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An Interview with Rachel Pollack

1. You’ve mentioned Eden Gray as your introduction to Tarot. What influence did she have in bringing you to the cards?

Her book was the first I saw. In fact, I encountered the two together, the cards and Eden Gray’s book, so she truly became my model. Her books gave you immediate access to the cards, but they also opened doors to much deeper knowledge. But, it was actually much later—only a few years ago, in fact—that I realized just how influential she was. I was researching early meanings for the cards, and found that in various cases meanings that were standard (and that I assumed came from Waite) were quite different than what Waite actually wrote; then I realized that they came from Eden Gray. And more than specific meanings, when I thought about what I wanted for The New Tarot Handbook, I realized it was something like that early Eden Gray book—immediately accessible to beginners but with (I hope) depths of knowledge that would lead anyone, even advanced readers, to the Tarot’s great complexity.

2. Your previous book, Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom, was a sort of follow-up to your highly acclaimed Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. Where do you see your new book, The New Tarot Handbook, fitting in?

In Tarot Wisdom I wanted to bring together all the ideas and practical applications from the thirty years or since 78 Degrees first came out. In this book I wanted to see if I could distill the essence of that learning into a form both accessible and hopefully with layers of meaning. I would hope that people might use The New Tarot Handbook to really get themselves into reading the cards, and then perhaps turn to Tarot Wisdom for greater study.

3. Why did you decide to use only one deck, The Rider, in The New Tarot Handbook?

This is the deck most everyone knows, sometimes mistakenly dismissed as a "beginner's deck" just because of its popularity. It also was the deck featured in 78 Degrees (though in that case occasional comparisons were made to other decks for particular cards). I also thought that in order not to simply repeat things, I should challenge myself to use this famous deck, but look at the cards with fresh eyes, to try and see it as if for the first time. Obviously, we can never do that, for that would mean to unlearn decades of study and practice. However, by really looking at the pictures and not simply mentally jumping to assumed knowledge, I found I made various exciting "discoveries," as I call them, in particular the way the Kabbalistic Tree of Life is concealed/hinted at in many more cards than we realize.

4. You’ve authored over thirty books on the Tarot. From where do you gather your inspiration? How does the Tarot keep surprising you?

Because I’m centered on readings, rather than a pre-determined system of symbolism and ideas, I am always seeing new combinations in the cards, new hints at dramatic ideas. If you let the cards really talk to you they will speak as a wise friend. I also teach, and in my teaching am always looking for fresh approaches to keep it alive for my students. The interesting thing is that when you open yourself to the idea that the Tarot is not a rigid system but a kind of organism you realize that the Tarot itself "learns," and adapts to your questions and interests.

5. The Tarot itself is a journey, as is reading the cards. What do you hope readers of The New Tarot Handbook will take away from the book and apply to their journey with the Tarot?

I hope newcomers will discover that they can read immediately, the way I started to do using Eden Gray all those years ago, and also that if they open their minds, and at the same time bring to readings who they are, their life experiences, and their knowledge, they can develop a relationship to the cards that is unique and valuable. I hope experienced readers will see that the Tarot is never finished, and that new ideas and awareness will always appear.

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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 ...

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