Review by keeks
"Tarot and the Journey of the Hero" by Hajo Banzhaf is one of the best books I've read on Tarot, and is my current favorite. It takes the mythological structures and applies them to the tarot. It helped me learn a lot about the cards themselves, the symbolism behind them, and their meanings as it applies to the Journey. This is a large book, about the size of an 8 x11 notebook paper and decently thick. My copy came with a poster chart thing that is really neat, and there are lots of beautiful pictures in it, even historical items are depicted.
The introduction is about the Tarot itself. It talks about the origin, symbolism and structure of them, discussing the relationship to the Cabala and Hebrew alphabet, the people who made it big, and its relationship to life. There is also a "how to" in the introduction.
The beginning of the book starts with the origin and meaning of the journey. It discusses collective unconscious, motifs of tradition that link the major arcana to the journey ("The single-digit cards I to IX tell of the journey of the Sun through the day sky, while the two-digit cards from X to XVIII tell of the descent into the underworld and the return to the light" page 21). There was a passage that I starred, boxed in, and arrowed that was referenced as being summarized by Walter Burkert: "An initial loss or mission results in a task, which the hero must accomplish. He sets out on the path, meets adversaries and helpers along the way, wins a decisive magic charm, faces the opponent, overcomes him, and is often marked in the process; he gains what he has sought, sets out on the path home, and shakes off pursuers and competitors. At the end, there is a wedding and accession to the throne" (page 18). This is a common truth among myths, and a good overview of how they flow for those of you who aren't very familiar.
The Major Arcana
This section goes through the entire Major Arcana, card by card. It explains the story behind the card, the symbolism and how it applies to the average person, as well as the historical myths that relate and the ideology behind why these relate to psychology, etc. This is the meat of the book since it doesn't go through the minor arcana. There is a rare page that I didn't mark, underline, or star at least one thing. There are charts relating masculine and feminine attributes, and at the end of each card is a yellow box that has keywords for the card, listing the archetype, task, goal, risk, and feeling in life of the card. This is very useful for application such as a deck study, and helping memorize meanings. The relations between cards and the way they affect a reading are also described, which is something I haven't seen very often in other books. There are tie ins to mythology of almost every culture, including Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and even Mayan.
Another thing I found very useful was the chart on page 67 that shows the four major stages of the journey, which is very Campbell-like. It also makes it easier to line up mentally the process of life in the cards.
There are references to alchemical symbolism as well in some of the cards. A passage that I majorly marked was in the Wheel of Fortune, reading "Becoming, existing, and passing are the powers that keep the wheel of time in motion. They manifest themselves in the rising, creative aspect (Anubis), the existing, maintaining powers (sphinx), and the descending, destructive side (Seth). Together these correspond with a divine law (Torah and JHVH), which challenges human beings to transform from the base to the higher qualities (alchemical symbolism)". (page 88).
I learned a lot about myself from this book. As well as a lot about a variety of things I didn't know much about. This book was hard to put down, easy to get through, and very informative. I disliked how it ended with no ending really, but it wasn't that big of a deal. I highly recommend this book.