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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:

Go to Mary Greer’s review of this book.


11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peter Alexander Vaughn #

    Its odd that the myth of the Tarot has grown so. Tarot is of a Medieval and mainly Christian origin, though so many new-agers can’t accept that. It’s also fact that its origin is nothing more mysterious than ancient emblem sets which our ancestors were attuned to. Pubs, business, etc. all had them.

    April 16, 2014
    • I think there’s several reasons erroneous myths about tarot’s origins persist. Some of it is just laziness, with people repeating the errors of other lazy authors who don’t do any serious research. Then there’s the emotional need to associate yourself with something exotic, and to believe that the deck is intrinsically magical, rather than having only the magic we project into it. I imagine a lot of new-agers and neo-pagans who have rejected traditional religion find it difficult to accept tarot’s Christian roots.
      I think the myth is shrinking, not expanding. Until the mid-20th century it was unquestioned dogma that tarot was a product of Ancient Egypt, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, etc. (In spite of A. E. Waite saying back in 1909 that this is ridiculous).
      I can remember when I first joined online discussion groups in the late 1990s, how people would squeal like stuck pigs if someone suggested tarot began as a secular card game and was not invented by Kabbalists. That doesn’t happen so much anymore. Just about everyone has heard the historical facts, even if they have a hard time accepting them. I used to be on a mission to enlighten people about the historical truth, but now I don’t care so much. As I get older, I’ve become more tolerant of other people’s myths, even the wacky ones.

      April 16, 2014
  2. a #

    Hello, this weekend is good in support of me, since this occasion i am reading this great informative piece
    of writing here at my house.

    June 20, 2014
  3. jacquie #

    Dear Sherryl,
    Thank you for the review, I have bought this book.
    Would love to order the deck too!
    But unsure how good the post is to get to Oz.
    If I was only ever to get one Marseilles deck and one Marseilles Tarot book, which would you recommend?
    Thank you.

    September 24, 2014
    • Hi Jacquie,
      If you want to read with a TdM deck, then I think Yoav’s books is the best – it’s the most down-to-earth and practical. As for recommending a deck – it’s very subjective. If you go to the Cartomancy section of this website, the first article is about choosing a deck. It’s mostly a matter of aesthetics – what style you like best. Do you want a historical facsimile, which is created from a photo of a deck in a museum, so it retains stains, yellowing, etc. Also, the very old decks had the colors stencilled on, so the colors don’t always stay within the lines. Some people prefer their cards cleaned up with sharper colors and lines. Then there are lots of historic decks that are variations on the TdM, like the Neoclassical, Soprafino, Flemish, Visconti-Sforza. Then there’s modern versions of the TdM, everything from Fournier’s lurid colors, to the Kilted Rubber Chicken, which I reviewed on my blog a while back. If you can narrow your preference down, I can help you with some suggestions.

      September 24, 2014
  4. Danny #

    Hello Sherryl,
    I have almost finished reading Yoavs book,and before this i had read the book from Jodorowsky (The way of tarot) what do you (or maybe others reading this) think of Jodorowsky’s book and approach and his deck in comparison with his cards with that of
    Yoav Ben Dov’s?


    January 18, 2015
    • Hi Danny,
      I have a lot of respect for Jodorowski’s book and his teachings. I did a review elsewhere in this blog (Sept. 2013). His book is especially useful if you use Camoin’s restoration of the TdM, which has some controversial details. I don’t have Ben-Dov’s deck to compare, but I’ve heard people on various forums say Ben-Dov’s TdM restoration is one of the most beautiful they’ve ever seen.

      January 19, 2015
      • Danny #

        Hi Sherryl,
        I have both decks and both books from the authors.I was curious about yours and
        others opinions on this etc.

        January 19, 2015
      • Hi Danny,
        If you want other people’s opinions, there are some comments under my review of Jodorowsky’s book. If you join, the Tarot de Marseille forum has numerous opinionated threads on Jodorowsky and other TdM authors.

        January 20, 2015
  5. I was so pleased to find a copy of this book. I think that it’s superb entry level MdT because it’s not too long and not jammed with strange theory. Yeah, Jodorowsky, I’m looking at YOU 😀

    July 25, 2021
    • Alison, I totally agree. I always recommend this as a first book for learning the TdM. It’s so refreshingly no-nonsense and practical.

      July 25, 2021

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