The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings by Brigit Esselmont is the long-anticipated print book copy of a text on tarot card meanings she had published previously as an e-book and which formally memorializes much of what had become one of the most popular go-to card meanings site on the interwebs, BiddyTarot’s Tarot Card Meanings.
If you don’t know Brigit of BiddyTarot, then you simply do not know anything about the tarot community either– meaning, this woman has a loyal cult-like following of avid tarot enthusiasts who have propelled her to the top of the ranks for all things tarot. She defines the present generation of tarot readers and in many ways, her latest book The Ultimate Guide reflects that newfangled epistemology of divination-can-be-for-the-masses camp of thought. That has become the new wave of thought in tarot, collectively the loudest voice in current modernity, and leading that camp really is the BiddyTarot culture.
The Ultimate Guide is a fresh, contemporary voice in the body of tarot literature and will resonate more with those who embody the modern approach to card meanings. Not to be confused with The Ultimate Guide to Tarot by Liz Dean (the two titles can be confusingly similar), Esselmont’s The Ultimate Guide expresses a new consciousness of tarot, which is to integrate it into everyday mainstream, to normalize tarot, and to promote the practice of personal spirituality through living a tarot inspired life.
As a book on card meanings, it really is “ultimate.” Each card entry begins with keywords for both upright and reversed card meanings. Several pages are devoted to each card, though I’m intrigued that the table of contents orders the Minor Arcana suits in alphabetical order (i.e., Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and then Wands). It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s more contemporary, I think.
Then famous quotes and proverbs bring in philosophical context. A description of card imagery is provided. Then she organizes card interpretation into main categories– General, Career, Work, and Finances, Personality Types, Relationships and Love, Spirituality, Well-being and Health, and then Suggested Card Combinations. A final section is devoted to even more interpretive notes for reversals.
The book gives equal weight to both upright and reversed card meanings. Few tarot books out on the market right now rival The Ultimate Guide in the amount of text provided for card interpretation. Also, Esselmont’s style of writing is accessible, sensible, and plainspoken. No frills, no esoteric jargon, no New Age mysticism– just sincere, uncomplicated explanations that really help the novice to build confidence in card reading.
Oops! I don’t think that’s the Nine of Swords. But I digress.
I love the quick reference charts in the book that you can tab and turn to quickly when you need to scan the book for immediate card meanings.
I did tarot readings for myself and then looked up each card meaning one by one in The Ultimate Guide. I found the answers provided in the book to be insightful, honest, to the point, relevant, and supportive of helping me try to make sense of my own reading.
Overall, the book delivers on its value proposition– it is the ultimate guide to tarot card meanings. There’s so much substance in here and not just substance, but lucid, modern, and very relevant card meanings. It’s going to make sense to you. You don’t need to have, like, meditated under a Bodhi tree for fifty years or be a millionth degree practitioner of ceremonial magic to get what she’s talking about. The way she frames these card meanings, this is about your life. I dig that.
My gripes with the book are superficial, mainly rookie errors found in self-publishing. I wish a more experienced design editor had formatted the book. The rather basic requirement of setting up a mirror margin gutter to account for the binding was overlooked, which means any text close to the binding of the book becomes difficult to read. A copyright notice and splashy logo on every single page of the book was a bit much. Finally, the ink color is a medium gray set against a newsprint toned paper, making the lines of text overly taxing on the eyes to read. I can’t read more than five pages of this book without tiring my eyes out. Anyone with poor eyesight is going to find the book a daunting challenge to get through.
Yet a tarot enthusiast can never have too many encyclopedic reference books on card meanings, and The Ultimate Guide is a gem of a contribution, one that you will pull off your bookshelf often for consultation. The tone and style of the book is accessible to everyone, irrespective of your background knowledge on anything tarot. A beginner can pick up Esselmont’s book and find the insights within these pages to be inspiring and to greatly augment interpretation. If you pull a card that doesn’t readily lend itself as an answer to the question you’ve asked, The Ultimate Guide will be one of your favorite trouble-shooters.
The text won’t bore the reader with occult background, tarot history, Kabbalistic references, astrology, or belabor you with dry, academic exposition. No redundant references to 19th century public domain esoteric texts here. [Okay, just some tongue-in-cheek references to critiques of other tarot books out there. If you didn’t get it, then don’t worry about it.]
The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings by Brigit Esselmont is an encouraging affirmation to all, in the form of a tarot guidebook. It proposes that you possess all the answers you need to navigate your life, overcome obstacles, and achieve personal dreams, and a pack of tarot cards is your roadmap. You don’t need decades of dedicated occult study, absorption of umpteen esoteric texts, or pre-programmed psychic abilities to access that roadmap. All you need is a decoder of that roadmap, and for many, BiddyTarot’s The Ultimate Guide is just that decoder.
Esselmont’s contributions to the advancement of tarot in the public spheres cannot be overlooked or downplayed. She brings a grounded, organized, cohesive, consistent, and easy-to-follow approach to all things tarot. She single-handedly inspires thousands of people to pursue their dreams and help thousands more through the work of tarot. The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings reflects the BiddyTarot ethos.
You can order the book on Amazon.com.
At the time of this posting, Esselmont’s book is the #1 New Release in Tarot!
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received The Ultimate Guide from the author for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the book.