Putting the Tarot to Work

A practical, non-spiritual book describing approaches and techniques for using Tarot in the corporate world.

By Mark McElroy · Book · Published by Llewellyn

Review by Valerie Sim-Behi, CTGM

As a Tarot teacher and author I get excited by books that present innovative ways of using the Tarot. This book does that, yet it also accomplishes something better than any book I have read previously: It explains, and in the language spoken therein, how the Tarot is an overlooked yet invaluable tool for use in the modern corporate world.

I realize that most corporate types simply won’t encounter this book because they wouldn’t be caught dead browsing the metaphysical section of bookstores, but this is a book that you can hand a friend or family member in the business world and say, 'Do me a favor and just read the first five chapters.' I postulate that most of them that did so would want to read further, but even if they didn’t, those initial chapters would alter their perception of what the Tarot is, and to what practical and concrete ends it can be used.

Most bottom line focused corporate managers will be intrigued by the idea of 'seventy-eight full time consultants for $12.95.' Skeptical or not, studies show that business is waking up to the value of creative brainstorming, something which McElroy demonstrates can be facilitated by the Tarot with the use of the techniques and approaches he describes.

Chapter Two, 'Playing for Keeps,' includes a section called 'Objections – Overruled!' in which McElroy anticipates and diffuses four common objections against bringing Tarot into the office and the boardroom.

  • Objection One: You should be working, not playing cards.
  • Objection Two: Religion doesn’t belong in the workplace
  • Objection Three: What will the boss think?
  • Objection Four: Won’t people think I’m weird?
  • Objection Five: We’ve gotten this far without Tarot cards!

As McElroy concludes this chapter: 'By carefully positioning your work with the cards as serious business, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your creative process without raising any objections from others.'

Chapter Three, 'The Least You Should Know About Tarot,' is the most concise introduction to and overview of the Tarot I have ever read, and McElroy covers it in fifteen pages! With an assumption that his readers know absolutely nothing about the Tarot, he debunks some of the common Tarot myths and proceeds to clearly delineate the minimum information new users need to know. He does so in practical language completely devoid of metaphysical and esoteric allusions. He calls his approach 'no focus on hocus pocus.'

Successive chapters include material on phrasing questions, choosing spreads, performing readings, brainstorming with the cards, using the tarot to explore career options, goal setting with the Tarot, analyzing one’s professional network, even how to use the Tarot for the dreaded employee review process, -- the latter in a way that produces positive feedback for both employees and employers. The book also contains numerous new spreads as well as unique ideas, many of which are illustrated with the author’s personal anecdotes from his considerable professional experience.

My only caveat with this book is that it is almost too 'slick.' As I read, I felt like I could see McElroy in a boardroom doing a PowerPoint presentation, complete with hand-outs and a laser pointer. The style is unabashedly bulleted top-notch marketing, but it is also the very style that just may be effective in creating some new Tarot buffs out of former skeptics and scoffers. Let’s ask the bookstores to stock this book in the business self-help section and watch what happens…

Valerie has been studying both tarot and astrology for over 30 years. Her passion for both has led to the authorship of her own metaphysical teaching materials, with which she has been an online teacher for the past two and a half years. Valerie is the List Oowner of the popular tarot email list, ComparativeTarot@yahoogroups.com; serves as Vice President of Communications for the American Tarot Association; has just finished her soon-to-be-published-book, Tarot: Out of the Box; and has written the pamphlet for the recently published Comparative Tarot deck.

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

Putting The Tarot To Work is exactly what this book is all about - using Tarot creatively in the work place. The target audience is business people, not the Tarot community. (This would not be the first book of this type - another outstanding example would be Strategic Intuition For The 21st Century, (Merrill-West Publishing, 1996) by James Wanless.) There is a "back door" opportunity, however, for the Tarot professional: consider business consulting, or offering business seminars. Putting The Tarot To Work is cram packed with wonderfully workable ideas, for the business world and the Tarot world.

Before I begin my review, I have a major rant to get out of the way -and that would be the cover of this book! Lime green, orange and purple, mixed with '50ish characterization, is not highly palatable! The background of the cover is lime green, the text light orange, with a fifties-style male executive-type in a three piece purple suit, with a cigar in one hand, and the other hooked in his vest. Surrounding him are piles of folding money, with a few coins thrown in for show. To his left we see a yellow circle with the intent of the book: creative problem solving, effective decision making, and personal career planning. As a female, were I to see this in a store, I would pass right on by. I have no reason to want to return to a fifties, male dominated corporate structure. If I were on a board that was considering using this book, I would not be inclined to look at it favorably, just looking at the cover. If the material were to be used, I might even request that the cover be changed. To say the least - it is not amusing!

