The Tarot – A Short Treatise on Reading Cards

I was going through a box of Tarot material that a friend sent me some time ago, and came across S. L. MacGregor Mathers “The Tarot – A Short Treatise on Reading Cards”. Published in 1993 by Samuel Weiser, Inc., it is a revised and updated edition of Mather’s original Treatise of the same name.

I love little books like this! The first thing that I noted is that yes, it is readable. Not a lot of arcane words/phrasing. He discusses Tarot history, the meaning of the Tarot, the derivation of the word Tarot, and charts the correspondences between Italian, French and English suit names, and the suits for a deck of playing cards (Diamonds, Hearts, Spades and Clubs).

He also includes little tidbits, such as the Kings wearing a cap-of-maintenance under their crowns, while the Queens wear the crown only. (The deck type referenced in this book is the Marseille Tarot.)

In presenting the cards, Mathers describes the imagery and presents a word or phrase that represents the quality of the card. For example, the Magician is represented by Will, while the High Priestess is represented by Science, Wisdom, or Knowledge. In a separate section both upright and reversed meanings are given.

In a section entitled “Special Insights”, Mathers shares additional remarks, primarily taken from the work of Etteilla. For example: ”25. Knave of Sceptres – Reversed – Notice between what cards the news falls, which will show whence it comes, and of what nature it is.”

At the end of the book Mathers presents three spreads for reading the cards, as well as an explanation for playing hte game of Tarot (Tarocchi). There are also short notes on occult and Qabalistic symbolism.

Quite the interesting little book!

© January 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

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