I am not recommending all of these for the same reasons. Each has its own merits but some of the reads I picked because they hold old and outdated ideas about tarot that I wanted to understand. Tarot has a long history that weaves through many different hands for different reasons. Today I think there is a less esoteric approach to the cards but I wanted to get an idea of the baggage from the past.
History of Occult Tarot by by Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett This is a dense monogram about the history of tarot detailing not only its evolution from a card game to a divination tool but the philosophies and influences that people picked up and attached to tarot along the way. It's a little dry but truly fascinating. There is even a bit of academic humor found in the structure of the book. It starts with Chapter 0 and ends with Chapter 21, the same numbering of the Major Arcana. Ronald Decker was an artist, educator, and playing card historian with a card museum in Cincinnati Ohio. I found this interesting interview with him (the website is ancient and a wall of text) that offers the most perspective I can glean on the internet about him. Based on my research the museum mentioned in the interview does not exist any longer. Michael Dummett was a British philosopher who focused on mathematical and logic theory and philosophy. The two of them combined created a text that sparks my love for making cards.
Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque by Tobias Churton This book is a rough read but an intriguing one. Churton focuses on a period of French history where a convergence of philosophy, mysticism, and artistic movements gave rise to our current fascination with the Occult. While people have always been into magic and divination, it was this era in Paris that Churton highlights has the beginning of what we know of today as birthing the Occult aesthetic and making it fashionable. This book reads to me as a "who's who" of artists, philosophers, and other social shakers from that era that were exploring what was seen as "spooky" and "taboo" topics for their era. It highlights how some people used the occult to shock and fascinate audiences of their time. It's not tarot specific but neat.
Modern Tarot: Connecting with Your Higher Self through the Wisdom of the Cards by Michelle Tea I love this book. It's written in a really familiar and fun style, breaking down the meanings of cards in a way that feels very manageable. I highly recommend this one for people wanting to learn how to read the cards and establish a system for remembering them. The illustrations are really charming as well.
All Of Our Stories: The Little Red Tarot Guidebook by Beth Maiden I just picked this up and am afraid to read it yet just because I don't want to love it so much that it completely effects how I write about my own decks. Do you ever have that problem? You know something is coming from a great source and so you don't want to absorb so much of it that you feel like you are doing a poor imitation of it?! I have known of Little Red Tarot for a long time and loved the blog so of course I bought this when I saw it was available. I have even sold Bridge Witches volume 2 on LRT's online store.
Life Forces: A Contemporary Guide to the Cult and Occult by Louis Stewart This is the book I was referring to when I said upfront that not all of these recs are based on their accuracy. This book was published in 1980 and it is weird as all get out. However, it breaks down a number of topics including tarot in a way that I recognize from what people have told me about tarot in the past. My astrology chart print is based on a block print that the author has in this book. Unfortunately they don't site the illustrations at all in this book (rude) and there's some interesting bending of facts in the text. That being said, I've heard some people repeat things from this book so it has had an impact (or written about ideas that people held dear). In order to create my own version of tarot, I wanted to react to past conceptions of the cards and this offers a window into that. Take everything it discusses with a grain of salt though.
Do you have any reads you want to share? Contact me because I am always looking to expand my tarot TBR.
The Tarot Sticker Club
Get a year of tarot stickers each month by mail! Introducing a monthly tarot sticker club: Get 78 tarot cards as little stickers (1.3 x 2.2 inches) over the course of 12 months and slowly build a full miniature and adhesive tarot...read more