to enjoy the atmosphere I have created, before I state the purpose of the reading and say a short personalized prayer.

I am not saying that everyone should be doing it this way, but I encourage you to try it out. For me it makes it feel a bit more special and I take a bit more care when analyzing the cards. It also gives me a bit of discipline in what I am doing and I don’t pick up bad habits such as drawing additional “clarifying cards”. I also am more confident about that I will be getting the messages I am asking for.

I could probably get good readings without all that, but when I think that it gives me a better edge when doing it this way there is no reason not to. Besides, I think it makes the tarot reading itself a lot more interesting and fun.  So I would definitely recommend that you at least try it out once and see if it has any positive effect on your own tarot reading experience. Even if you don’t see any improvement in the accuracy in your reading maybe it would be worth it for the relaxing experience which could be to your own benefit in other ways.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit


Tarot Philosophy

Definitely not recommended

So I had this idea that I would pull a card for a contemplation session. After contemplating on the card I would put it under my pillow at night and hopefully see some effect from it. Definitely not recommended! I say that, because it is fairly common advice to give to people if they want to contemplate on the card meanings. My result though was a wrinkled tarot card. And it was from a nice deck too.

I am not against contemplating cards meanings and try to get some kind of deeper understanding of the meaning through your dreams, but don’t place it so it could get wrinkled. Personally I wouldn’t use a tarot deck where the cards aren’t in equally good condition. So the result could be that I would have to get a new copy of the deck instead. Luckily though, it wasn’t that wrinkled so it was still usable.

Probably it would have the same effect to just focus on the card before bedtime and put it on the nightstand instead.

So this is just a short “best practice” tip to tell you all that it is not something I recommend doing.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

5 of Pentacles

An unsuccesful contemplation attempt resulted in a wrinkled 5 of Pentacles from the beautiful Thelema tarot deck. Not the most positive card in the deck though. So maybe it added a new layer of meaning to it.

Tarot readers – are they psychic?

A lot of people wonder whether tarot readers are psychics or what the connection is. And sometimes you will find that your clients are after testing your abilities as a psychic. Some tarot readers claim to be psychics and others don’t. In my opinon it is an irrelevant discussion.

The reason for that is that there isn’t any good tangible definition of what a psychic is or what abilities you need to classify yourself as a psychic. So what is really the point of using a classification that really doesn’t say all that much? Non-existant in my book. Probably it will create more problems  for you to define yourself as a tarot reader as a psychic, because people will always have made up their own thoughts and definitions of what they think a psychic should be like. Some people are clairvoyant and see visions and images, others can hear sounds and others again just get thoughts just jumping into their head seemingly from nowhere or have strange sensations. There are also varying degrees of it happening, which is why it makes very little sense of talking of being psychic. There isn’t a clear threshold and you cannot be “a little bit psychic” or “extremely psychic”. Either you are psychic or you are not, and that definition does not hold. So better not be using it at all.

Whether or not you decide to classify yourself as a psychic, it does nothing to improve your accuracy as a tarot reader. Some people do readings in which they claim to speak with the departed or spirits, but that’s the thing – then it is no longer a tarot reading. Then it is something else. And I think it is important to be clear about that. It is when you use your tarot cards as the focus point of your reading that it is a tarot reading. It doesn’t mean that is worth less, after all, it is your results and what you get out of the reading that matter.

So even if I  try to”connect” with something for a tarot reading and use all my senses and input that I can get. It just doesn’t make any sense to classify myself as a psychic. I find that it limits my abilities and put the focus away from what is really being important in a tarot reading.  After all, most of us, are there to help the client and perhaps give them a little coaching along the way so that they can make better decisions.

– Thus Spake the Night Spirit



The Magician and the High Priestess

I hinted slightly at these two characters at the end of my previous post whom I both feel quite strongly about. My impression of the tarot community today, is that there is a slight imbalance between these two characters and what they represent, when it comes to what you need as a tarot reader. I find that the feminine and passive energies are being the most dominant ones, but both of these character traits that you can find in these cards need to be represented.

When you are a part of a minority in a community you will always feel that way to some extent. And that is exactly how I feel when frequenting tarot forums or if I go to a regular spiritual convention. For some reason feminine energy seems to be predominant, and I write feminine “energy”, because that is what it is about. It is not about gender. For some reason there are many homosexual men with a feminine vibe into tarot (not judging anyone here, so please don’t be offended). My point though, is that the feminine qualities of the High Priestess are often being used for the wrong reasons. And also tend to get too much emphasis.

I absolutely agree that the intuition of the High Priestess is important in tarot reading. Intuition must be a natural part of the process, but it is incorrect to rely on intuition and talent alone. That is why we need the Magician to take on that active role and bring in that willpower to study and acquire skill. Too often I find that people are looking for talent in replacement of doing the hard work. That is what kind of balance the Magician can offer. And believe me, people absolutely hate to hear that. A lot of people just automatically shut down if any effort is needed.

The idea that intuition is the most important has been popularized by tarot tutors and is being taught to people. Most probably because that it is easy and intuitive to learn tarot is exactly what people want to hear to open their pockets. To be fair it is not all that hard to learn tarot, but teaching it that way just because people are willing to pay for an easy way out is not the right way. Intuition is important, but it is not equivalent to “talent” or “no effort”.

