Review by Bonnie Cehovet
In her preface, Johanna swears that this book will be her last. After reading the book, I hope just as strongly that it is only her first. She finds so much to talk about, and is such a good teacher, that the Tarot world would truly be blessed if the venue of writing once more crossed her path. (Minus the pain and the angst!)
I am going to start this review in a way that I never do, and that is by listing the Table of Contents. In itself, it will give you a sneak preview of what Johanna covers, and the sequence in which she covers it. (I am a Cappie - I look for the logic and the planning in things!)
Preface Introduction: Why the Tarot?
Lesson 1: Basic Symbology
Lesson 2: The Rose Mandalas
Lesson 3: The Four Elemental Powers
Lesson 4: The Roses, The Elemental Powers, and The Nature of the Godhead
Lesson 5: Tarot and Magic(k)
Lesson 6: Exercises in Psychic Development
Lesson 7: The Major Arcana
Lesson 8: Introduction to the Lesser Mystery
Lesson 9: The Cards and Psychic Development
Lesson 10: Card Spreads
As with all companion books, Guide To The Sacred Rose Tarot takes the reader on the journey that the artist followed in the creation of their deck. In Johanna's case, this is the journey of the artist, and the journey of the author. Something very important to remember here is that Johanna carries with her the background of psychic studies. She has formally studied and worked to hone her skills and abilities, and they play a large part in how she interprets the Tarot. This book is a compilation of work from her lectures, workshops, and personal experiences.
Johanna begins with her take on the archetypes that Tarot represents, and how they play out in our history through the mythology of a culture: legends, folk tales, religious figures, and the arts. Enter the early occultists, and their contributions to setting up a corresponding system of metaphysical knowledge. A good example of which is "777" by Aleister Crowley.
For those who are interested in ritual and ceremony, who want to deepen their meditative experience, or who are simply interested in mythological associations with the Tarot, Johanna has a wonderful chart associating each of the Major Arcana archetypes with Archetype Mythology and Judeo Christian Hagiology.
Johanna makes a very insightful statement about the purpose of the archetypal energies: "Our response to the archetypal energies leads us to the discovery of the who, what and why of the initiatory process. This spiritual initiation is the process of transmutation, and it is often experienced as painful in order to have a lasting effect, similar to the modern adage of "no pain, no gain". As we shall see, this initatory process is the very foundation of this deck.
There is so much information in this 257 page book that I could (almost) write another book talking about it! I am going to do a bit of jumping around, bringing out some of the things that jumped out at me. We find mention of the Kabbalistic reference to the name of the Godhead (the name that is never spoken) as being attributed to the Hebrew letters Yod, Heh, Vau, Heh. Then we wander through the quest for the Holy Grail, and the healing process that is instigated when the right question is asked. And my favorite - Magic(k) with a "k"! We have the four elements, and the elementals that are connected with them. What was new to me was that the Elementals are seen as dutiful servants of the four Tarot Kings in the Sacred Rose deck.
Pay attention to the section on Psychic Development. This is not pie in the sky - the exercises presented here play a large part in your ability to develop a personal response to this deck. Included is a chart listing each of the four elements (Fire, Water, Air, and Earth), their alchemical symbol, the color associated with them and a brief description. For example for Fire we have the symbol of an upward pointing triangle, the color red, and the description: Solid Equilateral/Equidistant Triangle. This section is a great gift - use it wisely!
The cards are presented with a black and white scan, text and description, meditative meaning, and divinatory meaning (positive and negative aspects). Note: the negative aspect is somewhat equal to what one might consider reversed meanings, but it is emphasized that an upright card can also have negative aspects.
There is also quite an interesting commentary made along the journey. After the Emperor, we have the following commentary:
"The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress and The Emperor are unique in placement and function, as fundamental prototypes of Child (The Fool), Suitor/Bachelor (The Magician), Virgin/Maiden (The High Priestess), Mother (The Empress), and Father (The Emperor). They are the spiritual family, and a very special asset in the process of initiation. They represent the innate qualities which are inherited (through the collective unconscious) and past incarnations.
From this point the Major Arcana will take on a different aspect. We will be confronting life experiences and challenges which are which are meant to test us and challenge who or what we believe to be reality."
After the Lovers, we have the following commentary:
"You learned the law and its rules of conduct (The Hierophant) and made your choices (The Lovers). The Divine gift of free will, and the road taken now require you to muster up all your resources and demonstrate control."
Before resuming the rest of the journey , Johanna presents us with a chart comparing the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and their attributions according to Levi, Papus, and Wirth as compared to Waite. She then presents a graphic of the cards lined up in numerical order, the first line being I-IX, the second line being X-XVIII, and the third line being XIX-XXI and 0. The headings are: Beginnings, Partnerships, Endeavors, Foundations, Motivations, Adjustments, Lessons, Regeneration, and Consciousness.
After the Chariot, we have the following commentary:
"You have made your choice (The Lovers) and have the matter somewhat under your control (The Chariot). You can see your goal before you, but now you will be asked to balance your use of this power."
And so it continues throughout the Major Arcana, the commentary showing where we are on our journey of initiation, and how we got there. High concepts brought down to a level that is understandable by all.
The Lesser Mystery (the minor Arcana) is presented by grouping all of like numbers together - all four Aces, all four Two's etc. In this way we can much more easily see how the power of the number acts through the four elements. The cards are presented with black and white scans, a key concept, a brief description of the card, and the divinitory meaning in its positive and negative aspect.
The Court Cards are presented with black and white scans, a key concept, a brief description of the card, and the divinatory meaning in its positive and negative aspect. The Court Cards are seen as as "separate entities" and "units of personal identification". The four Kings (Authoritative Fire) and the four Queens (Authoritative Water) are seen as passive authorities. The four Knights (Active Air) are active enforcers for the Kings, while the four Pages (active earth) are seen as the integration of Fire, Water and Air, grounded in Earth. The Pages are "messengers of evolution and seeds of change".
At the end of the book, there are several new to me, impressive spreads. There is an aura card exercise, a six card Elemental Power Spread (that can be expanded to nine cards if clarification is needed), an eleven card Rose Cross Spread, and an eleven card Tree of Life Spread, to name a few. These are powerful spreads, and certainly reflective of how Johanna sees the Tarot (as an initiatory process).
I am grateful that Johanna went through the process of birthing this book. It takes the Sacred Rose Tarot to a completely new level of understanding. I found it interesting that I saw many concepts in this book, integrated from many different sources. The end product is an integrated whole. I would hope that everyone who wanted to work with this book would also want to work with the Sacred Rose deck, but the truth is this book enhances the readerís learning experience with all decks. I would certainly call this book a top level resource for anyone wishing to take the Tarot beyond divination into the worlds of personal study and spiritual growth.
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.