Most tarot decks come with the standard LWB (little white book), which contains a list of meanings for each of the cards–major arcana, court cards, and pips. Most of the LWB’s are exactly what they sound like: simply printed pamphlet-style booklets that are roughly the size of the box that the tarot deck comes in. Many will contain some examples of simple tarot spreads to get the reader started. Here is an example from the Thoth Deck:
Not all LWB’s are created equal, however. Some decks come beautifully packaged with amazing books of meanings that are quite substantial in their depth and scope of information, as well as the quality of their construction. I’ve seen everything from gorgeous paperback books to impressive hardcover tomes. Of course, you get what you pay for; these decks are often more expensive–and rightfully so, considering the quality of what you are getting.
Now to the meat and potatoes of this blog post. You’ve got the LWB in front of you, so what do you do with it? There are a couple of schools of thought. For a new reader, you might hear conflicting things. Some might tell you to hang on to that LWB and study the meanings religiously until you have them memorized. Others may tell you to immediately throw that LWB away and start reading based strictly upon your intuition and the imagery that leaps off of the cards.
It’s my opinion that you have to find a happy medium between the two. Tarot, despite being a highly intuitive form of divination, is still based off of a structured system, and it’s important to know that structure in order to become an accomplished reader. The images in the cards are usually there for a reason, and the designers of the decks, from the trusty Rider Waite to the latest indy deck, chose those images to convey a message. I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice to ignore those meanings entirely.
However, after you have a grasp on the meanings, it’s important to take the training wheels off, so to speak, and let that intuition take hold. That’s when I think it’s important to lay the LWB aside and only refer to it when you are well and truly stuck and need a memory jog.
Also, I can’t express how important I think it is to keep a tarot journal of your own to jot down your personal thoughts and impressions of each cards. My next blog entry will be about tarot journaling, so more about that later. Suffice it to say that you can’t be dependent just on the LWB!
I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on this topic, as I know everyone has differently-colored views. Please feel free to share in the comments below!