The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin – 4/5 – You should be reading this. [Crown’s review guide here.]
I didn’t see any flaws in this book. I sometimes felt the book was missing something. I think that’s because this is more of a creative lifestyle book using tarot as a medium of understanding than a tarot book that’s about creative life. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good read and gets you thinking about the tarot cards in a different light.
I scooped this book up out of my library as soon as it came in. Published in 2016, this is one of those tarot books I had on my “to read” list before it was even published. I was super surprised to find it in my library and scooped it up immediately.
The book opens up with some background on the author’s interest in the cards and how they can be used, even dispelling some myths (like the myth that you have to be given your first deck of cards). The history of tarot is actually a very interesting section, especially if you’re not well read on the history of tarot in general. That’s not to say the section’s basic – it’s very well written and concise, which is what you need when you read about the convoluted network of connection tarot has in art history.
The meat of this book is the breakdown of each and every tarot card. Since the book’s geared towards creatives, it breaks down the cards in ways that makes sense to creatives. A good example is Shakespeare being compared to the Magician.
The tarot is often compared or thought of as a story. This idea is the center of this book so each and every card is compared to storytellers – artists, actors, authors, and so on. At the end of each card, there’s recommended stories for additional reading. For the Magician card, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, The Juggler painting by Marc Chagall, and Hilma af Klint’s work.
While this book breaks down the cards, it’s not a book you use to do a tarot reading with. It’s a book you use to further your understanding of the cards. Beginner readers probably won’t find this book overly useful unless there’s a card that you’re stuck with. Can you literally never remember what Judgement means? Have you only been thinking of the Magician as a manifesting your own destiny rather than, simply, “knock it off and go do the thing”? Then this book can help. But it’s not a Little White Book. It does give a few vague meanings of the cards in the card description but it’s more about useful interpretations of the card.
Since the book’s not about your common understanding of the cards, it’s not afraid to hash out some truths – the Lovers as a terrible card, for example. The Lovers is one of those cards that people equate to love, then a choice. It’s a weird combination of keywords, at first glance. But the author hammers it home. “The Lovers is not your husband. It is the man you cry over once your husband has fallen asleep.” The Lovers is about a calling, a compulsion, or a sense of incredible desire. It’s not your typical “I love you” kind of love. There are other cards far more suited for that kind of thinking.
The author gets you thinking about the cards with different perspectives, comparing them to things we can understand. Again, it’s not going to be awesome for random looking up of a forgotten card but for diving deeper into your understanding of the cards as a creative medium and catalyst.
This book is kind of weird in the same sense because it very much suits its subtitles: “a modern guide to an inspired life”. It offers insight with the cards on how to live a more inspired life as a creative. The Empress talks about the brimming energy of great minds and how to be emotionally attached to your work whereas the Emperor is about defined structure, so an outline of a book, the technical skill in a piece of art, the theory behind a piece of music. It’s also creating art for work.
While the book is centered on creatives, you don’t have to be a creative to find merit in the book. The concepts are explained in artsy means but I think anyone with a creative mind will find the book useful.
Do I think this book is useful and good? Yes. As a tarot reader, the book provides insight clearly that you might spend weeks, months, or even years to come up with on your own. The content moves quickly so you can read through the book on a Sunday afternoon or study it intently, looking up every work of art mentioned to get a better grasp of what’s being said. The choice is ultimately up to you.