Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice

Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice offers a esoteric and Christian approach to the use of Tarot, through exercises, meditation and ritual. From Eileen Connolly, creator of the Connolly Tarot.

By Eileen Connolly · Book · Published by Newcastle Publishing Company Inc.

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

Looking at the publishing dates for this book, I am sure there are some people out there that are wondering about "Why" I am reviewing them. The world has moved on - let's hear about the newer books, the ones that reflect current thought. The Tarot is based on universal archetypes, which by definition indicates a certain amount of aging. The esoteric layers of the Tarot also have a fine patina of age about them. Yes, the Tarot has evolved, as needed, to reflect current thought and be accessible through current imagery.

Some might say that the "way" Tarot is taught now is perhaps on a higher level than in the 1970s, or even the 1990s. We have the Internet, we have access to e-groups, chat groups and loads of support that would not have been around in the 70s, or even in the early 90s. Eileen Connolly has done something with the teaching of Tarot that I have not seen before, and I think that it deserves to be brought back into the Tarot public's attention.

Dr. Connolly works in the field of parapsychology, and she has applied a great many esoteric principles from this field into her work with Tarot. In her preface, she states: "The object of this handbook is to offer not only a spiritual apprenticeship to students of the Sacred Tarot but to offer a concise reference for anyone interested in investigating and interpreting the fascinating symbology of the Tarot in relation to the Cabala, Astrology, and the esoteric science of Numerology."

I have elected to review both the classic and the revised editions in one review, as the major changes will be ones that show the personal growth of the author. One of these growth changes is that in the classic version scans from the Rider-Waite Tarot are used, while in the revised version scans are used from the Connolly Tarot (Eileen Connolly, art by Peter Paul Connolly). The book is divided into three sections. From the book:

Section 1: Basic lessons, exercises, procedures, meditations and fundamental esoteric philosophy relating to the Major and Minor Arcana.

Section 2: Major and Minor Mentors, which are guides to the positive and negative interpretation of the symbols on each card. Further Mentor guidelines include a Comparison Chart and an in-depth explanation of meanings when certain symbols fall near each other in a spread.

Section 3: Procedures necessary prior to spreading the cards for divination.

Dr. Connolly takes a very esoteric approach to the Tarot, seeing it as a doorway to a vast universe of occult wisdom. This does not only hold true in relation to the symbols on the cards, it holds true for the manner in which the cards are worked with. Dr. Connolly begins by advising the prospective Tarot student to set aside their inner conflicts and their impatience. Because each Tarot master has their own twist to interpreting the cards, coming to the study of Tarot with an open mind will be highly beneficial to the Tarot student.

When it comes to picking a deck and getting to know the cards, Dr. Connolly advises that the student should not allow anyone else to touch their cards. The reasoning is that the cards pick up vibrations (which they do, no argument about that here), and that this will interfere with the connection between the deck and the owner of the deck. I disagree - there are cases where I have had to cleanse a deck due to negativity (my own or my clients), but once this has been done there has never been a problem with reconnecting with the deck. This is something that each Tarot reader has to decide for themselves.

There is a format set out for dealing with new decks: that they should be taken out of their box as soon as possible, the box discarded and the deck wrapped in a silk cloth. This cloth covered deck is then stored in a wooden box. The cards should only be spread out on a wooden table that is dedicated to doing Tarot readings, with the table itself being covered with a silk cloth before the cards are laid down. My suggestion would be that a student using this book should "follow the rules" to begin with, then fine tune the program to fit their own needs/beliefs.

Doing daily spreads, and keeping a journal of them is also advised. I think this exercise is certainly one of the best ways to get to know the cards, and Dr. Connolly has included a very usable template to follow for organizing ones thoughts in said journal.

The following keys are listed for the four suits:

Wands = Enterprise & Distinction
Cups = Love & Happiness
Swords = Struggle & Animosity
Pentacles = Money Interests

The exercise that is listed for working with the suit keys is one that carries a very esoteric nature, yet can be worked with by anyone. The student is advised to go into a relaxed state, then slowly bring a random card from one of the four suits up to the third eye, all the while repeating the suit key. The card is held at the third eye for a moment, then lowered to the solar plexus, while continuing to chant the suit keys. I like this exercise, and feel that it would be of benefit for all students, even those that feel that they "know" the Tarot. There are always new things to learn, and old things to relearn. This would work especially well with a suit that the student was having trouble understanding - say the suit of Swords.

The Aces are done in a similar manner. As Aces are the seed (potential) for each suit, the wording of the chant is changed to "The beginning of Enterprise & Distinction"; "The beginning of Love & Happiness"; "The beginning of Struggle & Animosity"; and "The beginning of Money Interests".

Dr. Connolly developed what she terms a "thought track" for the Aces and the remainder of the Minor Arcana, which provides what she terms a "seed pattern" for learning. Each number is dealt with in one setting: i.e. all four two's are worked with, all four three's are worked with, etc. The example that she lists in the book is:

"Three of Wands = Life of Enterprise & Distinction" (number) (suit) (seed number 2) (suit key) The court cards are dealt with as sixteen different personality types, and follow a fairly traditional manner of defining (with the exception of Pentacles):

Wands & Cups: fair hair & skin
Swords & Pentacles: dark hair & skin
Wands = fair hair/red hair; blue eyes; fair skin
Cups = light to medium brown hair; hazel eyes; medium skin
Swords = dark brown to black hair; dark eyes; olive skin
Pentacles = white hair; any color eyes; fair skin
King = Mature Man
Queen = Mature Woman
Knight = Young Man
Page = Young Boy/Young Girl/Child of either sex

The court cards are further defined (in depth), with a listing given for multiples as they appear in a reading.

