Beyond The Celtic Cross –
Secret Techniques for taking Tarot to an exciting new level
Author: Catherine Chapman & Paul Hughes-Barlow
Aeon Books Ltd
Before I begin my review, I would like to talk for a moment about the three individuals involved in this book. Paul Hughes-Barlow is a well known and highly respected authority in the field of Tarot. Several years ago he worked with Comparative Tarot members to help us to understand Elemental Dignities. As we floundered through, he gave us a great deal of his time, patience and expertise. He was ever the gentleman, and we will all be eternally grateful for that. Paul has had quite an elaborate site up for some time now – www.supertarot.co.uk – the best resource that I have seen when it comes to Elemental Dignities in particular and reading the cards in general.
Catherine Chapman is a young lady that I met on Twitter – just about the time that she was getting her site, www.tarotelements.com, up and running. I admire Catherine for her courtesy, her wisdom, and for her vision. I see her as an up and coming lady in the field of Tarot – someone whose progress it is fun to watch!
Douglas Gibbs is someone that also crossed my path on Twitter. He did not have an active part in the process of this book, but he played a major role in writing the foreword, and doing one of the best reviews that I have seen on this book. He was also there to act in a supportive role, and to be someone to bounce ideas off of. His site – www.taroteon.com – and his blog, are very pithy, very in depth, and very relevant. If you want to expand your Tarot worldview, visit Douglas’ site!
As the Tarot tells the story of the Seeker, this book tells the story of one person’s journey – that of Catherine Chapman, and her attempt to interpret and understand a relationship reading that she had done for herself that ended up with two Knight’s in future positions – one of which was in the position of the outcome!
Amazingly, this whole book is about interpreting one single reading! Catherine used a Celtic Cross spread for the reading, laid out in the traditional manner, with defined positions. The first thing that Paul did was to transform the spread into a linear spread, where it will stay for the duration.
Quoting Douglass from his foreword: “This journey includes the use of techniques that were originally developed for the Opening of the Key Spread and chronicles Catherine’s own Spiritual journey, culminating in a series of powerful initiating visions.”
Douglas goes on to talk about the foundation of this book – the dialogue between Paul and Catherine, with Paul as guide and Catherine examining and interpreting the cards. As Catherine notes, this was at time frustrating, because she would ask a question, and there would be no answer. She was the one on the quest, and her answers were to be found within.
In his introduction Paul addresses issues that all readers face at some point in time – amongst which are struggling to understand a reading and its object. Also, the fact that at times specific sections within a reading may read like Greek to both the reader and the Seeker, or you may simply be going in circles trying to interpret the cards. How do we go beyond this as readers and access new depths within the cards?
Through e-mail, over a period of ten days, Paul and Catherine worked together to transform the reading. The cards drawn, along with the position meanings, are presented so that the reader can get a visual on what is being worked with. Then the cards are shown in the linear template – in the exact order they were drawn, but placed down in a linear fashion.
Part of the process between Paul and Catherine was that she wanted to understand Elemental Dignities better, and be able to apply them to the reading. In doing so, Catherine encouraged Paul to write in more detail about the process of uncovering the hidden ninety percent of the reading.
In deciding to write a book together, and in rewriting and restructuring the book, Paul notes that both he and Catherine experienced personal transformation. Catherine’s confidence in reading the Tarot grew by leaps and bounds, and her questions became more complex, philosophical and insightful. As a result, Paul had to raise the bar for his own standards!
The first part of the book addresses the structure of the reading as it was originally set out, including the positional meanings. The techniques used for interpretation are Card Counting, Elemental Dignities, and Card Pairing – in that order.
This is followed by chapters on analyzing three card combinations (which had some surprises in it for me!), advanced elemental analysis and elemental bases, and the transforming power of the Aces. Paul also addressed the cards that were not counted, and the power that they held.
What is the end of this story? Which Knight wins? Or does Catherine win? Douglas was quite right when he called the visions that Catherine had after doing this work initiatory visions. (Visions that grew in strength the longer she spent on the journey with Paul.) They involved Pegasus, a dancing High Priestess (sacred dance), and continued visits with the High Priestess. Then there was the child, that she recognized as having come to her before as a baby.
This is a book that you will not be able to put down. My one suggestion would be to not move from one section to the next until you have thoroughly understood it. This book will bring out great wisdom from the reader, as well as from the cards.
© April 2010 Bonnie Cehovet