Reads for the Head and Heart, August 2022


The Contemplative Tarot, Brittany Muller (2022 – NEW RELEASE! September 13, 2022)

Intuitive practices have been having a ‘moment’ the past few years, and perhaps none has seen as quick a rise in popularity as Tarot. I’ve read a number of introductory books on the subject in order to better understand the phenomenon, and one area that has stood out to me as a weakness of the available introductions has been their lack of understanding — and even open distaste for — the clear Christian imagery found on many of the cards in their most common forms. Brittany Muller’s The Contemplative Tarot is a wonderful and helpful remedy to this problem. She spends time to give the Christian symbolism its proper due. If you are a Christian who is interested in adding a new tool to your contemplative toolbelt, or are a non-Christian practitioner who would like to better understand the symbolism of the cards, this would be an excellent place to start.

Additionally, since she uses the cards for contemplation rather than for ‘divination’, Muller is not overly invested in spinning any particularly occult history for the cards, and is therefore open and honest about their humble origins as simple playing cards, before they were taken up and reinterpreted by champions of the esoteric and occult in the late nineteenth century.

One critique I would offer is that her treatment of the ‘minor arcana’ doesn’t reference any numerological system, so the numbered cards are interpreted ad hoc rather than systematically. Interpreting them within the kabbalistic numerology that has so influenced the imagery and interpretation of these cards would have been helpful, I think. Over all, however, this is a great introduction to the Tarot, particularly for those interested in understanding its Christian imagery.

(A thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Esoteric practices
  • Contemplative Christianity
  • Tarot
  • Sacred practices

My Rating, 9/10

Monthly Roundup

  • In The Shelter, Pádraig Ó Tuama (2015), 7.5/10: This is a lovely book of reflections, memoir, and essays by an Irish, gay Christian writer, speaker and poet, organized around the idea of welcoming life in. “Hello,” he says: to the world, to imagination, to trouble, to story, and to so much else. Ó Tuama’s poetic sensibilities run through the book, not only in his obvious way with words, but also in the rather ‘free verse’ ordering of stories and ideas. My more prosaic mind would have appreciated a bit more of a linear way of storycrafting, but there is no doubt that this is an encouraging and beautiful read. (Christianity, Spirituality, Ireland, Northern Ireland, LGBTQ2S+, Home)
  • A Curious Faith, Lore Ferguson Wilbert (2022 – NEW RELEASE August 2022), 7/10: This book explores Christian spirituality through the lens of questioning — us questioning God, and God questioning us. It’s a helpful perspective, especially for those who grew up in churches or families in which asking questions was discouraged. Because my own spiritual journey has been rather different, it didn’t really ‘hit’ for me, but I think it would be very helpful to others. (Christianity, Spirituality, Evangelicalism, Questioning, Doubt)
  • Spiritual Places, Sarah Baxter (2018), 7.5/10: This collection of short introductory essays about important spiritual sites around the world was ‘just fine’; what set it apart was the wonderful illustrations by Harry and Zanna Goldhawk. Do yourself a favour and find a copy just to browse through these beautiful images! (Travel, Spiritual Places, Illustration, Art)
  • Resilient Grieving, Lucy Hone (2017), 8/10: While completing her doctorate in positive psychology, the author tragically lost her daughter, her best friend, and her best friend’s daughter in a car accident. Here Dr. Hone brings her research on resilience and wellbeing to bear on her own deeply personal experiences of grief. The result is a book that is half positive-psychology and half memoir, a fusion that is both engaging, and, at times, a little uncomfortable. The content is excellent, however, and I think it is an excellent addition to any library on grief and loss. (Grief and Loss, Positive Psychology, Memoir, Resilience)
  • The Key to Inclusion, Stephen Frost, ed. (2022), 10/10: See my review of this wonderful new book about moving away from thinking about diversity to thinking about inclusion in my August 20 weekly recap.
  • Pathways of Reconciliation, Aimée Craft, ed. (2020), 7/10: The content of this book is excellent, probably deserving a 10/10, however it isn’t quite ‘as advertised.’ This is a collection of scholarly articles that mostly take a pessimistic attitude towards the possibility of reconciliation. Whether looking at settler attitudes within Canada, Indigenous attitudes not particularly desiring reconciliation, fundamentally divergent ideas about what reconciliation means, or stories of reconciliation efforts gone wrong in other countries, it seems like it would have been better titled ‘Barriers to Reconciliation’. It is still a very important and necessary topic, but not what I was expecting and, in all, pretty discouraging. Read this, please, but with open eyes about what to expect. (Indigenous Reconciliation, Canada, Liberal Democracy, Treaty Rights, UNDRIP, Truth & Reconciliation Commission)
  • Rewild Yourself, Simon Barnes (2018), 7.5/10: See my review of this book on learning to appreciate nature in my August 27 weekly recap.
  • The Purpose Path, Nicholas Pearce (2019), 8/10: See my review of this fusion of business and career insight with Christian theology in my August 27 weekly recap.
  • The Gift, Daniel Ladinsky (1999), 6/10: Ladinsky’s spiritual poetry has become controversial, since his books are generally misrepresented as ‘interpretations’ of the fourteenth-century, Persian, Sufi poet Hafez, yet are actually only loosely based on his writings, and should perhaps be better called ‘poems inspired by Hafez.’ And indeed, I picked this up largely because the cover advertised it as Hafez, and was unaware of the controversy until I did a bit of research since the poems felt so modern. But, the ethics of how these poems have been marketed notwithstanding, understanding them as original compositions allows them to speak with their own voice. And that voice was buoyant and beautiful. I only wish the shadow of scandal didn’t hang over it, because that shadow is very hard to ignore.

One response to “Reads for the Head and Heart, August 2022”

  1. […] Resilient Grieving, Lucy Hone (2017), 8/10: For my review of this postive-psychological approach to grief and loss, see my post of September 1. […]


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