Book: Holistic Tarot
Author: Benebell Wen
Date of Publication: January 2015
Published by: North Atlantic Books
Structure of the Book: 33 Chapters, with 9 Appendices (A–I), Endnotes, Index, Acknowledgments, and About the Author sections.
PLEASE NOTE: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
I don’t call coincidences “coincidences” anymore… there’s really no such thing. The biggest example of this was in the email “introduction” my tarot mentor Theresa Reed made in introducing me to Benebell Wen, and vice-versa. In doing so, we soon discovered that we knew each other before, and even went to the same college and attended the same class!
We simply couldn’t get over that simple connection. It was “meant to be” that we reconnected over writing, since we knew each other through a writing class! More synchronicities ensued when I started reading her book Holistic Tarot, including the synchronicity of our first tarot deck (both the Tarot Nova!).
When Holistic Tarot arrived on my doorstep, I couldn’t get over just how humongous it was. Forget about reading this one in one sitting… this is a tarot reference book for the ages! As I lovingly and gently “broke the spine” (a painful process for any book-lover), I couldn’t help but notice the many people that sung the praises of this book on both the front cover, back cover, and in the “Praise for Holistic Tarot” section. I was especially struck by what Joan Bunning, author of Learning the Tarot and Learning Tarot Reversals, had to say about this book: “Likely to become the essential guidebook.” Considering that Learning the Tarot was a book that started me on my own tarot journey, I had no doubt that Bunning was (and is) correct in her assertion! This book will proudly sit on my bookshelf, a crowning gem in reference materials.
Those fearful of this book, due to its sheer size, can breathe a little sigh of relief when I tell you that though Holistic Tarot makes an excellent reference book, it is by no means stodgy in its delivery! I had my own trepidations that this book would be as dry as a piece of toast, and I am delighted to say I couldn’t have been more wrong!
I was especially happy at the inclusion of Chapter 3: Allaying Fears and Offering Theories, which expounds on why some people are afraid of tarot, and offering up some theories on how/why tarot works. A must-read for anyone that both “wants to know” and yet doesn’t want to mess with some of the mystery… and also helpful to explaining to guinea pig friends and clients alike as to the “why” tarot works.
The Cyclopedia of Card Meanings and The Fundamentals of Reading Spreads are by far the biggest sections of the book, and are quite meaty in content as well. Each Major Arcana card is given a roughly 4-page explanation, and each Minor Arcana card is given a 2-page explanation.
Also included is a section on Signifier cards, why they are used, and how they can be selected, and a section on Court Cards, which seems to be a common sticking point when learning tarot.
This book is causing me to change up my tarot practices, try new things, and rethink my assumptions about taking notes on readings. Sample Logs and Templates (Appendix H) is a section I will be revisiting to REALLY start logging in detail my own personal readings. I still do think that clients should take their own notes or recordings, thereby taking responsibility for the contents of their reading. If I were to take notes, it would be for scientific purposes and with a client’s permission. I feel that the recording process of the reading should be taken by the person which will gain the most from the reading: in this case, the client. If I were to take notes for a client’s session, it would increase my retention of the reading, and would (in my opinion) decrease my objectivity as a consequence.
By far the greatest interest I had in the book is the Case Studies provided of actual readings (and hypothetical counterparts) to illustrate the concepts being discussed in the book. I also greatly enjoyed the final chapter of the book, A Personal Essay: How I Started, which really tied the whole book together as both an academic reference book AND a personal treatise on tarot that is clearly a labor of love of the art (and it is an art) of tarot reading.
Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Study Guides are available to guide you on your own self-study course using this book.
Overall, Holistic Tarot fulfills and surpasses ALL of my expectations. It is truly a wonderful book for ANY level of reader… though it may seem intimidating to a beginner reader! I’ve found that the author’s tone speaks directly to you; no condescension, even during the more formal instructions or procedures in the book, such as when talking about the Opening of the Key divination method from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The only off-putting thing is the usage of “the author” instead of the common possessive pronoun “my” to describe personal beliefs: a mere trifle of formality that oftens appears in academic writing, and a barely registered blip to me on assessing this book. Holistic Tarot is a treasure.
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