The Shining Woman Tarot

Rachel Pollack is a name well known in Tarot circles. Her two volume set "78 Degrees of Wisdom" is a modern Tarot classic. She has written several other Tarot books as well. As a result, I was very excited to hear that she had done her own deck.

The Shining Woman Tarot Deck is a 78 card deck, divided into 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana titles have been changed on 4 cards:

The Suits have been renamed as well. They are named for natural objects, vice man-made ones.

And finally, the Court Cards have been replaced with what Pollack calls "Vision Cards". They are not equivalent to Court Cards as they are meant to represent experiences rather than people. They are: Place, Knower, Gift and Speaker. Per Pollack: "The four cards follow a pattern of withdrawal and return, resembling Joseph Campbell's 'monomyth' of the hero's journey." The Ace through ten of each suit are based on Waite-Smith in some cases, and on Rachel's personal interpretations in others. Most of the images "..have emerged from encounters with sacred images, world mythology and experiences in different countries." This brings us to the quality of the images. At first glance I found the art quite childlike and amateurish. Bear in mind that I even like the art on the Motherpeace deck. The pictures are fairly simple line drawings without shading. The colors used are bright and clear. Some of the cards are actually quite charming, but others look like the result of a bad day at the pre-school. A day when the class bully took all the good crayons and left you with the fat, yucky colored ones. Pollack draws her images from diverse cultures and the primitive artistic style does help hold the deck together as a cohesive unit. The art also tends to grow on you after a while, but I doubt one would ever call this deck "attractive". The cards are about the width of standard playing cards, but are taller (2 3/8" X 4 1/2").

The deck is sold in a set with a small book called "The Shining Woman Tarot Guide". As we have come to expect from Pollack, the book is well written. A detailed description of each card's symbolism is provided, followed by upright and reversed interpretations. The deck and book are packaged in a slip sleeve case, with a well for the cards. This deck portrays a very personal vision of the Tarot, that may not resonate with readers accustomed to a more traditional approach. I would recommend this deck for those who want explore a different view of the Tarot and for collectors.

Shining Woman Tarot
by Rachel Pollack
ISBN: 1-85538-098-6
Publisher: Aquarian/Thorsens
Price: $34.95

Shining Woman is a radical version of the ancient Tarot, inspired by mythology from many lands, shamanic journeys, esoteric traditions, prophesies, stories, 'found art' (rocks, branches, mountain views and other encounters from sacred places and simple walks along the road) and especially prehistoric and tribal art from around the world.

Shining Woman may appear strange to someone used to the classical Tarot. And yet, these cards are born out of Tarot history as much as their sources around the world. They owe their structure, their inner messages, and their very existence to the wisdom and the power that have come together in the Tarot over the last 500 years.

Shining Woman Tarot Guide pg. 11

See images from the Shining Woman Tarot Deck


This page is Copyright 1997 by Michele Jackson