Tarot: The Open Reading by Yoav Ben-Dov
For years, English-speaking Tarot de Marseille readers have been complaining about the lack of books in English. Well, the book we’ve all been waiting for has arrived! Ben-Dov’s book has everything one could ask for in a comprehensive how-to manual: history, card meanings, symbolism, tips for conducting a reading session, and examples of spread interpretations.
I was very happy to read that the tarot deck is not a symbolic representation of ancient wisdom, and it’s not a version of an original template which we have yet to discover; but rather “it stands in its own right as a mysterious and magical work of art.” Furthermore, Ben-Dov reminds us that the tarot deck began in the streets and taverns of northern Italy. The deck, in all its permutations, is a product of the European collective unconscious, with each printer and designer adding his own bit of creativity and magic to the mix.
Ben-Dov studied with Alejandro Jodorowski (reviewed here) in Paris in the 1980s, where he learned the “open reading” method presented in the book. In this reading style, memorized card meanings and associations with systems like the Hebrew alphabet, astrology or numerology are kept to a minimum. This is a very fluid method, with no spread positions and no fixed card meanings; where the spread is read as a whole rather than card-by-card. Card meanings emerge from the image itself and depend on the context of the surrounding cards and the question. The book gives numerous illustrations of three-card spreads with interpretations which clarify how to use this method. The author’s extensive experience reading and teaching tarot shines through in his discussions on interpreting spreads and conducting a reading.
The Open Reading isn’t entirely about spontaneous free-association. We’re given useful divinatory meanings for each card that are refreshingly devoid of metaphysics and abstract theory. Chapters on the symbolism of suit ranks, color, number, and suit symbols keep us grounded in the reality of each card image. In the back of the book there’s a quick reference guide to consult during readings.
Ben-Dov is the creator of the CBD Tarot de Marseille, a re-creation of the 1760 Conver TdM, which is the template for the standard TdM. Ben-Dov’s deck has been acclaimed as one of the most beautiful modern restorations. As a bonus, the author explains his process for designing and creating the deck, and why he felt it was necessary to produce a new 1760 Conver.
This compact, 258-page book offers a complete, practical course on how to read with the Tarot de Marseille. If you’re new to the TdM, or intimidated by the very idea of reading with this type of deck, this book will give you everything you need to get started. For more experienced readers, there are plenty of fresh insights that make the book well worth the investment.
Yoav Ben-Dov’s website: www.CBDTarot.com