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The Forest of Souls: A Walk Through the Tarot Paperback – Sep 8 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Publications (Sept. 8 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567185339
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567185331
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #872,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Rachel is considered one of the Worlds 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 books on the Tarot, including 78 Degrees of Wisdom (Thorsons, 1998), considered a modern classic and the Bible of Tarot reading. Its marriage of common sense, wide-ranging knowledge, and esoteric awareness have inspired many tens of thousands of readers worldwide to a deeper knowledge of the Tarot. She is a member of the American Tarot Association, the International Tarot Society, and the Tarot Guild of Australia. With fellow Tarot author Mary Greer, she has taught at the famed Omega Institute for the past twelve years. She has been conferred the title of Tarot Grand Master by the Tarot Certification Board, an independent body located in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a fiction writer, Pollack has been bestowed many honors and awards, among them the famed Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction (for Unquenchable Fire) and the World Fantasy Award (for Godmother Night). She is a recommended member of PEN International, and has written for numerous publications.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Myths of Origin

Where does it come from? No matter how we treat the subject--whether we dive deep into the symbolic mysteries, or recite formulas for fortunetelling, or play with the pictures--we cannot escape the question. There are certainly enough answers. Enter the world of Tarot and stories of its origin move around you like excited birds. Here is a sample.

The Tarot depicts the sacred myths of the Romany (or Gypsies), disguised in cards for the centuries of exile from the Rom homeland in India--or Egypt--or outer space. The Tarot is a Renaissance card game inspired by annual carnival processions called triumphs. The Tarot is a card game derived from annual processions called thriambs, in honor of the God Dionysus, the creator of wine. The Tarot conceals/reveals the secret number teachings of Pythagoras, a Greek mystic who lived at the time of Moses, and who influenced Plato. The Tarot depicts the secret oral teachings of Moses, who received them directly from God. The Tarot contains the lost knowledge of Atlantis, a drowned continent first described by Plato. The Tarot is a card game imported from Palestine and Egypt during the Crusades. The Tarot is a vast memory system for the Tree of Life, a diagram of the laws of creation. The Tarot hides in plain sight the wisdom of the Egyptian God Thoth, master of all knowledge. The Tarot shows Egyptian temple initiations. The Tarot shows Tantric temple initiations. The Tarot preserves the wisdom of Goddess-initiated witches during the long, dark centuries of patriarchal religion. The Tarot maps the patterns of the Moon in Chaldean astrology. The Tarot was created by papermaker guilds who were the last remnants of the Cathars, Christian heretics brutally suppressed by the Church of Rome.

All of the above, and more, Tarot writers have proclaimed as the one, true, authentic origin of the Tarot.

The great mythographer Joseph Campbell once commented that the world is full of creation stories and all of them are wrong. The Tarot is like that: full of origin stories, and probably all of them wrong. They are wrong because they take a compelling idea as literal truth. Wrong because they need that literal belief to take the idea seriously, and if someone should disprove once and for all these origin tales they will have lost their hold on its meaning and value. But if we can learn to take these origin tales as myths, as divine play, then not only can we let go of this need to prove the superiority of one to all others, we also can appreciate the poetic truth of each one. And we can marvel at this amazing work, this pack of seventy-eight pictures that somehow adapts itself to so many spiritual and historical traditions.

The Tarot''s Secret Origin is part of its myth. One of the most remarkable things about the cards is the way people snapped at this idea the moment it appeared and have clung to it tenaciously ever since. Here is a personal story. Years ago I was in Denmark shortly after the publication of the Danish edition of my book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. Two radio stations wanted to interview me. The first, on national radio, went very well. The second was for a New Age program and I looked forward to it as a chance to discuss the Tarot in some more depth. The day before, the host called me to go over some topics. When I told him that I did not believe the Tarot came from Atlantis, or that secret occult masters crafted it and disguised it as a game, he canceled my appearance.

Though we cannot determine the exact origin of the cards, we can, in fact, pinpoint the origin of the myth. In the 1770s and 80s a man named Antoine Court de Gébelin published a nine-volume study of esoteric ideas called Le Monde Primitif (The Primitive World). The very idea of a primitive human state is itself a myth. In our time, the term "primitive" suggests people unformed, ignorant, savage. In earlier times it meant the opposite, a supposed golden age in which people knew spiritual truth and lived in perfect peace. The Garden of Eden is a variation on this myth.

In the course of his work, Court de Gébelin visited a friend, Madame la C. d''H., who showed him the latest fad, an Italian card game popular in the southern countries, called in Italy tarocchi, and in France les tarots. Court de Gébelin looked through the bright pictures and had an epiphany. The ordinary card game was, in fact, a disguised great work of occult mystery. He called it the Book of Thoth, the very sum of all knowledge.

Thoth was an Egyptian God, the quintessential master of wisdom. Thoth guided the boat of the Sun God Ra across the sky, he invented mummification to resurrect the slain God Osiris, he helped judge dead souls for the afterlife, he even gambled with the Moon to create extra days for the year (more about that story in awhile). The Greeks linked Thoth with their own Hermes, God of magic, healing, wisdom, science, commerce, and, not incidentally, patron of swindlers and thieves (you have to love a religion with a God of swindlers).

Much of the esoteric tradition originates with a shadowy figure known as Hermes Trismegistus, or Thrice-great Hermes, author of The Emerald Tablet, a work composed in Alexandrian Egypt in the early Christian era. The myth of the Emerald Tablet considers Hermes Trismegistus another name for Thoth. Now Antoine Court de Gébelin had described the Tarot as an even more fundamental divine work than the Emerald Tablet itself. Thoth, he said, had given the symbolic pictures to his human disciples and disguised them as a game so it could move through the centuries undetected.

