A complete guide to the tarot has been, hands-down, my most relied on book while learning to read Tarot cards. Irregardless of the deck in use, the meanings are always spot on. The contents page shows that there are eight chapters as well as a glossary and an index. Each of the tarot cards are laid out in an efficient and easy to read manner that remains consistent throughout the book.
The first chapter is “The Tarot Defined,” and serves as an overview to the tarot and the process that tarot has taken to arrive in its current form. The second chapter covers its history, or rather, its lack of origin. Despite the unknown origins of the tarot there is no denying that “the Tarot is a symbolic record of human experience” (page 7). The various influences and symbolism attached to the tarot is also discussed here, among them Astrology, Numerology, and the Jewish Kabalah. The major players who have influenced the tarot over time are also included, among them the Marseilles Tarot, Paul Foster Case (of B.O.T.A.), and Aleister Crowley.
The third chapter kicks off “The Major Arcana,” and gives a short overview of this important portion of the tarot. The major arcana focuses on man and his fears, desires, and experience; the major’s similarity to the Wheel of Life is undeniable. “Each of the Major Arcana represents a distinct principle, law, power, or element in Nature” (page 14). Each card of the Major Arcana has its own two pages; the left side shows the card’s key number and title, along with a description of the card and its symbolism. Below that is its divinatory meaning and the reversed. On the right side is an illustration of the card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck. Each description is very thorough; the illustrations and their symbolism are examined, as well as the card’s representation, symbolic, numerology, astrological, or kabalah relationship, and the card’s representation of stage in man’s life.
Chapter four covers “The Minor Arcana,” and gives an overview of the suits and their correlations (for instance, Wands correlates with fire and the hebrew letter I). It also includes a short summary of each suit and their meaning. Each card of the Minor Arcana has its own page. At the top of the page is an illustration of the card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck, and below it is a short description of the card and its symbolism. After that is its divinatory meaning and the reversed. The book begins with the suit of Wands, then Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.
The fifth chapter is titled “How to Read the Cards,” and explains how to keep your cards, how to prepare yourself for readings, as well as how to shuffle and lay out the cards. There is also a section on trends in the card; for instance, if your layout is mainly comprised of major arcana cards then you know that the answer is largely controlled by other people. There is also a small section on interpreting cards. The layouts for several methods of using tarot cards is included as well. These layouts are as follows: The Ancient Keltic Method (or Celtic Cross), The Horoscope Method, and The Tree of Life Method. There is also a short one line description of the meaning of each card.
The sixth chapter is “The Tarot and Meditation,” and includes an overview of meditation. The process of meditation with a tarot card is covered, and one is reminded that “Steadfast, persistent endeavor in meditation techniques, even through a hundred failures, is the dedication of the mystic and the occultist” (page 178).
Chapter seven is rather long, and it makes sense since it is “Systems of Occult Thought that Illuminate the Tarot.” This chapter covers three major systems of thought that are commonly applied to Tarot. The first is Numerology. In this section the relationship between the numbers and their meaning are applied to the cards. The second is the Kabalah, and the basic concepts and ideology is explained as it relates to the tarot. Among these are the Tree of Life, the pillars, the four worlds, the ten sephiroth, and the paths. The final is Astrology, and the three dimensional tree and zodiac are examined.
The final chapter is also the epilogue, and is just a nice note about the Fool’s Journey. There is also a nice glossary and bibliography too.