Tarot for One. The art of reading for yourself | Review

4 December 2016

Tarot for OneFor years it was obvious which book to read if you wanted the ins and outs on reading tarot for yourself. Mary K Greer’s very similary titled workbook was the answer. Despite the fact the question “Am I allowed to read tarot fo myself” is still a huge one, Greer set a standard. And a difficult example to follow. Until now perhaps. With Tarot for One. The art of reading for yourself Courtney Weber might have written a contender ‘for the obvious answer’.

Weber has been a teacher of, and public speaker on Tarot for about a decade. Her book Tarot for One. The art of reading for yourself (Tarot for One for short) was written with the idea in mind of a personal workbook and resource guide. A guide designed to help form interpretations directly applicable for self-readings. In other words: what you read for your querent won’t necessarily be applicable to you.

Story-telling pips
Tarot for One comes in a softcover paperback with full-color cover. With about 240 pages of material it is a decent sized study & workbook. Chapters on the meanings of both Majors and Minor Arcana (Courts seperate), numerology, reversals, spreads and the ‘what not to do’ are all present. Courtney Weber uses the Waite-Smith for this book, as so many teachers do – but only “due to its familiarity and availability.” However, she does advise to get a deck that speaks to you,  no matter what system.

Although… I did stumble upon the opinion that she thinks pips (only suit-symbols in the minors) don’t provide enough material for storytelling and are more difficult to read for yourself. I personally find pips or moody minors *easier* to read in emotional situations due to their neutral ‘scenes’. But I guess I am a lone ranger. Weber bases this opinion on her years of teaching and therefore a majority of students. According to the author having pictures to focus on diminishes emotional feelings for personal questions. I guess you’ll just have to find out if you belong to that majority or to team Queen ;-).

What I immediately liked about this book, and which was already noticeable in the first chapter, is the fact that she urges you to keep thinking for yourself. While she has given many an interpretation or opinion in this book, she still says it is important not to cling to someone else thoughts or standard tarot vocabulary. Memorizing meanings, writing on your cards, sticking to book meanings or even to never adapt your own is everything she advises *not* to do. She wants you to always give yourself the opportunity to see what secrets tarot still has in store for you. And with that point of view she opens up this book immediately to the questioning minds of advanced readers as well.

Like many authors she added several paragraphs on tarot myths and history. Since you’ll read those in every general tarot book, I deem them a bit superfluous. This isn’t a general book after all. I truly liked her reasoning behind reading for yourself, though. Most named excuse why you can’t read for yourself is: ‘You are too involved’. Or: projection!

Weber does a 180 with exactly that pretext. In Tarot for One it says that those other (professional) readers are also just human beings. They can have a crap day, be tired, or your question triggered emotional baggage in them. Resulting in exactly the reason why so many refrain from picking up the cards themselves: an inaccurately interpreted reading because they projected their own personal history onto you (believe me that once happened to me in the worst situation possible). While reading your own, that at least will never happen. Besides: it’s cheap, time efficient and you can do last-minutes…

Ego inflation
Have I already said I like her style? Well, I do. She is no-nonsense, very approachable and the use of every day and personal examples makes this book easy to read. Also for those many non-natives out there who rely on tarot books in a second language.

The best and most important part about reading for yourself or learning to do so is to be(come) able to set aside our personal criticisms or ego inflation. Look into the mirror and get beneath those projections. Reading tarot for yourself will help you explore a personal relationship with the cards. Weber has given you a whole arsenal of techniques and exercises to find that relationship and get to the bottom of things.

Courtney Weber, author of Tarot for one, the art of reading for yourself. Weber is Wiccan Priestess, writer, Tarot Adviser, and metaphysical teacher living in New York City. [picture from her own website]

Courtney Weber, author of Tarot for one, the art of reading for yourself.
Weber is Wiccan Priestess, writer, Tarot Adviser, and metaphysical teacher living in New York City.
[picture from her own website]

For me the book breathes workbook the most, even more so than study book. And it’s a workbook specifically designed to form a relationship with a deck, to get to know all the ins and outs of any tarot. All exercises are part of a theme. Like mentioned before, there are chapters on numerology, reversals, integrating court cards into your life and discovering your own journey with the Majors. Every chapter has a study part, followed by an exercise.

There are, inevitably, parts in the book that focus on meanings. If you’re already familiar with tarot or don’t use a WCS deck you’ll probably feel the urge to skip them (or this book altogether). Don’t. Yes, sometimes they are ‘borderline’ standard (mostly the court cards are very traditional Waite-Smith) and initially that seems to limit the type of reader for this book. However, let me explain why I think this book encompasses *all* tarot readers who want to learn to set aside bias when reading for themselves.