The other minor flaw - although it occurs consistently throughout the book, is the amount of typos! However, the copy that I am reviewing is not the final copy, so one can hope that this will be corrected. Major typo's on pages 19-20 on a chart listing the major arcana, and on page 21, the second paragraph reads: "In her book Tarot Mirrors, Mary K. Greer.; positions ...". There are other typos throughout the book that are not so blatant.

The book itself is done in excellent form and style, a wonderful reflection of its author. I met Mark McElroy at the 2003 Reader's Studio (sponsored by the Tarot School and Llewellyn Publications) - he is well spoken, and every bit the gentleman that he appears on Tarot e-lists. I remember when Mary Greer was asking for participation for her Tarot Emotions project. Mark placed her information in a set of tables on the internet that made it very accessible, easy to work, and submit. That was beyond common courtesy, and speaks well for who he is as a person.

Having worked in the corporate world myself - albeit the medical corporate world, I found this book to be more than true to life! And the presentation is flawless: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. It doesn't get better than this!

Tell them what you are going to tell them:

At the beginning of each chapter is a list of "talking points" that describe what will be found in that chapter. From the book:

Chapter 5: Making Sense of the Message
Preview: What to Expect in Chapter Five

This chapter explores:

  • How to prepare for a brainstorming session.
  • How to phrase questions for effective brainstorming sessions.
  • How to select a layout, or spread, for the cards.
  • How to shuffle, cut and deal the cards.
  • How to pull messages, meanings and ideas from the images on the cards. 1

Tell them: From the book:
Chapter One: Top Ten Reasons To Buy This Book
Chapter Two: Playing For Keeps
Chapter Three: The Least You Should Know About Tarot
Chapter Four: All Hands On Deck!
Chapter Five: Making Sense Of The Message
Chapter Six: Basic Brainstorming With The Tarot
Chapter Seven: Seventy-Eight Steps To A More Satisfying Career
Chapter Eight: Reviews Worth Raving Over
Chapter Nine: Building Better Business Relationships
Chapter Ten: Planning Perfect Presentations
Chapter Eleven: Seeing The Future
Appendix A: Sample Meanings And Associations For Each Card
Appendix B: Decks Recommended For Personal And Corporate Use 2

Tell Them What You Told Them:

At the end of each chapter is a chapter summary. From the book:

Summary: Chapter Five in a Nutshell

Reading the cards, essentially extracting the information from the images you draw from the deck is the first step in effective brainstorming.

Before using the cards as part of a creativity session or problem-solving exercise, prepare yourself and the space around you by limiting distractions. Choose your questions carefully, being as specific as possible. Select a spread or layout for the cards that connects to your question in some way. Then, after shuffling and cutting the deck, deal t he cards into the spread and interpret their meaning by exploring the content of each card and linking your associations together.

This simple method facilitates the process of connecting your question with the cards in front of you. 3

Putting The Tarot To Work is written in a clear cut, concise manner. Mark makes best use of a wonderful sense of humor, and an inborn sense of courtesy. He makes wonderful use of the story mode, and gives true to life examples of the techniques that he is talking about throughout the book. (He even tells stories about himself - a wonderful way for all of us to see how we can learn a lot about ourselves when we choose to see our issues and situations from a slightly different perspective. I could have used this book when I was in the corporate world!)

The book starts out in an interesting manner - discussing a technique that is similar to, but light years away from, using the Tarot for creative work. Mark discusses using magazine cutouts for brainstorming sessions (I have used the same technique in putting together story boards and mandalas), carefully pointing out the problems that are inherent with them. There are two major issues: they are bulky to carry around, and it is hard to find pictures that connect to each other, and to the business issue(s) at hand. (I can attest to the last part!)

In part of his support for "Why" the Tarot works better, he says:

4. Structural Support

Images pulled from magazines lack any connection to each other. As a result, each image stands alone, and all images command equal weight.

By contrast, Tarot cards possess an underlying structure. Some cards are trumps, commanding more authority and attention. The four suits of a Tarot deck remind us to approach solutions from a variety of perspectives. The numbers on each card suggest ways ideas can be ranked, put in order, or evaluated. Court cards (Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages) remind us of people we know or approaches we've tried. This built-in structure allows the Tarot to support associations and connections in ways that random images never will. 4

Mark also takes into account the environment in which the brainstorming process will be used. He recommends that each person that will be part of the brainstorming team be asked if they agree to the use of the Tarot for their project. If one person has a problem using the Tarot, he suggests that the Tarot not be used at all. Mark also suggests that if the Tarot titles are a problem, that the titles can be trimmed off of the card, so that the symbols within the card can be used. In Appendix B, Mark lists Tarot decks that would be good to use for both personal and corporate use. (Because of the nature of the environment they are being used in, nudity in a deck would not be acceptable. I feel that Mark has drawn up a good list of decks for reference - as well as a listing of Tarot books for further study.)

