CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.
by Philippe St. Genoux
A game which you play
This is a really interesting book.
It's not like a normal “How To” tarot book.
There's no lists of meanings telling you how to interpret the cards.
Instead it offers you various ways you can approach the cards to discover the meaning for yourself.
It ditches a lot of the old tropes of tarot reading – the Fool's journey, synchronicity, archetypes, psychic powers and the like – and offers in their place a new understanding of the process, as an art-form.
Well I say “new”. In fact he delves into the tarot's past to rediscover its roots—as a game, which you play—and introduces us to a long-forgotten form, originating in the Renaissance period in Italy, known as Tarocchi Appropriati.
The idea of the game was to select one of the trumps (the major arcana) and to assign it to an opponent in a witty, clever or poetic way, in order to amuse the other players.
This may have been a separate game from the game of trumps, or it may have been incorporated into it, so that a game of cards became an exercise in artistic or poetic license.
Whatever the method, this was a game which continued for many centuries, right up until the 19th century, and shows the cards in a new light: as tools for the imagination, as launchpads for flights of fancy, as catalysts for inspiration.
This seems to me a genuinely new approach to our understanding of the cards.
As the author says: “the tarot game can be played by all.”
And that is the secret of this book's approach: playfulness.
This is no po-faced occultism. You approach the cards in a spirit of play, as an artist approaches his canvas, as a poet approaches his page.
This is tarot as Picasso might have painted it. It is tarot as Dylan might have sung it. Tarot as art. Tarot as poetry. Tarot as a conversation with your own inner self.
I've chosen Picasso and Dylan as my examples because they were the first to come to mind. I'm sure you could think of others. But they are both, in their own way, very apt: Picasso because of his neoclassical etchings, almost like tarot cards themselves, both in their simplicity of line, and in the sense you get from them that you are entering another world: the dream world, the mythic world, the world of the imagination. That surely is the place where tarot readings should come from.
Likewise Dylan in his song “Lilly, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” from his Blood on the Tracks album. In this case the Jack of Hearts is the trump in a western folk-tale, a figure who strides the song like a mythic presence, just like an image from the deck.
Backstage the girls were playin’ five-card stud by the stairs
Lily had two queens, she was hopin’ for a third to match her pair
Outside the streets were fillin’ up, the window was open wide
A gentle breeze was blowin’, you could feel it from inside
Lily called another bet and drew up the Jack of Hearts
— Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts: BOB DYLAN
Cold reading isn't cold.
What the author has managed to do in this book is to remove the cards from the vagaries of the occult world, with it's recourse to pseudo-scientific jargon.
Whenever an occultist attempts to justify his work in terms of a barely understood, highfalutin, mysterious-sounding scientific concept like Quantum Mechanics, you just know that he's talking bollocks, and every proper scientist can mock his efforts. But no scientist can mock Picasso's claim to the truth because Picasso isn't arguing from a scientific standpoint. He's an artist, and his truth, profound and mysterious as it is, is forged in the laboratory of his own imagination.
It is in this spirit that the author manages to dismantle that old accusation against tarot readers that what they are engaged in is “just” cold reading.
Yes it is cold reading – defined as “picking up clues through observation of a person's appearance, speech and body language” – but it is not “just” anything.
Cold reading is itself an art-form, and a useful and subtle one at that.
To define it as “just” anything is tantamount to saying that art is “just” splashing paint on a canvas, or that poetry is “just” stringing words together.
It is cold reading that saves us from being ripped off by con-merchants. It is cold reading that ensures that a Mother knows what her child needs before the child has learned to speak. And – what's more – it's not even cold. It is warm, as humans are warm. As humans warm to each other, so they read more and more into what the other person is saying to them, in all these other, subtle, secret, interesting ways that lie outside the realm of grammar.
This is a liberating thought, and one that all of you tarot readers out there could take on board.
Next time someone accuses you of “cold-reading” you can honestly deny it, not in terms of your psychic ability, but by simply saying that it's not cold-reading at all. It is warm-reading: your warmth as a human being touching another's warmth, in order to allow you to “read” them, along with the cards.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thinking Person's Guide to Tarot
24 September 2015
I loved this book! It’s full of fascinating snippets and unique ideas about tarot that, even though I must have read nearly every tarot book going, were new to me. I like how the author expands the practice of tarot-reading beyond the realms of fortune-telling and presents a completely original and ingenious way of looking at the cards. It’s not a book for someone who just wants to be told what the cards “mean” (there are plenty of those out there, and they can all be a bit of a muchness), but if you really want to expand your own abilities in reading, it’s a must-have book. He weaves together the “art” of tarot interpretation with references to poetry, psychology, drama, history, meditation and dreams. It’s not a long book, but it’s absolutely packed with ideas, information and suggestions I will definitely be keeping this on my bookshelf as a reference/guide. INSPIRING!
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly original take on the Tarot.
23 December 2015
This book is a gem. I really like the authors` vision of Tarot as "a way of getting in touch with creative intelligence".
So,as well as being a very valuable aid to using the tarot for doing readings,this is also a book about creativity and how to access it. As such, it has really helped my tarot explorations and pointed me down unexpected new pathways
There are quite a number of useful "how-to" techniques and methods in this book, yet its real power is in how the author uses creative thinking to inspire creativity in the mind of the reader.
I have been using the tarot for over 20 years,so my palate can be a bit jaded when it comes to tarot books,but this one is definitely original, refreshing and `out-of-the-box`,
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, new, inspiring
30 March 2016
I love this book. It redefines how we can look at the tarot. It takes tarot out of that old, empty psychic world, and into the world of art. You don't need pseudo-scientific explanations to understand what is going on here. It is tarot as Picasso might have painted it, tarot as Dylan might have sung it. Tarot as art. Tarot as poetry. Tarot as a conversation with your own inner self. The writer overturns a number of the tired old tropes of tarot reading and offers you new ways of looking at it. Plus there's some fascinating history in here. I would recommend this to anyone who, like me, finds the tarot fascinating, but who dislikes the mumbo-jumbo that usually goes with it. A fresh, new, inspiring look at a mysterious, intriguing pack of cards.
4.0 out of 5 stars Helps you to dig deeper
2 November 2015
I read this book and got a lot out of it. My restrospective view is that it isnt a book for beginners, because it assumes a grounding in Tarot which I dont have, but where it's at its strongest is holding up a psychological mirror to the reader's imaginative intuition. If you already have a basic understanding of Tarot symbolism then this would be the book to take you to the next /deeper level.
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique book for creative and mindful living using Tarot
12 November 2015
This is not your usual Tarot book that only tells you about Tarot reading methods and meaning of each card. Rather, it's a book that invites us to live more creatively, intuitively and with more wakefulness using Tarot as a medium. The author writes in such a way that makes it easy for even a very beginner, such as myself, to start using Tarot and exploring different aspects of oneself and life. This book also contains a tarot reading method that can be easily learned and can be used from day one. As a psychotherapist and dream worker, I also found the section on 'Dreams and the Tarot' very interesting and useful. Beautifully written and highly recommended.
© 2016 Christopher James Stone