It is also equally true though, that you cannot only study and acquire skill and completely ignore the understanding of how to utilize it. There must be some sort of balance. When you study though, eventually, the knowledge will be internalized as tacit knowledge and it will present itself to you in a more intuitive way when you draw upon it. That is when you also will be able to make the connections between cards and so on even if you are having difficulties with putting it into your own words. You are using both and cannot have one without the other. The intuitive forces of the High Priestess and the willpower of the Magician are both needed to get to the point where using intuition actually makes sense to create something meaningful.

Oh, the irony of this being something I “feel” so strongly about!

-Thus Spake the Night Spirit


The Magician and the High Priestess from the Shadowscapes Tarot

Tarot is more than a deck of cards

I don’t think anyone into tarot will argue with the title of this post, but I doubt that most of them will understand exactly what I mean by that.

What I mean is that the classical tarot decks that came out of the Golden Dawn like the Rider Waite and Crowley Thoth tarot were not created for doing tarot readings only. It is in this modern day and age that the tarot has been reduced to a deck of cards which is being used mostly for doing tarot readings. I find that to be a shame as it is so much more than that.

Inside the tarot deck you have a whole cosmology. It is basically a map of all the forces in the universe. And further to that it corresponds to other systems such as astrology or the kabbalah. So technically you could also be using what you already know about tarot to learn that or even the other way around. It is not necessary to spend all that time on reading books about card meanings if you might as well read up on something else that will automatically also increase your tarot understanding once you have learned the correct correspondences. It does take a little work and effort to learn the correspondences, but it is much easier than learning all the keywords. Besides if you want to become good at something it will generally always require some effort. It has little to do with talent as this is very much an acquired skill.

And I find that to be important, because so many beginners tend to put so much emphasis on the card meanings. The thing is though that the card meanings are very much contextual and should be understood more like a group of ideas or what kind of forces it is telling a story about. That is also the key to memorizing the cards – to make stories and connections.

For example The Emperor, card number IV, from the Major Arcana corresponds to the planet Mars (it’s the card for the Zodiac sign Aries which is the zodiac sign of Mars. The Tower is the card that is directly connected to the planet Mars. Also note the interesting connection between The Emperor and the Tower). When I think of Mars, I think of enforcing the laws of the kingdom, order, protection, warfare, solving conflics through facing it directly and so on. Not too far away from the traditional keywords from the Rider-Waite booklet right? Stability, power, protection, a great person, aid, reason, conviction. I didn’t even remember the keywords when writing this. Those I had to look up, but still I had understood what kind of ideas that this card can represent. It is the ideas you use to create a story in a tarot reading, not a definite meaning of a word written down somewhere.

That is exactly why I encourage my readers to take your noses out of the tarot books and try to expand your interest to other sources too. Tarot wasn’t made for being only tarot. It’s a map of the cosmic forces of the universe.

-Thus Spake the Night Spirit

Tarot Philosophy

The Magician and the High Priestess from the Shadowscapes tarot


The right setting to read for others

Maybe you have come to a point in your tarot reading when you feel like it is the time to start reading for someone else. And by that I mean reading for somone outside of your comfort zone. Not your regular family and friends, but perhaps you have received an opportunity to read for friends of friends or maybe you even have considered to move on to get paid from clients.

Before you venture into that territory there are a few things that would be wise to consider. First of all you should have some ethical guidelines in place for what you think is ok and not to do as a reader. This post will not be about that. Perhaps I will write about it later at some point , but for the most part it is a lot of common sense such as do not read on people’s health etc. What you need to consider carefully though is what kind of reader you want to be and what it means to be that type of reader.

For example, let’s say you have been invited to a party and have been asked to do readings there. Some people are really excited about that, it could be a great opportunity to meet people and show them your tarot reading skills, right? Well, no, not necessarily. If you want to be the entertaining kind of reader that just read superficially then maybe it could suit you, but I have also heard and read about tarot readers going into the situation with very high expectations and end up extremely disappointed when they experience that the people at the party didn’t take the reading seriously at all.

Another possible scenario is that often tarot tends to get really personal really quickly, because people often ask about things that are rather personal to themselves or they don’t properly understand how personal the topic they have chosen could turn into. Potentially, you could have someone asking about their chances for love and in the cards you see that the opportunity just doesn’t seem to be right at the moment. Perhaps the person has the wrong mind set to attract a partner or whatever, but the point is, when you are at a party, they are in a completely different mind set. They are there to have fun and not get a life coaching lesson. Perhaps they secretly had hoped that they would find that special someone at the party. As a result they get sad, the party is ruined for them and even worse – you are to blame for it.

It is a very real situation that you could end up in, if you haven’t thought about these things beforehand and have a clear strategy of what you want to accomplish with your reading. Perhaps party reading isn’t for you. Maybe reading for people live isn’t for you at all. It is completely okay to read for people exclusively online as well. My most successful readings have been online, where I have the time to properly think of how the cards are lined up and interact with eachother. I find that reading face to face is a lot harder. And then there are people who are completely the opposite. They feel that they need to see the person and communicate throughout the whole session.

I just want my readers to think through properly what you want to accomplish and ask yourself one extra time if the setting around the reading is right for you. To do a mistake here can be costly and seriously damage the confidence in yourself as a tarot reader. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t taken seriously or if you crashed the party. Ultimately it is your responsibility that perhaps you were a little bit too eager and jumped into it before you had the fundamentals in place.

It might seem like another mountain to overcome to become a great reader, but it is definitely worth it to take a few moments to consider the setting that is appropriate for you so that you can feel comfortable and have control over your own tarot sessions. It is better to have done that and try to avoid that situation that could lead to a serious confidence hit and maybe even make you lose your interest in reading for others.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit