Review by Bonnie Cehovet
"The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor" is being promoted as a revolutionary method for learning to read the Tarot cards in two hours. I tend to raise my eyebrows at promotions like this, as I am sure do many other Tarot readers. To be honest - the method of reading taught here is not revolutionary, it is one that has been in use for many years now ... one of many diverse methods for reading the Tarot. One can reference the work of Tarot wisewoman Mary K. Greer (starting with her work "Tarot For Yourself"), as well as the work of Tarot Passages web-mistress Diane Wilkes, who practices (and teaches) the story telling technique.
I think that one of the major differences between Carroll's work and that of other Tarot teachers is that she starts with the picture symbolism technique, and has her students work with that before she presents any other kind of Tarot background. Her work then becomes a starting place for further Tarot study, and for that it has merit.
The prompt for Carroll to write "The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor" is certainly a valid one (although no author needs to be "validated" before they write!), and that is the frustration of individuals coming to her as students - frustration based on the overwhelming amount of information they were finding in their Tarot books, and their inability to do what they perceived as the "right" thing - to memorize the meanings of the cards.
Her advise to them - put the books away, and take the cards out. In her introduction, Carroll advises that the key to Tarot is looking at the pictures on the cards, not at the books. While I can agree that it is important for both the reader and the Seeker to connect with the cards through their pictorial symbolism, I also believe that before a reader can wander off in their own personal direction(s), they should ground themselves fully in whichever school of Tarot they find the greatest connection to. Without a good foundation, the house of cards that the reader builds is apt to fold in the slightest breeze.
The "2-Hour" in "The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor" refers to the procedure employed to get to know the cards - not the time that it takes to read the book! ;-) Students are asked to go through all 78 cards, and jot down what they see. They are asked to do this before they read the book, before they go into spreads, before they read the possible meanings for the cards. This procedure is what takes two hours. "Say what you see" becomes the modus operandi for working with the cards, and there certainly is truth in that. Just because something does not make sense to the reader, it does not mean that it won't hit home with the Seeker.
"Say what you see" sets the storyline for each reading. To the point that, in interpreting Tarot spreads, Carroll advises students to not place too much importance on the position definitions - to just read the story, card by card. The reason that we use spreads is because they set down a foundation for answering a specific question or delving into a specific issue. It is through layering the foundation of the spread over the basic meaning of the cards that the story begins to unfold, and the questions answered.
The actual presentation of this book is done in a commendable fashion - through personal anecdotes, and the use of sample readings (complete with interpretations). In this manner the student can actually follow along and "see" how Carroll came to her conclusions, and start to identify with the life situations being discussed. One quibble that I have is that Carroll feels that male Seekers tend to be more doubtful than female Seekers - that has not been my personal experience. My other quibble would be Carroll's consistent referral to "trade secrets" and "what other readers say/do". A good example of this would be the following:
"Reading Tarot cards is really very easy. All you have to do is "look at the cards and say what you see!" By simply looking at the cards, you are making intuitive connections with them. The cards speak in a language of symbols. If you look at the cards, the images actually do talk to you.
This is a truly revolutionary technique. I break all the rules. And here is a trade secret: So do "all" the really "good" readers. They are not following the standard rules either."
Carroll presents a section called "Are We Having Fun Yet?" that could really serve as an FAQ for beginning Tarot readers. She addresses issues such as the meaning of the Death card, reversed cards, cutting the deck, care of Tarot decks, what Tarot does, a light version of Tarot history, the four suits, wording questions, timing, casting spells with the Tarot ... and much more.
She also presents several different Tarot spreads, along with sample readings and interpretations. Included in the spreads are the Celtic Cross and an Advanced Celtic Cross spread; a very interesting Seven Triplets spread; a Horoscope spread and an Advanced Horoscope spread; a Five by Five (Month by Month) spread; a One Year spread; several versions of the Past/Present/Future spread; several versions for Yes/No Questions; the Horseshoe Spread; and Wilma Carroll's Party Spread.
At the end of the book there is a section where the cards are presented (using the Rider-Waite deck), using black and white scans followed by "Possible Meanings", "Possible Meanings in Combinations and/or Positions", and a space left for notes. From the book:
Possible Meanings: corporate or political leadership, decision maker, executive ability, power, willpower, skill, mastery, self-confidence
Possible Meanings in Combinations and/or Positions: Near the 5 of Wands, it may mean corporate politics; near the 7 of Wands it may mean political power struggles; in the 1st House of the Horoscope Spread, it may mean a strong, powerful, or controlling individual.
What has been addressed in this book is the core of Tarot - the ability to see the story in the cards and relate this story to the Seeker. I think this is a scary thing for many Tarot readers when they are first learning the craft. There really are no rules for "how" this is done! While I do not agree with everything presented in this book (and disagreeing only means that I hold another point of view, after all), I feel that this is a book worth reading. It acts as a reference for some highly usable Tarot spreads, as well as basic card meanings, and could be a great help to those new to Tarot, or those that are currently struggling to find the "story" in the cards.
One last word - I love charts, graphs and templates, and Carroll has gifted the reader with several well done worksheets for keeping track of specific spreads that have been done. I have to give credit where credit is due!
© October 2004
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.