Towards the Art of Reading: a Review

A few days ago, i received in the mail a package from Camelia Elias. Inside, there was a copy of her newest book, “Towards the Art of Reading”. By chance, or simply because the Universe works in mysterious ways, that same day I also received a book containing a selection of texts by noted poet and Falconer Khushal Khan Kattak.

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The coincidence didn’t pass unnoticed. Tarot, poetry and falcons. In common, the act of seeing.
The all-seeing eye of Horus claiming for attention, and reminding me that we should not only look outwards, but also inwards. That the Tarot is ultimately about gaining awareness about ourselves and our surroundings.

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God has given me a mind,
that all clear … I always find.
Secrets of earth and heavens
in my heart God has defined.
God’s shown me everything
in my heart: I am, not blind!
In others are the black night:
Kushal makes dawn, a find!

When dealing with the Tarot, the first question we have to answer is “What do we see?” Sure… Some images are laid upon the table. There’s a story there, waiting to be told. This story is never trivial. Quite on the contrary, it’s supposed to shed light on a matter / question / doubt. And we are asked to take the images before us and give them meaning. And no matter how much one argues, divination is about answering questions.
To accomplish this, we only need two things: to be able to see, and to relate what we see to the question at hand.
Camelia’s book starts in a very powerful way: with an explained reading. Where she goes step by step through the mental process which she uses to arrive at an answer. The book then goes on to explain her process and how she sees each of the major trumps. There’s some meanings conveniently placed at the end of each card, but that’s not even the important part. It’s the invitation she extends to us all to look at each card. To really look at each card and describe it. Think about it. Actually interact with it.
Only by this reason alone, this book is worth the price of admission alone. We’re being asked not to memorize a somewhat useless list of meanings and definitions but to truly see what’s before us and ask ourselves, at each and every step, “Why is this relevant to the issue at hand?”
In a way, this is a book about the author. And her particular method of card reading. Then again, if reading the cards was just about putting lists of names and verbs in the head, we would really only need one or two books on the Tarot.
On the other hand, if we understand the process through which a reading is made, well then… We can start constructing our own connections, our own particular way of seeing. And our skills will evolve faster and will develop to its fullest. To really learn a trade, we need to see and understand how its done. To see others do it, and try first to imitate them, and then to surpass them.

Like an arrow is requiring an archer to make it fly,
poetry needs a skill that only in magician does lie.
To weight words properly heart must be balanced,
That one too many words is uneven, too hard a try!
On an ink-black horse Truth’s bride is mounted…
as over face, the veil of metaphor, she does apply.

This is a book to keep at hand at all times. To read it once, from cover to cover, and try to pick up all that you can. And then leave it for a while, while its teachings sink into your mind and are properly digested. This is a book to be read slowly, little by little. As if you were savouring a nice port. Even though it is written in a practical, direct manner, it is packed with information, and somethings will become clear with successive readings. It is profundly illustrated, so you know what is being discussed. The images, photographed from the Carolus Zoya’s version of the Marseille deck are alluring and inviting.
Even if you’re not a Marseille adept, the combination of the images with Canelia’s prose will seriously make you consider using it. It’s a good thing, then, that the book came with a copy of the trumps. That way, you won’t have to mutilate your book in order to use them. And who knows… Maybe if we’re lucky enough we’ll get to see the full deck printed out. But even if we don’t, try to see them as an invitation to experience a Marseille deck. And to find out why it’s still one of the most well regarded decks out there.

The wise one’s the one who says his say but once:
wise everywhere know, that wit’s soul is brevity.

(All poems taken from “Khushal Khan Khattak: the Great Warrior-Poet of Afghanistan”, Bookhaven, 2012; Falcon image taken from the movie “Disharming Falcons“, directed by Wendy Johnson and Annie Nocenti.

For more about Camelia Elias, please visit her blog Taroflexions)

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