Tarot: The Path to Wisdom by Joseph D’Agostino – A Review

Tarot: The Path to Wisdom

Author: Joseph D’Agostino

York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1994

ISBN: 0-87728-819-4

117 pages


D’Agostino’s Tarot: The Path to Wisdom is a book that I have owned since the 90s when it was first published. As a beginner’s book, it leaves a lot to be desired, and that would be my fault since Path is not intended as a beginner’s book. The intermediate tarot practitioner who has a strong foundation of the card meanings and can read with several card spreads will find Path to be an excellent companion for studying the Major Arcana. Path focuses on the Majors and provides a comprehensive overview of symbolism and interpretation of each major arcanum. D’Agostino draws from psychological sciences, historical context, esoteric philosophies, and general Western symbology to interpret the Majors. The book is keyed to the Rider-Waite deck and offers practical applications for using tarot.

An entire chapter is devoted to each of the twenty-two cards and at the end of each section are exercises for meditation. A table on the following page briefly summarizes D’Agostino’s suggested meditation exercises for each Major Arcanum. The meditation exercises can be further developed as creative writing exercises. One could conceivably use the meditation purpose concepts proffered by D’Agostino to free-write, e.g., meditate on The High Priestess to free-write about memory, use The Chariot to write on the theme of willpower, The Devil card to write on the theme of adversity, etc.

D’Agostino’s Meditative Applications of the Major Arcana

Major Arcanum Meditative Purpose
Key 0 The Fool To dispel frustration or depression
Key I The Magician For attention to detail; Power of concentration
Key II The High Priestess To improve memory
Key III The Empress To improve powers of imagination
Key IV The Emperor To increase ability to see reality
Key V The Hierophant To amplify receptivity to inner self
Key VI The Lovers To increase ability of discrimination
Key VII The Chariot To expand willpower
Key VIII Strength To expand influence and power of suggestion
Key IX The Hermit To enhance confidence
Key X Wheel of Fortune To accelerate synchronization of the person with the universe
Key XI Justice To establish greater degree of equilibrium
Key XII The Hanged Man To reverse undesirable habits, thoughts, or action
Key XIII Death To gain insight into emotional and reproductive instincts
Key XIV Temperance To accelerate the transformation of the personality
Key XV The Devil To understand adversity
Key XVI The Tower To dispel undesirable personality patterns
Key XVII The Star To improve powers of meditation
Key XVIII The Moon To reorganize the subconscious aspect of personality
Key XIX The Sun To regenerate the mind
Key XX Judgement To inspire a great awakening
Key XXI The World To know thyself

What is most compelling about Path is the insight and detail D’Agostino offers for each Major Arcanum. He writes on the planetary influences on each card, Biblical references, angelic depictions, and describes each card’s imagery in detail. The reader will surely pick up on elements of the Rider-Waite that he or she might not have noticed before.

The latter half of the book explains how tarot is used for divination. The book also provides concise divinatory interpretations of all 78 cards, although the glossary is too basic for an intermediate or advanced student, but too sparse for the beginner. Thus I found that particular section generally unhelpful.

As D’Agostino writes, “Each tarot card is constructed to evoke only positive states of consciousness, therefore daily meditation upon its symbol will stimulate your consciousness with the most creative aspects of your being.” So consider the above table and try a few of the suggested meditation exercises. Jot down your impressions in your tarot journal.

For an intermediate level text that focuses on the Major Arcana, the tarot practitioner can reach for Path. It is a welcomed addition to my reference library, but I would not recommend it to the beginner and much of the text may be seen as too simplified to the advanced practitioner.


Joseph D’Agostino is classically trained as a musician, having graduated from Julliard in Clarinet and Composition. He worked with the Mascagni Opera and toured the U.S. and Europe.