Tarot: Get the Whole Story

Tarot: Get the Whole Story is an easy guide for using, creating and interpreting Tarot spreads for Tarot users of all levels. Includes sample readings to help with understanding and a variety of spreads.

By James Ricklef · Book · Published by Llewellyn

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

The world of Tarot is the world of story - the cards combine in ever fascinating ways to talk about what has been, what is, and what will be. They are a gateway to ancestral knowledge - the answer is there, we just need to ask the right questions. In Tarot - Get The Whole Story, Tarot Master/Teacher James Ricklef becomes the Master Storyteller, guiding us on our journey through the world of Tarot spreads, the world that acts as the starting point in our quest to ask the right questions, and receive meaningful answers.

Between the pages of this book we see a world of grace and beauty, elegance that flows naturally, with an eloquence that lifts our hearts and our souls. I want to start with a word about the cover. OK - I am not here to review covers, but this one is outstanding! The grace and elegance of this book starts with its cover. I know that if I were doing brick and mortar shopping, the cover would draw me to this book. What we see is a light colored wood table, facing a window. On the upper left hand side of the table we see a cup of coffee, waiting for someone to sit down at the table and take a sip. In the center of the table we have a Tarot spread, using Ciro Marchetti's wonderful Gilded Tarot. On the upper right hand side of the table we have an elegant journal with a ribbon marker in the center of it, and a stylish pen laid across it. In this moment in time, someone is in the process of doing a Tarot reading, and has just "stepped away" for a moment.

Open the cover, and a whole new world awaits you. This is the world of Tarot, specifically the Tarot world of Tarot Master/Teacher James Ricklef, aka KnightHawk. In his KnightHawk persona, James gives readings for people from the pages of history (such as Napoleon), as well as fictitious people. In his current work, James takes us through the process of defining the questions to be asked, and then formatting spreads to fit the question or issue.

As James points out, the spread provides the structure that the "story" of the reading is built upon. James presents a variety of spreads, but the most important part of this book is that he also discusses the process that he went through in developing the spread. When we understand the process, we can apply it to any issue or question that we have. The story of the reading itself is used to show how each spread is structured, how the card meanings came about, how positional meanings are defined, and how existing spreads can be modified and personalized. (My favorite is the combination of the past/present/future spread with the body/mind/soul spread.)

We get to eavesdrop on readings for some fascinating people: Clark Gable, Roderick Usher, Wendy Darling, Dr. Heinrich Faust and more! James has presented a wide field of reading subjects to choose from: decision making, success, timeline, yes/no, romance, relationship, New Year's resolution, personal transformation, choice and spirituality are a few of the choices offered.

James talks about modifying existing spreads, combining spreads, expanding spreads, and the most important thing - the preparation for creating a spread. Sit down and talk to the person you are creating the spread for. Find out what type of question needs to be asked, define the position meanings (what does the Seeker want to know about the question or issue), and you are ready to go. I left out a step here - sorry! After defining the position meanings, decide what shape the spread is going to take. Is it going to be linear? Is it going to be circular? Are you going to have multiple columns? Do you want to use a star, or a pentagram shape? James does an excellent job of discussing how the shape of a spread affects the spread itself.

This is a wonderful book, a gentle journey which is very enriching and enlightening. I recommend it to any level of Tarot student. It is easily read, and easily understood. It will help the student understand the spreads they are currently working with, and give them the faith in themselves to create their own spreads. A marvelous addition to any Tarot library, and a must have resource for creating Tarot spreads.

© 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 Kim Huggens

The Tarot world is undergoing big changes, and these big changes have been growing over the last ten years. Maybe it is the advent of internet Tarot communities that have enabled current wisdom to evolve in leaps and bounds, or perhaps it is simply time for this to occur. Whatever it is, Tarot enthusiasts are looking at Tarot in new ways ways that dont tend to have books devoted to them. No longer do we all want to copy a spread straight from a book and try and crowbar our question onto its (usually) complex and arcane layout. No longer do we want to memorize dozens of spreads created by nameless and faceless Tarotists decades ago.

No. Instead we want to think for ourselves, create our own spreads, and create unique, original, flexible, useful spreads. But how do we do it? Where do we start?

