Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer and Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack
Reviews by Nina Lee Braden

If you would like to purchase Tarot for Your Self, click here.

If you would like to purchase Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, click here.

Not long after I discovered Tarot and decided to explore it in more detail, I received excellent advice from friends on the Genie (then GEnie) computer network. Both West McDonough and Stella Nemeth told me that if I were to study Mary Greer's Tarot for Your Self and Rachel Pollack's two-volume Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom that I would be thoroughly grounded in all of the basics of tarot and would be capable of making my own decisions about where to proceed in my studies from there. They were correct. I have turned to these books over and over in my tarot studies, almost as much as all of my other tarot books added together. Both Greer and Pollack have written several other books on tarot, and I have found their other books also useful.

In addition, I have been fortunate enough to attend a five-day Tarot workshop led by Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack. Both directly and indirectly, in their written work and in person, Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack have been extremely valuable resources for me.

Mary K. Greer's Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for Personal Transformation is an oversized trade paperback, a workbook, but a quite unusual workbook. Greer's theory is that the best way to learn tarot is to actually work with the tarot cards themselves. She has page after page of ideas to stimulate the imaginations of her readers and to encourage them to not be armchair readers, but instead, to read her book with pencil, pad, and tarot deck handy. In her Introduction, she explains what tarot is, what her approach to tarot is, and gives suggestions for getting started in tarot study. Mary Greer has a voluminous mastery of the tarot literature and can rightly be called a true Tarot scholar; however, she has managed to write a book on tarot that is popular and easy to read. The two do not often converge in the same person.

Greer has chapters on a Tarot Journal, Reading the Cards, the Celtic Cross spread (the modern "standard" tarot spread), Court Cards, In-depth Tarot Readings, Tarot and Moods and Emotions, and Tarot and Creativity. She includes several original poems and short stories written by her friends and students which feature tarot, including poems by Diane di Prima, Diane Wakoski, and Judy Grahn, all subjects of this dissertation. Greer also has a section on meanings for the individual cards, a short history of Tarot, and a table of correspondences for Tarot cards and other systems, such as music, astrology, herbology, and aromatherapy. Greer's style is warm and personal, and she includes personal anecdotes which reinforce the points that she is trying to make.

Mary K. Greer has also written four other books which I have found extremely useful, although none so useful as her Tarot for Your Self. Her other volumes are Tarot Constellations: Patterns of Personal Destiny, Tarot Mirrors: Reflections of Personal Meaning, The Essence of Magic: Tarot, Ritual, and Aromatherapy, and Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses. These are all excellent books, but their focus is more specialized and less universal than that of Tarot for Your Self.

Rachel Pollack is currently the most prolific writer of tarot scholarship that I know of. Despite her incredible output, each one of her books is unique and offers new and inventive ways to look at Tarot. When one considers that Pollack is also an award-winning Science Fiction writer and a writer for Vertigo Comics (DC Comics' line of Mature Comics for Sophisticated Readers), her total output is even more impressive. I have and refer to most of Pollack's Tarot books: The New Tarot, The Haindl Tarot: Vols. I&II , Tarot Readings and Meditations, The Shining Woman Tarot, Salvador Dali's Tarot, and The Vertigo Tarot. However, the books of hers which I have found the most useful and which I have referred to constantly in my studies are her two-volume Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot (now available in a single volume).

Seventy-eight Degrees studies the entire Tarot deck, card by card, one volume on the Major Arcana and another volume on the Minor Arcana and readings. Using chiefly the Rider Waite (Smith) deck, Pollack goes into great depth to explain each card, giving historical background, literary references, anecdotes, riddles, esoteric lore and more. She does not dissect each card in the detail that Paul Foster Case does, but her work is far more readable, and she does include much that Case does not. For instance, she does sometimes show alternative illustrations to show the historical changes in a card. She will put the Marseilles Lovers card next to the Rider Waite (Smith) Lovers card or the Thoth Hierophant next to the Rider Waite (Smith) Hierophant. Pollack discusses how to interpret the card for meditation and symbology study and also how to interpret each card in a reading.

Since I recommend both Greer's books and Pollack's books so highly, let me briefly give the major difference between their approaches. Greer's books will teach someone how to use the Tarot. Pollack's books will teach someone about the Tarot. In combination, the works of the two authors make an extremely solid foundation of Tarot study.

If you would like to purchase Tarot for Your Self, click here.

If you would like to purchase Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, click here.

Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer
Publisher: New Page Books
ISBN #: 1564145883

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack
Publisher: Thorsons
ISBN #: 0722535724


Reviews 1998, 2003 Nina Lee Braden
Page 2003 Diane Wilkes