Tarot for Self Discovery
Tarot for Self Discovery is a workbook of more than fifty novel tarot card exercises, designed to delve into your psyche and increase your self-knowledge. Excellent.
By Nina Lee Braden
Book - Published by Llewellyn
Review by Kate Hill
The Tarot for Self Discovery is a workbook and guide to using tarot cards as a tool of self-awareness and insight, inspired by Mary K Greer's Tarot For Your Self. As the first in Llewellyn's 'Special Topics in Tarot' series of books designed to work for beginners but aimed at those with a level of tarot knowledge (an area that has been previously neglected), there are no card photographs or rote lists of keywords for divinatory readings here!
Nina Lee Braden has created more than fifty tarot exercises of varying length and difficulty to discover ourselves, our psychology, our strengths and weaknesses, and how to become a more fulfilled person by practically using these insights. All you need is a set of tarot cards - throw away the book of meanings that comes with it - and you're ready to start. The book does not require sequential working, and it is possible to start anywhere or pick exercises at random. (Beginners should start at the beginning, however, as the exercises increase in complexity, time, and required tarot familiarity as you progress through the chapters.) And in case you need extra inspiration before doing an exercise, real-life examples of others applications and perspectives are given at the back of the book.
Tarot for Self Discovery's exercises are many, and are split into three categories, Easy, Intermediate, and For Special Occasions. The uses vary from fun (Happy Feet: finding people in cards with the most joyous looking legs!) to frivolous (Driving My Car, to become closer to your driver ideal), to imaginative (My Tarot Neighbourhood, constructing a neighbourhood in miniature, out of the images on tarot cards), to serious (Lost in the Wasteland, for help to regain hope in a spiritual drought; or the Unnamed Exercise for dealing with loss and grief). The author cautions to the reader to time the use of the exercises appropriately, to do a positive working if self-esteem is needed, or a psyche-delving one if feeling evenly-balanced, confident, or in need of a mental shake-up.
Fully completing each exercise is also recommended, and the taking of a 'concrete step' to reinforce the lesson is heavily stressed. This step is the real-world activity that should follow the completion of one of the exercises, and is the most important part of working with Tarot for Self Discovery. The concrete step reinforces the lesson and wisdom learned from working the exercises, in order to bring about positive change and understanding in the physical (not just the intellectual) world.
Tarot for Self Discovery not a reference book. It is intended to be used, along with your set of tarot cards, to be a useful tool for increasing your self-awareness. And if you act on the insights gained, it is also a guide to a more positive and fulfilling life.
Kate Hill is the owner, founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
"Tarot For Self Discovery" is part of the "Special Topics In Tarot" series published by Llewellyn Publications. My hat is off to Llewellyn for sponsoring the series, and to Tarot luminary Mary K. Greer for taking on the task of writing the foreword for each of these books.
The greatest gift that we can give is the sharing of our time, our attention and our wisdom. I have known Nina Lee Braden as an internet friend for several years now. She has always been a gracious and giving person, ready to lend a hand, an ear or a shoulder - giving encouragement and sharing wisdom wherever and whenever she could. She has certainly been an important part of my personal Tarot journey, even though we have never met in person.
"Tarot For Self Discovery" is very reflective of who Nina Lee is, and of where she is coming from. In her introduction, she speaks of the duality of life, and of walking the middle path, of balancing the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. To walk the middle path, we must be very aware of who we are and where we are at all time, so that we can, through the process of self-discovery, grow as individuals. This is a book that is to be experienced, not simply read. We need to experience what we need to at any given time - and recognize that we can come back again and again, as we tackle new levels of knowledge and understanding.
"Tarot For Self Discovery" is literally that - a system of self-discovery with the Tarot as its basis. Nina Lee has provided over fifty separate exercises that use the Tarot as a tool of self-discovery. This is not a book about the Tarot, its meanings and how to do a reading. It is all about how an individual can use the Tarot to come to terms with their own issues.
She does this largely through the use of questions - questions written in a manner that will force the Seeker to take a good look at themselves and their actions. She credits Mary K. Greer as having a great deal of influence in this process, as the manner of questioning is something that Ms Greer worked with to great advantage in her book "Tarot For Yourself". IMHO, both of these ladies have brought great gifts to the Tarot world.
