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Saturday, September 30, 2017

REVIEW: Tarot Plain & Simple by Leanna Greenaway


Tarot Plain & Simple
The Only Book You’ll Ever Need
Copyright 2005, 2017 by Leanna Greenaway
Hampton Roads Publishing, Inc. (October 1, 2017)
Distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC
ISBN: 9781571747709
Book (Paperback)
5 1/2 x 8 / 176 pages / Line art

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

Seasoned Tarot readers may well question the need for “yet another Tarot book,” and indeed, Tarot Plain & Simple does cover much of the same territory as countless other books on the subject.

However, I like the way Leanna Greenaway breaks up the text for each card into “Traditional Meaning” and “Modern Meaning,” followed by Reversed Meanings and Key Points. Occasionally there is a “Tip” as well, and these are quite helpful. She does a great job with the Court Cards, offering possible interpretations of them as a “Personality” as well as a “Situation.”

The use of subheads enhances the value of this book as a quick reference for any particular card. Another plus with this book is the presentation of exercises that encourage the reader to explore how combinations of cards can be read, in addition to giving meanings for each individual card.

I can highly recommend Tarot Plain & Simple by Leanna Greenaway for beginning Tarot students (it would make a great textbook for a class) and yes, even if you have been reading the cards for a while, you can find some useful, thought-provoking information in this book. I feel that Greenaway has achieved her stated goal of encouraging the reader “to learn, use, and enjoy the Tarot.”


Tarot is a popular form of divination that has been used for centuries. By following the guidelines set out in this book, you will come to understand how easy it is to master the art of reading cards. Many people struggle with the many different tarot books available today—they can be difficult for the novice to follow, and many present differing interpretations of the cards. This guide brings tarot into the 21st century, making the card meanings relevant and easy to understand and follow.

Tarot Plain & Simple offers modern and up-to-date interpretations for all 78 cards. Once you know these basics, you'll be able to easily branch out into more advanced and complex tarot books. Throughout this plain and simple book, the author discusses various card groups for interpretation, focusing mainly on the Celtic cross spread.


Leanna Greenaway
Leanna Greenaway has her own monthly column in Take a Break’s Fate & Fortune magazine. As their resident witch, she answers reader's questions and offers quick and easy spells to combat problems. She is the author of Practical Spellcraft and Wicca Plain & Simple and the cofounder of the Psychic Study Centre. She lives in the south of England. You can visit her website here: http://www.leannagreenaway.co.uk/


Measuring 5 1/2 inches wide by 8 inches high, Tarot Plain & Simple is 176 pages long. Illustrations are black-and-white line art with Tarot card images derived from the Waite Deck created by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. Text is black printed on white paper. Font size and style are easy to read. White space is used liberally, adding to the pleasant reading experience.

In Chapter 1 – First Steps on the Path of Tarot – Greenaway discusses her approach to the study of Tarot (“modern and up-to-date translations for all seventy-eight cards”). Contrary to some Tarot teachers, who insist that your first deck should be a gift from someone else, Greenaway’s view is that choosing your own deck is preferable. She provides very specific instructions for storing the cards (wooden box, wrapped in silk). She then proceeds to discuss what it means to be “psychic” and how the Tarot “is the key to unlocking the psyche.”

Other topics covered in this first chapter are “How Does the Tarot Work?” and “Upright and Reversed Cards.” Also included are “A Few Tips to Help You Along the Way,” including such advice as “Only read for the same person once in three months. Too many readings may confuse the querent” and “Always keep a list of useful phone numbers on your table – therapists, doctors, prevention hotline numbers. With the best will in the world, you will not be able to help everyone – nor should you try…”

Chapter 2 covers “Basic Card Facts.” The Major Arcana and four suits are covered in chapters 3-7. Chapter 8 is titled “Reading the Cards for Others,” and the last chapter is “Answers to the Exercises.”

For the Majors and Pips, Greenaway provides the following:

  • Card number
  • Traditional Meaning
  • Modern Meaning
  • Reversed
  • Key Points

For each Court card, we are given:

  • Card number
  • Traditional Meaning
  • Modern Meaning
  • Personality
  • As a Situation
  • Reversed
  • Key Points

Occasionally, a “Tip” appears at the end of the other subheads for a particular card.

EXERCISES (ten in all) appear at the end of some of the card descriptions. These are intended to be performed as you go through the book, reading each page in order (as recommended by Greenaway). The exercises focus primarily on reading a set of cards in a group. For example, following the write-up on the Justice card, Exercise Two gives examples of how to read Strength + The Empress and The High Priestess + Justice. The exercise then asks the reader/student to describe how they would interpret other combinations (The High Priestess + The Empress; The Hierophant + The Fool; Strength + The Lovers). Answers to these exercises appear at the end of the book.

In the chapter titled “Reading the Cards for Others,” Greenaway offers a Basic 9 Card Spread and “The Sun Dial,” a spread that provides a general 12-month reading.


“If you are female and reading for clients in your home, never let a stranger into your home without someone being there. However “spiritual” you may feel about reading the Tarot, it is just common sense to take social precautions.”

“Sometimes clients visit Tarot readers because they have problems that make them unhappy. They are looking for answers. Your main goal is to guide these people and to lighten their load. Always bring about a positive outcome without making things up.”

“A good approach at the beginning of the reading is to tell the querent that the Tarot cards show overall situations and that they do not always give dates and times. This means that the querent may not understand everything that is contained in the reading, but assure her that it will make sense later. Tell her to keep an open mind because some of the things that appear in the cards may take six to twelve months or even longer to come about.”


Two things struck me immediately when I saw the cover of this book:


The title is the same as a book I own by Anthony Louis (Tarot Plain and Simple, Llewellyn Publications, Third Printing, 1997)

As far as I know, it’s perfectly fine (i.e., legal) for this book by Greenaway to have the same title as the book by Louis. It could be confusing for some of us, so I think I would prefer a different title, but as an author myself, I know how difficult it can be to come up with a title that no one has ever used before. (An earlier edition of Greenaway’s book was published as Simply Tarot.)


The subtitle “The Only Book You’ll Ever Need” reminds me of the first book on astrology that I ever owned: The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk (Taylor Trade Publishing, Copyright 1982, 1990, 2001, 2006, 2008 by Joanna Martine Woolfolk).

As for “The Only Book You’ll Ever Need” designation, I didn’t care much for its use on the Woolfolk astrology book, and I’m not wild about it on Greenaway’s book either. It’s not a big deal at all, just my personal resistance to a claim that I feel would be difficult or impossible to live up to. I still own the Woolfolk book (I even teach a class with it), but is it the “only book” I ever needed in my study of astrology? No.

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~ Zanna