Updated: Mar 26
Since this is my first book review on Dead Reckoning, let me explain the book rating system. There are 5 skulls. The more I like a book, the more skulls I give it. Do not ask where the skulls come from.
Content Warning: Eating disorder, body dysphoria
Everyone who reads cards has that one tarot reader crush. You know, the person who you follow on every social media platform, subscribe to their newsletter, buy their books, haunt their workshops, talk about incessantly and generally forget that you aren't actually best friends? Just me? Well, I'm a Scorpio, I love hard, and there is no exception when it comes to the readers who inspire me.
Melissa Cynova is that tarot reading crush for me. She first showed up in my life when I was breaking through a period of restful stasis into a frenzy of action. I was looking for a new job, had just purchased my first home, contemplating writing a book, and newly engaged. It felt like every single piece of my life with on fire and hurtling out of my hands at the same time and, dear reader, it was a bit overwhelming. In the midst of this chaos, I had the pleasure of attending a day-long writing workshop where Melissa Cynova taught a section on using tarot as a tool in writing. Practical and encouraging, humorous and kind, Cynova embodied exactly the kind of tarot reader I wanted to be. Her advice on intuitively reading the cards and archetypal imagery continues to influence my writing and tarot reading, and has bailed me out of a few writers block spells.
I don't read many tarot books, because I prefer just developing a relationship with the cards on my own, but when I received a copy of Melissa Cynova's Tarot Elements: Five Readings to Reset Your Life, I had to dive right in to get another dose of Cynova's unflinching and compassionate guidance. Tarot Elements is both a magical workbook and an fantastic tarot resource, and it has won me over to the bookish side of tarot reading with a full and trusting heart.
Tarot Elements is not an introduction to tarot book, although it does include a thorough appendix of tarot card meanings for quick reference at the end of the book. If you are looking for a resource to teach you the basics, consider Melissa Cynova's other book, Kitchen Table Tarot, which you can purchase through my Bookshop Affiliate Shop and support local bookstores. Instead, Tarot Elements is an intensive study of your life. Cynova lays out 5 tarot spreads, centered on the 5 elements (water, earth, air, fire, and spirit) that are meant to help you "reset your life". More than just a book of spreads, though, each chapter walks you through how the particular element relates to a different aspect of your life (earth to home, fire to health, etc.), while Cynova shares anecdotes from her previous clients and her own life. The tone of the book is friendly and honest, the sort of friendly honesty that one of your closest friends might deliver to you when you're being a wee bit mopey and self-sabotaging.
The book is truly meant as a workbook, and Cynova instructs you to work through each chapter completely before moving on to the next. And by work, I do mean effort. From ritually burning letters to your younger self, to inventorying the emotional energy of your home, Tarot Elements is all about manifesting the outcome you're seeking through intentional workings. So far, I've completed the fire reading which focuses on body and health. As someone who is perpetually recovering from an eating disorder and occasionally struggles with body dysphoria, exploring the hurt and expectations I hold so closely to my heart was hard. It was also cathartic in a truly magical way to send acceptance and love to my younger self with a ritual fire and letter writing. It's been about 3 months since I actually laid out the fire reading spread, and I've returned to the journal notes I made from that reading dozens of times in the intervening weeks for support and solace.
I'm looking forward to working through the other 4 readings, as well as the supplemental readings and self-care strategies section while I ride out the remaining weeks or months of quarantine. Honestly, I can't think of a single draw back or "but..." to report to you, dear reader. Melissa Cynova is a wicked saint of tarot, and you will be so fortunate to learn from her through her books. While the whole world feels upside down and inside out, gift yourself the time and space to work through five areas of your life under the tutelage of Melissa through Tarot Elements: Five Readings to Reset Your Life.
If I've convinced you to dedicate some portion of your life and wealth to reading this book, consider purchasing your copy through my Bookshop Affiliate Storefront. When you do, the book is sold and shipped by an indie bookstore and I receive a small commission. Local bookstores and witches have long be strong allies, and I am excited to continue the tradition in the bold, new technopagan world.
Alex is the founder and primary spiritual navigator for Dead Reckoning Tarot. She has been working with tarot cards since she was an anxious and overeager teen, and now as an anxious and overeager adult enjoys finding ways to infuse the every day world with magic. You can book a tarot reading with Alex here.