Tarot for Real Life

There are terrible things in the news today. Writing this post, I don’t want to dismiss the weight of the Supreme Court’s actions or the real and terrible consequences the overturning of Roe v Wade will have for people across the country. But I also desperately need to think and talk about something else, or I will go mad with grief. So let’s talk about my book.

Tarot for Real Life releases officially this coming Sunday, May 8th, but it has already started to ship to people who pre-ordered. On Amazon right now, you can order a copy with one-day delivery. A couple of my friends and family members have shared pictures of their copies with me, and the book is for all intents and purposes already out there in the world. People are reading it as I type.

Heavy breathing.

Putting a book into the world is a stressful thing. I’ve talked about it a bit before, specifically with regard to Qabalah for Wiccans and generally on the topic of what it’s like to suddenly be a Pagan Author™. With any piece of work, including a blog post, you want people to engage with what you’ve made and find value in it; but the greater the amount of work that goes into something, the higher the stakes. If I spend a couple hours on a blog post and it flops, that’s ultimately no big deal. A book, on the other hand, is literal years in the making. I started writing the first draft of Tarot for Real Life almost two years ago. It went through multiple drafts, passing through my hands and two different editorial teams at Llewellyn. And now it’s done, and it’s out there, and there are no more changes to make to it. People are going to read it as it is. They’re going to form opinions about it, and I can’t control the opinions they have. It’s a terrifying prospect.

But it’s also so, so cool! I wrote a Tarot book. Me! My name (or one of them, at least) is on the cover, and every word in this book was chosen by me to share my perspective on the art of Tarot, built over a decade and a half of reading. That’s a huge deal, and I couldn’t be more proud of this work. Ultimately, the things I produce—from blog posts to books—are written for me, not for other people. Yes, I would ideally like for others to read and find value in Tarot for Real Life, but even if the book goes down like a lead balloon, I am still ridiculously happy with what I’ve made.

So let’s talk a little bit about what this book is and why I wrote it.

At bottom, Tarot for Real Life is an introductory Tarot book. There are some techniques in there that I hope will be interesting and useful to intermediate or advanced readers (I’m particularly proud of the section about the spatial logic of Tarot spreads and the dissection of the septenaries in the Major Arcana), but most of the book is dedicated to introducing the foundational skills of Tarot reading: How to interpret a card visually, what the four suits mean, how to use a spread, and so on. And because this is an introductory book, and those are a dime a dozen, the question naturally arises: What sets this book apart? How is it different from any other intro Tarot book you’d find on the shelf?

I had this conversation with Barbara Moore, the Tarot editor at Llewellyn and a giant of the Tarot world, when I first pitched the book. I’ve noticed that a lot of books on the market focus on the Big Archetypal Themes™ of the Tarot deck, but don’t spend much time on smaller, everyday concerns. In many Tarot books, you’ll find several pages on each of the Major Arcana (titled cards like the Lovers or Death), but barely a paragraph devoted to each Minor (like the Four of Pentacles or the Six of Cups). There’s an implicit sense that the only cards in Tarot that really matter are the trumps, and the rest of the deck is sort of just there as filler.

This, I think, is a shame. Not just because the Minor Arcana are relevant, but because in many ways they are the most relevant cards in the deck. Most of the time, when people seek out a Tarot reading, it’s because they have a question that deals with their real, everyday lives. A jealous lover, a verbally abusive boss, a breakdown in communication, a yearning for a creative outlet—these are the sorts of topics that you’ll encounter most in Tarot reading. And for the most part, we find these topics in the Minor Arcana, not the Majors. The Major Arcana treat in the big universal themes of human life, and while those themes are important and mythically powerful, they’re not necessarily going to manifest in every little problem we have. Rather, the cards that deal with ordinary, everyday concerns are found in the suits, which address money, health, communication, emotions, sexuality, and so on. A jealous lover could be the Queen of Cups in reverse; a verbally abusive boss could be the King of Pentacles crossed by the Five of Swords. The Minor Arcana are, by and large, the cards that deal with the problems (and solutions!) we face in our day-to-day lives.

