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Monday, October 24, 2011

Book & Deck Review: The Alchemy of Tarot book and The Kingdom Within Tarot deck.

The Alchemy of Tarot
Juno Lucina
2011
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.
www.schifferbooks.com
ISBN #:  978-0-7643-3710-9
USD $34.99
Paperback, 174 pages, 8 1/2" X 11" X 1/2"

 ~ also ~



The Kingdom Within Tarot                                                                
Juno Lucina: guide book
Shannon ThornFeather: cards
 2011
ISBN #: 978-0-7643-3711-6
USD: $34.99
6" X 11 3/4" X 1 1/2" hinged box, magentic closure

 I chose to review these two titles together because they are firstly, by the same author, and secondly, the book, The Alchemy of Tarot, is fully illustrated with all the cards from The Kingdom Within Tarot. 

 Printed on glossy paper throughout and containing full color, full sized images of all cards from The Kingdom Within Tarot, The Alchemy of Tarot is a real treat for the senses.  The book not only is gorgeous, but the feel of it is very rich.  It’s heavy due to the glossy paper and a book lover’s delight.  The Alchemy of Tarot is also packed with useful and helpful information regarding Qabalah, astrology, and the connections they have to tarot.

The Alchemy of Tarot reads like a thorough introductory course on the subjects of tarot, qabalah, and astrology.  Through a discussion of archetypes, the Elements, natural cycles, and the cosmology of the fallen savior, Juno Lucina constructs a foundation from which the study of tarot can be taken to a deeper and more profound level by anyone with a sincere interest in the subject matter.

The cards of the major arcana of The Kingdom Within Tarot contain the actual image of the planet with which each card is associated. The planet is always depicted somewhere within the card’s imagery.  The symbol of each card’s astrological association is also included within the card’s imagery.  The images of each have been very well designed and thought out in order for the image to portray the energies of the associated planet and astrological sign.  Every card has colored spheres in the upper left and lower right-hand corners that convey in color the path associated with each card on the Qabalahistic Tree of Life.   This deck was obviously quite an undertaking for both author and artist.

The Alchemy of Tarot includes a thorough discussion of every card in The Kingdom Within Tarot deck.  The categories of information about each card include the following:


  •  Name of card & corresponding astrological sign and/or planet
  • Qabalistic path on the restored Tree of Life
  • Qabalistic letter:  the meaning & the English translation
  •  Astrological interpretation
  •  Elemental information, including ruling planet & associated minor arcana card
  •  Key phrases for easy reference
  • Key phrases for easy reference
  • Qabalistic symbology
 The entire discussion of the Qabalistic Tree of Life follows the work of Charles Stansfield Jones (pen name: Frater Achad), who was the star pupil and initiate of Aleister Crowley.   Juno Lucina provides good background information on his reworking of the Tree of life and discusses its basis in Egyptian mythology.  All major arcana cards are located on their individual paths of the Tree of Life and the coding system of the colored spheres that identifies each card’s placement on the Tree of Life is discussed.  A full color page image of all the major arcana cards and their placement upon the Tree of Life is included for easy reference. 

There is an extra card of the major arcana included, so the majors total 79 cards.  The extra card is entitled, “The Kingdom Within All”, which represents change and infinite possibilities (see right). 

 Court cards (see left) are the next section of The Alchemy of Tarot.  They consist of Pages (the Daughter archetype), Princes (the Son archetype), Queens (the Mother archetype), and Kings (the Father archetype).  Three methods of interpreting court cards are provided.  At first this may seem daunting to read through it all, but for any of you who have had any trouble reading court cards prior to this book, I urge you to read this section carefully.  You’ll be very glad that you did.  Personally, the manner in which Juno Lucina provides the information helped to clarity some issues for me and now I find I no longer have any difficulty with court cards since I now use this system for all of my tarot decks and I find it works for them all.   Each court card is interpreted in terms of the level of power or ability to manifest change that it represents, its associated zodiac sign and their energies, and finally as representing actual individuals and the sixteen basic motivations that drive a person to take action based upon the Meyers-Briggs personality types that is in turn based upon the work of Carl Jung. 