The Major Arcana is seen, as it is traditionally seen, as being of a spiritual nature. Dr. Connolly has recommended that each day start with a prayer to a specific Major Arcana card, having the card in front of you to focus on. The prayers are very Christian based. From the book:

"0 The Fool

Dear Heavenly Father, through Thy divine grace let me feel the Holy Spirit within me. Grant me the innocence of the Fool, help me to let go of earthly fears and walk in peace with Thee this day. Let my ears listen only to Thy higher wisdom. Let me walk freely, knowing that I am protected in Thy love. I long for the innocent faith of a child, and because I am a child of God, I know it to be my birthright. As I walk into this new day I pray that I shall always be aware of Thy holy presence. I know that only fear separates me from the comfort of Thy divine love. This day I will try to express my love for Thee, dear Father, in all I do and say. I will rid myself of fear, which is the shadow of man, and with Thy holy blessing, walk in heavenly light. Amen."

Dr. Connolly does a unique presentation of the Major Arcana in story form, with a short paragraph for each card. From the book:

"0 The Fool

We begin our journey with the pure, untouched soul, not yet of this world. All wisdom and knowledge, containing the total essence of God, are contained in the innocence of a newborn baby, physically present in the world now, yet still enveloped in the Higher Consciousness.

1 The Magician

Before Man are the tools of Higher Consciousness. As he becomes involved with the material plane, he is given all he needs to achieve success here on earth. As he develops his ego, he must he must endeavor to retain his spiritual equilibrium and use his God-given tools to reach his heavenly goal."

Exercises are given for entering the Major Arcana via meditation, and for recording and analyzing each journey.

Each Minor Arcana card is presented with a black and white scan; upright and reversed keys (meanings); memories (a two line rhyme for each position); guidelines (possibilities for interpreting the card); comparison chart (key associations for Cabala, Astrology and Gnothology/Numerology); and divination in depth (showing how to read each card in relation to other cards in a reading).

Each Major Arcana card is presented with a black and white scan; upright and reversed keys; memories; guidelines; comparison chart; meditation (see example above); and time (time of day to meditate on each card).

Dr. Connolly also provides a specific format for preparing to do a reading:

1. Arrange for the proper atmosphere. 2. Assume the proper seating position. 3. Prepare the Tarot deck, table and cover. 4. Have the client write out the question. 5. Recite the Prayer of Invocation. 6. Break the pack. 7. Have the client perform the preliminary procedures. 8. Perform the Ritual of Solidification. 9. Commence the spread.

My comments on the above:

1. This is basically advising the student to set aside an area in their home that is devoted to Tarot reading and study.

2. With a client, Dr. Connolly recommends that the reader sit in the north (facing south ), and the Seeker sit in the south (facing north). When the reader is reading for themselves, they should sit facing the east.

3. The cards should be read on a wooden table (that is used only for reading the Tarot), covered with a silk cloth.

4. For most readers, asking the client to focus on their question is enough here. This is really up to the reader.

5. This is an actual prayer that is included in the book - the purpose is the same as a reader taking a moment of silence, or asking their higher selves, and the higher self of their client, as well as any guides or angels that they work with, to be present.

6. This refers to shuffling the deck.

7. This is the time where the sequence of the reading is explained to the client, so that they will know what to expect.

8. The ritual, as given in the book, is that after you receive the cards from your client (after they have shuffled them), you hold the deck between your hands, pressing firmly three times, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (this is done silently, so as not to be obvious).

9. The spread is now laid out and interpreted.

Dr. Connolly works actively with the Lemniscate symbol. She recommends drawing the symbol, in black ink (as two inter-locking circles) on white pasteboard. The left hand circle is labeled the esoteric circle, the right hand circle is labeled the wisdom circle. The Lemniscate is now used for focus. If the client has a direct question, the paper is placed in the esoteric circle. If the client has no direct question the paper is placed in the wisdom circle.

Three types of spreads are shown at the end of the book: the Celtic Cross; the Celtic Block; and the Predictive Manteia.

I find this book to be a bit in depth for a beginner - I would actually place it in the mid-level of Tarot studies. What I find interesting is that the information that it contains really has not changed since the book was written. It was not "dumbed down" then, so it really did not need to be added to.

This is an excellent book (both versions) for the student that wishes to study the Tarot from an esoteric standpoint. Through exercises, meditations and ritual, the Tarot literally comes to life. Throughout the book there are charts and graphics to ilustrate the points being presented, making the information very easy to work with. One drawback, for certain people, would be the highly Christian background of some of the processes. These can be rewritten, or simply not used, without losing anything.

The revised edition of Tarot - A New Handbook For The Apprentice includes an introduction by Douglas Menville (chief editor for Newcastle Publishing when the book first came out) entitled: "Repaving the Royal Road". In it he relates the story of how Eileen Connolly originally became involved with the Tarot, and how it changed her life. It is a story well worth reading.

The only other addition to the revised book is the inclusion of the ordering information for the Connolly Tarot deck, which is used to illustrate this edition.

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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