St. Martin's Press has just released the "Complete Tarot Pack" by Juliet Sharman-Burke. This nicely packaged set includes a copy of her first book "The New Complete Book of Tarot", revised and re-illustrated. The Sharman-Casselli Tarot Deck with artwork by Giovanni Caselli and My Tarot, a deck of card outlines for you to colour as you wish, are also a part of this wonderful package. Two decks for the price of one. The Sharman-Caselli Deck is essentially a Rider-Waite-Smith clone which also draws on the influence of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, one of the earliest known decks. I have a fondness for decks that follow the more traditional path of Tarot and feel that these are excellent choices for a first deck - it allows you to change from one deck to another without having to learn a whole new system.
The set is promoted as containing "Everything you need to become a tarot reader", and I tend to be a bit leary of anything claiming to be "Complete" or all inclusive when it comes to the craft of Tarot. It is designed as a learning program and introductory kit for people beginning their journey into the world in Tarot. It would certainly fit the bill for anyone daunted by trying to choose their first deck or to discern what would be a good book to learn the Tarot from. With over 2,000 decks now in circulation and as many books, it can be very difficult to find something that isn't going to going to cost you an arm and a leg or just be too obscure to be functional for a beginner.
She approaches Tarot from a psychological point of view and has followed Jung's thoughts on the process of individuation and The Fool's Journey. She has also changed the numerical sequence of the Major Arcana and doesn't believe in reversed meanings for the cards - something I am in complete agreement with. She explains her reasoning for these changes very well in the Introduction section. This is followed by a very good section on The Origins of the Cards in which various theories and cultural interpretations are explored. There is a short section on Getting to Know Your Cards in which she gives very sound advice. So far, so good.
We now enter the Tarot section of the book which is broken down into four sections - each section dealing with specific Major and Minor Arcana cards. Each section ends with exercises, along the lines of guided meditations, for the cards covered in that section. She has created very workable sections. Tarot can be very overwhelming so there is great wisdom in breaking down the sections in this manner. The information provided is good but not overwhelming, 2 pages for a Major Arcana, and the Minor Arcana are broken down numerically and all included in the same two page section for each number. She has taken a traditional approach in not numbering the Major Arcana but they are all titled.
While I know this is traditional, I feel that numbering the Major Arcana can significantly help a beginner who is learning to navigate the Tarot. Lack of numbers may simplify the process though but you still lose the numerological significance of the card. Numbering of the Major Arcana is a thorny issue with many Tarot enthusiasts as most original decks had neither a name or a number, just an image. Her card definitions follow traditional interpretations and I find nothing that I can or would disagree with. They are straight forward, to the point and contain appropriate and pertinent information that a beginner should have. The fourth section contains information on How to Read the Cards, information and illustrations on 4 different spreads: The Celtic Cross, 5 Card Horseshoe, Star Spread and the Tree of Life which is followed by a section offering further examples, more exercises and a place to make notes on your own readings.
The Sharman-Casselli Tarot Deck is lovely. Very soft colours, easy on the eyes and nicely innovative of traditional themes, symbolism and depictions. My Tarot is the Sharman-Casselli Deck uncoloured and I think this is just a very unique and original addition to the package. It comes with a little booklet on how to personalize your own deck, the meaning of colours, what to colour with and choosing colour themes for the Major and Minor Arcana. I believe that Tarot is very much about stimulating that part of our mind and consciousness that isn't working creatively and I have always loved to colour. I think this innovation is what makes this package a worthwhile purchase. Is the "complete everything" about Tarot? No, nothing is. Tarot is too fluid and flexible to ever be understood completely, but this would be excellent for someone keen to learn Tarot. Nothing here would lead you astray. Her information and instruction is excellent.
Juliet Sharman-Burke wrote the Beginner's Guide to Tarot, Tarot Workbook, The Mythic Tarot Workbook, Understanding the Tarot and Mastering the Tarot. She has also co-authored with Liz Greene the Mythic Tarot (one of my favourite decks) and The Mythic Journey. She is a practising analytic psychotherapist who has taught Tarot and Astrology for 25 years. She has the credentials.