Companion books usually leave a lot to desire. We don’t call them little white booklets for nothing; they are hardly deserving of the name book and we usually crave lots more information when it is a deck that has a lot of symbolism or a consistent theme. Luckily there are decks where a companion book can be bought separately. Book M: Liber Mundi is one of those, and belongs to the Tabula Mundi nox et lux. My job to see if Book M: Liber Mundi, written by artist MM Meleen, makes for a perfect package deal.
Book M (for short) is a decent sized paperback with 235 pages, well-bound and the colored version of Trump XXI on the cover. The book focuses on the making of Tabula Mundi, its art, its place in the Thoth system. It differs from other companion books, because where most authors explain in an introduction how their deck came about, MM Meleen not only shows the why, but also the how. For instance she talks about meditations that led to the Majors and describes *her* journey as The Fool, linking to all Trumps.
You will find out more about the meanings of the cards of course, but also about the deck itself and how everything is linked and to what. Even more so than Crowley did she follow descriptions from Book T about how some of the tarot cards should look. In this case I am talking about the court cards. Book M will show you the Book T description and then describes the Tabula Mundi art. You will see some differences, but overall MM Meleen followed the Golden Dawn line to a T (yes pun intended).
All the cards get in between 1 1/2 and 2 pages, both Majors and Minor Arcana. Every card-page shows a small black-and-white picture, next to it its title and all the attributes. On the pages of the majors, always a quote or book-paragraph from famous people in history or literature before the actual text. The nice part about the minors is the little deck comparison where the symbols on the Waite-Smith, the Thoth, her first deck Rosetta Tarot and Tabula Mundi are compared.
The book is very well written but can feel scholastic at times. It is an explanation of the symbolism and attributes, and at times probably more approachable to those very familiar with the Golden Dawn or Thoth. Or whoever picks up on astrology or mythology rather quickly. Readers who are just starting out, and jumped into the beauty that’s called Tabula Mundi, might have to read the text again once or twice have it really sink in. I have the slight feeling this publication might actually lead to more studying.
On the one hand that’s a compliment: you want to know more. On the other it also means that this companion is right up there with its deck: not really for beginners. I am not saying Book M: Liber Mundi is in any way boring, vague or too scientific. It is actually very interesting and adds a lot of depth to reading with the deck. You definitely won’t get this information from the little white booklet or just cruising on the Internet looking for symbols. And what Meleen writes *is* clear. But, I can imagine that readers just above newbie status might find parts of the text hard to grasp because off all the ‘jargon’.
Not a keyword-book
In the whole book the text is focused on symbols and attributes. The ‘Augur’, ‘The Avatar’ or ‘Oracle’ – the parts where the actual meaning is conveyed in the three parts – is relatively short. Which means that if you’d love a book telling you exactly what a card ‘means’ Book M is going to disappoint you. It is not meant to think or feel for you, rather to give you just enough info to come up with *your* best interpretation for a card.
The companion is divided into three parts: majors, minors and the court cards. Every chapter has its own introduction, giving you extra information about the designer’s process or about how to read with the deck and using its attributes. I really liked the parts with a personal tone and it was striking there was just 1 single spread in the book: The Riddle of The Sphinx. Meleen takes a whole page to explain it, so I definitely won’t be able to do it in one sentence. Just believe me when I say it is very fitting. (For those already in possession of the deck: it is on the back of your numbered card).
I mentioned the meditations and the journey of the Fool, which of course precedes the majors earlier, but the most interesting part to me was the chapter before the aces and the minors. Especially since *that* part is very useful to astro-starters and I always like it when an author is not afraid to state an opinion.
Ruled by Mercury
The first chapter is Called The Circle/The Decans and explains all the astrological correspondences for the minors. It even has pages long useful table consisting of all the planets and their cards. To me it looks like something you might want to print out for reference. And… I learned I make a mistake. Lots of people who work with astrological attributes, or are trying to, refer to planetary rulership like this :(f.e. Two of Wands) “Mars in Aries”. According to Meleen that should be: The first decan of Aries, ruled by Mars.
Her reasoning: those attributes don’t function as a planet in a sign in a birth chart would. Tarot cards are (in GD) *also* related to the Sephira on the Tree of Life and have their numbers as an extra way of interpretation. This choice of words is based on a few of those arguments, all well explained. I get the point. Though I can imagine it is one of those comments invoking all kinds of discussions on Facebook groups.
All-in-all it is a book about a deck, just like it is supposed to be. Only this one is chockfull of mythological references and GD-wisdom and therefore feels slightly different. Even compared to other mythological deck-companions.
I don’t think anyone without the Tabula Mundi considers Book M: Liber Mundi a wish-list candidate. It is after all a companion book and as such describes the symbolism on the cards of the Tabula Mundi deck. It is a niche book, so to say. However, it might surely be interesting to catch a copy if you want to know *everything* that has a link to Golden Dawn or Thoth. Because it has extra little chapters explaining the attributions in a nice and effective way. Besides, the art is following thelemic principles perfectly. So, I think that some might like to buy it as a separate after all. Thoth readers who also study their deck come to mind.
Solely judging it as a companion I think it is very useful for relative GD-novices who were left a bit in the dark with just the booklet of Tabula Mundi (let’s say: necessary). Although I definitely believe even advanced readers in GD/Thoth system/mythology could benefit from this book. It is not only an overview of all the attributes, their explanation and a focus on every symbol and its possible interpretation. It is, on top of that, a personal view on the creation of the deck and MM Meleens way of working with Tarot. If you have the deck: must-buy. If you don’t have the deck yet: read my review!
PS. For those buying the book: check page 229. She could have fooled me!
PS2. Because it is a companion, I have decided not to grade it. It would be too difficult, since it needs to answer a few different questions than a ‘regular book’. I hope to have answered those in the review. I will give the pro’s and con’s + the link where to buy.
PS3. If you want to stay in the loop when it comes to the making of (and printing of) Tabula Mundi colores arcus and its companion book Book M: Liber Mundi you can subscribe to MM Meleens newsletter.
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