“Top Ten” Tarot Books
Here is a list of what i consider top 10 reading material when it comes to tarot. These books take a look at Marseilles, Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth (Crowley-Harris) decks since there are many rider and thoth deck clones.
(in no particular order)
The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley (many editions).
A brillant if scattered book that has greatly influenced many deck creators. It is filled with gems such as: “The Tarot should be learnt as early in life as possible; a fulcrum for memory and a schema for mind. It should be studied constantly, a daily exercise; for it is universally elastic, and grows in proportion to the use intelligently made of it. Thus it becomes a most ingenious and excellent method of appreciating the whole of Existence.” And, “Do not be chained by the conventions of what others have had to say about the Tarot. It is ours to make and remake as we see fit.”
The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Vol. 1, 2, 3, by Stuart Kaplan (U.S. Games).
These are recommended for the serious Tarot student as THE source of the most meticulous and exacting research into the history and development of the Tarot. They also provide pictures, descriptions, and commentary on 600 years of decks, both published and unpublished.
Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey, by Sallie Nichols (Weiser, 1980).
The book that Carl Jung might have written (he did indicate his interest in a letter but never had time to follow it up). It is about the Major Arcana only, focusing on the Marseilles deck; however there are occasional references to Rider-Waite-Smith, and and extensive exploration of parallel images and myths both in history and everyday life. Very well written.
Choice Centered Tarot, by Gail Fairfield (Ramp Creek, 1984 – and several other editions).
Excellent checklist of considerations when selecting your deck. Her “choice-centered” philosophy of reading and her instructions for creating your own spreads are breakthrough concepts in Tarot. See especially her suggestions for dream interpretation. I don’t agree with her card meanings, which are highly structured; however they can apply to any deck. A liberating and exciting book.
Tarot For Your Self: A Workbook for Personal Transformation, by Mary K. Greer (Newcastle, 1984).
I use my compiler’s perogative to list myself (and I don’t mean to slight my other books Tarot Constellations, Tarot Mirrors, Essence of Magic, and Women of the Golden Dawn). One reviewer called TFYS “the best book ever written about Tarot,” and it is usually among the top ten listed by editors of Tarot newsletters. This book is for people who want to use Tarot for personal insight. An innovative approach to card interpretation poses a series of questions for the seeker to answer.
The Tarot of the Magicians, by Oswald Wirth (1927. Trans. from the French, Weiser, 1985).
This is my choice for the most lucid explication of the 19th century French magical tradition of Tarot from which our contemporary decks arise. Although patriarchal, it provides a solid background in esoteric lore and the occult meaning of symbols. It is illustrated by Wirth’s own deck (based on the Marseilles). Elizabeth Haich’s Wisdom of the Tarot is mostly a restatement of this work.
78 Degrees of Wisdom, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by Rachel Pollack (Aquarian, 1980, 1983).
Based on Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, however far surpasses that work due to Pollack’s insight into the cards’ symbolic and psychological meanings. Brillantly demonstrates how to apply symbolism in interpretations when reading the cards. Perhaps the most in-depth and best interpretations to date of Pamela (Pixie) Smith’s Minor Arcana. Vol. 2 also contains sample readings.
The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, by Paul Foster Case.
Read this book once a year. Meanings of the symbols on the Major Arcana are from the “Ageless Wisdom” or Western mystery school tradition (Hermetic and qabalistic). The author, who founded The Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) belonged to the Order of the Golden Dawn, used a “rectified” Rider-Waite-Smith deck. See also his Book of Tokens.
The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore, by Cynthia Giles (Simon&Schuster, 1992).
Fills a gap by critically interpreting the history and philosophical ideas of the Tarot and the people who proposed them. Giles presents an orderly and largely accurate perspective on the entire tradition. She also offers a variety of theories about how the Tarot operates, focusing on psychology (esp. Jung’s synchronicity) and the new physics (esp. chaos), without discounting a metaphysical dimension. Annotated bibliography. Thorough yet entertaining reading.
Tarot Symbolism, by Robert V. O’Neill (Fairway, 1986).
An outstanding, unparalleled examination of the Renaissance and Neo-Platonic sources of the Tarot symbols, and the development of Western thought and mysticism. However, the author rambles occasionally and the book desperately needs an index (note page numbers of important information as you read).
Submitted by: Jenn the Tarotista