The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot
How to Unlock the Secrets of the Tarot
by Rachel Pollack
While I was reading this book, it seemed that every time I put it down my daughter swooped in and picked it up. We made sure not to lose each other's place, as we shared it and discussed it together. And pretty soon I am sure it will find its permanent home in her room, on her shelf of tarot books and decks.
The strong appeal of the book for both of us is that it actually is a complete and illustrated guide to tarot. All matter of topics are covered . in sections such as "The Modern Tarot," "Historical Knowledge," "The Occult Tradition," "Pathways on the Tree of Life," "The Suits and Their Elements," "The Tarot Bestiary," "The Reader and the Querent," "Your Own Tarot Spread," "Tarot Games," "Soul Questions," and "Magic and Tarot." These are only a sampling. Of course the Major and Minor Arcana cards are all covered with full explanations, including a look at their symbolism, astrological and Kabbalistic correspondences, and elemental attributes. Pollack's approach gives a true beginning education in tarot, without using a workbook or lesson format. The process of doing readings for self and others is taught, and many ideas are suggested for working with tarot in useful and innovative ways. Pollack's writing is friendly but informative, as well as inspiring. She allows her many years of experience with tarot to come through without pretension. In addition to this wonderful offering, the writing is complimented by beautiful illustrations and full-color card images throughout. The cards that illustrate the book are from many decks, of both modern and historical significance, including Pollack's own Shining Woman Tarot
My daughter and I experienced the book in different ways. She learned many things she had previously not known, and she enjoyed the rational approach. She is a rather logical person, and avoids anything that seems New Age. This book didn't try to convince her to believe anything she thought was illogical. I found the direct yet insightful content refreshing, and enjoyed learning some things I had not considered before. I also loved the artwork, and the way Pollack made comparisons between the symbolism in cards from many decks. As a lover and collector of tarot, the collection of card images was perhaps a favorite part of the book.
Our two experiences reflect that this book is for everyone who has an interest in tarot, those just starting out, and those who have worked or played with tarot over many years' time. There is something here for every tarot enthusiast, even if it is only the simple act of sharing in Pollack's own love of tarot. As she says at the end of the book, "A life in the cards is a life of discovery. A life of knowledge and excitement. It is a life of tradition, with all the ideas and images people have poured into the Tarot over the centuries, but also a life of invention and change, for the Tarot constantly evolves, constantly explores new territory. ... A life in the cards is truly a life of wonder."
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Book review by Nellie Levine
Illumination Tarot has been publishing articles, reviews, tarot spreads, and personal reflections for tarot enthusiasts and followers of alternative spirituality online since 1999.
All writing, reviews, and photography © Nellie Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2022