A book review.
I have mentioned on here previously that I was reading Camelia Elias’s book Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading, published by Eyecorner Press. I just finished the book and found it so refreshing, that I want to share a little review of it in this space.
The book is about storytelling with the Marseille Tarot. How to create stories that speak to the querent and that consequently reveal our “blind spots.” It starts with laying down the foundation, how to construct stories, how to ask the cards, and where to look for more information. She provides excellent outside sources to complement our tarot journey, from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Enrique Enriquez to the writer Italo Calvino. She doesn’t delve into the logistics of determining the future and how to ask the right question, that is merely up to the reader and what she/he feels comfortable with. The Tarot is such an expansive language that it can encompass all these nuances, we should not worry ourselves with the minutiae. It is truly up to the reader.
The Tarot is a visual and poetic language that enables us to respond to an embodied situation presented in the cards. It’s the best kind of learning. And often the wisest.
The Cunning-Folk Method:
Useful stories that rests on the premise that a pack of cards can be seen as a tool in describing that which we have no words for, but which we would like to see crystallize before our eyes.
She applies traditional folk methods to reading cards, based on cartomancy, that distills this passed-down-through-the-ages knowledge in the art of telling a story by looking at the cards lying on a table.
A good portion of the book, about half, goes into detail about the Trumps and also uses real life reading situations to contextualize the meaning of the Trump. The interesting part here is where she presents in a very common-sensical manner of interpreting the card in combination with another card. For example: Le Pendu
With Le Pape (The Pope)= A mystic
With Lemperance (Temperance)= Yoga instructor
With Le Diable (The Devil)= Underground spy
To me, this is inspiring. The possibilities inherent within the cards are truly endless, versatile and magical.
With the suits she doesn’t go in depth into each one, she basically applies the cartomantic rules of making logical inferences from the pips and that is all. As she states:
Essentially, we always go from tension to release. And that’s basically all. One is a little, ten is a lot. Unity and division, contraction and expansion, and far and near optical observations.
With the batons we construct , with the swords we fight and dig, with cups we celebrate and drink, with coins we barter and buy. From here on out, we make inferences based on the number and the surrounding cards and voila! ça suffit. This might seem a little vague but when you get the cards out and start playing around with them it starts making complete sense. Also, keep in mind that the most important part to any system is consistency.
Towards the end of the book she gives the basis for the French Cross while also delving into the nuances of the simple three card spread with a top and bottom card and ending with the logistics of a reading/querent situation. How to read for others, etc. All in all, this is an excellent book. How Camelia Elias weaves a story that is both evocative and pertinent is truly inspiring. In my humble opinion, I am not big on reading how-to books, yes I read the LWB tarots come with but in general I don’t delve too much into reading a lot of how-to material. I don’t like being told what things mean, I like getting there of my own accord. This book is so much more than a How-to book on reading the Marseille tarot, it is a magical book on how to see the cards in a more subtle light, how to create stories that speak to us and that take us further than our present moment. It is as the title states, a book on the art of reading. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for a different and stimulating approach to reading the cards.
*Deck used: Jean Noblet, Jean-Claude Flornoy restoration.
5 thoughts on “Towards the Art of Reading with Camelia Elias”
What do you mean by How-to books? As a person who values literature, I find it surprising that you don’t like to read Tarot books. I’ve gained valuable insights by reading books that I never would have if I only relied on the cards. In the end, I can choose whether to reject or accept whatever a book puts forth, but the act of reading about it automatically exercises my critical thinking faculties, and forces me to consider the cards in ways I haven’t before. Often, I find myself taking something from everything, culminating in a very individualized method of studying the cards. I feel like my understanding would be somewhat one-dimensional if I didn’t take into consideration the works of experienced Tarotists before me. Furthermore, having some books at my disposal gives me the opportunity to “ask advice”, so to speak, when I’m really stuck on something. The cards are really what matter, for sure, but how useful is the application if there’s no background in theory? Not saying it can’t successfully be done, but you might be unnecessarily hindering yourself, like a guitar player who learns his instrument the hard way when there are tons of reference materials out there to draw from (I say that as an experienced player with the benefit of hindsight and a refusal to learn theory when I was younger). Then again, I can’t say I really consider any of the books I’ve read to be merely “how-to” books, so again, I wonder what you mean by that? Have you read any other Tarot books that you wouldn’t consider How-to? How much influence from outside sources do you like to include in your studies?
Also, I don’t mean to sound condescending or anything like that. As I said, you’ve made it clear that you appreciate literature, so I’m just surprised that you wouldn’t jump at the chance to read about a subject like the Tarot. There are some fascinating books out there. To me, reading a new Tarot book is almost as exciting as playing with a new deck.
Just my two-cents.
Nicely done review, all the same.
Definitely, I agree with you that in reading more on a subject exercises my critical thinking skills ans hwlps me form a sound opinion. Yet for some reason with tarot a lot of e books don’t appeal to me. Admittedly, I haven’t read too many. This one, halfway through Jodorowsky and Yoav Ben-Dob’s book. Jodorowsky I am thoroughly enjoying and Yoav Ben-Dov’s book has a really pleasant quality to it that makes it a joy to read. I just get a little put off for some odd reason with the general marketing, I guess I could attribute it to that, of tarot books. It seems to me that I would get bored halfway through. I would rather read esoteric literature, cabala, books on astrology, alchemy, those sorts of things that complement tarot reading in many cases. Although, I also really enjoy reading on tarot historty. I know, it is a prejudice of mine, one that I should certainly look into because if I loved this book by Camelia Elias, there are certainly others I will love as well. Thank you as always for reading. I will certainly add more book reviews on the topic. When I am done reading with Ben-Dov I will review his book.
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I have read and enjoyed Ben-Dov’s book. I can’t begrudge you for going straight to the source, reading cabbalistic texts, etc. instead of Tarot books. That’s some heavy stuff, though. I don’t really know what you mean by marketing, unless you’re referring to that sort of new-age-y feel that permeates this sort of stuff, in which case I agree, it is a little off-putting, almost seeming disingenuous. But I think about it like a great book that has been re-published with a cheesy from-the-movie cover. The book is still good.
And I also do sometimes get bored halfway through these sorts of books, but because they aren’t novels, I don’t worry about it. If I get bored, I put it down until I pick it up again. No big deal. One thing I like to do when I get a new book is read all the intros and general chapters, and then skip all of the parts that deal with specific cards. I just go to them when I’m in the mood to learn about that card. In some cases though, I do read it the whole way through, because it’s meant to be that way. A lot of books on Crowley’s Thoth, including his own, are like that.
‘That sort of new-age-y feel that permeates this sort of stuff” exactly what I mean. Although, it’s true I am aware that I shouldn’t be quick to judge. I guess slowly I will make my way through reading more books, going beyond the cover and seeing what’s really there. I think Crowley’s books are interesting, I think he is an interesting person in general. Cabala books are mind bending, I started reading Regardie’s book Garden of Pomegranates and put it down for a little while to let all the info sink in. I haven’t picked. Back up yet. Right now I’m really enjoying Ben Dov’s book, I find it soothing for some reason.
I’ll have to look into some Cabala literature. I also really enjoyed Ben-Dov’s book. You’re right, there’s something very nice about it. A very friendly vibe.