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Robin Wood Tarot

Robin Wood BookThe Robin Wood Tarot, The Book
by Robin Wood
Book review © 2001 James Ricklef


There is an old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Generally that is true, but not always. The cover of The Robin Wood Tarot, The Book is one of the most sumptuously beautiful book covers that I have ever seen. It is lavish in both its design and its visual texture, and it is richly and meticulously detailed. From looking at such a vibrant cover, one might expect the book inside to be similarly crafted with care, insight, and close attention to detail, and indeed it is. After years of clamoring, cajoling, and pleading by fans of her Tarot deck, Robin Wood published a book about the Robin Wood Tarot in 1998, and it is warm, charming, and comprehensively informative.

My only caveat about this book is that it is peppered with puns and jokes that some might feel to be of the groaner variety. If the humor in this book does make you groan, then roll your eyes and press on through it, for the material is well worth the effort. If, on the other hand, Wood’s humor amuses you, then you are in for a treat. Her lighthearted puns and jokes pop up often and unexpectedly, like fish jumping out of the Page of Cups’ chalice. Puns aside, though, Robin Wood has written this book with the same clarity, playfulness, and simple elegance with which she created her deck, and she goes into great detail in explaining both her creative process and the symbolism of her cards.

There are various ancillary chapters in this book in which the author discusses the history of Tarot, Tarot ethics, and Tarot spreads. She also provides a succinct, yet excellent, chapter on basic symbolism.

Two of the supplementary chapters are particularly noteworthy. In the chapter titled “Beginning Reading,” the author details a wonderful Centering and Grounding technique, which I have found to be useful in a variety of situations in addition to being an excellent preparation for doing Tarot readings. In “How Does it Work?” she provides a delightful analogy to illustrate her theory of how a Tarot reading works. Whether or not you place credence in this theory, it is engaging and thought provoking.

Perhaps readers with no artistic inclination or interest might want to skip the chapter called “History of the Robin Wood Deck,” which, among other things, details the process Wood used to create her deck. I, however, having an interest in such matters, found this chapter to be quite fascinating.

The heart of this book, though, is a card-by-card explanation of the symbolism and meaning of the Robin Wood Tarot deck. This material is clearly written and painstakingly detailed. In fact, it is often amazing to see just how detailed Wood’s card discussions turn out to be. For example, in her explanation of the World card, she notes the symbolic meanings of the many items that compose the wreath in that picture: the roses (pink, white and yellow), white lilies, pomegranates, apples, oranges, poppies, oak leaves, beech leaves, wheat and grapes. If there is any detail on one of the Robin Wood Tarot cards for which you might want to know why Wood put it there and what she intended it to mean, chances are very good you can find out in this book.

Of course, although her comments are consistently reasonable and cogent, I do not always agree with the meanings that Wood attributes to her cards, but she would be the first to encourage such disagreement. Throughout her book, she goes to great lengths to reiterate the fact that the meanings she intended for her cards and the symbols used in them are her meanings, and that if you see something different in them you should go with what you see. This is typical both of her modesty in writing this book and of the fact that her overriding concern is for you, the reader, to be able to use her deck to the fullest extent and in a way that makes sense to you. Her explanations are intended to be food for thought, not a straight-jacketed approach to using her cards.

This book is written in an intimate and unaffected voice, sounding as if the author is sitting there next to you, chatting about her deck over a steaming cup of herbal tea. This friendly manner makes The Robin Wood Tarot, The Book a pleasure to read, as the author makes no pretensions of trying to impress the reader with arcane scholarship. Instead, she strives to make her writing understandable and straightforward, leavening it with a touch of humor. Indeed, a primary responsibility of non-fiction writers, which unfortunately is often neglected by some of them, is to make their writing clear. Wood achieves such clarity with both grace and charm.

And so the only mystery that now remains about the Robin Wood deck is why Ms. Wood avoided writing this accompanying book for as long as she did.

The Robin Wood Tarot, The Book (ISBN 0-9652984-1-8) is published by Livingtree Books.

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