The best books on tarot and its many facets

Vanessa Decort Author Of Sun and Moon Tarot
By Vanessa Decort

Who am I?

Since I was a teenager, I have been attracted to astrology, Jungian psychology, synchronicity, symbolism, alchemy, and Jewish esotery. Someone gave me my first Tarot deck as a present. Since then I collect old and new decks from the entire world and created my own Sun and Moon TarotI continue to deepen my knowledge of tarot and all the systems associated with it. At times I focus more on the Sefiroth and Kabbalah. Sometimes I’m more interested in different ways of interpreting tarot. I've been illustrating Astrological Learning Cards for a while now, trying to better understand the different astrological archetypes and to make art.

I wrote and illustrated...

Sun and Moon Tarot

By Vanessa Decort,

Book cover of Sun and Moon Tarot

What is my book about?

By playfully incorporating mythology and astrology, I bring unique interpretations to traditional tarot. The deck follows the traditional structure of Crowley Thoth Tarot but is also influenced by the book Mind MirrorThe Minor Arcana features Crowley’s keywords, but has people in the imagery and is influenced by the symbolism of Pamela Colman Smith's illustrations. Major Arcana cards show the associated Hebrew letter in the artwork.

Sun and Moon Tarot is a multi-cultural tarot deck with symbolism borrowed from Hinduism, yoga, ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and more. The Sun and Moon Tarot was published in 2010 and the pocket-sized version in 2017, it’s presented in a tin and features the black borders as originally designed.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Man and His Symbols

By Carl Jung,

Book cover of Man and His Symbols

Why this book?

As a visual artist, I adore symbols, it’s unbelievable how a symbol can evoke emotions through its associations and meanings. Each Tarot card has its own character and many symbols. These reveal more than their immediate meaning and they visualise human experiences, behavioural patterns and developmental patterns. These archetypal images, as Jung calls them, are stored in our collective unconscious and can be found all over the world in our fantasy, dreams, mythology, religion, literature, fairy tales and other forms of art.

In Tarot and other oracle systems, the concept of synchronicity would explain how they "work" as a kind of mirror of the psyche. The symbols and illustrations are thus the language with which the tarot can make the unconscious in our psyche conscious. They mirror what happens from the inside to the outside. So the cards would reflect your inner state at that time. 

In this book, CG Jung explains with great clarity his basic ideas about the collective unconscious, myths, symbols, archetypes and dreams. His closest collaborators describe the practical elaborations and applications of these core ideas. For me it was a very cool experience to discover very large similarities with the cards of the Major Arcana while reading the descriptions of different symbols, motives and archetypes.

Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life

By Bernard Beitman,

Book cover of Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life

Why this book?

Coincidences and synchronicity fascinate me endlessly. I have been collecting books on this subject since 2000. With synchronicity, there’s a connection between your inner state and a physical outer event. And I believe that’s what we evoke while doing readings with tarot cards!

I agree with Dr. Beitman when he says that a meaningful coincidence can lead us to think completely differently about the nature of reality. Sometimes they are little hints that make us suspect that there is a reality where everything is connected to everything. They are lifting ‘The Veils of Maya’, the illusions that prevent us from seeing ‘actual reality’.

Bernard Beitman MD has been studying coincidences all his life and he’s the first psychiatrist since Carl Gustav Jung to attempt to systematise the study of coincidences. He explains how they could be activated and how we can use them to solve problems and to make choices. In addition to his book, I am also a fan of his podcast in which he talks weekly with different guests.

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot

By Rachel Pollack,

Book cover of The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot

Why this book?

I like many of Rachel Pollack's books, but this was one of the first tarot books I read. This kind of book is perfect for me to learn something. It reads very easily, more like a course than a book with pages full of text. The layout is light and each page is richly illustrated with colour photos including tarot cards from all over the world, so you can compare and get a good idea of ​​the character of each card.

All facets of tarot, which you can delve into later, are discussed: origin, history & the different traditions, symbols & colours, the Tree of Life & the Hebrew letters, numbers & the paths of the Sefiroth, Kabbalah & astrology, the journey of the fool through the Major Arcana, different readings & card spreads, different ways to use the tarot cards: to meditate, to work with dreams, games, storytelling and music.

Rachel also pays attention to the value of making your own tarot deck, by copying, colouring or painting it. Or by making your own version in a very simple way with collage techniques or photography. Or by designing or illustrating your own new tarot deck. And that is exactly what I have done. I created my own deck to deepen myself more into each card separately and to pass on this wisdom. Making your own tarot deck is also a journey through self-discovery and spiritual development.

Mind Mirror Close Encounters with Yourself

By Rufus C. Camphausen,

Book cover of Mind Mirror Close Encounters with Yourself

Why this book?

While designing and illustrating my own Sun and Moon Tarot, I followed the normal order of letters of the Hebrew alphabet and therefore also their values. And I respected the original Western Hermetic order of the cards on the paths of the Tree of Life and their corresponding Hebrew letters. This system is explained in detail in this book.

Rufus C. Camphausen describes in detail how the numbering of the tarot cards has been changed by different groups of people (Kabbalists, Astrologers, the Hermetic order of the Golden Dawn & Aleister Crowley, A. E. Waite of the Rider Waite Tarot). The same is true with the assignment of the planets and zodiac signs and the assignment of the numbers and the Hebrew letters on the paths of the Sefiroth (Tree of Life in Kabbalah).

Together with Van Leeuwen he also created ‘The Kabbalistic Tarot/Tree-of-life Tarot’. This tarot deck was designed as a study aid for learning the Kabbalistic and Astrological associations in Tarot. The images on each card are wholly symbolic. Instead of illustrated scenes, the Major Arcana features the Tree of Life with a path between two Sefiroth highlighted. Within each of the two Sefiroth, a planetary symbol is inscribed. The Minor Arcana shows a zodiac wheel with three houses highlighted and a small glyph of the Tree of Life is in the center of the Zodiac wheel.

Histoire du tarot - Origines - Iconographie - Symbolisme

By Isabelle Nadolny,

Book cover of Histoire du tarot - Origines - Iconographie - Symbolisme

Why this book?

When you delve into different facets of the tarot, you come across quite a few different models or systems with different assignments of numbers, Hebrew letters, paths, astrological signs…which can be very confusing! I was quite confused myself when I was looking for the correspondence between the 4 Tarot ‘suits’ and those of a regular card game and find different contradictory correspondence with the pips of regular playing cards.

In a lecture, Isabelle explained to me very clearly with many examples how the 4 elements or colour symbols of the 4 suits in the regular card game originated and changed over the years and how they evolved in different systems of the tarot cards.

Isabelle Nadolny has done a lot of research working as a historian in the National Library of France and has compiled her findings, based on multiple references and documented resources, in this thick and very richly illustrated book. Her search gives us more insights into the origins and history of Tarot. Where and when it might have originated, what it might have served for, how the colour symbols, the pictures, the numbering, and the names have changed in the different traditions and countries, and how tarot evolved into a divination game and when tarot became occult. You can find out all this and much more in this very interesting French book that needs to be translated into English!

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