Using the Tarot for Creativity and Empowerment

Book Review: Tarot Plain and Simple


Tarot Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis book cover


One book that I recommend to students of Tarot – whether they be new, intermediate or even a professional reader – is Tarot Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis. While the title suggests that the book may be “simple”, I find it hardly a fluffy book; rather, it is a guide rich in information and written in language that is easy to understand, even for someone brand new to the Tarot. While there are certainly no shortages of “how-to” books on the Tarot, I would consider this one of the best (along with Mary K. Greer’s book “Tarot for Your Self“).

Anthony Louis is a clinical psychiatrist who has lectured extensively on topics of Astrology and divination and is also the author of Horary Astrology Plain and Simple. I feel that his background in clinical psychiatry adds an interesting perspective to the book which is especially evident in his instructions on reading the cards. While card meanings do take up a good portion of the book, there are plenty of other goodies as well.

The chapters in the book are laid out as follows:

1. An Overview of the Tarot
2. How to Spread and Interpret the Cards
3. Putting in All Together
4. The Major Arcana
5. The Minor Arcana or Pip Cards
6. The Court, Royal or Person Cards
Appendix A – Astrology and the Tarot
Appendix B – Numerology and the Tarot

In the first chapter, Louis provides an overview of the Tarot, including the structure of the deck and early Tarot history. Additionally, he discusses the influence of the Golden Dawn leading naturally to a mention of Arthur Edward Waite, a member of the Golden Dawn who, along with Pamela Coleman Smith, created the Rider-Waite Tarot deck (often referred to in modern times as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck). He then moves into a most interesting discussion of the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung, his principle of synchronicity and how this principle can be applied to the Tarot.

In chapter two, he dives into the nuts and bolts of learning Tarot. Here, he discusses how to choose a deck, getting to know your cards, symbolic meanings of various colors, caring for your cards, shuffling your cards (and what to do with the cards that sometimes jump out when shuffling), using a clarification card and working with spreads. When discussing spreads, Louis presents a basic 3-card past-present-future spread and a basic five card spread to get you started. He then moves on to a 13 card horoscope spread and the Celtic Cross spread, both of which he presents with detailed explanations of each card position. He concludes the chapter with an excellent discussion on using reversed cards, illustrating several methods for reading them. He provides a handy chart listing some of the possible meanings of reversed and upright positions. Below are a few examples that he provides:

Upright Meaning…..Reversed Meaning

acceptance                rejection or resistance
acute                          chronic
correct use                abuse
faith                           lack of faith
in process                 over and done with
mundane                  spiritual
quick                         delayed
presence of              absence of, need for

These are just a few – the book goes into much more detail.

In chapter 3, entitled “putting it all together”, he includes three quite detailed sample readings using the Celtic Cross. Here, he discusses the meanings of the cards, how to look at the numbers and suits in the cards, number of majors and minors as well as applying numerology to a reading. I feel that these readings provide an excellent example of how to tie the cards together and come up with a helpful and coherent reading.

In my opinion, the next three chapters are where the treasure of the book lies – the card meanings. The sections on card meanings uses illustrations from the Robin Wood Tarot rather than the traditional well-known Rider-Waite-Smith deck (which many authors use in their work). The Robin Wood happens to be one of my favorite decks so I was especially able to relate to the illustrations. The imagery and themes in the Robin Wood are close enough to those of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck that there should be little difficultty in using the book when working with the RWS deck.

In chapter 4, he presents the Major Arcana, first talking about the Jungian Archetypal Journey (which many refer to as “The Fool’s Journey”) and then moves into the meanings of the individual cards. Each card is broken down into the following sections:

Upright – one or two sentences for the upright meaning of the card
Key Words and Phrases – an extensive list of meanings and phrases for the card (many of which you may not have thought of yourself)
Situation and Advice – provides scenarios of possible situations that the card represents as well as potential advice
People – people, occupations, personality traits, etc. that the card could represent.

He then provides the same sections for the cards in the reversed position.

In Chapter 5, he presents the Minor Arcana or Pip cards. He begins the chapter by discussing the numerological meanings of the numbered cards, then discusses each suit, breaking it down into Element, Astrological Sign, Trait, Occupation, Key Words & Phrases and People. He then presents the individual cards, providing the same information (upright and reversed) as he did for the Major Arcana (Upright, Key Words and Phrases, Situation and Advice and People).

What I found especially helpful, was that Louis organizes the pip cards by their numbers, not their suits. That is to say, the aces are grouped together, the twos together, etc. with the author explaining the significance of each number. I liked this method of organizing like numbers together as it helps to quickly find the card you are looking for.

Chapter 6 presents the Court cards and the chapter is entitled “The Court, Royal or Person Cards.” Louis begins the chapter by providing several ways to read the court cards (which can be troublesome to many readers). He states that these cards can represent:

  • The people in your life
  • Aspects of your character and personality
  • Your sense of identity and knowledge of yourself
  • The roles you play
  • Events or situations coming into existence
  • Times or seasons of the year
  • Qualities you should cultivate to handle your situation
  • When reversed, they represent shadow aspects of the personality or people who are working against you.

He provides “Key Words & Phrases” and “Situation and Advice” to each of the four suits (Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings) and then moves on to detailed meanings for each card, using the same categories that he employed for the Major and Minor Arcana cards. This chapter may come in especially handy to those folks who have difficulty interpreting the court cards – or simply may provide a different perspective in interpreting these sometimes challenging cards.

At the end of the book, he includes two appendices – one on how to incorporate Astrology into your Tarot practice and the other on incorporating Numerology into your practice (including how to calculate your life path number, birth force number, destiny number and personal year numbers). The numerology section additionally provides a detailed section on the meaning of the numbers.

The information contained in this book can enhance your Tarot skills no matter what your level and would be a welcome addition to any Tarot reader’s library. The language is clear, concise and easy to understand and it will help you deepen your knowledge of the cards. Highly Recommended!

Buy Tarot Plain and Simple HERE

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