Book Review

By Sheri Harshberger

Rachel Pollack's Tarot Wisdom:  Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings by Rachel Pollack

Published 2008 by Llewellyn Worldwide

ISBN 978-0-7387-1309-0

Rachel Pollack is a poet, novelist, artist, and regarded as a world Tarot authority.  She has written thirty books, twelve of which are on Tarot, including Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, which many consider “the bible of Tarot readers,” and she is the creator of the Shining Tribe Tarot.

In this book, Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings, she shares what she has learned about the Tarot and from the Tarot over the last 40 years she has worked, studied, and played with it.

This is a robust and detailed book.  Put together in a logical and concise way, the format is the result of years of successful teachings and presentation of this information to others.  The book has seven sections:  an Introduction, The Major Arcana, The Minor Arcana, Court Cards, Readings, Bibliography and Index.  The format may seem like “standard” topics found in most other Tarot books... however, the similarities are in name only.  Rachel uses the Introduction to discuss how this book came into being, set some things straight she's learned since the publication of her previous book, and she orients the reader to this new book – through the definition of terms she uses, a brief and updated history of Tarot, and the introduction of her wisdom readings technique.

The section of the book that is devoted to the Major Arcana is a dense and relevant compilation of history, intersystem relationships, meanings, comparisons between key Tarot decks (including Tarot de Marseilles and Visconti), anecdotal collaboration, and yes, even an example spread consisting of questions that can be used in the development of a final spread.

The section on the Minor Arcana is equally packed.  She discusses the Suits as that which the Minors have in common and relates the meaning and substance of the suits with the major Hermetic and Esoteric systems known.  Here too, there is discussion of historical context, including numerology and discussions of Pythagoras, Kabbalah, Rider Waite specifics, and the relationship of the Trumps to the Minors.  Of course, suit and card specific meanings are included along with suit specific example spread questions.

A large section of the book is devoted to a discussion of the many attributes and meanings of the Court cards, including approaches in how to read with them.  As she has done with the pips, she relates the Courts to the foundational elements and attributes previously discussed, including elements of suits, Kabbalah and the Tree of Life, progression of qualities, and the Trumps.  Here also a comprehensive compilation of meanings is included.  I really cannot imagine any questions that would be outside the scope of coverage here.

If all that weren't enough, the Readings section addresses and dispells myths associated with owning a Tarot deck and reading with it, how to do readings, how to use spreads, and offers a few interesting and unconventional spreads for the reader to try, like the 5-card Doorway Spread and 5-card Body Spread.  She also introduces her Wisdom Reading, which she uses to explore questions beyond what is personal.

One of the buried treasures buried in this book is the Bibliography, a nearly 5 page long listing of all the resources that have contributed to the content of this book.  What a GREAT resource for additional reading and research to gift the reader with!

Is a lot of the material in this book recognizable and able to be found elsewhere?  Yes, and a lot of it is new and groundbreaking.  This is one of the very few Tarot books that I have come across that includes decks that are not Rider Waite based or cloned, such as the Tarot de Marseilles and the Visconti, resources for which are nearly non-existent.

What Rachel Pollack has done in the compilation and sharing of the knowledge she has amassed over her life with Tarot, is not so much created a book on Tarot – but created a timeless compendium of Tarot knowledge with a Rosetta Stone thrown in for good measure.

It is bound to take a position as a classic, must have Tarot reference for anyone and everyone interested in Tarot.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2008
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