Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Like most of the Tarot world, I paced back and forth with great expectation, waiting for this book to arrive. It meets and exceeds all expectations, and certainly has its own niche in Llewellyn's Special Topics In Tarot series. Kudos to Llewellyn Publications for teaming two of the Tarot world's finest scholars - Mary K. Greer and Tom Tadfor Little (OK - he dropped the Tadfor for this book, but this is how we know him from Tarot e-groups, and this is how I will always think of him), in a project addressing one of Tarot's biggest sticking points - the Court cards.
One last general "atta girl/atta boy!" before we get into the book - and that is that a singular voice shines through the depth of the material presented - something that does not always hold true when more than one author is involved. We are gifted with the work of two of Tarot's greatest scholars/researchers, the extrovert balancing the introvert, with the end product being a resource worthy of inclusion in all Tarot libraries - whether the owner is a rank beginner or someone who has spent some time and effort gathering their resources.
Understanding The Tarot Court starts our with a foreword by one of my favorite Tarot authors/wise women, Rachel Pollack. Rachel addresses something that I feel is pertinent to the understanding of this book, and that has to do with the evolving nature of Tarot interpretation, especially the influence of the modern therapy movement (i.e. Jung and Perls). She also states something that is evident to those that work with this book, and that is the fact that the authors to a great extent see the court cards as facets of the Seeker's (questioner's) personality, a manner of thinking that I have held since I began the study of Tarot many years ago.
Two trademarks of Mary Greer's work shine through in this book - the first is that she makes excellent use of charts and exercises, so that the student has a chance to see how their studies can be applied in their own lives, and the second is closely tied in - that, while Tarot can certainly be used to read for others, it is a powerful tool for self-growth and personal empowerment.
The exercises start almost immediately - and I would advise the reader to take part, as later exercises are based on the first ones. The authors also suggest starting a Tarot journal for your work with this book and the court cards - and I second that motion! I have never really advocated that with any book, and didn't start this review intending to, but it did seem important to mention that. The first thing to be determined is your personal significator - that is, which of the Tarot court cards represents you. I am not big on significators - in fact, I never use them, but I did the exercise just for the experience, and because I had a hunch that I would need this information later. ;-)
There is an excellent discussion of court card suit and rank, which ends up in a beach party! Never a dull moment in the Tarot world! Doing the work in this chapter, which is aimed at understanding significator's, as well as understanding how the court cards express themselves, is worth the price of admission. Tarot students of all levels will find this book to be a constant learning experience - and they will have great fun along the way! (Think of a slightly toned down Lon Milo DuQuette here.)
One of the many gifts that this book gifts us with is new spreads to play with. The first offering is a spread entitled Growing Up, and it packs a big wallop in its five cards. Card number one is the Seeker's child self, card number five is the Seeker's present self. Card number two is t he person or event that triggered the Seeker leaving childhood and finding their adult self. Card number three represents a core issue of the Seeker's growing up process. Card number four represents an alternate possibility - a path the Seeker may have taken had they made different choices in dealing with the issue(s) represented in card number three. Heavy duty does not begin to explain the process that this spread has the potential to catalyze!
Next we visit the four modes of Tarot - the Court Cards, which answer the "Who" of a reading - the parts of yourself or people around you that are part of the issue; the Minor Arcana Pips (numbers 2-10) that describe the "What?" - the situation that the Seeker is in; The Major Arcana that answer the question "Why?", addressing the life lesson for the Seeker in the situation they are facing; and the Aces, which answer the "Where?" of the situation - the elemental world, realm or sphere where the action is taking place.
We continue into the courts and society, with spreads addressing career destiny and storytelling. And ... we get to rate the court cards!
The journey continues by taking the court cards within - seeing them of aspects of the Seeker. The authors have done an absolutely outstanding job of discussing this through the auspices of astrology, the Myers-Briggs format, the issue of sub-personalities and reversed court cards within a reading.
Now we take the court cards into the relationship venue, and talk about things like friends and family, influential people in our lives, shadow selves, and projection aspects of ourselves onto other people (mirroring). We also get to talk about teachers, guides and mentors, as well as work with a new to me relationship spread that takes into account emotions, how we view a relationship, and our plans for the relationship, as well as viewing the same for the other person in the relationship. (It is easy to see here that the relationship can be any form: familial, romantic, business, or friendship.) One of the exercises presented here is a particularly interesting one - taking out all of the court cards and matching them in pairs!
We are fairly well grounded, so now we take on the court cards and the cosmos. Here it gets really, really interesting. The authors discuss metaphysical associations with the Tarot, such as Qabala, the Tree of Life, elemental dignities, Tattwas (geometric symbols), astrological and numerological correspondences.
At the end of the book we find a chapter on determining your own Tarot Court, followed by a presentation on each of the court cards that includes: Typical Roles, Masks, Subpersonalities; Personality Styles And Values; Stresses, Problems, Weaknesses; Sample Occupations; Events, Situations, Activities; Advice; Traditional Meanings and Traditional Reversed Meanings.
I highly recommend Understanding The Tarot Court for all levels of Tarot student, as a working book as well as a tremendous resource for any Tarot library.
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.