Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Essence Of The Tarot is all about understanding and working with the 22 cards of the Tarot Major Arcana - the archetypal, spiritual journey within the Tarot. In her introduction, Skinner talks about the origins of Tarot. She leans towards the Egyptian theory - that the cards were part of an initiation into the Mystery Schools of Egypt. This is one school of thought, though not widely accepted. Enough information is presented to allow the reader to make their own decision - which is important. In a room of five Tarot enthusiasts, there may well be six theories on Tarot's origins!
What shines through in this book is the fact that whatever else the Tarot is, it is an archetypal journey - the Hero's journey. The cards act as visual keys to archetypal energies that help us access the universal unconscious, to help us better understand ourselves and our lives, and to grow as individuals. As Skinner states, each one of the 22 Tarot Trumps carries a specific life experience and spiritual lesson. We can access them through meditating on the cards, or we can access them through reading the cards.
Tarot works in association with other esoteric systems - primarily numerology, astrology and Kabbalah. In her practice, and in this book, Skinner's work has a strong connection with astrology. I am someone who loves charts and graphs - they make life so very much easier! One of the things that I liked about Essence Of The Tarot was the chart that was presented on each of the 22 major arcana cards, their astrological association (ruler) and path (the keyword for each card, the manner in which the card manifests itself). For someone attempting to learn Tarot, or attempting to overlay astrology onto the Tarot, this chart is a wonderful tool for learning.
Skinner does a full presentation of each of the 22 trumps in two different formats. First, she goes through the cards, describing the energy of the card, its path, ruler and element, and the meaning of the card in a reading. Then she does a second presentation for each of the 22 cards, focusing on how to take the card into real life - this is the real focus and purpose of this book.
The first thing that Skinner does is to present real life examples for each of the trumps - Aleister Crowley and Mick Jagger as personifying the archetype of the Fool; Deepak Chopra as the Hierophant; Merlin (from the Arthurian legend) as the Hermit. This section of the book is all about life, and how life issues that are common to all of us are expressed in the cards. Skinner weaves in stories from her practice (she has been a professional consultant for over 15 years) that really bring home the energy of the cards. These are real people facing real issues - issues that all of us face in our lives. The Tarot is a storyteller, and the story is all about who and what we are.
There is a wealth of first rate material in this book. The following is under Divination in the first part of the book, and pertains to the trump card The Sun:
Here are seven steps to embracing the successful essence of The Sun.
1. Live your life in the present.
2. Experience each moment fully. Look around you to see and feel all of the wonders of creation.
3. Pretend that you do not have a care or worry in the world.
4. Be like a child whose only agenda is to simply be, to play and frolic in the light of the sun.
5. When experiencing a problem or dilemma trust that by letting go, it will be resolved in a beneficial way.
6. Be active. Whenever possible, say yes. Why? Because you can.
7. Then, and most importantly, become the light and shine your magnificent presence into the world. Your mantra now: every day, in every way, my life gets better and better.
There are several spreads included in this book, each addressing different things. There is a three card Destiny Spread, a five card Lovers Spread, a four card Moon Spread and a twelve card Astrological Wheel Spread. Each is a wonderful way to put to direct use the wisdom of the cards.
I recommend this book to all levels of Tarot student - there is something here for everyone.
© June 2004
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.