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

 

Tarotbooks

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.

4 thoughts on “Tarot books – my short list

  1. I’ve only read one of those books – the Book of Thoth – and you’re right, it’s quite a handful. It is absolutely worth the time and effort it takes to work through, although I don’t know if I’d recommend it unless someone was working with the Thoth Tarot.

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    • I don’t know. There are some refreshing perspectives in there that would be good to know about. Especially, if you have an interest in the esoteric part of tarot. Even if you choose to use another deck it would probably be worthwhile to at least know about it. I like for example how the Justice card has been renamed (and renumbered from 11 to 8) to Adjustment and how he argues for that to better capture the essence of that particular card. Potentially you can bring those ideas into your readings even if you use another deck.

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      • You’re probably right, but I would still hesitate to recommend this book for anyone who isn’t really aware of what they’re about to get into.

        Definitely not a beginners’ book, at least.

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      • Definitely not a good beginner’s book, and neither is the “Tarot and the Magus”. But if you have all these three books I think you can advance from beginner to expert with these sources. Would still be good to add other books to the list, of course. But I meant it was a short list with books you can read to go through all the levels without breaking the bank 😉

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