Tall Dark Stranger: Tarot for Love and Romance
Tall Dark Stranger: Tarot for Love and Romance is aimed at the beginner and covers the use of Tarot specifically for the perennially popular topic of romance and relationship readings.
By Corrine Kenner
Book - Published by Llewellyn
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Romance and personal relationship readings, like it or not, are amongst the most requested type of reading in the world of Tarot. Many Tarot readers, myself certainly amongst them, would be very happy if we did not ever have to do another one again! There is a very good reason for this - in the main, the Seeker requesting this type of reading does not want to do any work on themselves, does not want to hear anything that disagrees with their worldview, and is looking for something of a basically "fortune-telling" nature.
The reality is that these type of readings are always going to be there, and as readers we need to find ways to help our clients get a better perspective on their situation, and on their options. I think Kenner addresses this intent fairly well. The promo from the back cover proclaims that this book will provide expert advice on how to:
* Choose a deck and prepare for a reading
* Get the most accurate results by asking the right questions
* Find good advice in "bad" cards
* Interpret each card in the Tarot deck in the light of love and relationship questions
* Determine the timing of events described in your readings
Before I get into the meat of the book, I do have one gripe: a "Tall Dark Stranger" is NOT a stranger with light brown hair, which describes the gentleman gracing the cover of this book. I would expect to see very dark brown or black hair. Light brown hair does not cut it!
The history section of this book is definitely geared towards "romantic history", i.e. a romanticized version of Tarot history. The facts are all there - Kenner does her research well - but they are presented with a very light hand. There is enough information given here that if the reader wanted to follow the trail, the rabbit hole is visible.
There is a very basic presentation of the elements of a Tarot deck - the Major Arcana, The Minor Arcana, the Court Cards, and the four suits. Enough to get a student started, certainly. (Although no mention is made of deck that reverse the elemental representation for Wands and Swords, as some Wiccan/Pagan oriented decks do.)
Symbolism is what the Tarot is all about, and Kenner covers the areas of colors, numbers, the elements, and the Tree of Life. When discussing the elemental dignities, Kenner addresses them from the system used by ancient Greeks, which is basically whether they have the ability to be mixed together or not. For a beginning student, this may be a bit hazy. I would like to have seen at least a minor discussion of how the elements can strengthen or weaken each other - because this is how they are viewed in a reading.
I did find the section on astrology and the Tarot very enlightening. The planets and astrological signs are presented and discussed in several different ways (with a nice presentation of the dual nature of the Court Cards), and would be quite easy to apply in a reading.
Tarot works on many different levels, and in many different ways. Several theories were addressed very lightly in short discussions on Tarot imitating life, academic Tarot, working with the Tarot as a tool for accessing psychic abilities, working with the nature of synchronicity, and the application of new discoveries in the world of quantum physics.
The section on choosing, personalizing, and caring for a deck presented enough ideas that someone purchasing a deck for the first time would have a head start on the process. I was very surprised to see that checking scans of the decks out on the Internet was not mentioned, as often brick and mortar stores do not have open decks. (Some of the larger stores, such as Barnes and Noble, keep the decks behind the sales counter, and you have to ask to see them. Not conducive to a good deck buying experience.)
How to prepare the reading area had a few liberties taken - I doubt that I would ever have thought of doing a reading using a wedding dress or veil as a spread cloth! Nice attention was paid to cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding before starting a reading.
The Tarot ethics section was fairly realistic, with enough information to get a new Tarot reader off on the right track. In her section of refining the question, Kenner presents several typical romance/relationship type questions, along with several variations on the question that will elicit more specific/in depth information.
Several ways to select a significator were discussed, but I was left with the impression that the significator depended on the type of spread being read. In reality, many readers, including myself, choose not to read any spread with a significator, and I would like to have seen that view presented.
Several different spreads were presented, including a three card Past/Present/Future Spread, an eight card Court Consultation Spread, an eleven card (including significator) Celtic Cross Spread, and a twelve card Zodiac Spread.
In the presentation of the cards, the text for each card is accompanied by a small black and white scan from the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo. There is a description of the card, followed by a discussion of the card, and how it would be applied in a reading. I liked what I saw here!
At the end of the book there is an Appendix with three sample readings (nicely done!), and a "to die for" section on Tarot terms and symbols, followed by a listing of recommended resources.
Throughout the book, Kenner refers to "Tarot Traditions", and the "Traditional" ways that Tarot readers work with the cards. This put me off no end, as much of it I did not agree with. Having said that, I still have to give a thumbs up to that Tall Dark Stranger! I feel that the book accomplished what it set out to do, that it was well researched and well written, that someone new to Tarot would be able to do a valid relationship reading following the template provided here, and that seasoned Tarot readers might learn a thing or two themselves.
© Bonnie Cehovet
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.