Moving on to the symbols: Mark gives many examples of how the symbols from the cards can be used to connect with issues/people in everyday life. This is an important connection - a la the dialogue technique used by Mary Greer and others. It allows those using the Tarot to see how the symbols in the cards are reflective of their personal situations, rather than trying to see the traditional symbolism of the Tarot, and fitting themselves into that concept. Putting The Tarot To Work encourages the corporate world to relate to the images in the cards for what they are, but Mark does also include an appendix with a "short version" of each card. From the book:

1 Magician (Empowerment and Creativity)

The drive to innovate. The need to make something new or valuable. Getting things done. Taking action - any action! - now. Drive. Ambition. Taking raw materials and assembling something new or unexpected. Being given authority. Directing a meeting, group, or organization. Brainstorming. Refusing to be satisfied with a single answer, approach or strategy. 5

I recommend this book for business/corporate use, as well as for use by Tarot professionals, whether in their own business, or if they choose to act in a consulting capacity in the business/corporate world.


1. ibid. page 43. 2. ibid. Contents. 3. ibid. page 65. 4. ibid. page 7. 5. ibid. page 226.

© 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.

Review by Solandia

Mark McElroy is a Tarot reader and creator of corporate training seminars and multimedia presentations. His book, Putting Tarot to Work, presents Tarot to a corporate and business audience as an indispensable management tool for increasing creativity and making better business decisions.

McElroy found from his own experimentation that image-based brainstorming increased creativity at work. He began with pictures from magazines, but found Tarot cards were cheaper, lighter, more compact, and easier to replace. In his book, McElroy presents Tarot as "Seventy-Eight Full Time Consultants for $12.95". He stresses that this is a book for ‘fortune making, not fortune-telling’ and that there’s no hocus-pocus involved. Indeed, there is no spiritual advice, crystal associations or rituals for deck cleansing here. Instead, the busy executive with real-world problems can get up and running with Tarot as a brainstorming and decision-making tool.

Putting Tarot to Work emphasises “creative problem solving, effective decision making, and personal career planning” – all important topics for the business owner, manager or employee – through sales pitches on Tarot for use in the business world. Information is presented in easy-to-digest chunks, and each chapter is preceded by a preview telling us what will we learn inside, and ended with a summary of what we have just learned.

First up, there are basic information and exercises to familiarise the new user with the concept and nature of Tarot cards. It begins with a list of playful spreads presented as games, intended to get corporate people used to linking tarot images with situations, telling stories about the images, and making associations. Next, ‘Making Sense of the Message’ (which is really a chapter on how to read the cards with no intuition necessary) and how to extract meanings via a number of techniques: describing, associating personalising, dramatising, referencing (checking meanings from other sources).

Once the reader is familiar with the basics, the book moves on to show how to begin putting the Tarot to work with special work-oriented spreads for different purposes. The spreads are illustrated, each position analysed and potential questions posited. A ‘practice’ spread follows, with a scenario of someone using the spreads, the cards they received and how they acted on the information, for these situations relevant to almost every employee or corporate worker.

- Seventy-Eight Steps to a More Satisfying Career
- Reviews Worth Raving Over (for those pesky performance reviews)
- Building Better Business Relationships
- Planning Perfect Presentations

Appendix A contains a complete list of work-related meanings for the 78 Tarot cards. Appendix B is a list of decks recommended by the author for personal or corporate use. Some sample meanings…

XIV – Temperance (Blending and Mediation) – Understanding how everything connects to everything else. Mergers and acquisitions. Swapping one idea, element, or approach for another, just to see what happens. The need to take the middle path. Arbitration. Dividing the resources fairly among different groups. Making a fair profit (instead of fleecing the customer.. or losing your shirt!)

Ten of Coins (Attainment) Profit with satisfaction. The burden of having "too much stuff". The need to feel inspired or satisfied by work. Retirement. Restlessness. Looking for other jobs. Identifying what’s needed to put an issue to rest once and for all. Asking, "What do I need to give up in order to improve my performance?"

Putting the Tarot to Work is an introductory textbook to Tarot for the sceptical beginner, as well as an innovative manual for the corporate worker looking for new ways to think outside the box. Add Tarot, ‘The Swiss Army Knife of Creativity’, to the box of business tools.

Kate Hill is the owner, founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.

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