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Book Review: The Tarot Handbook 

Following yesterday’s introductory post is today’s first book review, where I give my opinion of The Tarot Handbook by Angeles Arrien. 

The first thing to note is that The Tarot Handbook applies specifically to the Thoth tarot system. This book, as per the author, is designed to give an alternative interpretation of the Thoth Tarot deck, as the author didn’t agree with Crowley’s interpretation of the cards, or rather, felt his interpretation was too narrow. 

If you, like many, use a Rider-Waite deck or one fashioned in its format, there will be some obvious differences and complexities between the two systems that you will need to learn to reconcile if you decide to use this book to grow your knowledge. 

Notably, major arcana card VIII is Justice in the Thoth system and Strength in the RW. The minor arcana Court cards are different as well, and it’s not as simple as comparing the two in order. The minor arcana cards in general differ. With your deck, as always, follow your own intuition. If you view anyone else’s interpretations as possible meanings depending on the context of the reading, you’ll expand your mental resources for reading the cards on different topics.  

This book takes a very humanitarian and psychological viewpoint, which I love. It is laid out in eight sections. The author recommends you begin in section 7, which is filled with charts and instructions for finding your personal life-time and growth cycles.

If you’re not much for math this section can be a little hairy. I felt it was also lacking in terms of clarity in instruction. To get the most out of the profile I recommend meditating on the cards that make it up once you’ve completed the charts. Reading the interpretations in the beginning of the book didn’t do it for me in this capacity. I also prefer the RW system, so when I discovered that my soul/personality card was #8, I made the personal choice after comparing the two to my life that Strength was the best representative. 

The Tarot Handbook contains detailed interpretations of the cards in sections 1-5, including astrological correspondences. I loved her interpretations overall. They will enhance your view regardless of the system you prefer. 

 I found that applying the astrological  correspondences despite whatever deck system I use adds depth to the reading. You don’t need to know a lot about astrology itself to gain this depth in reading. Knowing how the astrology applies to the cards is easily learned. 

At the end of section 5 there is a portion titled Portals of Initiation and Growth as Revealed by the Minor Arcana. This portion delves into emotive, mental, and spiritual states both positive and negative and how the specific minor arcana cards show the challenge and the solution. The psych geek in me loved this. 

There is a section on Major Arcana constellations and how the cards relate to each other, and there are also spreads you can try for personal growth. Angeles Arrien offers a different way of looking at things, and it is expansive.

Overall, I highly recommend this book regardless of the tarot system you prefer. It’s an invaluable resource which draws on esoteric knowledge, psychological knowledge as well as cultural symbols. It is a fantastic tool for self-exploration through the tarot. 

Remember also that any book is supplementary to your intuition. When reading the cards trust yourself. 

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