Review by Sean McLaughlin, MS, CTR
In the New Age book publishing world, many authors vie to publish the quintessential beginner’s Tarot manuscript. It is into this highly competitive market that The Tarot Workbook emerged in 2004 as part of a New Age series by Thunder Bay Press that included other books on subjects such as I-Ching, Runes, Chakras, and Palmistry. A brief perusal of the Thunder Bay Press website seems to indicate these books have sadly gone out of print. Still, just because something goes out of print does not necessarily mean it is not worth consideration. This was the case with The Tarot Workbook, which has many aspects to commend it Tarot readers of all levels.
Even though much of the material in the book is taken up with card meanings, the strength of this series is its reflective journaling nature. Each card is discussed multiple times under the following sub-headings: description, spiritual interpretation, in a Tarot spread, reverse meaning, and self-development lesson. These five categories are only one to two pages long in total, but then a shaded, bordered off box contains two to five “workbook exercises” the reader is to answer in her or his own journal. In this way, the usual Little White Book (LWB) exercises are expanded to focus on personal transformation.
The Tarot Workbook also foreshadows many advanced concepts beginning Tarot readers will come upon later in their spiritual evolution. There are thorough, albeit succinct, sections on numerology, elements of the suits, Court Cards, Astrology, and the Tree of Life complete with listing all the Sefirot as well as the pathways the Major Arcana inhabit all within a single chapter. The book also contains four chapters on spreads and then concludes with a chapter dedicated to ethical practice. This last chapter seems to be unique to introductory Tarot books as ethical discussions are conspicuously absent from most mainstay texts.
Of particular use to me besides journaling each card was the author’s insights on the Celtic Cross spread. Normally it is just the positions of the cards that are focused on in readings; however Drury demonstrates a sequence approach to the spread as well. In order to make his points clearer, here is the order I use for the Celtic Cross based on how persons cross themselves in liturgical Christian churches as a mnemonic:
1. The Covering (but not a pre-arranged significator if one is used)/Issue
2. The Crossing/Challenge
3. The Crown (above #1) – highest goal
4. The Foundation (below #1) – whether distant past or unconscious
5. The Recent Past (left of #1)
6. The Near Future (right of #1) – usually 4-8 weeks in the future
7. The Self – usually as understood by the Self
8. The Other(s) – other people or how others see the seeker
9. The Hopes & Fears
10. The Outcome
Drury briefly states in a shaded box the seeker’s…
• past can be seen in cards #4, 5, & 7.
• present can be seen in cards #1, 2, & 8
• future can be seen in cards #3, 6, 9, & 10.
If cards are laid out before the reader of this review, three distinct groupings will appear that are not intermingled with the other groups. Drury then goes on to say the seeker’s…
• aspirations can be seen in cards #1, 4, & 6
• actions can be seen in cards #2, 3, & 5
• interactions can be seen in cards #7-9
In these last groupings, the first and second make two separate right triangles (one upright, the other inverted) with the cards while the third is confined to what is commonly referred to as “the staff.” In this way the more general reading Celtic Cross spread can provide more grist for the mill into a seeker’s situation. The difficulty the beginner will experience is when to apply these insights as that spread can be overwhelming, however for the more comfortable this can certainly take it to a new level.
At the time of this writing, there still is a number of independent Amazon.com US sellers listing the book for under $10 and is unlikely to become an overinflated item. Whether completely new to Tarot or a veteran in the midst of a plateau, The Tarot Workbook can provide a unique challenge to push you to a new level.
Sean 'Michael' McLaughlin is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader (CPTR) and sole reader of Tarot by Michael. He earned his Master of Science in Human Services and has studied religion, spirituality, and theology at the graduate level in addition to psychological studies. He combines brief, empowering therapeutic techniques with a Systems-Based approach to Tarot that incorporates aspects of Astrology, Intuition, Numerology, and the Qabalah.