Learning Tarot

Recommended Tarot Books:  ratings 1-5 (best)                                                               Return to Tarot Home


Beginner Rating Introductory Tarot texts
beginner reading 5 Learning the Tarot: A Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning

An excellent "Keyword based" beginning text for those wishing to learn Tarot. You'll outgrow it, but it's a great start. (Waite-Rider cards only)

4.5 Introduction to Tarot by Susan Levitt

This presents both the Waite-Rider and Thoth decks with beautiful color pictures of each card, and gives an interpretation for each card. Though it has only 225 pages, this is really an excellent brief introduction. Provides very good information describing the astrological attributions for each card.

Intermediate   Intermediate
intermediate 5 Tarot As Your Companion: A Practical Guide to the Rider-Waite and Crowley Thoth Tarot Decks by Hajo Banzhaf

All Banzhaf's books are excellent (though the translation from German to English and the editing often suffers). This book presents a very practical method for learning the meanings of the Tarot by doing 4 card readings where Banzhaf provides a possible interpretation for every card in each of the 4 possible positions. This may be the fastest method for learning to read Tarot.

Interpretation 4.5 Tarot Dictionary and Compendium, by Jana Riley

Collects interpretations for each card from various (well-known) authors.

intermediate 4.5 Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, by Rachel Pollak

One of the best books on Tarot. Much too wordy and often meandering, but worth the read.

intermediate 4 Tarot as a Way of Life: A Jungian Approach to the Tarot, by Karen Hamaker-Zondag

Looking into the inner meaning of  Tarot.

Advanced   Advanced
Symbolism 4 Tarot Symbolism, by Robert O'Neill.

A deep examination of the origin and development of the Tarot, from it's beginnings in renaissance Italy. O'Neill then traces the various branches of development over the centuries, looks at the historical, cultural, philosophies and esoteric systems that shaped the design of the decks. His research implies that the cards developed into an allegorical depiction of a mystical philosophy and cosmology. Fascinating reading.
Divination 4 Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore, by Cynthia Giles

This book looks at the esoteric, psychological and metaphysical systems that attempt to explain tarot divination.

Historical 5 Encyclopedia of the Tarot by Stuart Kaplan.

A huge, four volume (a 5th in development) set on the history of Tarot cards. Great fun and education to browse. A treasure.

Hermetic   Hermetic Branch (Only)
5 The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley.

The essential book on Hermetic/GoldenDawn Tarot. Crowley's depth of knowledge and profound understanding of the symbolism, numerology, astrology, Qabalah, and the "magick" of the Tarot's method was very deep. Regardless of one's opinion of Crowley as a person, his insight is profound and instructive. This is essential reading, difficult because it is constantly referencing a wide range of esoteric systems (Magic, Kabbalah, Astrology, Mythology, Egyptian history and religion, Greek Myth and philosophy, Hermetics) that is requires constant side research projects to absorb this material. A deep study of this book can transform you into a Magus while learning all the allusions.

5 The Qabalistic Tarot: A Textbook of Mystical Philosophy, by Robert Wang

The single most important reference for Qabalistic Tarot. If you pursue the Hermetic study, this is an essential study of the symbolism of Tarot. Relates the Kabbalah, especially the Tree of Life (it's Sephirot and Paths) to each card of the Tarot. Presents images from four important decks: the Golden Dawn Tarot, the Thoth Tarot, the Rider-Waite Tarot, and the Marseilles deck.

Thoth   Hermetic - Specific to the Thoth Deck
Thoth 4.5 The Thoth Companion by Michael Osiris Snuffin
A  very good introduction to the symbols of the Thoth, it could easily be expanded to 2-3 times it's length to cover more. Similar to the Banzhaf Hanbook in concept.
Thoth 4.0 The Crowley Tarot: The Handbook to the Cards by Hajo Banzhaf

Good explanation of each card.

Thoth 4.5 Keywords for the Crowley Tarot by Hajo Banzhaf

A list of the symbols on each card with explanation of each.

Thoth 3.5 Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot, by Duquette .

