1-2-3 Tarot: Answers in an Instant

1-2-3 Tarot bills itself as 'the easiest way to learn tarot'. It outlines a simple system using Tarot setences, so beginners can start reading the cards immediately.

By Donald Tyson · Book · Published by Llewellyn

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

To start out, I have a problem with this title. I googled it, and I had remembered correctly - this is the title of the video that Geraldine Amaral (co-author of Tarot Celebrations) has out (well, almost - the video is entitled Tarot 1 2 3). OK - a book will not be confused with a video, but that is beside the point - an entirely all to similar title is already in use! On to "Answers In An Instant". As we try to put Miss Cleo in our past, and build a foundation of respectability, we now want "instant" answers!?

The premise of this book is a valid one: to provide a quick and easy method for people to learn to use the Tarot. We can all agree that the Tarot is a tool of personal empowerment, and that it should be made accessible to anyone that wants to learn it. I think that we can also agree that Tarot readings have themes, that there is a storyline that runs through each reading, and that the best readings are wonderful, flowing stories. Tyson accomplishes this through what he terms "Tarot sentences", where the cards are laid out in triplets to form a sentence.

Simple Tarot sentences involve the meaning listed for each individual card. (For instance - the upright Tarot sentence for the Magician is: "Skill wills with design." The inverse, or reversed sentence for the Magician is: "Craft manipulates with deception." )

Complex Tarot sentences involve taking the appropriate meaning from each of the three cards and making a sentence of it. Each Tarot card is defined by one upright and one inverse sentence, with each sentence being made up of three parts: subject (the nature of the card); action (what is done by the card) and direction (the way in which the action is expressed). In the example above for the Magician, "skill" is the subject, "wills" is the action, and "with design" is the direction. In a complex sentence, if the Magician were the first card to be drawn, the word "skill" would begin the sentence. If the Magician were the second card drawn, then "wills" would be the second part of the sentence. If the Magician were the third card drawn, then "with design" would be the third part of the sentence.

Court cards get a lot of coverage. If they appear in the beginning of a sentence, they are generally seen as people involved in the issue in question. In the second or third position, they are generally seen as inner energies of the Seeker. Tyson also shows the different ways in which the court cards can be used as significators, although he does state that whether or not significators are used is not a given, and that it is up to each individual reader to decide how they are going to address this issue.

Reversed, or "inverse" cards get their own fair amount of coverage. Tyson treats them well, emphasizing that the inverse meaning is not to be assumed to be the opposite of the upright meaning, and talking about certain cards that perhaps have a difficult meaning when they are upright, and a less challenging meaning when they are reversed.

Where I got lost (or mired down, as the case may be) was the discussion of who should shuffle the cards (Tyson has tradition on the side of the reader, but most readers that I know have the Seeker do the shuffling), and how they should be dealt. There is so much verbiage on making sure that the cards are twisted during shuffling (so that a given amount of them will be reversed), and then on how they should be dealt (side to side or top to bottom, so that the alignment that left the Seekers hands after the shuffling remains the same), that I was amazed. But then, I don't read reversed cards (I feel that the meaning of the cards will come through from their relation to their position within the spread and to the cards surrounding them).

There are several different spreads presented in this book - ones that were designed for use with the Tarot sentence system. There is a three card Yes/No spread; a six card Triangle layout; a Nine Card Past/Present/Future layout; a five card Cross layout; and a twelve card Elemental spread. They are well described, with nicely done examples that reflect real life situations.

There is a well done presentation of each of the 78 cards of the Tarot. Each card is represented by a black and white image from Roberto De Angelis Universal Tarot, with text in the following manner.

From the book:

The Magician

(upright sentence): Skill wills with design. (inverse sentence): Craft manipulates with deception.


A serious young man stands behind a table that bears a pentacle, a cup, a sword and a wand. In his right hand, he raises high a rod, and with his left index finger he points down toward the ground, from which grows a profusion of flowers. Above his head floats a lemniscate, and about his waist a serpentine belt.

General Meaning

There is a great attainment when ability is focused through the will to accomplish higher purposes, providing the temptation to use deception in order to manipulate others is resisted.

Upright: Self-confidence, eloquence, ability, skillfulness, willpower, persuasion, influence, attainment

Inverted: Craftiness, arrogance, misdirection, deception, manipulation, intimidation, illusion, artifice, guile

Tarot Sentences

1 2 3

Upright: Skill wills with design.
Inverted: Craft manipulates with deception.

Upright: Skill in the secret ways of nature and hidden motives of humanity.
Inverted: Craft in using to personal advantage the flaws of human nature.

Upright: wills the realization of a higher purpose that elevates the soul
Inverted: manipulates for self-interest without regard to feelings or consequences

Upright: with design and foresight harmoniously fulfilling the great work.
Inverted: with deception giving false promises and empty hopes.

At the end of the book three appendixes are included: one lists the upright and inverted sentences for each card; the second one presents a glossary of terms; the third is a recommended reading list. For someone who truly wishes to work with this book, they will be of great benefit.

I feel that not enough of the groundwork has been covered here - there is little information on what the trumps represent, what the pips represent, how numerology and the elements fit in, or how to interpret even basic symbolism. The student would be left to constantly refer to the given Tarot sentences, with little idea of how they came about. Only if they studied the in-depth page for each card would they begin to truly understand the Tarot.

However, I must say that Tyson does have a firm understanding of the Tarot, and the information that he has included is well presented. I also feel that we need to be open to new ways of looking at things, new ways of teaching, and new ways of making the Tarot a more accessible tool. As with all things, each individual will need to decide for themselves whether this method of reading has a place in their lives. I would suggest that, if possible, you view this book in person before you decide to purchase it.

© Bonnie Cehovet

Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer.

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