From the book:
"Self discovery is difficult. It often takes great work, great effort. It takes time. It takes energy. It often takes brutal honesty, whether this is in acknowledging our talents or in admitting our faults, in giving validity to our hopes and dreams, and in giving voice to our unspoken fears."*
Nina Lee has devised a series of exercises, some of which are intended to be done solo, some intended to be done in a group setting. They are divided into three classifications: Easy, Intermediate, and Special Occasions and Situations. She recommends that the Seeker journal their results, and provides a very nice template that can be used as is or adapted for personal use. She recommends that the exercises be done as they are given - rather than being scanned and then done. In many instances, she has asked the Seeker to form a concrete step to take to catalyze change in their life, based on the information that they have gained from the exercise. I like this - It takes knowledge on the first step to being incorporated into the human system and becoming wisdom.
Each of her lessons have been named - to personalize them, both for her and for the reader. One of the ways that she personalizes her exercises is to share stories from her own life with the reader. In the "Easy Exercises", we see things like "Who Am I?", "Tell Me A Story" and "Picture This". Anyone can do any of this exercises, with little or no Tarot background. Here is one example from the book:
"Those of you who are baby boomers will remember Steve Martin's early stand-up routine. He would play his banjo, put an arrow through his ears (well, not really) and do his "happy feet" dance. Basically, according to Martin's routine, when you have "happy feet," anything can happen. Those happy feet just keep going, and they can take you into unusual places, just dancing away with you. The concept is sort of like a positive spin on the story of the red shoes.
One thing that I have discovered is that if one part of you is very very happy, the happiness is contagious. SO, if our feet are happy, pretty soon the rest of us is happy too. If our tongues are happy eating something fun and fizzy that tickles out tongues, the rest of us gets happy. We are going to use the concept of contagious happiness in this exercise.
Choose a Tarot deck. Record it in your Tarot journal. Go through your deck, faceup, and look for happy feet. Choose the card which, to you, has the happiest feet. Describe the card and tell why you think it has happy feet. Have your feet ever felt that happy? Tell how so or why not.
Now, think of a sad, glum day. Go through your deck and choose a card that most closely resembles how you felt on that sad, glum day. What is the card? How does it fit your sad, glum day?
Now, in your mind's eye, take the happy feet of your first card, and apply them to the legs of the character in your second card. What happens in the second card when the happy feet take over? Describe a scene or action that might take place if the person in the sad, glum card had happy feet.
What might happen in your own life if you let happy feet take over? What can you do today with happy feet? Devise a concrete step for something to do today with happy feet. Remember to be specific."**
The intermediate exercises are longer, and more complex. According to Nina Lee, they hold more potential for personal growth and transformation, and are less "lighthearted" than the "Easy Exercise" section. We see things like: "Jump Start", Sliding", "Watching Over Me", and "Tarot Pentacles Mandala".
In the "Exercises For Special Occasions and Situations" section, we see things like: "My Mother, My Self", "Dream Lover", "Healing Hands" and "Maybe Later: An Exercise About Procrastination".
In the back of the book we have examples of the exercises from volunteers who have worked them and agreed to share their results. What a wonderful way to see what the "flow" of a given exercise "can" be! (Nina Lee states there is no "wrong way" to do an exercise - the results are individual to the Seeker, and they do not provide instant cures, or take the place of therapy or counseling.)
The final chapter is the key to the whole book, IMHO. This is where Nina Lee encourages the reader to write their own exercises. We all know what our issues are, in the main. What a wonderful tool she has given us in opening the door to writing exercises specifically formulated by us for us!
Nina Lee also includes the following appendix's for reference in working some of the exercises in this book: Introduction To Chakras, Crash Course In Astrology and The Golden Dawn.
I hope that you all enjoy this book as much as I have (and yes - there were exercises that I choose to do that were most appropriate to my life situation!). I highly recommend "Tarot For Self Discovery" to everyone, regardless of age or Tarot background.
*Braden, Nina Lee. "Tarot For Self Discovery". Llewellyn Publications 2002. ISBN #0-7387-0170-X. page 3.
**Braden, Nina Lee. "Tarot For Self Discovery". Llewellyn Publications 2002. ISBN #0-7387-0170-X. page 20-21.
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.