Tarot -The Open Reading

'Tarot - The Open Reading' is an introduction and guide to reading with the Tarot de Marseilles, from Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov, the creator of the CBD Tarot de Marseille. Up to now there has been a very limited amount of information in English on reading the Marseilles, and this is a very valuable addition to the tarot bookshelf.

By Yoav Ben-Dov

Book, eBook - 262 pages - Published by CreateSpace

Review by Wendy Munro

I recommend this book whole-heartedly. I think it would be ideal for the newcomer to the Tarot de Marseille (being slightly more accessible than some). I also think it an interesting book for those more used to Tarot de Marseille because it offers fresh ideas, reminders and possibilities – we are all students of tarot and this book was fun to read and I enjoyed it very much and will undoubtedly re-read it several times through the years. It is interesting, well written and offers ideas and suggestions for interpreting the cards and reading spreads.

The book is designed as an introduction and guide to reading with the decks that frighten a lot of new readers - the Tarot de Marseilles. These decks have been regarded as mysterious and difficult to read with because the images don’t appear to have much going on in them. No action scenes! How do you interpret the pip cards? The Queens and Kings are just sat there, not seeming to be doing much. And so the perplexed new reader turns away from Tarot de Marseille and back to the perceived comfort of RWS decks. However, Tarot de Marseille cards are every bit as rich in imagery and story as the most detailed of scenic decks as this excellent book clearly shows us.

Let me say at the outset that I was given a review copy by the author with the strict proviso that I should write whatever I wanted, flattering to the book or not. In fact, the only negative thing I can think of is that although the soft cover has cards illustrated in full colour the plates in the text are not coloured. I understand fully that the costs of coloured plates is prohibitive and would increase the retail price of the book and thus make it inaccessible to some would be purchasers. I don’t really think colour plates were all that necessary; there is a small section in Chapter 4 which discusses possible meanings associated with the colours used in the deck but the actual detailed card descriptions make little reference to the colours used (which I felt rather wasted an opportunity although I speak as one who does utilize card colours in readings).

The book starts off with a brief discussion of this history of tarot, differing types of deck and the changes introduced with each new era. This section is finished with the history behind the author’s own deck (the CBD Tarot de Marseille) which is used to illustrate the book.

Chapters 2 and 3 discuss in detail how a sitting might be conducted and although not everyone will go along with the ideas for possible little rituals offered, the work goes on to detail how to interpret a small spread, what to look for and how to make some sort of sense of what you are seeing. I very much appreciated the phrase “thus the criterion for a successful and productive reading is not whether the querent goes out from it with an immediate feeling of satisfaction. Rather it is whether in retrospect he considers it as having been a positive and helpful experience”. That is a big hurdle for the new reader to get over and this sort of comment is extremely helpful.

Yoav Ben-Dov is an advocate of intuitive reading where card meanings are fairly fluid rather than fixed but he does point out that it is helpful to have an understanding of tarot and of traditional meanings for each card as a framework to build on during a reading. He offers some excellent ideas on how to read a small spread, and how to flesh out the bones of what the reader might be seeing.

Chapter 4 looks at the underlying symbology of the cards and is very valuable; for me it is possibly one of the most helpful sections in the book and I very much enjoyed it.

In chapters 5 and 6 the author looks in detail at each individual card starting with a discussion of the differences between the majors and the rest of the pack. The majors are discussed as a suit and looked at both as a group and individually in great detail. A nice version of the traditional Fool’s Journey is given and each card is illustrated throughout this and the following chapters.

Chapter 7 goes on to look at the minor suits pointing out differences and correspondences and leads into chapter 8 which takes a close look at the Aces where card is looked at carefully. I love the fact that this section goes into real detail about what can be seen in each card and how it might be interpreted. From there we progress to the Court cards which are again looked at as a group and individually and ideas given on how to read them within a spread.

I always find the pips fascinating; they have so much to say if given the chance. The author does not disappoint here, giving ideas on how to interpret the pips through image ie positioning of the items (such as cups, coins etc) and the angles, directions they face etc. The symbology discussed in chapter 4 comes into play here too. Yoav discusses the colours in the pip cards and this was where I felt the lack of colour plates but I read the book with my deck by my side and whilst I don’t feel it was essential to do this it was certainly helpful. A short (but comprehensive) description of each pip card and some suggested interpretations are given. Ideas for reversed meanings are included.

The book ends with Chapter 11 which gives a few spread ideas and has a section of “quick interpretations” intended as a handy reference – a starting off point if wanted or needed for the new reader.

There is a woeful lack of English language books written for those interested in the Tarot de Marseille and I think this is a hugely valuable addition to the bookshelf!

Review by Swiatoslaw Nowicki

A sensational tarot deck CBD Tarot de Marseille along with an excellent book TAROT, The Open Reading by Yoav Ben-Dov have appeared on the market. The author spent many years and went to great lengths to restore the original deck of Tarot Marseilles of Nicholas Conver of 1760 and now in his book he tries to spare his readers any unnecessary trouble. The book is intended for everyone; both for the beginners, even those who don’t know anything about Tarot and for seasoned practitioners and scholarly tarot experts. The author provides everything one needs to know to be sufficiently oriented in the field, the tarot as such, plus everything else which is not necessarily needed. On each issue he presents the reader with various points of view while his personal position is very balanced in principle. His thinking is very clear, his writing simple and easy to understand. When needed he repeats some important points previously explained. For lazy readers at the end of the book he provides the meaning of all cards in abbreviated version.

