04 Dec Astrology and Tarot: A Review of books and decks for all levels
Astrology and Tarot Book Review [December 2020]
by guest contributor Shelleigh Buckingham
I thought I should start by telling you a little about myself. I am fifty-one-year-old retired optometrist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and studio art (printmaking). Ever since college, I have been interested in mystical teachings. One of my friends from college (now a Baptist minister) called me a mystic back in the day. That is when my interest in mystical teachings began. Of course, I didn’t have my spiritual awakening until I turned forty.
Of course wanting to explore all things mystical and spiritual was lost in my first marriage to Todd, optometry school, and two children being born and raised. I met a friend, Anastasia, who lived in my neighborhood when I was 40 and she sparked my interest in the mystical again with her spiritual teachings. She has since died, as well as Todd (5.5 years ago), my father (1 year after), my birth-father last year (I am adopted), and my mother-in-law and father-in-law, to name a few in my inner circle, as well as some in my outer circles. I also had to close my optometry business and say goodbye to my career after a diagnosis of narcolepsy. This hit me all at once, it seemed.
I consulted an evolutionary astrologer and he commented on my Saturn in the 8th House as the most likely explanation of all the losses and deaths (and subsequent inheritances) that I was encountering. I now have a phoenix tattoo on my left hip to remind me that I can rise from the ashes….again and again.
So, when I say I am a beginner, I am. But I have learned so much from gathering books and watching my favorite tarot readers on Youtube. I am an INFJ (Meyers Briggs) and consider myself to have pretty good intuition, but I do not possess any psychic abilities. I remember a book I had in college about reading auras, and so desperately wanted to see and interpret auras, but totally sucked at it! I guess it just takes practice and opening myself up to things. Too much of a Virgo South Node to tap into psychic waves properly, I suppose. I needed to start somewhere and I wanted to learn astrology and tarot because they are gateways to knowledge and a better understanding of myself, my journey, and those that are along my path. Mysticism 101. Reading auras must be an advanced class (tee hee!).
I have a collection of tarot cards and am most drawn to those with beautiful illustrations, but I discovered that the original illustrations had so much symbolism in terms of the meaning behind the cards. There is a progression of the soul and lessons to learn encompassed in the cards. The tarot cards can be linked to astrology and by putting the two together, a picture of yourself and your path can be drawn. So here we begin the exploration together. Here are a few of my favorite tarot and astrology books that have helped me begin my search through the mysteries of the Universe and have fun.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack
This book is the best for understanding the original meanings behind the cards and what symbolism is encompassed in the cards based upon the Rider-Waite illustrations. There is a bit of history of tarot as well. This book also addresses the cards as a journey for the soul into self-awareness. I would start here. It is important to understand the cards, and not just memorize what each card means. If you understand the “Gold Standard” cards (Rider-Waite) then you will be able to understand other decks that have more graphic and less descriptive images. Plus, self-discovery is always a good thing!
The Tarot Companion by Liz Dean
This little book is a gem. It also references the Rider-Waite tarot deck. It is excellent for doing a quick lookup of the cards, and it is colorful and easily understood. There are some tarot spreads included and meanings of the cards in regards to home, relationships, career, and money plus a wisdom message for the Major Arcana. Some tarot decks come with small booklets, but not all have enough information while learning the cards. I do love that this book is portable, informative, and can fit into my oh, so handy Mary Poppins Purse.
Tarot by Tina Gong
You can never have too many reference books, and this is a lovely one. I purchased this one and it came with a set of matching tarot cards. The descriptions are just as long for the reversed readings as they are for the upright readings, which is nice if you choose to learn and refer to both. Starting out, I am familiarizing myself with upright meanings, but will eventually transition to both, so this book will have both an interpretation, a reflection and an action section for each card. I do love the multiple tarot spreads that are interspersed throughout with a sample interpretation of cards in that spread as an example to help with learning to intuitively read the cards in relation to each other. I call this book pretty, potent, and powerful.
