Everyday Tarot Magic by Dorothy Morrison
Review by Diane Wilkes
If you would like to purchase this book, click here.
I hate to sound like the Grinch who Stole Christmas (especially in January, when we need all the cheer we can get), but there are several books on tarot and spellwork, one other published by Llewellyn (Tarot Spells by Janina Renee). So when the first thing I read is a back cover blurb by Llewellyn author Raymond Buckland saying that this book contains "a new approach to these fascinating cards," my blood begins that slow boil I know so well.
Let's get this out of the way--I have a prejudice against pre-manufactured spells. I believe when we invest spells with our own words and energies, we make them ours in a way that spouting someone else's bad poetry can never effect. And this book is chock-full of these pre-fab spells; they make up more than half of this 230+ page volume. In Morrison's favor, I must acknowledge that she encourages the reader early on not to be "afraid to vary from... guidelines or rework it to suit your lifestyle." Unfortunately, she does not reiterate that reminder in the spellwork section, and we all know there are readers who will ignore the earlier sections and move right to the spells. For those souls, I wish Morrison had repeated this empowering statement in the beginning of the spells section.
But I get ahead of myself. The book begins with a more-or-less accurate accounting of tarot history, yet I find it curious that none of the books Morrison cites in the Bibliography deal with tarot history. I suspect she obtained a copy of the Tarot-l History FAQ sheet, yet fails to acknowledge it in her book. I could be wrong, of course, but I'm not wrong that the books she has listed in the Bibliography do not contain much in the way of historical information.
Morrison's section on How the Tarot Works had me singing with joy, as I love what she has to say on the subject. But then I came across this sentence: "The truth of the matter is that the Tarot is nothing more than a set of pictures designed to tell a story." While I admire the author's intent, which is to demystify the tarot so as to quell intimidation on the part of the new reader, this is like saying, "The artwork on the Sistine Chapel is a mural and nothing more." The Tarot is a set of pictures designed to tell a story (particularly with fully pictorial minors), but it is also much more. Negating the breadth contained within the tarot does a disservice to both the tarot and the potential reader.
Morrison's section of Finding the Right Deck has much to recommend it, and I learned something from her advice. However, her statement that "most stores that carry decks now have sample copies on hand" has not been my experience (and I've been to a few bookstores that carry decks in my time). Most often, only a few cards from an individual deck are available for perusal; the entire deck rarely is. Websites that offer 78 card images from each deck, such as Tarot.com are a resource that might be more useful, in terms of using Morrison's suggested technique. She also advises newcomers to the tarot to choose "full pictorial scenes instead of simple pip cards", which is in alignment with her picture-based approach.
Morrison also has a section on blessing your deck in which, as I mentioned earlier, she promotes the concept of individualizing spells. After the Blessing talks about seasoning your deck for usage. I found the author a bit self-aggrandizing in her claim that, when she carried her deck upon her for any length of time, it became impossible for her to use that deck for anyone else because her "personal energy is so strong." That's never happened to me, so my personal energy must be weak, indeed. Every deck I have reads equally well for others as it does for me.
The author's section on Card Meditation, as well as her lengthy section on Tarot for Self-Discovery, coincidentally the title of Nina Lee Braden's book, focuses on tarot numerology. Morrison breaks the numbers down into "Spirit" Cards, "Lesson" cards, and "Talent" cards, as well as our Tarot Year cards. Much of it seems not-so-subtly cadged from Tarot for Your Self by Mary Greer, yet she isn't mentioned in the text (the book is cited in the Bibliography). Morrison also states that everyone has a personal Tarot Guide and provides a method on getting in touch with said Guide. After a period of personal experimentation, Morrison found that reversals were unnecessary, so she does not promote the use of them. She offers a method for deducing answers to yes/no questions.
Another item that had my veins percolating in high gear was Morrison's statement that as soon as one gets a deck, one must read for others if they ask, or be perceived as "some horrid self-centered jerk who cares nothing for the well-being of others," which she then says isn't so bad, because reading for others "forces you to trust yourself and your guide." I fail to see how being forced to do something you don't want to do results in trust of any kind.
Don't get me wrong. I want and encourage all new readers to develop the confidence to take the cards for a spin with others early and often. But I don't think anyone should hit the highway simply to satisfy someone else's demands. That can result in crashing and burning, and/or a desire never to get on the road again.
In The Cards, Morrison offers her take on the Fool's Journey, which I found to be excellent and insightful, though I didn't always agree with her concepts. I particularly liked her approach to the Strength card ("[R]eal strength--the sort that moves mountains and rules countries--is very subtle in nature. It's calm and peaceful. It's often found in silence, and in the ability to allow others to make their own mistakes.") and her words on the Star ("[L]ife is more than a series of tests--it is also a path where wishes and dreams and desires come true.").
Morrison, self-identified as a witch, prefers attributing Swords to Fire and Wands to Air, which is in line with her Pagan religious beliefs. This explains why the book cover is illustrated with the Nigel Jackson Tarot, a deck that uses the Swords: Fire/Wands: Air attributions. The author neglects to mention that the most prominent tarot decks in the United States (Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth) are both Golden-Dawn based. In fact, she never mentions the Golden Dawn and glosses over the fact that in tarot today, these are the predominant attributions.
The author differentiates the Majors as factors being outside our control, with the Minors as within our control, a concept that goes back to Eden Gray, at least. But it's not the most empowering approach I've seen. Morrison then offers brief descriptions of the court cards, suits, and numbers. As mentioned earlier, Tarot for Self Discovery, is devoted to tarot numerology. The next major section, Tarot Magic, offers some brief words on the ethics and efficacy of spellwork (the rule of three, never allowing a scintilla of doubt into your workings, wait three weeks for manifestation). Morrison also recommends photocopying or scanning cards for spellwork, since the spell sometimes involves marking the card in some way. We then have 120 pages of specific spells and talismans, ranging from a Parking Space Charm to a spell for Sound Judgment (Guess what card is used for this spell!).
I found it interesting that the High Priestess is the card for the Parking Space Charm (why not the "parked" Knight of Pentacles?). I must admit I didn't like the tone of the Parking Space Charm--you are "to remind the High Priestess of her duty by saying something like...'Do your stuff and do it fast/Before another minute's passed.'" The High Priestess I know would be turned off by such an importunate approach.
On the other hand, there are spells here for everything and anything you can think of, from Bank Loans to Liberation to Travel. While I might not use any spell exactly as Morrison has created it, this book does offer me an abundance of ideas from which I can then devise my own spells, as well as a template to borrow from as desired.
I realize this review comes across as rather negative. My sense is that Morrison's main area of expertise is not the Tarot, and that she and Llewellyn are attempting to capitalize on her Everyday Magic book (hence the book's title). Of the three books available on the subject of tarot and spellwork, this is the one I find the least appealing.
Four of Swords
When insomnia is a problem, draw a big black X across
the face of the Four of Swords card, dividing it into quarters. Then carefully
black out each quarter of the card while chanting something like:
Rest comes easily to me
Of insomnia I am free
When all four quarters are completely colored and the card completely black, say:
By card and blackest ink, so deep
I gain peaceful, restful sleep
Place the card under your pillow and rest well.
If you would like to purchase this book, click here.
Text © 2003 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes