Circle Network Book Review: The Key to the Tarot - What Tarot is - and how to consult it by A E Waite.
Arthur Edward Waite was born in 1857 in New York and was brought up in Jamaica and died in 1942 in Britain. This classic book was first published in 1910 to accompany a deck of tarot cards which developed as a result of the author's research at the British Library. Waite was a leading member of the Order of the Golden Dawn (along with W B Yeats and J M Barrie and other intellectuals of the time). This was where he met Pamela Colman Smith, the illustrator of this famous deck. He was interested in magic, theosophy, alchemy, the Grail, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry and Kabbalah amongst other esoteric and metaphysical subjects. He was an occultist and exponent of higher mystery schools and considered the tarot could have been used by the Albigensians. His writing is ornate, academic and self conscious and is peppered with latin phrases and name dropping, but this allows us to enter his world of Edwardian England, with its feather quills and gas lamps and comfortable men's clubs and the moneyed and educated class of the time.
The contents of the book cover extensively the history and traditions of the tarot and a comparison between the earliest, antique decks. Each of the Major Arcana has a write-up correcting any misunderstandings and a few words about divination and the 4 suits of the Lesser Arcana are also covered with information on how to create a spread and interpret it, both Major and Lesser with reversed meanings. Though very little information is provided to guide a new card reader, at the time in which he lived, readers were expected to demonstrate keen psychic gifts using the cards only as a focus and not to lean on them for extensive information. At the end of the book are a list of practitioners and their perspectives on the cards. Review: Wendy Stokes