I cut my tarot teeth on 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack. Ever since, I’ve waited for what I thought of as her “sequel” to be published. It has finally happened and is called Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings. Isn’t that title divine? The book is, too. Every word of it is wonderful and the interior design as well as the cover make an altogether creative and magical package.

Toward the end of this book, Rachel poses the question “how does tarot work?” She writes:

The answer to this is very simple: no one knows. People will say various things—the person’s unconscious or “higher self” guides their hands while shuffling, a mysterious force called “synchronicity” causes the cards to come out in a meaningful pattern (the term comes from Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, and really just means coincidence), the gods bring you messages, the devil brings you messages—but nobody can really say for sure. Some critics of tarot claim it’s all meaningless, or rather it’s too meaningful. Since every card means something, they just come up in whatever way they will and our own minds create a pattern or message from them. I have no problem with that. As I said, a tarot reading is not a magic act or a performance. The important thing is not where the message comes from but whether we find any value in it. Personally, my experience tells me that something else is going on, something that more directly shapes the reading, including which cards come out, but in practice I don’t think it matters.

How do you think the tarot works? Do you think it is important to know or at least have an opinion of how it works if you read the cards?

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...