A book review.
I have mentioned on here previously that I was reading Camelia Elias’s book Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading, published by Eyecorner Press. I recently finished the book and found it so refreshing, and just incredibly amazing that I want to share a little review of it in this space.
The book is about storytelling with the Marseille Tarot. How to construct stories that speak to the querent and that consequently reveal our “blind spots.” It starts with laying down the foundation, how to construct stories, how to ask the cards, where to look for more information. She provides excellent outside sources to complement our tarot journey, from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Enrique Enriquez to the writer Italo Calvino. She doesn’t delve into the logistics of determining the future and how to ask the right question, that is merely up to the reader and what she/he feels comfortable with. The Tarot is such an expansive language that it can encompass all these nuances, we should not worry ourselves with the minutiae. It is truly up to the reader.
The Tarot is a visual and poetic language that enables us to respond to an embodied situation presented in the cards. It’s the best kind of learning. And often the wisest.
The Cunning-Folk Method:
Useful stories that rests on the premise that a pack of cards can be seen as a tool in describing that which we have no words for, but which we would like to see crystallize before our eyes.
She applies traditional folk methods to reading cards, based on cartomancy, and distills this passed-down-through-the-ages knowledge in the art of telling a story through the cards lying on a table.
A good portion of the book, about half, goes into detail about the Trumps and also uses real life reading situations to contextualize the meaning of the Trump. The interesting part here is where she presents in a very common-sensical manner ways of interpreting the card in combination with another card. For example: Le Pendu
With Le Pape (The Pope)= A mystic
With Lemperance (Temperance)= Yoga instructor
With Le Diable (The Devil)= Underground spy
For some this might seem far-fetched but truly look at the card, at the character presented, the connotations, and distill this in combination with the added card and you begin to see the origin of this point of view. To me, this was inspiring. The possibilities inherent within the cards are truly endless, versatile and magical.
With the suits she doesn’t go in depth into each one, she basically applies the cartomantic rules of making logical inferences to the pips and that is all. As she states:
Essentially, we always go from tension to release. And that’s basically all. One is a little, ten is a lot. Unity and division, contraction and expansion, and far and near optical observations.
With the batons we construct , with the swords we fight and dig, with cups we celebrate and drink, with coins we barter and buy. From here on out, we make inferences based on the number and the surrounding cards and voila! ça suffit. This might seem a little vague but when you get the cards out and start playing around with them it starts making complete sense. Also, keep in mind that the most important part to any system is consistency.
Towards the end of the book she gives the basis for the French Cross while also delving into the nuances of the simple three card spread with a top and bottom card and ending with the logistics of a reading/querent situation. How to read for others, etc. All in all, this is an excellent book. How Camelia Elias weaves a story that is both evocative and pertinent is truly inspiring. In my humble opinion, I am not big on reading how-to books, yes I read the LWB tarots come with but in general I don’t delve too much into reading a lot of how-to material. I don’t like being told what things mean, I like getting there of my own accord. This book is so much more than a How-to book on reading the Marseille tarot, it is a magical book on how to see the cards in a more subtle light, how to create stories that speak to us and that take us further than our present moment. It is as the title states, a book on the art of reading. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for a different and stimulating approach to reading the cards.
*Deck used: Jean Noblet, Jean-Claude Flornoy restoration.