An Interview with Rachel Pollack

1. What is the most significant difference in your approach to Tarot between Tarot Wisdom and Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom?

When I wrote Seventy-Eight Degrees the Rider deck was almost the only deck available, and so most of that book was about the subtleties in that one version. Since then, there have been thousands of new decks, but also a great deal of research into Tarot history. This allows us a very wide range of awareness of what the Tarot can mean. But perhaps the biggest difference is simply that my own field of knowledge has expanded over the past 28 years. To me, the Tarot is never just about the narrow symbolism in the pictures and structure, but about the world. Because my interests and knowledge have grown I think Tarot Wisdom simply includes more.

2. What is the most surprising, fascinating, or unexpected thing that you've learned about Tarot between the two books?

I would say this is the idea of Wisdom readings, opening a dialogue with the cards about questions of the soul, creation, death, God, any of the large issues that have fascinated people for all of human existence. Something that is surprising as well is the way the Tarot forms a template for spiritual structures and ideas, so that you can take many systems, from Kabbalah to Tantra to Witchcraft, and if you compare any one of them to Tarot you would almost swear the cards were designed for that particular set of symbolic ideas. And yet, as far as is known today, the cards were created originally as a game using popular allegorical images.

And further, I found myself personally surprised by how much power I've found in the idea that reality is not what we think it is, and that we live in exile from our true selves—and that the Tarot forms a blueprint of our return. This idea has become stronger and stronger the deeper I've gone into the cards.

3. What is the most surprising, fascinating, or unexpected thing you discovered about yourself that you discovered while writing this book?

Maybe how much I know! I would begin writing about a particular card, and as soon as I put down one idea a whole slew of others would suggest themselves, so that the hardest task was to put everything into a clear and orderly presentation.

4. What is the most important thing you hope a new Tarot reader will take from your book?

That the Tarot contains many stories, many worlds, many wonders, and all these are accessible just by working and playing with the cards.

5. What is the most important thing you hope a seasoned reader will take from your book?

That the myths and concepts and symbolic ideas are not separate from readings, or extra, or only for people who want to follow esoteric paths. They can inform our readings and be of vital importance. Recently I was in Australia, teaching in different cities and then leading a group of people on a trip to sacred places in the Outback. A woman said to me that the Star came up for her in every reading we did. When we talked she said how she'd come out of a painful break-up, where she hoped healing would be possible. I told her how the calm Star comes after the upheaval of the Tower, but also how it represents the moment in the story of Rapunzel when Rapunzel's tears heal the torn eyes of the prince, and how further, the Star is the Greek Goddess Persephone, who is kidnapped into death and returns. These stories are not just decoration, they are powerful ways to understand what the card is telling us, and in her case were deeply meaningful.

6. What is your favorite part of the book?

The stories I get to tell, both the myths (such as the story of the two fallen angels, one of whom becomes the Devil and the other the Hanged Man) as well as the personal stories from my years as a reader (including a couple of mistakes I've made).

7. Anything else you'd like to say about it?

Unlike many Tarot books I think Tarot Wisdom would be interesting to read on its own, not just as a reference tool while doing readings. It contains, I hope, good stories, philosophy, and a sense of the wonder and mystery of our existence.

8. What projects are you working on now?

I'm designing at least two different Tarot decks, with different artists, I'm doing an English version of the ancient Chinese wisdom teaching, the Tao Te Ching, and writing a sequel to my award-winning novel Unquenchable Fire. I should mention also that I have a new book of short stories due out shortly, a collection of fairy tales and fables called The Tarot of Perfection. And these projects are just part of what’s going on right now. I always have far more ideas than the time to develop them.

About Rachel Pollack

Rachel  is considered one of the World’s foremost authorities on the modern interpretation of the Tarot. She is also a poet, an award-winning novelist, and a Tarot card and comic book artist. She has published 12 ...