James Ricklef's new book, Tarot: Get the Whole Story is an easily accessible, fun, and inspiring study of this big question. Essentially it explains to the reader how to create spreads, where to find inspiration, and what kind of spreads might be created. But oddly (and thankfully), it does so in a non-prescriptive manner which leaves your mind racing with ideas and possibilities.

The first part of the book deals with how to create a spread, and where you might find ideas for doing so. Most obviously, it touches upon creating the spread based around the question you wish to ask. However, Ricklef goes one step further. He also discusses using shapes (such as triangles, squares, trees, and pentagrams) as the sole inspiration for a spread, as well as using the Tarot itself to create the spread. This is done by dealing cards and deciding what issues they raise in relation to the question, then using those sub-issues to create the spread positions. He looks at gaining inspiration from other sources or systems (and he chooses Buddhist principles as his example), modifying existing spreads, and (most importantly) he explains why we might wish to create spreads ourselves. What makes this section a joy to read is the complete lack of cliche there is no if it feels right do it! philosophy that is often repeated time and again, and instead Ricklef explains the advantages of creating your own spreads in detail. He also uses several examples throughout this section to highlight what he is saying, and gives various suggestions for you to play around with. These suggestions (exercises) and the examples and ideas Ricklef uses will inspire even a hardened Tarot veteran simply because they are so original and fun and they are simple enough that a beginner who has picked up a Tarot deck for the first time that day can start using them. This first section will be an eye-opener for anybody wishing to break old Tarot habits, and will show just how flexible Tarot and spreads can be to any beginner.

The second section of the book appears at first to be a long list of spreads, and my first thought was Oh no, hes sold out! But, thankfully, I was wrong. This is indeed a bunch of Tarot spreads but instead of being just spreads on their own, they are almost like lessons in Tarot spread creation. Ricklef uses them as examples, giving not only the basics of how to use them for yourself, but also explaining how he came to create each one. These explanations serve to show where you can find inspiration, and what you can do with it when youve got it. And whats more Ask Knighthawk is back again!

Anybody familiar with Ricklefs previous book, Tarot Tells the Tale, and his regular column, Ask Knighthawk, with the American Tarot Association, will know what this means. Knighthawk takes questions from querents via letters, and responds with a Tarot reading in the same manner except that these querents are fictional, mythological, or historical characters who ask questions about their lives/stories. Ricklef uses this Ask Knighthawk format to showcase the spreads in action, not only explaining how he creates each spread for that question (or uses it), but also showing and explaining the interpretation and reading process. Here we can see a master at work and what better way to learn is there?

This section will help any reader no matter their experience with Tarot understand how to choose a spread to fit a question, how to interpret tricky cards (such as bad cards in positive spread positions), and how to use small spreads. Anybody who has read Tarot Tells the Tale will understand that Ricklef has already campaigned for greater use of a simple three-card spread something that I believe should be listened to much more. Who wants an unwieldy Celtic Cross when a few cards can tell you a great amount of information?

There are some fantastic spreads in this section, accompanied by some very moving and interesting (often eerie) readings for fictional and historical characters. Theres spiritual spreads, spreads you can use without a definite question in mind, spreads for love, spreads for work, spreads for your mundane life There really is something here for everyone. I am particularly fond of the Sorrows Alchemy spread (performed for Wendy Darling, one of the main characters from my all-time favourite book, Peter Pan.) Ricklef even goes so far as to offer alternatives to the spreads or suggestions of ways to modify them. Finally, Ricklef tackles the subject of non-spreads the technique of just throwing down a few cards and interpreting them.

Ricklefs writing style is endearing, clear, and makes you want to read on, and the book itself is, quite simply, perfect. It strikes an excellent balance between beginner and advanced reader, and I think it will inspire anybody who reads it to bring a little life, fun, and flexibility back into the Tarot spreads they may take for granted.

Kim Huggens is a 24 year old PhD student in the Ancient History and Archaeology department of Cardiff University. She has been studying and reading Tarot since the age of 9, and has a deck collection numbering over 250. She is the co-creator of the Sol Invictus: The God Tarot and is currently working on a second deck, Pistis Sophia: The Goddess Tarot", and a book for Llewellyn Publications, due for release Autumn 2010.

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