I’ll be honest and say that it’s not the easiest, lightest read in the world. The author, Christine Payne-Towler, is a serious Tarot researcher and scholar of many years and this is apparent immediately just by the size of the book. It looks like a text book and almost demands to be laid open on a desk and pored over intently, not curled up with casually on a sofa (although I did take the latter approach occasionally with the result of aching arms)!
I confess that having already visited Christine’s information-packed website, I felt slightly intimidated by the subject matter and so I chose to start reading the last chapter first, which for me was a very good move. It was only through intuitively being drawn to adopt my favourite Thoth deck that I even began to delve into the astrology, Kaballah and Hebrew alpahabet associations on the cards. In this final chapter of her book, Christine explains why these associations are so important, how they can differ from deck to deck, and why understanding the system your deck is using (called astro-alphanumeric) can inform and affect your reading with it so dramatically.
So with this framework in place, I was able to dive into the body of the book with greater confidence. I found it fascinating, enlightening and at times challenging. Christine takes you on a journey through the esoteric origins of Tarot, illustrating the changing influences of ancient astrology, Hebrew Kaballah, Alexandrian Hermeticism, Renaissance Magism, Gnosticism and European Secret Societies on its development through the ages. Essentially, she says, all these trace back to the same underlying sources – the underground stream of esoteric wisdom from the beginnings of time.
Christine is clear about her own conclusions on what is the most accurate system to use and why, and she gives you clear charts and diagrams which enable you to see the differing correspondences adopted by different “schools” and ages of decks. From what I’ve read elsewhere her conclusions are controversial, but you don’t have to agree with the author. In fact you’d have to do years of extensive research to enable you to decide whether you do. But the book provides you with an understanding of how she decided on her views and a comprehensive bibliography of the material she used to reach them, so you can do that for yourself if you feel moved to – that alone is worth the price as a great number of them I’d never even heard of.
If nothing else, I recommend that all Tarot readers work through the exercises in Part IV which give you several “tests” to put your deck through, helping you to determine if the deck’s astro-alphanumeric system is comfortable and right for you. I’m definitely going to use it in the future as the process was interesting and revelatory for me. The other gem is that once you have the correct chart for your deck system using those provided in the book, you can easily combine Tarot readings with current astrological planet transits. There are a number of Internet sites that enable you to produce current transit charts for free, and this adds a whole extra dimension to your readings.
Christine’s passion and enthusiasm for Tarot and its role as an esoteric teacher is inspiring and infectious, and she has certainly renewed my already great respect for it as well as opened my mind to new and interesting ways of working with my deck of choice. Intuition can work happily alongside a more mathematical, calculatory method of card reading; in fact, they enhance and inform each other.
You can read more of Christine’s in depth research in the Arkletters on her informative website, and click on the picture of the book to buy from Amazon: