A Review of Tarot for Troubled Times
Tarot for Troubled Times
Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed
Published by Weiser Books, 2019
Review by Christiana Gaudet
Tarot for Troubled Times is not the first book to discuss tarot as a tool of healing and magic, nor is it the first book to offer uses for tarot in a turbulent world. Yet, Tarot for Troubled Times is fresh. This book uniquely explores previously uncharted territory with an originality that in and of itself is a major accomplishment.
The book is subtitled confront your shadow, heal your self, transform the world. That is the logical order in which the three parts of this book are presented. Long before I was a professional tarotist I was a political fundraiser and community organizer. Then, we used to say that “the personal is the political”. That phrase from so long ago rang in my mind as I read this book and considered how personal healing leads us to foster social change.
I was curious to see how the authors, Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed, would structure their co-authorship. These two luminaries make this book a seamless read, unlike many other co-authored books that feel jagged as they shift from voice to voice abruptly.
Part One of the book focuses on exercises and advice based on three Major Arcana cards, the Fool, the Tower, and Strength. I was surprised at how little discussion of tarot there is in this first section. Rather, the authors present a smorgasbord of creative and wise techniques for shadow work and self-healing, including meditation, journaling, Emotional Freedom Technique, and energy work.
Part Two of the book focuses exclusively on tarot. The Major Arcana is presented in terms of archetypes and numerology. The reader is invited to calculate their birth card as a tool of self-understanding. Each birth card offers an affirmation for personal empowerment and a directive for action. Next, there are instructions for finding one’s year card, and the Major Arcana is presented again, this time with affirmations and interpretations in that context.
After a discussion of the Four Elements, the authors provide keywords for all seventy-eight cards, and offer exercises, spreads and techniques using tarot as a tool of personal healing. Though a relatively short portion of the 270-page book, this section is jam-packed with provocative tarot wisdom, appropriate for every tarotist at any level of expertise.
Next is a chapter focused on creative, eclectic magic for self-healing, protection and positivity, including candle magic and jar magic. Oddly missing is much mention of tarot magic. I was grateful for the last paragraph of the chapter which warns against the harmful way in which our community often misinterprets the Law of Attraction.
Part Three of the book brings our attention to the world. Once again, the Major Arcana is presented, this time in reference to year cards for the planet, with appropriate affirmations and associations. The exercise is to combine your personal year card with the world year card to discover a personal way that you can take action to create change in the world. What an intriguing concept!
The rest of the book concerns itself with activism. There is a lot of well-thought-out material in this section, even for those whose views are not completely in line with the authors. This section does a better job than earlier sections of incorporating tarot wisdom with other exercises. Here there is advice on how to listen to those with whom you disagree, a discussion of what privilege is, what it means to be an ally, and tarot exercises to help you explore your allyship, and your activism. There are magical rituals for groups and individuals, and tarot magic to bring justice to the world.
There is even advice, and a tarot spread, about running for office. Back when I was a young community organizer, some of the elders approached me with the idea that I should run for a city council seat. I couldn’t imagine myself in such a role. Though flattered, I refused. Had I a time machine to go back and give my younger self this book, the outcome might have been different. I am excited for today’s young activists who will find empowerment and inspiration with this book!
In the early 1980s, in our dingy campaign offices, we often played with divination, tossing coins to read the I Ching, and working with the then-new Motherpeace Tarot. Tarot for Troubled Times honors and quantifies the ideas we had then, and brings to light a new, more sophisticated and compassionate energy for social change.
Other than my desire for a bit more tarot in a tarot book, there are only two things I didn’t love about Tarot for Troubled Times. They both have to do with my personal preferences for tone, and thus might not be at all disturbing to others.
One is the occasional use of profanity. The other, in Part One, the section on personal healing, are hyperbolic generalizations about the readers of the book. The most egregious example of this is the simple statement, “You are [expletive] brilliant!” I believe that when we use unfounded generalized superlatives, we undermine rather than empower. As my four-year-old son once pointed out after watching an episode of Barney and Friends, “If everyone is special, then no one is special at all”. The use of hyperbole and profanity felt a bit lazy and condescending, and out of step with the rest of this thoughtfully written book.
Tarot for Troubled Times gets five stars and three cheers from me, because it is a unique, well-written, powerful and beautifully formatted book. It is book that can bring activism to tarotists, tarot to activists, and a new vision of tarot and personal healing to us all.