In April 1989, I stood outside one of the world's greatest art museums, the Louvre, with only an inkling of what I would find inside. I knew about the Mona Lisa, "Winged Victory", and a few other gems, but otherwise, I had no idea of the depth and breadth of the collections that stood all around me. It was definitely overwhelming. Working with the tarot can seem overwhelming, too: There are tons of books and other resources vying for the time and attention of the beginning tarot reader. Luckily for those interested in learning the tarot, Christiana Gaudet created something that I should have had at the Louvre: A tour guide!
Tarot Tour Guide is a remarkably complete work that surprised me with its breadth and simplicity. Everything you'd expect from a tarot book is here: Card meanings, example spreads, suggestions for tools and various techniques, and meditations. The author's tone is conversational and not pretentious, making the reader comfortable. It also doesn't make judgments about how you should or should not use the cards; in other words, Gaudet presents the options without pushing one way or the other.
What I didn't expect was the elemental focus of the book--five entire chapters dedicated to this vital topic. To me, the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water are an essential part of not only tarot, but of spiritual practice. Gaudet includes a full chapter on each of the elements and asks the student to work with each one through exercises and meditations. Most books are content with a cursory "here are the four elements" portion, but the author really went over and above to ensure that the reader understood each element. I'd love to see an individual book on each of the elements in the tarot from this author someday.
I really liked the additional information included in each of the elemental chapters. In Chapter 8, for example, "The Element of Air", Gaudet discusses the element and the mental body, but includes related topics, like reading for other people, tarot ethics, and what to do if you feel that someone is lying during a tarot reading. The other elemental chapters follow a similar pattern, with earth focusing on work and the physical body; fire focusing on the spiritual body, creativity, and sexuality; and water presenting the emotional body, as well as love and relationship readings. The fact that these topics were organized by element really stood out for me, and for that reason they resonated with me even more.
One final point: The readings that Gaudet includes in the book really help understand not only the elements, but the role of the tarot reader. The reading "Single Again" from Chapter 10, "The Element of Water" really hit home for me as a professional reader, because these are the types of problems our clients face every day. It's about a man going through a divorce. While you should go buy this book and read it for yourself, I'll say this much: The author does a great job of showing how to react compassionately but honestly when a client doesn't want to see the truth of a particular situation. It's a regular occurrence in my own practice as well.
Whether you are an aspiring tarot professional or just want to develop your intuitive abilities, I'd recommend this book. It's also great for beginners, especially those who may be interested in using tarot as a larger part of their spiritual development or are drawn to a Pagan/Wiccan spiritual path.
~review by John Marani
Author: Christiana Gaudet
Jupiter Gardens Press, 2012
pp. 220, 19.95