Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The Tarot Handbook is a true joy to work with - starting with the cover, which has a beautiful light blue background featuring a graphic of the spread that this book is based on (using the Rider-Waite Tarot). The one and only issue that I have with The Tarot Handbook is that it refers to Tarot spreads as "games". That immediately got my hackles up! Be assured that the world of Tarot is treated seriously, and with respect. So ... the game is afoot!
The introduction to The Tarot Handbook gives a credible lineage of the timeline of Tarot, and the people involved. Enough information is given that, were the student/reader to want to delve into Tarot history, they have a starting point. That is all that we can really ask.
Banzhaf has developed a system of reading the cards based on a particular game (spread) that he terms "The Path". He developed it as a way of assuring that the Seeker consciously take the responsibility for building their own future, as opposed to using the tool of Tarot as a divining rod to see what "would be there". "The Path" is laid out to emphasize the actions that the Seeker can take along the way - showing them the options that they have at their disposal.
In the presentation of each card, parallels are presented that correspond to Astrology, Mythology and the I Ching. We can choose to get our feathers ruffled and say that such correspondences are in the mind of the author, and may or may not be valid, or we can choose to open our minds, follow the path, and see what it offers us. Each person will take away from this book wisdom corresponding to their willingness to be open to new ideas.
Banzhaf has done two separate presentation of "The Path" - one for novices, and one for more experienced Tarot readers. They are essentially the same. The deck is shuffled, and seven cards are drawn and placed in the following manner:
1 2 7 3 6 4 5
The positions are defined as follows:
1a. Novice: What the question is about, what your prospects are, what to expect. 1b. Experienced Reader: What the question is about - the opportunities and risks involved.
2a. Novice: Conscious Behavior 2b. Experienced Reader: Conscious attitude, rational behavior
3a. Novice: Sub-conscious Behavior (Feelings) 3b. Experienced Reader: Unconscious attitude, wishes, feelings, hopes and fears
4a. Novice: Outer Behavior 4b. Experienced Reader: Outer Stance - The conduct of the Seeker, his/her facade.
5a. Novice: Outer Behavior 5b. Experienced Reader: Outer Stance - How the Seeker should act.
6a. Novice: Sub-conscious Behavior (Feelings) 6b. Experienced Reader: Unconscious attitude - suggestions for the emotional stance.
7a. Novice: Conscious Behavior 7b. Experienced Reader: Conscious attitude - Suggestions for a rational course of action.
Positions 2, 3 and 4 reflect how the Seeker has acted in the past; positions 5, 6 and 7 reflect how the Seeker should act in the future. (Note: This is the author's wording. If we view positions 5, 6 and 7 as possible actions that the Seeker can take in the future, we bring in free will and a more choice centered consciousness.)
Each of the 78 cards in the Tarot are presented with a black and white scan from the Rider-Waite deck, the title and number of the card, the astrological equivalent, mythological image and I Ching parallel (note: the I Ching parallel is not presented for all cards). There is a short overall discussion of the card, then specific applications under the headings of In the professional field, On the level of consciousness and In the scope of our personal relationships. This is followed by an interpretation of the card for each of the seven positions in "The Path" spread.
The traditional elemental correspondences are presented: Wands = Fire, Cups = Water, Swords = Air, and Pentacles = Earth. Banzhaf departs from tradition in interpreting the court cards. While Banzhaf personally views the Kings and Queens in the Tarot as representing men and women, in his application to "The Path" spread he presents them as representing the feminine and masculine aspects of their respective suits. He sees Knights as representing moods through their respective mythological associations, and Pages as opportunities that cross our paths, coming to us from the outside. Aces are seen as representing opportunities inherent either within the Seeker, or within their plans.
At the end of the book several additional games (spreads) are presented. The Cross is a four card spread dealing with how the Seeker should behave, or what they should decide in a given situation. The Blind Spot is a four card spread that helps us see how our perception of ourselves differs from how others see us. The Partner Game is a six card relationship spread, done with both partner present and drawing their own cards. The Relationship Game is a seven card relationship spread showing how two people are relating to each other, and can be read for the Seeker without the other person being present. The Decision Game is a seven card spread that shows, in chronological order, what will happen if you make each of two separate decisions (based on the same issue). The traditional ten card Celtic Cross is presented as a general spread, along with a variation called The Secret Of The High Priestess, which is an amazing spread where the last card remains turned face down until the very end - as if it were another secret.
I found The Tarot Handbook to be well written, presenting interesting variations on the manner in which the Tarot is normally read. Even if the reader is not drawn to the theme of the book, the ideas presented here encourage thinking "outside of the box", which definitely encourages personal growth. I highly recommend this book as a Tarot resource, and a good book to study for the presentation of spreads.
© 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.