Tarot experts will be most interested in what the book says about CBD TAROT DE MARSEILLE. The author teaches how to look at the cards, and how to analyze and understand them; what is the meaning of numbers, directions, colors, and body parts, among other. That doesn’t mean that the author attempts to assign a specific final and only true meaning to each card. He rather recommends an open attitude when interpreting a cards spread; one based on holistic and intuitive insight where specific interpretation of each card is determined within a broader context.

Very interesting is his general philosophical look at the Marseilles Tarot deck where both the order and chaos are found. For instance, order is represented by the card sequence within each of the elements while chaos is represented by the order of Major Cards where logic in many places appears very puzzling at best and it is not recommended to impose it by force. Such approach is based on assumption that nothing alive can be subjected to a rigid and perfectly regular structure. Just like in an animal body we find symmetrical external side while the internal organs are to great degree placed asymmetrically so for a deck of tarot to be alive it cannot be confound to a rigid schematic structure.

Arguably the most interesting in this book is its take on the pips of the Marseilles Tarot. Unlike in the popular Rider Wait deck the pips don’t have a realistic pictorial interpretation but they are rather abstract compositions. When we look at them closer we find they are not simple combinations of numbers and elements because their composition may suggest various numerological combinations. For instance, 7 can be viewed as 6 + 1, or as 4 + 3; 10 can be viewed as 5 + 5, or 9 + 1, and so on. Additionally, plant motifs (branches, leaves, flowers) are not merely decorative elements but contribute to the overall meaning of the card either by exposing some of their elements, or breaking them into groups.

Also important are numerous and sometimes difficult to spot irregularities. Extreme care taken by Yoav Ben-Dov to restore the original deck of XVIII century who resisted temptation to correct alleged errors of their craftsmanship is an expression of his philosophy in interpreting the deck – order and chaos – which dictates that all irregularities are meaningful. For instance, if we count the external petals on the coins – well, this is my own idea – it turns out that except for 4 of the Coins none of the cards has coins with equal number of petals although they appear to be the same.

One example. The composition of 7 coins is made of three upper coins forming an inverted triangle and of a bottom square formed by the four coins. All of those coins have 11 petals except for one in the lower square which has 12 petals. This relates very well to the interpretation of the configuration where the bottom stable four lends support to the dynamic upper trio. Why does it do it forsaking egoistical focus on itself? Apparently it is endowed with a surplus which it wants to utilize. Not to mention the fact that because of that the total number of petals on the card adds up to 7 x 11 + 1 = 78 which is the same as the total number of cards in a tarot deck where the additional card is the Fool, without a number.

Similarly all coins of the Ten of Coins have 12 petals except of one which has 13 petals. The result is that the total number of petals is 12 x 10 + 1 which can be interpreted as the beginning of eleventh cycle in the context of the cycles of 12, or as the beginning of the thirteen cycle in the context of the cycles of 10. Either way it demonstrates the nature of the 10 card which not only ends the sequence of the pips but also starts a new one transformed into the Ace (1) according to the numerological formula 10 = 1 + 0 = 1. Additionally the total number of petals turns up to be 121 = 11 x 11. The peculiar thing about this card is the fact that the centers of three coins are not colored which author interprets as unequal or unfair distribution of goods expressed by this card.

It is instructive to compare the two cards carrying two coins, the 2 of Coins and the Page of Coins. On both cards one of the coin has 10 petals while the other has 11 petals. The coin held by the Page in his hand has 10 petals while the coin lying on the ground has 11 of them. Compare it with the fact that the King of Coins holds an 11 petal coin in his hand and we can conclude that the Page is not yet like the King, it is still subjected to the Wheel of Fortune (X), while the King has already reached the Force (XI). Similarly the upper coin on the 2 of Coins has 10 petals and the lower has 11 petals. As it happens on this pip are the names of the decks’ authors. CONVER 1760 at the bottom and BEN DOV 2010 at the top. Why such modesty, Yoav! You are the King and you have Power! Do you intend to subject yourself and your excellent deck to the Wheel of Fortune?

With this method, by carefully examining the details we can discover and fill with details the meaning of the pips. Excellent method and exciting activity for the creative and curious! But it requires, of course, the reliable deck of Tarot de Marseille and such is, without a doubt, the CBD Tarot the Marseille. By comparing this deck to the other Tarots de Marseille on the market one can immediately notice how much they differ in details, colors, and other aspects.

The conclusion is simple. Every tarot reader, every tarot expert, and every tarot lover, whether a beginner or advanced, needs to acquire this deck and, of course, the companion book. It would be strange if one knowing what a priceless treasure it is refused to reach for it, the masterpiece in which Yoav Ben-Dov invested so much work and care, and which now can be owned by anybody without effort.

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