Tarot: Plain and Simple

A very useful primer for those new to tarot, with information on choosing a deck, tarot history, spreads, and the cards themselves. Understanding of the cards is assisted by extensive keywords, advice and reversed meanings for each one. The book is also illustrated with cards from the Robin Wood Tarot.

By Anthony Louis · Book · Published by Llewellyn

Review by Sean McLaughlin, MS, CTR

Tarot: Plain and Simple focuses on helping the reader of the book get into the Tarot by focusing on card symbolism exclusively with minimal to no reference to other divinatory and esoteric disciplines. The author, Anthony Louis, just wants to get into the meaning of the Tarot cards in plain language and does a great job of keeping it simple. Unlike other books you may have read, the title for this work is about as apropos as any you will ever find!

Prior to this work, Louis also authored Horary Astrology: The History and Practice of Astro-Divination (Llewellyn, 1991), has lectured on astrology and divination as well as published articles on similar topics in occult journals. He also has an extensive experience as a psychiatrist, which forms the basis for his entrance into these subjects.

The strength of Tarot: Plain and Simple is that it gives the reader, especially for the beginner in Tarot, the freedom to disagree with the author’s meanings (which he subdivides into “keyword & phrases” and “situation & advice”) for each card. Louis encourages the reader to only use those keywords/phrases which fit the context of the spread and life situation of the seeker. Until the reader of his book explores other beginning and deck-specific Tarot texts, it may be hard to appreciate this liberty to be free to “agree to disagree” with what could be considered Louis’ Robin Wood Tarot “Little White Book” (LWB) writ large.

Louis begins his work in chapter one with the usual introduction of the history of the Tarot, traces how it moves into the psychological community through C. G. Jung, and finally intertwines with his own story as a psychiatrist and neighbor to some troubled people.

Chapters two and three give the reader essentially a crash course in spreads, choosing a Tarot deck, Tarot journaling, beginning numerology, and how Tarot and Astrology can intersect one another – all in brief sound bites. In this sense, Louis provides the reader of this book with a basic roadmap of the areas in Tarot reader development that can be pursued in future reading. While some readers of the book may find the two to three paragraphs used to explain aspects other than spreads too brief, this is not the focus of the text. Louis is merely attempting to start his readers off on the journey, not to create a “one-stop-shop” that inoculates readers against further inquiry.

Further, Tarot Plain and Simple excels in its “Little White Book” section which begins on page 51 and concludes on page 296. In this sense, Louis is much more thorough than other texts which have similar sections (e.g., Bunning [1998] Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners) with explicit permission to disregard his meanings if none of his meanings fit. While the focus is mainly on the Robin Wood Tarot, these meanings provide a solid foundation for further exploration within the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition.

As most books have a continued publishing life span of only one to two years, its continued printing is a testament to the strength of this book as a resource for Tarot readers of all levels. This is certainly a book for readers of all levels, especially for those who use the Robin Wood Tarot or those who work primarily within the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition.

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.

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