In The Alchemy of Tarot each suit of court cards conveys the mythic cycle of a fallen savior archetype.  The Pentacles present the story of the Oak and Holly King with Father Time as the King, the Virgin Mary as the Queen, The Oak King as the Prince, and the Newborn King as the Page.  The suit of Wands presents the story of Jesus Christ as the King, the goddess Eostre as Queen, Dionysus as the Prince, and Mary Magdalene as the Page.  Cups are represented by the Green Man (King), Gaia (Queen), Sir Galahad (Prince), and Faerie Puck (Page).  The Sword court cards consist of the Aztec god of death, Mictlantecutli (King), Hecate (Queen), Lord of Misrule (Prince), and Persephone (Page). 

 Within the pages of The Alchemy of Tarot the minor arcana is discussed in terms of its Qabalistic associations with the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life that corresponds to their number, so all tens are associated with Malkuth the tenth Sephiroth upon the Tree of life, nines are associated with Yesod the ninth Sephiroth, and so on.  The stories of the characters that comprise the court cards unfolds in the imagery of the Ace – ten and images of the characters upon the court cards also occur within other cards of their associated suits.  Astrological associations of the minor arcana cards are also discussed.

The Alchemy of Tarot concludes with sections on the associations between each card and each astrological house including several tables of key phrases identifying planet and sign correspondences.  Spreads include the Key Spread, Triangle Spread (also in the guidebook to the deck), a 10-card Cross Spread (also in the guidebook), and an astrological-based 13-card Kingdom Within Spread.  Health questions and health associations of signs and planets are included.  Timing and the tarot is also discussed.  Using the tarot in order to find lost items and regarding world events are also covered.  A method is included for using this tarot deck for personal spiritual development based upon the story of the sacrificial savior and The Fool’s journey through the major arcana.  Pathworking spreads include:  Single Seed Spread, ‘Till We Have Faces Spread, Death & Resurrection Spread, Hero’s Journey Spread, and of course The Alchemy of Tarot naturally concludes with a Tree of Life Spread.

Well-written and thorough, The Alchemy of Tarot presents the reader with a real education in Qabalah, Astrology, ancient mythic cycles and, of course, tarot.  The Alchemy of Tarot contains a great deal of information and once I was finished reading the book cover to cover I felt as though I had been through an intense course on tarot, astrology, and Qabalah.  I also found that I had a much better understanding of astrology and Qabalah than ever before so I came away from this book having learned some valuable new information.

Now, on to the tarot deck ~

The Kingdom Within Tarot comes with its own guidebook that is also written by Juno Lucina.  The included guidebook includes reversed card interpretations while the larger and much more expansive The Alchemy of Tarot does not.  The guidebook is a compilation of just the basic card interpretations.  Qabalah and astrology are not discussed.  Clearly, the guidebook is designed for ease of use intended for users who wish to start using the cards quickly.  Spreads include the Triangle Spread, The cross Spread, and concludes with a brief summary of yes/no questions and timing in tarot.  The guidebook is concise, to the point, and designed to make the deck immediately useful.

The cards measure 3 1/2" X 5" and are printed on sturdy card stock that is well laminated so they will withstand years of shuffling.  The artwork is characterized by the use of bright, vibrant colors throughout and the cards are borderless.  The minor arcana cards are all fully illustrated and depict scenes from the lives of the characters depicted on the court cards.  The card back is completely reversible and contains an image of the Tree of Life, Sephiorth, planets, and an anthropomorphic sun.  The interpretations of the cards are traditional.

Users of The Kingdom of Tarot deck do not need the book, The Alchemy of Tarot, in order for the deck to be useful to them.  However, I do strongly urge users of The Kingdom Within Tarot to also purchase The Alchemy of Tarot because it presents a more complete and thorough analysis of the cards and contains helpful information on the Tree of Life, Astrology, and how this all works together with tarot as a coherent system. 

Packaging of The Kingdom Within Tarot consists of a 6" X 11 3/4" X 1 1/2" box with magnetic hinged lid and recessed storage areas for the deck and guidebook.  The cards themselves may be a bit unwieldy at first due to the amount of lamination and their size, but after a few uses they do loosen up and become much easier to shuffle.   The guide book measures 7 3/4" X 5 1/2" and contains 176 pages and places where you can write your own notes, something I always very much appreciate in a tarot book. 

Together, The Alchemy of Tarot and The Kingdom Within Tarot are an outstanding contribution to the field of tarot and I found both the book and deck to be enlightening and enjoyable.   Both the book and deck have a permanent place in my collection. 

Many Blessings,

Nefer Khepri, Ph. D., R. M-T.






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