Book Review: The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin
There’s no shortage of tarot book on the market, as we all know. But how often does one come along with a refreshing new focus that can add to anyone’s practice? In The Creative Tarot, editor, author and tarot expert Jessa Crispin provides us with an insightful exploration into tarot’s relationship to creativity that’s full of new connections to the cards.
The book itself is designed for anyone engaged with creative pursuits - artists, in particular. You don’t, however, have to identify as one to gain something from this book. In my many years studying tarot, I’ve found that reading multiple sources with only generalized tarot meanings can be confusing and overwhelming. What’s more, it’s difficult to flesh out the cards into all their possibilities. Sure, we may know that the Five of Cups deals with grief and loss, but how does that tie into career, love, or creativity specifically?
Approaching tarot from the creative perspective gives the book an engaging and helpful sense of structure. Limiting herself to this vantage point, Crispin intersperses her card descriptions with ties to artists and artwork that reflect their themes and issues. So, for example, the Queen of Swords becomes tied to the photographer Sally Mann, whose piercing photos of her children required her to insert a sense of detachment from her role as a mother in order to capture her uniquely magical and feral images.
Giving the reader these stories and associations is a priceless addition to our tarot meaning database. Each card description has several pages of text followed by suggestions for works of art to explore. These include paintings, films, songs, and dances. I love the added dimension Crispin gives with these options for further exploration. Indeed, the indelible experience of taking in art marries perfectly with tarot’s wordless and often inexpressible deeper meaning.
The overall tone of the book is wonderfully colloquial and eloquent. We can see Crispin’s voracious intellect in her writing without feeling alienated. It’s an engaging and accessible read that also challenges us to seek out the artists embodied in the cards and make our own associations. Now that’s my kind of approach to tarot!
The book concludes with a massively helpful section on spreads. Crispin’s own tarot practice has evolved around creative issues and clients so she has a lot to offer in this arena. Her spreads are concise, useful, and include helpful example readings to give us a sense of how they play out in real life. I’m looking forward to using these as I navigate my many creative projects and plans.
And now into the details of the book itself.
This Book is Wonderful for…
Anyone who identifies as creative (though, in my humble opinion, I think we all should embrace this title!) and those looking for new and refreshing tarot meanings and associations. She specifically addresses themes of creative block, doubt, success, monetization, and integrity, among many others.
Crispin’s card meanings are treasure troves of art and information. I have a massive reading list from this book alone and found myself googling multiple artists and artworks while reading!
Creative Tarot is also a great tarot book for those who are more on the intellectual end of the “woo spectrum.” Crispin is wonderfully intelligent and has a pragmatic approach to tarot that’s accessible for many, especially those who don’t feel comfortable identifying as spiritual or interested in divination or the occult. For example, her section on tarot history is refreshingly up-front and dispels many alluring myths around the cards with dry humor.
Skip this Book if…
You’re looking for a more esoteric approach or a strictly introductory text. While Crispin covers a lot of ground in a very accessible way, this book isn’t designed for a complete tarot beginner looking for a traditional approach. This book is also focused on the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition, so for those looking to study another system look elsewhere.
Clear and concise writing
A helpful “tarot FAQ” in the introduction perfect for those on the fence and concerned about some of the myths and misconceptions around tarot.
Helpful structure - Crispin limits each card description to a few pages and divides her book into sections on the major arcana while dividing the minor arcana by number instead of suit (an approach I find massively helpful when learning!)
Evocative and intriguing connections to art - this my favorite part of the book. It truly opens worlds to the reader and provides priceless associations with anectdotes, stories, and artworks.
Engaging tone - this book is far from dry and moves at a lovely pace. You can imagine Crispin sharing her stories with you personally and get drawn into her unique perspective and personality.
The artists Crispin references are predominately drawn from Western art history
Some assumptions about the reader having a specific body of knowledge. This book doesn’t hold your hand and jumps straight into sometimes academic reflections on art and history (this can also be seen as a pro!) that may be intimidating to some readers.
Overall, this book is a wonderfully engaging journey into the often-neglected connections between tarot and creativity. I can see myself gifting this book to my smart and creative friends who are curious about using tarot as a tool for inspiration and guidance in their projects. And I’ll definitely be purchasing a copy to use as a reference and point myself towards inspiring creators and their art.