A book review of The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin.
The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life is an excellent tarot card reading manual for beginners to the more experienced card reader.
I loved that Crispin gives novel, art, and film suggestions for each card so that the reader can immerse herself in the “feel” or “mood” of them. That was a lovely touch and different from any other book on tarot cards that I’ve read.
Mainly, the books that I’ve picked up have been about tarot card theory and how the cards tie in to the Tree of Life. It’s a complex system and can only be talked about in metaphors.
Imagine my relief to read a book about just the cards themselves and not an arcane “theory of everything.”
A.E. Waite was the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot. He had some interesting thoughts about the tarot card reading qabalists, many of whom wrote books like the ones I’ve mentioned above.
A.E. Waite’s beliefs, which Crispin includes in the chapter entitled, A History of the Tarot, were: “Waite believed that the magical systems (tarot) of the Golden Dawn and other systems were not about imposing your will on a situation… or about telling the future… He believed they were for elevating the soul and for bringing what is unconscious conscious.” pg 7.
I believe that too. But, if you can’t explain the system in a way that makes sense, then what’s the point of writing a beginner’s manual. There can be no “elevation of the soul” if the beginners can’t understand the first thing about reading tarot cards.
Thankfully, Crispin’s interpretations are simple and clear. This is a book that will see some use, not become another expensive paperweight.
I liked Crispin’s description of Temperance: “Temperance is an easily misunderstood card, as it has become associated mostly with abstention. Not drinking, not participating, denying yourself something. But that breaks away from the origins of the card, which traditionally portrays a hermaphrodite blending two cups of water- one hot and one cold- to create something in the middle between these two extremes.” pgs 76-77
Temperance is about finding the middle way, not skirting along the edges from one extreme to another. Kind of ruins the idea of a “temperance movement,” doesn’t it.
I also liked this blurb about the Tower: “Remember that scene in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, where Amy throws Jo’s stories into the fire? That’s the feeling of the Tower: the realization that all is lost, and you will have to start over from the beginning.” pg 83
Yes, I’m a bookworm. Yes, Little Women is one of my favorite books. I think Crispin nailed the card’s description with that scene.
I thought this description of The Moon was brilliant: “The Moon rules our dreams, and that’s a good way to think about this card. They don’t make sense on a logical level, but on a personal level, on an emotional level, they do. The location in a dream will shift without warning; dead people will walk beside the living; your mother will show up, say something nonsensical while wearing a jellyfish on her head, and then stab you in the heart. And you wake up and think, “Oh, of course, this is about that incident that happened when I was five.”
My dreams are just like that. In fact, I had that exact dream last night. 🙂
The tone in The Creative Tarot is very friendly and conversational, as if you asked your best friend to teach you a little bit about her favorite hobby- tarot cards. Highly recommended for artists, dreamers, and aspiring tarot card readers.
Its only weakness, in my opinion, is that I wanted more… more stories, more examples. I understand that we’re dealing with 50 plus cards and they can’t all receive extremely detailed treatment, otherwise we’d get the George R.R. Martin version of Tarot card books, but a girl can dream.
Jessa Crispin has modernized a system that seems to want to stay inaccessible to the beginner. I wish more of the books about the tarot were like this one.
Thanks for reading!