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. To order this book, you can visit www.robinwood.com for more
This review is © 2001 James Ricklef. It originally appeared in the Summer 2001
issue of the Tarot Journal.
|This review and all contents of this website (c) James Ricklef.
The Robin Wood Tarot, The Book
James Ricklef -- Book Reviews