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The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore Paperback – October 1, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Giles, a tarot card reader and a student of Jungian psychology, views the tarot deck as a map of the archetypal realm of the imagination, a symbolic language capable of representing almost any human situation, and a therapeutic tool that operates on rational, psychic and metaphysical levels at once. But this confusing study does not effectively demonstrate how the tarot reader accomplishes any of the above. It does provide a colorful history of the tarot, however, which apparently began as a 15th-century Italian card game and later became overlaid with associations to fortune-telling, magic, alchemy, Kabbalism, Jungian theory and, more recently, to goddess-worship and shamanism. Giles examines surrealist artists' use of tarot imagery, presents woolly speculations on the "new physics" and includes "quantum exercises for Tarot readers," a consumer's guide to tarot decks, tips on the use of tarot in self-analysis and an annotated listing of tarot-related books and periodicals. Illustrations.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This excellent work traces the history, legends, and stories surrounding tarot cards. The origin of these cards tarot are lost. Consequently, the tarot has generated a wealth of speculation and pseudotruths. Giles, a reader, teacher, and consultant on the tarot, gives a fascinating precis of its history from the first mention in 1450 to modern times. In addition, the role of the tarot as a way of knowing is effectively examined. This is not a guide for using tarot but a literate study of the history, foundation, and uses of the cards. There is a list of the different kinds of decks available as well as a resource list. The thoroughly annotated bibliography, based on the author's personal preferences, is very good. Highly recommended.
- Gail Wood, Montgomery Coll. Lib., Germantown, Md.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671891014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671891015
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 8 customer reviews
I thought that this was a really interesting and easy to read tarot history.
Triple Moon Goddess Indiana
In terms of the tarot, Cynthia Giles must be the most informed person on earth, and it shows in this book.
James L. Nammack
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the background to the Tarot.
Bradley J. Khon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you want to learn how to read the Tarot, this book isn't going to help you much. But if you want an introduction into the history and theory of the Tarot, this may be the book you want. Giles' history is refreshingly skeptical, compared to most Tarot introductions I've seen; the discussions of the development of the Tarot ties it in to broader esoteric traditions. I have to confess that I was unconvinced by her attempt to link Tarot to quantum physics. One of the big pluses of the book is a lengthy annotated bibliography of books on the Tarot, which gives you enough information to make an educated guess as to which books would give you what you need. (There's are also several reading lists scattered throughout the book on various fascinating subjects.) There's also a bibliography of decks, which is helpful but could be more detailed. This book is more an introduction to learning about the Tarot than a book about the Tarot itself; if you want to read only one book, this may not be it. (I'd recommend "Tarot as a Way of Life," by Karen Hamaker-Zondag.) But if you are thinking about reading several books on the subject, this would be a great place to start.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Uri Raz on September 28, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book makes an excellent reading about tarot - it's very readable, and it approaches the subject in a sensible way.
The first four chapters deal with the history of tarot, which is presented in a based manner (= based on what historians can tell about tarot) rather than in a romanticezed manner (= based on wild fantasies, e.g. about the tarot originating in egypt).
The next four chapters describe the "mystery" of tarot - it's relationships with such subjects as alchemy, kabbala, chakras, etc. Included is an explanation of why does tarot works based on quantum physics, which I personally dont like - it sounds too much like psuedo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.
The last part deals with tarot lore - a part that lists various types of decks, which is nice for somebody who wants to find a deck to her taste, an excellent list of books about tarot, and a dozen tarot ideas which is recreational if nothing else.
All in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in tarot. It's 97% gold, 3% tin, and a gem in a time where tarot is misunderstood by many.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on August 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
THE TAROT by Cynthia Giles is frequently cited (by the late Joseph Campbell for one), and although many of her more salient points are mentioned elsewhere, the book remains a classic and a must read for anyone who would know more about the Tarot. My own copy is so underlined and earmarked I hardly know where to begin this review.
Giles' book covers the `History' and `Mystery' of the cards, as well as the `Lore' in a final section where she provides a sampling of decks, a booklist, and a number of `Tarot Ideas.' In the `History' section, she reviews what was known about the Tarot cards as of the early 1990s. Unfortunately, research funding for this topic is not easily acquired, so the full history--which would require an investigation of primary sources including material in the Vatican, not a rehashing of material collected by 19th Century scholars-has yet to be written. Even the six-volume series on WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC IN EUROPE edited by Ankarloo and Clark has given the Tarot short shrift, although the sixth volume on Witchcraft in the 15th Century due out in December 2002 may make up the difference.
The Tarot may have first appeared in 15th Century Italy. Initially, it may have been nothing more than a set of playing cards, or, the Minor Arcana may have been a set of playing cards tacked onto the Major Arcana. On the other hand, the whole deck of 78 cards may have an `arcane' history. Certainly, the images found in the Major Arcana appeared in one guise or another prior to the 15th Century. Artists and writers have long recognized the importance of these images, but in the 20th Century, the psychologist Carl Jung suggested they were linked to archetypes of the unconcious and set loose a flood of prose and poetry.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bradley J. Khon on May 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the background to the Tarot. This book does not give you instructions on how to read the tarot, though. But if you are interested in the various theories about where the Tarot comes from and who it has influenced, this is the book for you. Cynthia Giles does a good job of explaining various points of view, even ones she does not particulary believe in. When it comes to history, most books just choose the one they hold as true and don't even bother to offer evidence to back it up. Giles not only offers evidence for her theory but also for the ones she discredits. As far as the mystery section, Giles does an above adequate job of comparing the Tarot with other esoteric pursuits. The lore section has a pretty good resource list of Tarot decks and other books to check out. A great book for an intermediate who wants to understand the foundations of the Tarot.
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