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The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack
Review by Michele Jackson

The title says it all. This book has something for everyone. Tarot History, Qabala, Astrology, Numerology, Divination, Creativity - they are all touched upon. The chapter list is quite impressive. Obviously a book that covers all these topics can not go into depth about any of them. This book is more a starting point. A place to test the waters of the many different aspects of Tarot before deciding whether you want to jump all the way in. This book is lavishly and beautifully illustrated. Chances are that you will see a deck in this book that you do not have and did not know you had to have until you saw it here. The colors are very vivid. In some cases they seemed more vivid that the actual deck (the Haindl comes to mind).

The book is divided into an Introduction and five parts. Each part is divided into several sub-sections. These sub-sections address different topics and take up two pages each, including illustrations. Part One: Origins and History, provides a historical background covering both fact and fancy. Part Two: Symbols and Structures, describes various related disciplines like Astrology, and Qabala. I will list the subsections from this part to give you an idea of the breadth of topics covered:

Part Two: Symbols and Structures

The Major Arcana Sequence
Pathways on the Tree of Life
The Numbers on the Cards
The Court Cards
The Suits and their Elements
Tarot and Astrology
The World of Symbols
The Tarot Garden
The Tarot Bestiary
As Above, So Below

Part Three: The Cards, describes the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana and Court Cards. This part opens with the Fool’s Journey and goes on to provide descriptions and meanings for each of the Major Arcana. A full page is devoted to each of the Major Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana are described in terms of the Tree of Life. Cards from many different decks are used to illustrate and Pollack provides meanings for various decks at various times to give the reader a feel for how different decks may be interpreted.

Part Four: Readings, discusses the whys and how tos of reading tarot cards. Several spreads are provided as well as a section called Frequently Asked Questions that addresses issues like "Can I buy my own deck," and "How do I choose a Tarot deck?" Part Five: Things to Do With Tarots, discusses things like meditation, music, storytelling and how to create your own Tarot deck. Rachel’s concept of Soul Questions is covered here as well. Finally there is a glossary, further reading list, index, and a list of acknowledgements that will identify the decks used in the illustrations.

While this book does not cover any one topic in depth, it exposes the reader to the wide range of ways that Tarot is studied, used and thought of. The brief sections allow one to get a feel for the topic and determine whether it is something they wish to explore further. Its use of the Tree of Life allows one to see what all the fuss is about concerning Qabala and Tarot in an easy to understand manner. Some will find that this is all they want to know about the subject. Others will be intrigued enough to explore it further. The entire book can be read cover to cover in a few hours.

I recommend this book for just about anyone who is interested in Tarot. Beginners who think that Tarot is just a means of fortune telling will be surprised at the breadth of its uses and correspondences. Many of the most common questions beginners ask are answered in this book. More experienced readers will probably still find at least one or two new things to try. The beautiful illustrations make the book a pleasure to read and the succinct treatment of each topic does not allow for boredom. Get a cup of your favorite coffee or tea, turn off the telephone and spend an afternoon or evening with this book.

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot
Author: Rachel Pollack
ISBN#: 1862042128
Publisher: Element Books Limited

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson