Tarot: The Path to Wisdom
Author: Joseph D’Agostino
York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1994
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.