Creating a bond
After reading the whole book I can say without a doubt that the core of Tarot for One is creating such a deep bond with your deck that you no longer have to worry you’ve projected or were too emotionally invested – if you listen to her advice that is. Every single exercise is focused on achieving this goal, but that also means that the prior study-text has information for you to do so.

One of the exercises for the Majors is an excellent example for that. For each of the 22 arcana’s you need to come up with a big life event or feeling/behavior (for courts she has you reference people). By doing this you forge a link from a set of tarot cards to your actual life. Thereby letting go off what certain cards ‘should mean’. This practice helps you with fortune-telling and personal growth questions. You will start to recognize weak spots or bad behavior in a heart-beat.

In the reading material before that exercise she does something interesting. On top of what is expected – description, possible interpretation – she references a book of literature, a tv-series, a Hollywood movie. It’s pop-culture galore…as if the Girlmore Girls have taken over the tarot world ;-). The Sun for example mentions the movie Rocky. Confidence is key here, and being a goal-getter. Despite not winning, our famous lop-sided mouthed boxer ‘went the distance’. Another XIX example was a YouTube clip of an overweight lady, who danced in sweatpants and did not care what others thought: she was in the moment. A moment of joy and pure abandonment of restriction.

Courtney Weber at the Northwest Tarot Symposium (Copyright: J. DeForest)

Courtney Weber at the Northwest Tarot Symposium (Copyright: J. DeForest)

There are many more exercises I could name, but it would give away too much of what Tarot for One offers. So I’ll stick to my impression on what they accomplish. Instead of pure standard keywords and interpretations Weber let’s you use your imagination, your own personal preferences to create a good relationship with your deck. And in the way she handles her chapters you won’t be learning tarot from the book, but from the gut.

And in that case it really does not matter if you listen to opera, appreciate European art film and work with the Jean Dodal TdM or if you’re more of a Thriller-movie, Nightwish-loving Thoth-user (Yes, I know…type-casting, but making a point here). Tarot for One gives *every type* of reader the chance to tap into knowledge that’s useful when reading your own emotional spreads.

Tarot for One smartly uses accepted traditional meanings as a base and let’s you add layers of your own personal experiences to make sure you recognize -as she puts it – the Voice of Tarot. Am I only seeing what I want to see? Am I interpreting my actual fears, or is that – again – another projection? Well, after you’ve practiced the Breakfast Reading exercise several times and journaled about that (the what? Oh you had to be there…) and at least try to make use of her other techniques I think you will be no longer in the clutches of the tarot monster called ’emotionally too involved.’

Demerits & storyboards
Are there things I don’t like about this book or that could put off certain readers? Sure. The little history lesson, the rumination of myth or some of the standard interpretations made the book feel -at times, mostly in the beginning – as a novice’s general book. The fact she uses the WCS – despite for obvious reasons – most likely will deter Thoth/TdM readers because these decks have such a different vibe. If someone focusses on storytelling and scenics you might feel that your deck is ‘misunderstood’.

Tarot for OneShe does have a section on how to do storyboards with non-scenic minors, based on numerology. I think beginners will find it interesting, but intermediate to advanced pip-readers won’t have much use for it. So, in a way you would be right here, but I do feel that most of her techniques can be used ‘pan-tarot’. If you can use Greer’s book – also predominantly showing WCS inspired decks – you can use this one equally well.

The chapter on when not to read tarot for yourself or what not to read on is in a way expected in such a book, but the thing is…they are usually very, very personal and intertwined with morals and beliefs. I can imagine that at least 50% of people won’t agree with Weber. I didn’t on most accounts (3rd party readings, health etc). Luckily these ‘negatives’ are balanced out by the many useful chapters in Tarot for One and the book as a whole.

Tarot for One is a work- and studybook that proposes interesting and mostly new techniques to create a deep and personal connection with your tarot deck. Due to an abundance of spreads and fresh exercises you’ll find the link between the 78 cards and your own past, present and future. Whether it is about the people in your life, or your behavior in certain situations.

If you want to be able to read tarot for yourself and leave the emotional connection and possible bias behind Tarot for One is a great find. It is not an either/or when it comes to its ‘older sister’ Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer, but more of an and/and. While writing a book on reading for yourself, Weber inadvertently also wrote a book that would be a great and unique stepping stone for beginners. Perhaps a little bit more for the WCS-adepts, but if you can look through those references any deck will work just fine!

NB. The book can be bought from both Amazon and Bookdepository (by the time I publish this piece it is still on time as a Christmas 2016 present)

Author or artist Publisher Publication
Courtney Weber Weiser books November 2016

Wrap Up

Tarot for One