Review by Sandra Marie
This is a book long awaited by those who studied with the late Rusty Carnarius over the years. I am happy to report that those who waited so patiently will not be disappointed. Both those who are beginning their tarot journeys, and those well on their way, will find this an invaluable and rich tool as they continue on their paths.
The title of the book is a clue to the direction of its contents: Rusty’s Friendly Tarot for Self-Development. I, and others, began our tarot journey under the watchful eye and kindly guidance of Rusty back in the 70s and early 80s. Rusty had a lengthy resume, including many years teaching at the annual Life Spectrums Conference, serving for a decade as a counselor with Quaker Family Relations Committee in Philadelphia and serving on the Lancaster County Mental Health/Retardation Board.
She was a Lancaster resident for 34 years before moving to Colorado to be near one of her daughters, where she died in 2002 at the age of 71 at the Boulder County Hospice after a lengthy illness. Her book was in process for many years before her untimely demise.
Rusty suffered physically in the last years of her life, but bravely soldiered on, even from her sick bed, always seeing yet more depth in her beloved cards and planning the next project. The thrust of who Rusty was as a person in this life comes through in her expression of tarot understanding. Although Rusty did not live to see her dreams of a published book realized, I thoroughly believe she knows and rejoices in the finished product now available, whose materialization was brought to fruition by her loving family, principally her husband Stan and her daughter Megan.
The words are Rusty’s. Anyone who knew her will hear her voice in them. The book is very affordable, and is not a coffee table book — which is to say, it is to the point and without illustration. Rusty used The Rider Tarot Deck (Waite-Rider tarot), and the card descriptions are confined to that deck. If you do not have a Waite-Rider deck, I would suggest purchasing one so that you can study each card as she delineates it.
Rusty taught tarot as the highest and best tool to learn about yourself, and to assist others in their journeys. There are no reversed cards. I do not see this aspect explained in the book, but as I learned it from her, the cards in and of themselves contain the totality of information and inspiration. With experience, the reader knows and/or feels all of this totality, which, like life, contains both positive and negative aspects; thus the energy will express itself, move one way and then another, depending on the person being read and his or her situation.
Rusty’s students were given handy tools with which to begin their journeys, and the reader is provided with the same tools. These include a way of understanding the meanings of suits, numbers, elements and elementals, and then how to combine and apply them to the pertinent areas of life. There are a few layouts in the book, and directions on handling the cards.
Rusty believed that the cards in or of themselves do not hold “power,” that it is the reader who possesses the knowledge and insight, and the cards are merely tools to make that inner knowing available. A deeply spiritual person and a practicing member of the Sabian assembly, Rusty states clearly in her introduction that she dismisses any negative connotation associated with the cards. She explains: “I can assure you that I would not have spent these years working with the cards if this in any way led one on a pathway to the devil. The Sun card [#19 in the major arcana] is my preferred image to refute those arguments.”
Rusty gave full weight to the full tarot deck, major and minor arcana alike. In the Major Arcana, she begins each card by reiterating the card number (broken down into one digit) and its meaning, as well as a thumbnail in describing the card’s meaning that easily is memorized. She asks the reader to “See the card accurately” in a heading, as she describes the card’s details, including significant meanings attributed to components that might be overlooked. This is followed by a heading along the lines of, “What is your inner knowing trying to communicate?” and helps the reader to make those connections.
These two components are followed by the “Key insight,” which is the lesson that can be learned from the particular card.
But in fact, the learned lesson resides not just in the “Key insight,” but in understanding and internalizing the full card explanation. This format is followed pretty much throughout the entire deck, and once the fledgling tarot reader is thoroughly familiar with it, it almost guarantees an understanding that is a base for any future learning. The seasoned professional can reap great rewards from this book as well, adding to his or her knowledge base with an easy, clear explanation of items that could, in lesser hands, have become arcane lore.
Sandra Marie Matuschka has been involved with the tarot since the late
1970s, first as a student of the late Rusty Carnarius, a dedicated tarot
teacher, and later as a collector and continuing learner. She is a writer, editor, and photographer currently living and working in Rhode Island.