What a...(Continues)

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Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2 2004
Format: Paperback
Rachael you've done it again!
I never thought that you could surpass SEVENTY EIGHT DEGREES OF WISDOM but you did it with this one!
The book goes beyond the terrestrial presentation of the cards and presents a unique (and long awaited) perspective for the Tarot community. Basically she says, in fact she screams between the lines "USE THE TAROT". Forget the hype, the type, the schools and the rules and pick up the cards and use them.
And don't believe you have the "correct" tarot and the "right" meanings because you don't and no one does. That's what I like about this it is unpretentious; it's just one woman's take on a pack of cards that happen to be Tarot cards. But it's an amazing take on some awe inspiring cards.
I'm sure we all could come up with pretty interesting interpretations and valid ideas if we would use the cards the way she does. Often the creators of decks say that they never intentionally created a meaning etc. for an image but it somehow got there. These are the images that speak the meanings of the cards - so subtley and yet so powerful - wheter intentionally or unintentionally placed. They are the sub and unconcious, the real, the apparent and that which we cannot see.
E.g. The Woman with the Camel - refer Cabala, Jewish Lore, Biblical interprestation, Arabic customs, etc. these are her connections, the list goes on however, even a Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs decides to leave his Castle and travels on a camel through the desert to reach some traders in an oasis (my connection). I'm sure you would never pick up any of these references with a standard deck and a typical tarot book! And the woman with the camel is the High Priestess.
Don't discard what the foreparents of Tarot have thought - build on it. You can buy this book and learn how to use the Tarot or you can pick up the tarot and use it yourself!
Phoinix Sky
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Psyche on July 9 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the first book by Rachel Pollack I've read, she's written a few others which have been highly acclaimed - and after reading this excellent book, I can understand why.
Pollack opens with a description of the various histories and mythological guesses at the origins of the Tarot, combining it with its known history, and personal experience. Spirituality, symbols, myths and archetypes are common themes explored in this book as Pollack approaches the decks in a more spiritual rather than divinatory light.
The text is beautifully accompanied by a variety of black and white illustrations of various Tarot decks, many of which I've never seen before. She examines the commonalities found within them, and explains much of the mythology and reasoning behind such images. Pollack relies heavily on the Shining Tribe Tarot she created, obviously as that symbolism resonates best with her understanding.
There are methods of asking questions of the Tarot that she seems to feel others would find heretical. Coming from a chaos magick background myself, I can't quite understand why, though I've found my work enhanced by her suggestions. She expands upon the traditional spreads listed in every other book with spontaneous questions and insights of her own. Previous to reading Forest of Souls, my Tarot readings were much more ridgedly structured. Ms. Pollack has given my practice a much needed breath of fresh air, allowing for much more creativity and spontaneity in my readings.
An excellent book for expanding one's thought on traditional histories and practices of Tarot, highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Tarot.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Zanetta Wilson on Oct. 24 2002
Format: Paperback
In her new work, Rachel Pollack takes readers deeper into the Tarot than many would have thought possible. She says that "the Tarot works best as an instrument of our wisdom when we dare to ask it outrageous questions..." and she does, indeed, ask questions and explore concepts that are both complex and challenging.
Forest of Souls is written so that people who have had little exposure to Tarot can follow along (cards from many decks are reproduced right in the text), but also where people who have spent years studying can find new things - even the third and fourth times through.
Rachel encourages us to let go of more traditional definitions and layouts, and to use the cards in "divine play". With tales of myth and history from different cultures and traditions, she moves from the origins of the Tarot to the origins of the universe... and through the inner workings of the human soul.
Although this book is not about how to read the Tarot, it will significantly enhance your reading skills and enlarge your notion of what the Tarot can be and do. Many of the questions pondered also create transformational experiences as Rachel leads us to "explore possibilities outside our normal ways of thought."
I highly recommend Forest of Souls to anyone interested in Tarot, no matter what their level of experience or skill.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Diane B. Wilkes on Oct. 22 2002
Format: Paperback
The author begins her book with a "Gallery of Quotations," utilizing diverse sources--a Reconstructionist Jewish prayer book, personal correspondence, T.S. Eliot, and the Bible. Being a font of fabulous quotations, Pollack is also self-referential.
In the ensuing chapters, like the reverently irreverent Tracy Ullman, Pollack takes on such subjects as the Tarot's origins, wisdom questions (as opposed to asking, "Will X marry me," she asks, "What is marriage?"), Jewish and Kabbalistic thoughts as they pertain to the Tarot, and formulating new versions of the Fool's Journey. The author does a reading for God ("God's Reading") and finds Christian symbolism abounding in her own Shining Tribe deck when she performs "A Reading for the Resurrection: Easter 2001."
What do I mean by reverently irreverent? Some might call doing a spread for God irreverent. Yet Pollack's awe is reserved for what is truly profound, and part of that profundity is in pushing the limits of what we have done before or think we know. She pushes those limits not out of irreverence, but reverence for the truly infinite. And for the tarot, in what it can offer us in terms of infinite wisdom
If you have been fortunate enough to attend a workshop with Rachel Pollack, you know that her style is humorous and digressive. She is widely read and thinks and speaks in an unconventional, intellectually searching voice. This voice is manifested in The Forest of Souls, far more than in her previous tarot writings. I could actually hear her in my head, alluding to Professor Irwin Cory and tales of her dog's exploits. The tone of the book has an immediacy and vitality that makes it easy to read, which is an amazing feat, as the concepts and thoughts are both complex and challenging.
They are also unique.
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