Tarot and Astrology by Corrine Kenner
I was so excited to find this book that encompasses tarot and astrology! So many of the seasoned readers mention tarot cards and their link to astrological signs and planets. This book starts with a short overview of tarot and its connection to astrology. All seventy-eight cards are included, and knowing the corresponding astrology to a card only adds depth to the meaning and interpretations in each spread. Now I can bring my two interests together for more insight, plus that feeds my obsession for learning, observing, and shopping for more books!
Complete Book of Astrology by Kris Brandt Riske, M.A.
This book is my go-to book for learning and looking up chart information. It starts with the basics of astrology and ends with analyzing the charts of famous people. Signs, planets, houses, and aspects are all covered. It might take a while to read all of the information here, but I don’t think that you have to read it like a novel. It is nice to have a tangible form of Google where you can make notes in the margins and underline at will.
The Secret Language of Astrology by Roy Gillett
For those who enjoy a bit more history, art and text about astrology, this is the book for you! It has wonderful historical descriptions and stories that give a universal perspective on how astrology has been present alongside religion, psychology, history, and art. All signs, houses, and aspects are covered. It is a great coffee table book, alongside my candles and tv remotes, all within reach with my morning tea.
Everyone has their favorite tarot decks, the ones that “resonate” and speak to the reader. The choices can be almost overwhelming. I find that the first place to start is knowing and owning a Rider Waite-Smith tarot deck as the “Gold Standard” to understand the meanings and symbolism behind each card. After that, it is a search for decks that are unusual, pretty, descriptive, and downright cool. Here is just a list of just a few of my favorites to help you start your search. My hope is to inspire you to find one you like here or to go exploring for the one that calls to you.
Radiant Wise Spirit Tarot – This is a beautiful autumn colored deck that has all of the original Waite-Smith illustrations. The warmth and depth of the cards’ images have an Arts and Crafts feel to them, and I consider this deck my “Gold Standard”. There are no borders, and the back of the cards are a lovely pattern of flowers. This deck comes with a small booklet of brief descriptions with a sturdy box. The cards are shiny and super slick, made of a nice thick card stock.
Anima Mundi Tarot – My favorite birthday present because I love the nature-inspired illustrations in soft browns, greys, and blues. There is a mysterious undertone to this deck but not dark. Each illustration nicely conveys the meaning of each card. The cards are of matt card stock with shiny gold edges. A booklet accompanies the deck with some genus species identification of some of the animals depicted as well as short tarot interpretations. The back of the cards depicts moons and stars, continuing the deck’s theme of mystery.
The Light Seer’s Tarot – Of course this is a popular deck among readers, and rightfully so. The images are colorful and unique with figures that are animated to convey a story within each card that corresponds with the original illustration meanings. This deck is very easy to interpret and comes with a nice thick book of excellent interpretations. This is one of those decks that I believe is a must-have to expand understanding and development of intuitive abilities for readings. The cards are slick, shuffle easily, and bring storytelling to light.
Wildwood Tarot – If you want a dynamic Celtic and nature-inspired deck, this one is for you! It is non-traditional in its labels of Bows (Wands), Arrows (Swords), Vessels (Cups) and Stones (Pentacles), as well as The Shaman (The Fool) and The Green Woman (Empress), that do convey every attitude and meaning of the original Waite deck, with a flair for the mystical and magic of nature. The cards in this deck are of the nice quality of playing cards and shuffle easily. There is a large book with long descriptions, but I just love interpreting from the illustrations themselves with the background knowledge of what the traditional cards mean. This way, the cards speak for themselves.
Winter Waite – I was sooo excited to find this deck! For anyone who is a fan of Christmas, this deck will keep you feeling festive all year! Purchase them here: tarotcolletables.com. They are based out of the UK. These cards mirror the original Smith-Waite illustrations with a snowy, wintery feel. Santa Clause shows up on the Chariot card as well as the Emperor. Lots of reindeer, elves, and holiday cheer within this deck! The cards are super slick and shiny and easy to handle with a stately blue plaid on the back. I can’t stop smiling and wanting to hum Christmas carols as I shuffle.
Wayhome Tarot – Here is my favorite deck that has images that nod to the original meanings of the cards in a creative and graphic way. Of course, they are for the science nerd, are modern in design and highly symbolic in nature (pun intended). From the King of Swords as the embodiment of lightning to the 2 of Pentacles, an infinity coiled snake surrounding two eggs, this deck won’t disappoint the advanced reader or those that are into minimalistic tarot.
The Tarot of the Divine – Worldly, colorful, and playfulness all describe this deck. If you like liveliness and diversity, this one has it all. The characters on each card depict a legend or figure from folklore from around the globe. I smile at the vibrance and storytelling encompassed in each image that not only accurately depicts the meaning of the card, but has an underlying history of its own. The cards have a texture to them and shuffle easily, if not too easily. The moon phase illustration on the back of cosmic in nature and the feelings in the cards evoke a sense of Disney cartoon wonder spliced with a rich history to give a wonderland tarot experience.
The Naked Heart Tarot – Another beautifully illustrated minimalistic, yet colorful deck that speaks of Spirits (Kings), Hearts (Queens), Movements (Knights), and Innocences (Pages) that accompany colorful animal illustrations, alchemy symbols, and black & white line drawings. These, although simple in design, do convey the meanings of the cards well. There is a booklet included that gives a message, an animal “whispers” advice, some astrological links, and crystal recommendations. There is one extra card in this deck, number 22, which is the Naked Heart. The stiff card stock has golden edges and a matt finish. I am drawn to the geometric and illustrative combination of style here that brings line and form together beautifully!
The Golden Art Nouveau Tarot – I needed another deck with traditional images on it and was immediately drawn to the bling in this deck, though I am not one to wear a lot of bling. The lush metallic gold and crisp images are sure to delight us all. They just bring me so much happiness, because I am always drawn to Art Deco and Art Nouveau images. The deck is of thin player card quality, and they shuffle easily. Whenever I need an emotional pick me up, this is the deck that chooses to shine a bit of Universal goldenness back with the messages.
Tina Gong Tarot – This pastel inspired deck came with a book I bought, and the soft graphic images are just what I need some days. The colors are calming and the illustrations simple, but descriptive of the meanings of cards. I like this deck because it has the companion book that I use to learn and reference. The cards are lightweight, card stock, shuffle well, and are a nice addition to my collection when I need a bit of silence, reflection, and simplicity.
5-Cent Tarot – These original art cards have that vintage feel of explorer illustrations and with a hint of steampunk. The cards have a lot going on visually, but there are keywords on each card that are helpful. I wanted to include this deck because they are so unique, and I ask you all to branch out of your comfort zone to work with non-traditional cards that individual artists create. Find what images you like! These cards are so lovely with slick heavy cardstock with gold edges. Lots of quality and creativity here!
Rabbit Tarot – Whimsy, whimsy, whimsy! I found this deck on Etsy! It makes me so happy to see artists make their own tarot decks, and I get to enjoy their work on these cards. The rabbits depicted in these cards sport Petals (Cups), Sticks (Swords), Carrots (Wands), and Daisies (Pentacles)! So much fun! The cards come in different sizes, and I have the mini-deck, which just adds to the cuteness factor.
Once you know the cards, you will easily be able to fall into a fantasy world of rabbit adventures. The cards are of good quality and shuffle well! Can’t be in a bad mood when flipping through bunnies. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole buying unique decks, but here I go!
I could go on, and I will, with my search for more decks that are beautiful and inspiring. In fact, I am waiting on some to arrive in the mail as I write this article. If you like a deck for its illustrations, color, style, or design, you will be able to infuse your own energy into it when you start to work with the deck. This will assist you in getting the needed messages from it that the Universe has for you. I hope that this list is useful and that it encourages you to seek out all of the options that are available for a wonderful tarot experience. Good luck my friends, and have fun!
Guest contributor Shelleigh Buckingham makes hand-sewn tarot deck covers. The code WISESKIES22 will make your purchase $22/bag. Shipping is free for orders over $35 – so plan to get two!