The New Tarot: Modern Variations of Ancient Images by Rachel Pollack
Review by Michele Jackson

I thought this book was out of print, but the author quickly straightened me out on that point.* If you can find it, and are interested in different Tarot decks, get it. Pollack's book is a mini-encyclopedia of 70 Tarot decks. Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot provides photographs of each deck, and sometimes provides brief statements from the artist on some cards, but Pollack's book provides background information on each deck including her own observations and knowledge about the theme of the deck where applicable, as well as information provided by the artists themselves.

Pollack divides the decks into categories:

  1. Art Tarots
  2. Popular Tarots
  3. Storytelling Tarots
  4. Cultural Tarots
  5. Women's Tarots
  6. Psychological Tarots
  7. Esoteric Tarots

This book was written in 1990 and covers many popular decks available at that time. There are also some less popular decks included, some of which are virtually impossible to find today. Each deck description shows black and white photos of the deck, and there are 16 pages of color plates (more than Kaplan's books), illustrating more cards from each deck. Some of the more popular decks that are still readily available include, but are not limited to:

Some of the harder to find decks include Elksinger's Perfected Tarot; A Poet's Tarot; Amazon Tarot; Picini Tarot; Transparent Tarot/Goddesses of the Tarot. You may have to search a bit to find some of these decks.

This book is highly recommended. Pollack's insightful commentary is a pleasure to read, and this book is an excellent way to see some decks which we are not likely to find on the market.

The New Tarot: Modern Variations of Ancient Images
Author: Rachel Pollack
ISBN: 0-87951-395.0
Publisher: The Overlook Press


* It is now out of print.


The Merlin Tarot

With its recreation of Celtic imagery and myth, this deck could easily belong with the Cultural Tarots. I have included it with storytelling because of Stewart's own statements that he saw stories as the primary focus for the design. The 'storytelling tradition', rather than cosmology or 'morbid intellectual' symbolism, fired the creation of the deck. And yet, within that tradition, the deck is deeply symbolic. The Merlin Tarot shows us how esoteric meanings arise out of the images.

Stewart based his concept for the deck on the Vita Merlini, a twelfth-century 'biography' of the wizard Merlin, written by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who also wrote History of the Kings of Britain, the earliest written source for many of the King Arthur legends. Stewart has explicated the Vita in his book, The Mystic Life of Merlin. In the Mystic Life, and in his description of the Merlin Tarot (not published at the time of this writing), Stewart has presented an argument for the Celtic esoteric system and the Tarot as expressions of a single tradition. Since the Vita Merlini predates the first Italian Tarots by more than two hundred years, Stewart's argument could greatly change our theories about the Tarot's origins.

The New Tarot pgs. 78 - 79

This page is Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson