Book Review: Tarot Mysteries: Rediscovering the Real Meaning of the Cards by Jonathan Dee

Tarot Mysteries: Rediscovering the Real Meaning of the Cards by Jonathan Dee

Published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc., Charlottesville, VA (previously published in 2003 by Zambezi Publishing, Limited, Devon, UK)

Soft Cover, 321 pages

The Tarot Mysteries is published as a paperback, with a glossy cover printed on typical soft-cover stock, measuring 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches. The interior pages consist of black and white tables and card images and nicely-sized typeface printed on a cream-colored paper that feels substantial under my fingers, as if it will stand up to lots of turning back and forth to revisit pages in the book. That is good, because in my opinion this book is worth those page turns.

Tarot Mysteries is in many ways similar to the other books in my library that focus on exploring and understanding the cards in a traditional Tarot deck. Like those other books, Tarot Mysteries showcases the individual cards of the Major and Minor Arcana, offering images, keywords, numbers/rank, upright and reversed meanings for the cards. The last 16 pages of the book offer the expected description of the basics of card interpretation for those new to the Tarot, and offer a few spreads and instructions for their use. However, Tarot Mysteries did stand out from the rest of my how-to-read-Tarot books for me because along with what we would expect to find in a resource book on the Tarot, Dee introduces and includes concepts and disciplines (both generally in an educational fashion, and specifically relating to each card of the Tarot deck) that are near and dear to my own heart, and that I believe are necessary for an in-depth and continued exploration of the Tarot.

The first 67 pages of this book offer some informative basics on such topics as the traditional setup of a Tarot deck, a history of the Tarot, a brief bio of “names to know” and how they are connected to the Tarot we know and use today, and a discussion of several theories for its origin. The author describes the game of Trionfi, as well as the Game of the Governance of the World. Also offered is an overview of the Qabalah including a brief discussion of its history, the Hebrew alphabet and Gematria, and a description of the sephiroth and pathways of the Tree of Life. There is a section on the zodiac and the Major Arcana, as well as a description of the Grail Hallows and their connection to Tarot symbolism. If you have read any of my own descriptions of the Tarot cards found in my column, Tarot Talk, you know that I believe all of these disciplines offer amazing depth and texture to the meanings of the individual cards in a Tarot deck.

The section on the Minor Arcana cards offers a black and white image of each card (Waite/Smith), an esoteric title for the card, key concepts or keywords, a description of the astrological relationship, an indication of the position of the card on the Tree of Life, and suggested Positive and Negative meanings for the card. Each suit also has its own description. The Court Cards come next, with a basic description of just what a Court Card can be, and then an image and a description of each Page, Knight, Queen and King. Besides the descriptions also included for the Minor Arcana cards, the Court Card descriptions include correspondences and a suggested general interpretation.

The next section covers the Major Arcana. Each card description includes a black and white image of the card, the number of the card, a title, an alternative title and an esoteric title, the Hebrew letter associated with the card, the Pathway on the Tree of Life, a cardinal direction, an astrological correspondence, a description of the traditional image, symbolism associated with the card, and an Upright and Reversed meaning.

The tables included in the sections of the first part of the book are useful educational and research tools that offer at-a-glance information that is handy to have when performing a reading. The Planetary Spread and the two Tree of Life Spreads are also useful tools. Throwing these spreads as a practice, learning about the meanings behind each card position, and then applying those positional meanings to the meaning of each card would be a worth-while exercise for anyone interested in the Tarot.

I would hesitate to recommend this book to someone taking an initial look at the Tarot and divination unless they already had a strong foundation in astrology or the Qabalah, for the information provided might be a bit overwhelming. However, Tarot Mysteries would make a good addition to the library of anyone who enjoys working with or learning about the Tarot. This book can provide fresh insight into the vast information available regarding correspondences and symbolism of the Tarot, whether you are a professional who provides readings for others, or you throw a card or two for yourself each day and look for personal insight.

Tarot Mysteries is worth the read, for the very least because it offers new methods for understanding the Tarot. It will have an easy-to-grab place in my own Tarot library. The information presented in Tarot Mysteries could very well be a jumping-off point that will send you down the rabbit hole of study of the Qabalah or astrology, or the Pathworking that combines the Major Arcana and these other disciplines.