Friday, September 28, 2007

The Tarot History Symbolism And Divination

The Tarot History Symbolism And Divination Cover

Book: The Tarot History Symbolism And Divination by Robert Place

The Tarot is one of the few books that cuts through conventional misperceptions to explore the Tarot deck as it really developed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe-not, as some would suggest, in the far reaches of Egyp-tian antiquity. Mining the Hermetic, alchemical, and Neoplatonic influences behind the evolution of the deck, author Robert M. Place provides a historically grounded and compelling portrait of the Tarot's true origins, without overlooking the deck's mystical dimensions.

This may be the best book ever written on that deck of cards decorated with mysterious images called the tarot. Dozens of books provide sketchy information on the cards' history and evolution before turning more discursive on how to interpret them. Place inverts that formula. Well-researched, entertainingly written chapters begin the book with information on where the tarot comes from and how it gained so much prominence as a tool for divination. Far from developing from deeply magical sources, as many have claimed, the tarot was originally just a deck of cards used for playing games. Even at the start, however, those games included some fortune-telling. Over the course of centuries, the cards' lore was enriched by thoughtful practitioners who added cards, elaborated their meanings, and connected their imagery to mythology and dreams. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, an inspired young artist, Pamela Smith, drew upon her occult training and her own visions to create the now classic Rider-Waite deck. In a comprehensively researched and passionately argued chapter, Place restores Smith to her rightful position as the genius behind the deck. That Place also offers excellent guidance to actually reading the cards makes the book that much more appealing, as a how-to as well as a why-bother.

The real cream of this book comes not from the debunking (after all, Place is not the first author to set the record straight), but in his analysis of what Tarot truly is. This book is the only book available today that explores Tarot as it was intended by its creators, based on the influences and symbolism prevalent at the time of its creation. As someone long steeped in (and quite fond of) occult/Golden Dawn style Tarot practices, these insights are new and exciting approaches to Tarot. I get to be a beginner all over again! For devoted Tarot nerds like me, this is very good news.

Some folks might be put off by Place's style -- he doesn't allow much room for disagreements. Indeed, ordinarily such confidence would get up my nose, too. But his arguments are so convincing, and presented with none of the customary arrogance of many with strong opinions on magical topics, that I'm inclined to overlook that. His sincerity and love of his subject shine through every step of the way.

Place rounds out the book with solid sections on meanings and divination. He examines the Waite-Smith deck for his meanings section, drawing strong Interpretations from the artwork (you might learn an interesting fact or two about the symbolism employed by Waite & Pixie here). His approach to divination is his alone, and is quite liberating in its use of symbols, intuition and card placement rather than strict interpretations of memorized meanings. He provides plenty of examples to make sure that you get the gist of his techniques.

Indeed, Place uncommonly weds reliable historiography with a practical understanding of the intuitive help and divinatory guidance that the cards can bring. He presents techniques that offer new and valuable ways to read and interpret the cards. Based on a simple three-card spread, Place's approach can be used by either the seasoned practitioner or the new inquirer.

All in all, this is a sane, thoughtful, and (most importantly) useful approach to Tarot. It is now firmly on my short list of most recommended Tarot books, for beginners and advanced alike. Not to be missed.

I suppose I sound like I'm gushing, here, but the book really is that good!

Buy Robert Place's book: The Tarot History Symbolism And Divination

Books in PDF format to read:

Diane Purkiss - The Witch In History Early Modern And Twentieth Century Representations
Robert Ambelain - Martinism History And Doctrine
Summers Montague - The History Of Witchcraft And Demonology