Tag Archives: rachel pollack

Top 5 Foundational Books on Tarot

By Psyche | March 4, 2013 | 2 comments

There are some books that are required reading for the serious tarot enthusiast, and this list represents my top five foundational books on tarot – books that will provide a solid historical, symbolic and esoteric foundation for any student.

Transcendental Magic, by Eliphas Levi1. Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (available in English as Transcendental Magic), by Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse-Louis Constant)

First published in 1855 as Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, it became a foundational text for the French occult revival. It was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite in 1896 as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual and gained wider recognition among English-speaking occultists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dogma et rituel became the first occult text to weave elemental, alchemical, astrological and planetary theory with kabbalah, the tarot and ceremonial magick, synthesizing the first wholly integrated system of magick. It served and continues to serve as the basis for much symbolism found in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and various contemporary mystery schools. While lacking in historical accuracy, and allowing for many liberties taken with its symbolic integrity, Dogma et rituel remains an important historical work for this reason. Continue reading


Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, by Rachel Pollack

By Psyche | September 5, 2004 | Leave a comment

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot, by Rachel Pollack
0722535724, 354 pp (incl. bibliography and index), 1980, 1983, 1997

Previously, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom was comprised of two volumes, one tackling the major arcana, and the second the minor; this revised edition helpfully combines them into one hefty tome.

After a brief history lesson, Pollack begins to explore the major arcana in depth, guiding the reader along the Fool’s Journey. She compares and contrasts cards from several decks for many of the cards, drawing on a rich mythological background from various sources, Christian, Hindu, the quabalah and occult significance. Brief histories of the cards are described, also giving a divinatory upright and reversed meaning for each.

With the minor arcana, Pollack focuses on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, as it was among the first to use pictures of people in the cards in addition to the weapons. She takes direction primarily from Waite’s description and interpretation of the cards, while giving upright and reversed meanings.

Pollack also describes how to give a reading, outlines several spreads, including the familiar Celtic Cross, giving sample readings with each. She goes into more depth than most other works previous to it as she describes how to use Tarot, psychological readings, in meditation, spreads as mandalas, etc.

With Pollack’s clear, concise manner and style, it’s not surprising her Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is likely to be found among the books of any Tarot enthusiast – and rightly so. Whether using the Rider-Waite-Smith deck or one of it’s variations, this book is likely to be an invaluable tool to any student.


The Forest of Souls, by Rachel Pollack

By Psyche | February 11, 2003 | Leave a comment

The Forest of Souls: A Walk Through the Tarot, by Rachel Pollack
Llewellyn, 1567185339, 278 pp. (incl. recommended reading and index), 2003

This is the first book by Rachel Pollack I’ve read, she’s written a few others which have been highly acclaimed – and after reading this excellent book, I can understand why.

Pollack opens with a description of the various histories and mythological guesses at the origins of the Tarot, combining it with its known history, and personal experience. Spirituality, symbols, myths and archetypes are common themes explored in this book as Pollack approaches the decks in a more spiritual rather than divinatory light.

The text is beautifully accompanied by a variety of black and white illustrations of various Tarot decks, many of which I’ve never seen before. She examines the commonalities found within them, and explains much of the mythology and reasoning behind such images. Pollack relies heavily on the Shining Tribe Tarot she created, obviously as that symbolism resonates best with her understanding.

There are methods of asking questions of the Tarot that she seems to feel others would find heretical. Coming from a chaos magick background myself, I can’t quite understand why, though I’ve found my work enhanced by her suggestions. She expands upon the traditional spreads listed in every other book with spontaneous questions and insights of her own. Previous to reading Forest of Souls, my Tarot readings were much more rigidly structured. Ms. Pollack has given my practice a much needed breath of fresh air, allowing for much more creativity and spontaneity in my readings.

An excellent book for expanding one’s thought on traditional histories and practices of Tarot, highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Tarot.