This is a wonderfully down-to-earth, hands-on way to learn Tarot. The full-length book complements the colorful deck nicely. Together they take the “woo” and “scary” out of Tarot without removing the mystery, which is a good thing.

Barbara Moore’s book begins with a brief history of Tarot to show the reader that there’s no one capital-T truth but centuries of change as people approached Tarot from many different viewpoints. I really like Moore’s description of the Tarot, a concept that permeates her writing: “The tarot cards are sometimes called “keys.” They are keys that open doors and behind those doors are worlds of meaning, some of which don’t even exist until you walk through them.” (Note: Moore doesn’t capitalize the word “tarot” but I prefer to.)

Moore encourages the reader to find their own interpretation of the Tarot through practice rather than just taking her word for it. She starts off with the hands-on approach right from the beginning, a Tarot reading to get started, and continues with interesting and fun activities that get the reader actually using the cards and becoming comfortable with them. She encourages the reader to take notes and examine what they’re doing, both now and later on as they look back through those notes.

Moore’s approach to learning Tarot leads the reader to develop their own method for working with the cards. She takes the reader step by step through the process of examining their beliefs about Tarot itself and where the information in a reading comes from. Moore points out that a reader’s beliefs affect their practice, so it’s best to be clear and honest with yourself so you can tailor your practices to get better results.

In addition to the basics of formulating questions for the clearest answers and working with both intuitive and analytical aspects of readings, Moore encourages the reader to figure out their ethics and boundaries about doing readings. This applies for both casual readings for friends and family as well as professional work. This is an important topic and one that’s not always addressed in books about working with the cards.

Rather than dictating absolutes, Moore helps the reader figure out what Tarot means for them and how it works when the cards are in their hands. The cards themselves, colorfully created by artist Eugene Smith, work really well for this approach. They contain all the usual symbolism experienced readers would expect from the Rider-Waite-Smith (R-W-S) deck but the artwork is softer, friendlier, and far less stiff than the R-W-S. The soft realism makes the images easy to understand and, I think, less intimidating for a beginner.

The deck has the same structure as the R-W-S, and Moore offers an excellent explanation of both the structure and the way the Major and Minor Arcana work together and complement each other. She does include detailed meanings for the cards, but these are at the very end of the book; the activities for getting to know the cards take precedence. Throughout the book, Moore stresses personal interpretation over rote meaning. She addresses the issues of reversals, significators, and clarifiers, but she leaves it to the reader to decide how to handle these issues (though she does note her own preferences).

One thing that I really enjoyed was Moore’s discussion about how to combine the cards in a layout into a meaningful reading. This was an issue I struggled with for quite some time when I began learning Tarot years ago. Moore’s emphasis on finding patterns, connections, and tendencies along with her explanation of how to organize the layout (any layout) into a coherent whole are valuable tools for any Tarot reader.

Along with typical activities such as doing different types of layouts, Moore includes some really perceptive ones that can help strengthen and deepen the reader’s experience with the cards. I was especially interested in the idea of identifying which cards I love, hate, or am neutral to. The activity in which Moore directs the reader to draw cards at random and make a story up from them was also quite enjoyable.

This is a thorough introduction to Tarot for beginners. It provides lots of hands-on work and emphasizes actually using the cards and developing a relationship with them over simply memorizing meanings. I did learn a few new tidbits, and the cards themselves are attractive, but overall I’d say this is definitely geared toward those who have little to no experience with the cards.

~review by Laura Perry

Author: Barbara Moore, art by Eugene Smith
Llewellyn, 2016
pp. 203 plus 78-card deck, $19.99