Review by Solandia
The Tarot is far more than a predictive device. It is an important tool for self-development. The cards can help us develop our full potential by helping s understand ourselves. It is this self-knowledge that is the real predictor of future events, not the cards. – Dr Laurie Watts-Amato
In Tarot Insights, Dr Laurie Watts-Amato, PhD, takes a psychological, therapeutic, problem-solving approach to Tarot through her 78 essays on the Rider-Waite cards. She has over thirty years of experience reading, researching and designing Tarot cards and has compiled her extensive knowledge in this, her first book.
Chapter One introduces Tarot as a metaphysical system that uses relatively ordinary scenes to communicate its hidden message, and as an medium for gaining advice from ourselves for application in our own lives. Here, each card represents a part of our own experience - ‘We are everything on the card: the people, the water, the sky, the cups, the mountains, the trees, and the animals.”
Chapter Two and Three have the meat of the book and cover the major and minor arcana cards. Each card’s section begins with a small black and white Rider-Waite Tarot illustration, next to the card’s title and a single keyword summarising its meaning. There is a relevant quote from literature and thinkers from the world over - Einstein, Paracelsus, the Bible and Koran, Leonardo da Vinci, Victor Hugo, even the Second Officer on the R.M. S Titanic. (His words are associated, appropriately, with the Tower: ‘I will never be sure of anything again.’)
Laurie describes the symbols used in the cards, and explores its many meanings from a self-help and advisory perspective, referencing life stages, personality aspects of ourselves and others, emotional states, and actions or experiences we need to take. She moves beyond giving theoretical information on the cards to show how Tarot cards offer guidance for life and advice on everyday experiences. A sample from the Five of Swords:
At the water’s edge, a lone warrior has taken several swords from two other men, leaving them defeated. An ill wind whips against the strong and the weak, the tyrant and his victims. However, all is not as it seems, for in this card there is victory in defeat. Swords represent our thought, but not all of our thoughts are healthy or positive. Negative thoughts such as self-criticism or victimization can have a negative impact upon our lives and our health. These erroneous beliefs must be confronted and defeated if we are to make any progress. In this card, we are both the conqueror and the vanquished, for the enemy we have so cleverly defeated is ourselves.
An interpretation for the card in a reading and divinatory sense is then given. These meanings are deeper than the ‘you will be meeting a tall, dark stranger’ variety, highlighting self-change and self-mastery, and practical advice. In the Two of Wands: 'In this reading, this card signals a return to a secure place, just as ship returns to a safe harbor. Moving back with out parents or returning to the safe haven of work can give us a feeling of great security. However, we can overemphasize safety to such a great extent that we fail to venture out of our enclosed environment. Some risk is necessary…'
Her words in these essays really made me think about the cards; highlighting details I’d never noticed before (such as the man with a staff in the background of the Six of Cups), and emphasizing a potential meaning to which I’d never given much consideration. Like Justice embodying consequences; the High Priestess, memory and emotional self-sufficiency; or the Page of Wands, who is here described as focusing all his energy onto his wand, as he is learning to pay attention to his intuition. Even the Ten of Pentacles, a card I’d always seen on a fairly simple level as picturing traditions, is titled Revelation and tells us to ‘look beyond outward appearances to perceive the extraordinary in the ordinary occurrences of everyday life.’
Chapter Four rounds off the beginner information, with Laurie’s approach and method for laying out the cards in a Celtic Cross spread and gaining the maximum meaning from the reading. A diagram of the Celtic Cross is also provided for those unfamiliar with the layout.
The Appendix gives a basic list of conflicting pairs and their keywords: sets of cards with opposing meanings, eg. ‘Judgement – The Empress – criticism vs. acceptance’ or ‘Seven of Swords – The Hierophant – rebellion vs. obedience’. There is not a lot of supporting information for these choices, but they provide a jumping-off point for thought on interpretations differing cards can offer.
The Bibliography at the back of the book is very extensive and would keep the beginner going for quite a few years. It covers seventeen pages and includes Tarot books from a wide list of authors of all persuasions; from Crowley and Waite to Nancy Garen and Teresa Michelsen.
While primarily intended for beginners, Tarot Insights can offer something for even the experienced Tarot reader and student. It certainly broadened my knowledge of the cards and their practical applications, and I would recommend it for reading for the Tarot newcomer, as well as any student or reader of Rider-Waite-based decks.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.