Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Barbara Moore is Tarot acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide - in an excellent position to take the pulse of the Tarot world and know what gaps need to be filled. What Tarot Can Do For You certainly fills a niche - an introductory book that has no need to be anything but that. It serves as an overview to those that may be interested in studying Tarot - but aren't quite sure what Tarot is, or where it will fit into their lives.
In her introduction, Barbara sets down the borders for her book - that it teaches the Seeker how to ask probing questions of the Tarot, that the basic meanings for the cards are covered, and that these meanings act as a starting point for the Seeker's journey through the Tarot. This journey will include creative problem solving, Tarot as a venue for meditation, Tarot as a focus for spellworking, as well as journaling and the Tarot. What do these things all have in common? They are all tools for self-improvement and self-empowerment.
There is a very basic introduction to the cards, including a short Tarot history. Divination is discussed as a tool of empowerment, rather than as a written in stone "this is the future" scenario. We all have free will, and while certain things will cross our paths, how we choose to address them will determine how they will affect our lives.
Barbara makes a very astute point when she addresses the issue of formulating a question. The answer that we get is going to be determined by the manner in which our questions are asked. Personal power comes from the careful crafting of questions - and from studying the answers closely. Throughout the book examples are used to bring the points home. In regard to the forming of questions, the examples sometimes work well, but there are sections where the questions seem a bit ill-defined.
There is a short section on Tarot spreads, to give someone new to Tarot an idea of how it works. The spreads presented are the Celtic Cross, and Three Card Spread variations (past/present/future, body/mind/spirit, dilema/choice A/choice B). As someone who loves to create spreads herself, I appreciated the fact that Barbara presented the Three Card variations as linear (vertical), horizontal and triangular - to show how geometrical forms can be put together, and to show readers how the same thing presented in different ways elicits different reactions.
Barbara also goes into creating your own spreads - and gives specific examples, along with sample readings. This also includes one card spreads - which definitely have a purpose and a place in the Tarot world. Significators are covered (with the acknowledgment that they are not "mandatory"), as well as reversed cards and the basic meanings - for the suits and the numbers, with an appendix at the back of the book covering the archetypal/traditional meanings. There is an emphasis placed here that I find relevant - and that is encouraging the Seeker to develop their own meanings.
There are some very nice additions to this book that a beginning book may or may not cover, and that is using the cards for meditation (with a very nice starter section on guided meditation and personal (i.e. self directed) meditation), for problem solving (which encourages students to move away from the "Tarot as the purveyor of my future" mode), and for journaling. Barbara even manages to sneak in a section on magic and Tarot - spellworking with purpose and intent.
Under "Self Improvement", Barbara brings in numerology and presents basic tools such as your Life card and your Year card. Something that I would have loved to have seen included here would have been an alternative method for determining the Life (or Birth) card - specifically the method used by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone of the Tarot School. With their method, two birth cards are determined, which act as the theme for each lifetime as well as the gateway into that lifetime.
Under "Selecting A Deck", Barbara presents the "bare bones" of several different decks, along with their purchase information. This is a very valuable section, as is the recommended reading section at the end of the book.
The writing and presentation of What Tarot Can Do For You is quite good. There is a wealth of information here, and I hope that we see more from Barbara. My quibbles were few: fine tuning the section of the formatting of questions, the fact that someone saw fit to tilt every scan in this book (I am getting old here - I had to question whether I was seeing things or not!), and the fact that reference to books and decks abound in this book - but they are strictly Llewellyn represented books and decks.
On the positive side - the writing is very good, the information well presented, books and decks are referenced in the appropriate places, and there are plenty of scans. And Barbara did a nice job of presenting examples and sample readings - following one fictitious couple throughout the book to give the reader a sample of how the Tarot fits into various real life situations. This book is worth adding to any Tarot library.
© August 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.
Buy your What Tarot Can Do for You: Your Future in the Cards now from