Review by Solandia
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 (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
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.
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
"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
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.
"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
"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
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
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.
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".
"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
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
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
*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.