Tarot Tuesday: Book Recs

eyehA while back, Quintessential Editor asked for some book recs on the Tarot. I gave him two that I’ve found exceptionally helpful, and I thought that would make for a good Tarot Tuesday post. So here are the two books I recommended to him, plus one extra:

1. Eyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow by Arthur Green

This book isn’t about the Tarot. It’s an excellent introduction to Kabbalah instead—a type of Jewish mysticism that the Rider-Waite-Smith deck relies on (as do all the decks that follow the standard it set).

It’s a practical introduction, which I love. It doesn’t assume you have any special knowledge of Judaism or mysticism. It’s not out to convert you or make any claims about being the one true path. It’s just a hands-on guide.

The Tarot isn’t Jewish, of course; it’s Hermetic. But Hermeticism borrows from Kabbalah. (And Kabbalah, in turn, seems to have borrowed from Neoplatonism, probably indirectly. And round and round we go through western canon!) Hermeticism tweaks Kabbalah for its own purposes. But this book will stand you in good stead for a foundation in both the traditional Kabbalah and the Hermetic.

2. Tarot and the Tree of Life: Finding Everyday Wisdom in the Minor Arcana by Isabel Radow Kliegman

My go-to book for anything about the Minor Arcana—it offers sensitive, in-depth interpretations of each card. But this book is heavy on Kabbalah, so you might want to start with Arthur Green’s book and get grounded in it first. That said, you don’t absolutely need that grounding to understand this book, so if you can’t wait to dig into some Tarot, start here instead.

3. Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner

As the title suggests, this book is all about writing with the Tarot. Corrine Kenner doesn’t assume you have any special knowledge about the Tarot, so you can start with this book if you want to jump into using the cards for help with your characters and plots. She gives you some solid information on the symbolism of the cards, but in bite-sized, digestible pieces. And if you think you’d like to use Tarot spreads to help your story along, she gives you lots to choose from.

These are my three favorite books for starting out with Tarot. But don’t neglect Wikipedia—as of this moment, it has fairly in depth write ups on a number of the cards, complete with commentaries on the symbolism.

I’m going to post more book recommendations every couple of months. (Feel free to add more in the comments!) Some will delve further into the Tarot; some further into Hermeticism, and some into the Rider-Waite-Smith deck in particular. And I’ll include some general reference books as well.

Okay, we’ll need a card for next week: the Two of Swords.

About Jenn Moss

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9 Responses to Tarot Tuesday: Book Recs

  1. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great resources, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These all sound really interesting!

    As an additional starting point, I might suggest Waite’s original Pictorial Key to the Tarot. It gives a useful outline of what was in his mind when he commissioned each card, though there may be occasions when the artist Pamela Coleman has imbued the cards with her own vision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      So . . . I’ll be honest, it was less helpful for me when I was just starting out than I thought it would be. I can’t read minds (past or present, lol), but I feel like Waite was going for obscure rather than informative. (People speculate that was due to his vows of secrecy with the Golden Dawn.) But people’s mileage may vary on this, and you’re right–it does deserve a place on any list of Tarot books.

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  4. Hello — The Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, etc. are essentially derivatives of Kabbalah. The Green book is superb — great choice! Isabel is a great friend of mine for many years; yep, her book is most excellent! (You may enjoy her upcoming book on the Major Arcana as well; it’s not out yet but coming….) Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack is long the standard classic. Thanks, and best regards!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad to hear there’s a new book coming.

      I believe we have some disagreements over historical chronology. I asked Rabbi Green (does he prefer Dr. Green? Dr. Rabbi Green, lol?), when he spoke at my shul, if Neo-Platonism had influenced Kabbalah. (I didn’t know much about Kabbalah at the time, but I was familiar with Plotinus.) He said yes, it had–though he understood the influence from Neo-Platonism was indirect. So our sages and mystics probably weren’t sitting around studying Plotinus, but the ideas were out there and they made use of them. Which makes sense to me.

      That’s not to say I’m arguing against any eternal relevance of the Kabbalah. But religiously speaking, we all tend to borrow from one another–and I see nothing wrong with that.

      It probably wasn’t necessary to go into all this. I just don’t want you to expect something from this blog that it won’t give. I’m fine with calling aspects of Kabbalah derivative. I see it as no insult to do so.

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  5. Thanks! I’m enjoying and appreciating the “Tarot Tuesday” material. Hope you’re starting to have the opportunity to BREATHE in your new position — I understand the challenges of that situation! Best regards —

    Liked by 1 person

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