Archetypal Tarot: What Your Birth Card Reveals About Your Personality, Path and Potential, by
Mary K. Greer
Weiser Books, 978578637485, 288 pages, June 2021

When I saw this book, Archetypal Tarot: What Your Birth Card Reveals About Your Personality, Path, and Potential, I was reminded of the time I had the chance to meet Mary K. Greer at a LATS convention in 2007. Greer is not only very knowledgeable and experienced in the tarot world, she is also very approachable and generous.

Greer has an MA in English Literature and been teaching about Tarot since 1974. She has written eleven books on tarot and magic. She first wrote about some of the concepts in this book in 1987, then updated those concepts and published another book in 2011, which was titled Who Are You in the Tarot?. This book is an updated version of the 2011 book.

I jumped right into Archetypal Tarot, having a general knowledge of Birth Cards from a class I took on Greer’s techniques earlier in 2007. She writes in an easy-to-read style and gives the reader simple steps to utilize the techniques. Her first important suggestion was:

“You are your own teacher. All rules given here are made to be broken. Question everything I say and accept nothing until it brings you results you can perceive. As you go through this book, clarify for yourself your intentions in working with the Tarot: what do you want to learn from it?”1

From here, she gives a simple explanation of what tarot cards are, how they are comprised, and the importance of the number sequence. Then she gives a little background on what she calls the Lifetime Cards and what these can mean for you.

“Lifetime Cards seem to describe the kind of life lessons with which individuals are continually confronted and the kinds of subtle inner urges that motivate their choices and actions.”2

She also discusses the concept of “Constellations,” which she attributes to another one of my favorite teachers, Angeles Arrien. This relates to how the cards of the major arcana and minor arcana form relationships, by way of the numbers. For example, The Magician is number 1 and relates to the Aces in the minor arcana. The Hierophant is number 5 and ties to the 5’s in all four suits of the minors, and so on.

Next, Greer gives basic information on how to read with a tarot deck, including how to interview a deck to get to know it and allow it to become a trusted source of guidance for you.

Only after sharing all of this background information, does Greer introduce how to discern your own Lifetime Cards, which are a combination of your Birth Card (determined by the date of your birth) and Name Card (based on the name given to you at birth).

I quickly figured out my Birth Card, including all of the numbers in the sequence. When I had been taught this technique earlier in my tarot studies, I was only taught to focus on my Birth Card, which is the end result of 3, or The Empress. However, with the techniques in this book, I am also to focus on the double-digit number that precedes the final number, which in my case is 21. Therefore, The Universe card is also of significance to me.

Greer calls the first number, 21 in my case, your Personality Card and the single digit number, 3 for me, your Soul Card.

She now takes this exercise a step further and invites you to see the “other” number, which is a 12 in my case. This becomes your Hidden Factor or Teacher Card. This makes the Hanged Man my Hidden Factor or Teacher Card.

“Your hidden factor card indicates aspects of yourself that you fear, reject, or don’t see, and thus it can also be called the shadow card.”3

When I reviewed the section that further shares information on the card in the “Hidden Factor” slot, I learned even more about myself. It’s as if the Hanged Man exposes my “hang-ups,” “turning upside down any habits that limit you from realizing your highest Self.”4

Next, I looked at the minor arcana cards that represent my lessons and opportunities and those are found in the 3’s of each suit.

There is one more minor arcana card to review and that’s the Zodiacal Lesson and Opportunity Card, which in my case is the 8 of Wands. She derives this from a chart of the 36 Pip cards (Aces are not included) divided into 36 sections on the 360° Zodiac Wheel. This was derived by Aleister Crowley for the Golden Dawn.

The 8 of Wands is a wonderful card that chronicles lots of energy and enthusiasm. However: “Your challenge is to maintain your direction and intent while taking sudden infatuations and new ideas in stride.”5

My goal for the next few days is to plot my “Name Cards”, which is an entirely different project in itself! Once I have that information, where I will have a card for every consonant and every vowel in my birth name, I can create a mandala of the cards on the floor or a table and place a mirror inside. Then I can do a breathing exercise that Greer shares on page 237.

I was really surprised at how much I learned from Archetypal Tarot. And, with the Name Card exercise, I have even more to learn. I enjoyed the exercises and also figured the birthday cards for my husband and share some information with him.

Greer writes very clearly and step-by-step. She is quick to credit other teachers or scholars who contributed information or ideas. She has an entire page of “Endnotes” that highlight this information and a Bibliography. There is a three-part Appendix with even more information. The Table of Contents is quite extensive and makes it easy to find key passages or parts of the recipe for finding the different cards you want to isolate. She also features several charts that you can copy and fill in with your own information. Greer also includes a few spreads for learning even more about yourself.

This book is probably best for someone who has a basic knowledge of tarot cards, and knows basic symbols from a Rider Waite Smith or Thoth deck. Her information is very detailed and if you follow carefully, it provides a wealth of knowledge about yourself and others.

I am looking forward to working with the techniques in this book in the future and offering the information to coaching clients for better understanding and better navigation of their Soul journey. I realize that working with my Birth Card back in 2007 was just like peeking in the window of a shop with beautiful, magical toys. With Greer’s latest book, Archetypal Tarot, I get to go into the shop, look around and then play with all of the toys!