I wanted to write a book that approached Tarot in this way, grounding it in the things we experience every day as part of our reality. What sorts of things do people care about when they’re looking for a Tarot reading? How can we learn Tarot best in order to grapple with those quotidian problems?

This book is structured in such a way as to put emphasis on the Minor Arcana and the themes associated with them. It’s divided into six parts, each corresponding to a different area of concern, a way of approaching Tarot, and a portion of the Tarot deck:

Practical – Pentacles

Intellectual – Swords

Emotional – Cups

Aspirational – Wands

Personal – Court Cards

The Big Picture – Major Arcana

So the book starts out with basic practical concerns. As far as Tarot questions go, this looks at topics like money, health, and immediate material circumstances. In this section, I talk through some of the basic material concerns for Tarot reading: How to choose a deck, understanding how Tarot works, and so on. Then, I talk through the meanings of the cards in the suit of Pentacles.

You’ll build your Tarot knowledge slowly, section by section, approaching Tarot from a different angle each time. In section 2, I look at intellectual approaches to Tarot like reading with spreads or using reversals, as well as the suit of Swords questions about thought, speech, and communication. Section 3 deals with emotional and intuitive approaches to Tarot, section 4 addresses aspirational questions about ethics and getting things wrong, and section 5 talks through the personal (and interpersonal) aspects of Tarot reading, with a discussion of objectivity, bias, and how to form a personal connection between your querent and your reading. As you work through the book, you’ll piece together all of these foundational skills, connecting them to the real-world concerns that bring people to Tarot in the first place.

It’s only once we’ve laid all that foundation that we take a step back and address the bigger archetypal themes of the Major Arcana. You’ll get to know the whole of the deck, not just the twenty-two cards with fancy titles, and you’ll learn a variety of different approaches to Tarot reading. Some of those approaches involve particular correspondences—elemental or numerological—and others are more intuitive and less structured. All of them, together, provide the practical grounding you need to be a successful Tarot reader.

My real hope with this book is that it will provide a concrete, specific skillset to people who are interested in Tarot but don’t really know where to start, and who get a bit bowled over by the abstract language that often gets used to talk about Tarot. Tarot is a beautiful, powerful, magical thing—but it is also, fundamentally, a tool to gain more information about the world around us and to make our lives better. I wanted to write a book that kept sight of that last bit, because ultimately I think it’s the most important thing there is to know about Tarot. Reading Tarot is a skill that anyone can acquire, and that you can use to help improve your real, ordinary life. It is my humble hope that Tarot for Real Life will help people figure out how to do just that.

Tarot for Real Life is available for purchase through Amazon, Bookshop, Llewellyn, or your local bookseller. And if you do buy it, please take the time to leave an honest review on Amazon once you’ve read it, even if you bought the book elsewhere! Amazon reviews are incredibly important to help new readers find a book, and they’re one of the easiest ways to support authors.

9 thoughts on “Tarot for Real Life

  1. Just ordered your book. Sounds perfect for a newbie like me! I am also working on a blog to help me journal my journey. Glad I ran into you, your book, and your blog! (Through Llewelleyn).

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  2. Thanks for the inspiration Jack of Wands. I recently finished designing my own deck (following years of doodling on desk calendars) and currently blogging each card meaning. I’m having fun doing this and my main purposed. Catharsis. I’m happy for your new book! Hopefully we’ll make the world a better place through our creative work.

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  3. Hey, Jack congratulations on your book and on finding a positive distraction. I can so relate to your motivation. I’d love to help you get the word out about your book if you would like to do a guest post for Tarot-Guru. I’m still working on getting all my card-centric content posted, but I will happily post anything you would like to create for my beginner Tarot Readers with a nice author bio and backlink of course.

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  4. Dear Jack,
    I just ordered your book. I LOVE the way you write & convey ideas. Thank you for the time & effort you put forth to get your book out to us. Keep up the great work!!
    Sincerely, deborah

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