Recently I posted a list of my top five foundational books on tarot – books that give a solid grounding in tarot’s history and practical use.
I’m no tarotist scholar, and I found Decker’s article in Gnosis (#46, Winter 1998) convincing and enlightening. However, I was left unconvinced that there was no connection to esoteric Egyptian tradition. Tony Bushby…suggests that 22 Hebrew characters were ‘occulted’ in the Egyptian Book of Thoth/God, and that ‘tarot’ is a plural form of Torah. [...]
In tarot’s fairly well documented history (letters, accounting ledgers, early examples of tarot cards and “regular” playing cards, etc.), there is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that tarot cards were intended for use as anything other than an innovating card game. Serious tarot practitioners know this, it’s the occultists who resist reading anything in depth outside their genre – and I say this as an occultist myself! (Probably because occultists have invested so much in the mystification of tarot they figure it’d be a shame to stop now.) Continue reading
Runecaster’s Handbook: the Well of Wyrd, by Edred Thorsson
Red Wheel/Weiser, 9781578631360, 129 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 1988, 1999
Runecaster’s Handbook is a concise volume, targeted at providing the reader with just enough information to go about making and casting the rune-lots. As such, it touches briefly on a great many subjects, constantly referencing and referring the curious reader to Thorsson’s other works: Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, and Runelore: A Handbook of Esoteric Runology.
Thorsson begins with a chapter on the history of the runes, followed by a chapter on divinatory theory. His approach to history is scholarly rather than the wishful thinking commonly found in Occult or New Age books. He clearly outlines which associations and practices have been documented historically and is explicit in presenting interpretation as interpretation rather than fact. Continue reading
Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu, by Ocha’ni Lele
Destiny Books, 9781594773327, 270 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 2010
Teachings of the Santeria Gods centres on the diloggun, a method of divination involving cowrie shells cast on a mat. The backs of the shells are filed down, but the important thing is the “mouths” of the shells—how many are facing upward gives the diviner the number of an “odu.” Each odu comprises an almost-endless array of stories (the pataki) about particular orisha, or cautionary folk tales. This is what makes this style of divination so interesting; the choice of the story to be told to the querent, and the ebo (sacrifice to be made in order to banish the querent’s ill-luck, avert disaster, or appease angry spirits, among other things) to be made gives a diviner near-infinite possibilities. Continue reading
The Language of Birds, by Dale Pendell
Three Hands Press, 71 pp., 2010
Pendell views divination as being directed by spirits or gods, likened to possession or seduction, weaving poetry and meditation through myth and history. Etymologies offer shifting meanings, and we learn “Cicero thought fish too dumb to speak for the gods”.
Interspersed throughout are lists of divination methods, including some rather obscure ones, such as alectryomancy – divination by roosters pecking grain, gelomancy – divination from laughter, myomancy – divination by squeaks of mice, or (my favourite) tiromancy – divination by milk curds or the holes on cheese. Continue reading
Afro-Brazilian Tarot, by Alice Santana and Guiseppe Palumbo
Kit: Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738709603, 78 cards plus instruction booklet, 2006
I’m not sure what I expected when I requested this deck for review (although I was sure that the artwork would be impressive, based on other decks from Lo Scarabeo). Oh, I’m familiar with both the Tarot and with Candomble (the Afro-Brazilian equivalent of the Afro-Cuban Santeria), and I do understand the desire to provide divination decks which go outside the commonly accepted parameters which are associated with the Tarot.
The deck, which is a standard deck as far as number of cards and divisions, is accompanied by a multilingual instruction booklet (English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German, I believe) which gives very basic meanings for each of the cards, as well as an extremely simplified layout (in keeping with the traditional divination method of the Yoruban people, which the Tarot is definitely not).
Although the suits carry the traditional names – chalices, pentacles, wands and swords – some of the images are slightly unconventional. The chalice suit is represented by soperas, which are traditionally used as containers of the physical representation of the orixas; the pentacles are represented by opon, the plates used in traditional divination by cowry shells and the shells themselves; while the wands and swords are more conventional. Continue reading