Author: Rachel Pollack
Paperback, 312 pages
Publication date: September 2002
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Most Tarot books talk about the cards: their history, their design, how to read them, etc. Rachel Pollack's latest work on the Tarot, The Forest of Souls: A Walk Through the Tarot, goes down a different and far less well-traveled path: the path of symbolism and spirituality. In this book, the author draws on symbols, myths, and folktales to show the spiritual truths she sees within the Tarot.
In her introduction, Pollack writes ,"If we let go of the desire to define the pictures, or explain them once and for all, or determine their exact meaning and purposes -- if we simply follow the images, who knows where this may take us?" The author, a recognized authority on the Tarot who has published numerous Tarot books (including the two volume Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom which is often considered a modern classic), created the Shining Tribe Tarot, and written award-winning fantasy novels, proves equal to the daunting task she has set for herself.
The book itself is a well-illustrated trip though the archetypes and images of the tarot, accompanied by insights from various religions, the Kabbalah, and other sources. The author plays with symbols and concepts in a fascinating and enjoyable manner that provides new insights into the meaning of the Tarot cards. The first chapter of the book, for example, talks about the many legendary origins of the Tarot deck, then proceeds to use those legends to provide a different view of the Tarot deck and even the divination process. The entire book is like this, a personal journey though the Tarot with ideas and possibilities tossed out faster than anyone can absorb in a single reading.
Which brings us to the main problem with The Forest of Souls: it is not a traditional Tarot workbook. Pollack offers a wide variety of ideas, suggestions, and insights, but she does not lead the reader by the hand. Most of her suggestions are just that: suggestions. They aren't detailed step-by-step outlines that anyone can follow by rote. Implementing them requires work and thought on the part of the reader. Of course, this fits in with the author's obvious purpose for writing this book: to help people break out of the ruts and use the Tarot as if through new eyes.
This is not a book for the Tarot novice. It assumes a good understanding of the cards and Tarot divination. It's also not a book for someone who is too conservative religiously. It not only draws freely from Jewish, Christian, and Pagan religious thought, but does things that some might consider irreverent -- such as her reading for God in chapter seven.
The Forest of Souls is the best new "advanced" Tarot book I've seen in several years. I've read it twice now and have gained a lot from doing so each time. The wonderful thing is that I expect I will see more every time I read this book. If you are a Tarot beginner or do not enjoy being forced to think about the cards in new ways, avoid this book. If, however, you are ready for a wild ride through the personal Tarot visions of one of the best Tarot authors writing today, run to your favorite bookstore and pick up a copy of this book today.
Reviewed by Randall
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