Tarot Unlocking the Arcana | Book Review

27 August 2016
Tarot Unlocking the Arcana

The gorgeous Hermit of Tarot Illuminati is gracing the cover.

If you were named Tarosophist of the Year and a YouTube sensation you have a reputation to uphold. Writing a tarot book then in your early twenties is a big step. It’s one that Schiffer Books was willing to take with Angelo Nasios and there is a ‘rumor’ book 2 is being written as we speak. Time for a review on number one Tarot Unlocking the Arcana and see if it upholds Nasios’ rep.

Tarot Unlocking the Arcana comes in a hardcover edition, adorned by the beautiful Hermit of Erik C Dunne’s Tarot Illuminati. Inside the pages are stark white and headings are made blue, which creates a palette that’s good to read.
I think the introduction of the book already says a lot about how the rest will be: it has a simple relaxed writing style. He invites you for coffee together, sitting in a lounge bar. That is exactly the way he talks to the reader: sharing his thoughts and knowledge as if he were amongst friends.

I really like the fact that he is clear that absolute truths don’t exist in tarot reading ( there are no rules) and that he lets his reader know that he’s teaching you what he has learned, but that there are many more ways. Also, he notes, the meanings he is going to give in this book have been influenced over and by hundreds of years and will have a lot of Golden Dawn (GD) teachings in them. Not only is that the way he reads, but a lot of other Tarot readers do that without realizing. (After all: Arthur Waite and Pamela Colman Smith were both members of GD).

Nasios starts his book by going into the myths and so-called shoulds: think ‘tarot is evil’ or ‘a deck should be gifted’. This shows already that the book is catering more to beginners, instead of skilled readers. Any book can still be of interest to more advanced readers, but based on the contents and the way Nasios talks in Unlocking the Arcana, this publication is aimed at tarot novices. And most suitable for them too.

While it comes in a hardcover edition with a gorgeous picture on the front, the book itself is not illustrated. Not even with black-and-white pictures. However, it is very clear from the descriptions (and he confirms that in the book) the author is using the Waite-Smith deck. That also means you could use this book along any scenic deck, inspired by the Waite-Smith tradition.

Unlocking the Arcana

A chapter with meanings on the Minor Arcana in Unlocking the Arcana.

Total tarot
One difference with most authors who use the RWS as an example is the fact that – as a follower of GD, or at least its attributes – he uses esoteric titles from Golden Dawn. Those titles are normally only shown on the Thoth deck or  esoteric decks. The very few ‘shoulds’ and strict statements in the book also stem from this way of reading. This might be confusing at times for real beginners. If you don’t want to deal with them (just yet), you can easily ignore those while working with your own tarot. Like he said: there is no right way, just your way.

Tarot Unlocking the Arcana is one of those reference books that provide you with a chapter on basically everything. Kabbalah, astrology, numerology: nothing is left out. That means that certain parts don’t go as deep as you might like, but I don’t think that was the idea of the book either. It’s an introduction, a beginners manual and as such gives you everything you need in simple language and with all the handles to start reading ASAP. It would have been one of those very handy books I could’ve used starting out my reading career. If there’s a need to dive deeper, there are enough specialized books on the topic.

Religion & tarot
Like I said earlier, he’s denouncing all the myths, but also as the first tarot author ever, involves religion in his book. And quite a lengthy chapter at that. This is a tough subject since many religions consider tarot the Devil’s work or a product of evil spirits. I really like the fact that he does address this topic because readers around the globe struggle with this. Either because their environment doesn’t accept their tarot reading or because they have issues with their own religious practices.

This religion chapter is interesting for beginners but can definitely also be seen as ‘ammunition’ for other readers. On top of that it was engaging and thought-provoking for readers who don’t have struggle with this, but still place tarot in their own specific world-view. This whole chapter not only offers you a reason why you can still combine Christianity with tarot reading, but also – since it includes many belief systems – the beginnings for philosophical debate. It makes you think why and how you read tarot. If I were Nasios I would offer this separate chapter on Kindle for more advanced readers to read.

Tarot Unlocking the ArcanaAnna Nicole Smith
The rest of the book offers you meanings for Minor & Major Arcana, some excellent spreads, classics, his own and one from (f.e.) James Wells. I normally do custom made, but there were a few I am definitely going to test out. The chapter on tarot practice readings is a really nice touch. I specifically liked his example of figuring out what happened to Anna Nicole Smith  and who’s the baby daddy by using the cards. It shows his creativity, but also the power of the cards.

Luckily Tarot Unlocking the Arcana does not just provide a few keywords in the ‘meaning chapters’. You get an extensive view on how to use the cards in a reading and the card’s story. It is all written in a way that still allows you to use your own intuition muscles, based on the text he has delivered.

Conclusion: little beginner’s gem
I have rarely read such an approachable text, easy to grasp for non-natives and those who don’t care for scholastic material. With Tarot Unlocking the Arcana Nasios offers a step-by-step guidebook that will be a delight for Waite-Smith (and later on Thoth) newbies that have unwrapped their decks and ask themselves: “Now what?!”. The whole book reads as in a flow. If you put it down because life demands attention it is easy to pick up where you left off. The simple division in subjects helps with that.

In other words, I wish I had this book when I started out. For beginners this is a little gem that you shouldn’t miss out on. Yes, you’re working with Nasios’ own meanings but when *isn’t* that the case? Plus, those meanings make a huge amount of sense, you know how he came to them and he offers you ammo to debunk myths and any nasty comments about the Devil’s work on top of that. Tarot, Unlocking the Arcana is fun to read, fresh and a welcome addition to any tarot bookcase. In my opinion Angelo Nasios has not just defended his reputation with this book, but strengthened it.

Author or artist Publisher Publication
Angelo Nasios Schiffer Books 2016

Wrap Up

Unlocking the Arcana