Introduction to Crowley's system with useful explanations of difficult parts of Crowley's "Book of Thoth".

Thoth 4.5 Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Israel Regardie
Thoth 4.5  
Spiritual   Spiritual/Intuitive Tarot
Spiritual 4 The Tarot of the Spirit, by Pamela Eakins.

Tarot as a spiritual practice. Uses the "Tarot of the Spirit" deck by Pamela's mother.

  4 Living the Qabalistic Tarot, by Amber Jayanti.

Brings Tarot philosophy into everyday life.

Kabbalah   For those interested in Kabbalah Study
  5 The Essence of Kabbalah, by Brian L. Lancaster.

I have dozens of books on Kabbalah, this is easily the best introduction. It gives a real insight into what Kabbalah is, how it works as a path, and provides an entry into the real study of Kabbalah.

    SEE MORE Kabbalah books, on the Learning Kabbalah page
others   Other Tarot books
Tarot as a Spiritual Path   A breakthrough book, takes Tarot into the 21st Century (post-modern). This can help you transcend the Classical and Hermetic traditions and open into intuitive, expansive readings and a new view of Tarot's possibilities and functions.
    The Thoth Tarot Dictionary and Compendium

Collects interpretations, symbols,  for each card from a wide range of sources.wide range of esoteric systems Magic, Kabbalah, Astrology, Mythology, Egyptian history and religion, Greek Myth and philosophy, Hermetics

    Kabbalah - Jewish mystical tradition, used for insight into scriptures, and a path/framework to mystical insight/experience, insight into Reality, guidance, validation etc.
    Qabalah - generally used to indicate the use of Kabbalah as an occult and practical magical system;; used by Hermetics, Gnostics, Neoplatists, Rosicrucians, Tantra, Golden Dawn, Levi.
    Cabala - Christian adaptation used mostly for insight into the scriptures
Thoth Study Recommendations:

Get a large version of the deck and a magnifying glass, ((or the modern option of using a good large image computer scan))

You also need the Golden Dawn's "Book T" (Tarot) - Waite's/Crowley's original source, is in public domain, you can download it online from many sites

The Book of Thoth by Crowley
A++++ essential :: sometimes difficult reading (because of the wide-range of references), but very rewarding (i've read it at least 4 times)

Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot by DuQuette
B+:: will give some opening into Crowley's book, a good start; too many side comments (if you took out the humor and white space, it would be 1/2 the page count).. the best chapter is on the rosy cross (really excellent), definately worth the read

The Thoth Companion by Michael Osiris Snuffin
A- ... a very good introduction to the symbols of the Thoth, it could easily be expanded to 2-3 times it's length to cover more

Tarot as Your Companion by Banzhaf and Hemmerlein
A - very good (a good compliment to the Sunffin)

Keywords to the Crowley Tarot by Hanzhaf and Theler
A - useful


An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot by Robert Wang
(on the Book T)

The Golden Dawn (Regardie) includes the "Book T" , the essential source book for esoteric tarot

Crowley - 777 (or better, the new Complete Magician's Tables by Stephen Skinner )

The Qabalistic Tarot: A Textbook of Mystical Philosophy - Robert Wang
A+ (needs revision, you'll catch a few errors)

For other attributions/symbols

The Living I Ching: Using Ancient Chinese Wisdom to Shape Your Life: Books: Ming-dao Deng by Ming-dao Deng.

The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy of Personal Transformation by Dennis William Hauck

Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Israel Regardie

The Law Is For All: The Authorized Popular Commentary of Liber Al Vel Legis Sub Figura CCXX, the Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley "The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading. Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril."
you'll find most of this forum's comments on the Thoth are quotes from these books

(oh, if you're new to tarot:: Banzhaf's Tarot as Your Companion: A Practical Guide to the Rider-Waite and Crowley Thoth Tarot Decks .. is the simplist way to learn to read tarot, with simple 4 card readings)

I have spent countless very enjoyable hours over many years searching out the details, symbols, the mysteries of the Thoth Deck

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Last modified: December 20, 2012

Updated: December 24, 2012 03:13:55 AM