The idea of learning the tarot by learning only a few keywords definitely fascinated me as I started reading this book. Looking back at my 21 years of study, I had to wonder if I could have made it here a little faster with the help of a book like Anna Burroughs Cook's Tarot Dynamics.

While I can't know the answer to the question above, I can say that I have no doubt that the system Cook proposes the reader memorizes one keyword for each suit, card, and number (for the pips) will assist many beginning tarotists learn the cards and do readings. To have a potential reader learn what amounts to three or four keywords per card makes the process (sound) a lot more palatable. I especially liked that Aces mean 'Crisis or Reward', which was a succinct way of defining them.

Cook's excellent idea, however, struggles in its execution, starting with the 'identity' of the book. The cover states that the learner will use the book to 'learn to read any spread'. Little else is said about spreads until a few are presented at the back of the book. If they changed the front to read 'Learn to read with any 78-card tarot deck,' I think that would be more in keeping with the message they were trying to convey.

In addition, the point that is made on the back of the book is that the reader will use 'five basic keywords' to learn the tarot. That promise is not fulfilled: The reader will have to learn more than five keywords to read the cards. The five that the book is describing is those for the suits, but that doesn't include the individual card keywords and others.

Many readers may not be concerned with the overall presentation, but I found that I was continually distracted by its overall lack of consistent formatting and expression. A few examples include: words that are capitalized on one page are not capitalized on the next; sentences with identical constructions separated by a few pages that have different punctuation; and words that have no spaces between them. I'm always prepared to overlook the occasional typo some even the best editors miss things but I have to wonder how much editorial support Cook received on this project.
Beginning tarotists will get a lot out of this book, and the keywords definitely help a lot in producing the basic meanings.  One gem is the inclusion of different categories in the card meanings that begin with more general phrases such as 'The more encouraging / challenging the situation or other cards in the spread'. This is something I've never seen in another book, and it fosters an ability to look at the whole picture and not just the card that the reader is looking at. More advanced practitioners may take some time understanding the message, as it is presented in a different way that many other tarot books, but there will be the occasional nugget for them as well. 

Once a revised version of this book comes out, I would recommend this book to beginning tarotists who have difficulty focusing on huge lists of keywords to learn the cards, or to those who have struggled reading without a tarot book in the past.

~Review by John  S. Marani, Jr., Certified Tarot Consultant (CTC)

Author: Anna Burroughs Cook
Kima Global Publishers, 2009
pp. 226, $18.00

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