Tarot Book Review: Rachel Pollack's Tarot for Magickal Times

Tarot for Magical Times
Book by Rachel Pollack and Johannes Fiebig
Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Review by Christiana Gaudet

A Magical Tarot Book

From one of tarot’s greatest voices comes Tarot for Magical Times.  Along with German tarotist Johannes Fiebig and German astrologer and tarotist Ernst Ott, Rachel Pollack has created a unique tarot book designed specifically for the interesting times in which we currently live.

Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Tarot for Magical Times is 159 pages of tarot joy.  I love the look and feel of the book itself.  The layout is spectacular, and the quality of the paper and ink color is above average.

The cover features our beloved Fool, superimposed on the Mayan calendar.

The book divides into sections.  The first is entitled Tarot – Tool of Change, and features a chapter from each author, and one from contributor Ernst Ott.

While reading these three chapters, I found myself nodding my head in agreement – Yes, yes, that is exactly what I had suspected.

In this section, the authors discuss the history of tarot from the perspective of world history.  They are less concerned with specific dates and didactic pronouncements regarding tarot’s much-debated history.  Their assertion is that tarot came in to being during tumultuous times, and, over the years, has been shaped by tumultuous times.  Therefore, tarot is a tool to help us navigate our current global challenges.

Each writer discusses Major Arcana 16, The Tower, at length.  Apparently, each writer chose this card independently.  Pollack discusses a point I know to be true – that many tarotists found The Tower to be increasingly present in tarot readings in the time leading up to the September 11th attacks.

Interesting, The Tarot Guild is currently working on a project to see if multiple readers across the world pull similar cards at similar times.  That project fits neatly with the discussion in this exciting new book.

Pollack looks at each section of tarot (Major Arcana, Minor Arcana and Court) as ways of describing not only the Fool’s spiritual journey, but also our journey through these dangerous times.

Feibig’s chapter in this section includes a personal story of his experiences during the 9/11 attacks.  There are insightful thoughts about the Tower card, the recent history of tarot, and about how tarot can help us face an uncertain future.

Contributor Ott’s chapter tells us of the important astrological fact that Pollack discusses in her foreword.  From the year 2008 to the year 2024, Pluto is to be found in Capricorn.  He takes us through this time in three phases: Destruction of Walls, New Life Blossoms in the Ruins, and, finally, Resurrection of all that is Buried.  Ott gives practical tarot-based advice on how each of us can survive, process and grow during these troubled times.

The next section is Readings and Practical Advices.  Yes, that’s a plural on the word advice.  It’s unusual, and fitting, just like the book itself.  This section includes some great tarot spreads.  The day I received the book I took it to a tarot study group where we played with the spreads and found them workable and insightful.

Fiebig’s contribution to this section is a piece that describes how we can interpret each card in a positive or negative way.  This is such a modern, expansive way of looking at the cards, versus the earlier way of mentally dividing the cards into “good cards” and “bad cards.”

Next, we see a comprehensive treatment of each of the seventy-eight cards, illustrated with the Waite Rider Smith images.  Each card treatment includes a discussion of the image and symbolism, upright and reversed divinatory meanings, and an “Action,” that is, what this card might advise us to do, especially in difficult times.

Finally, we have a section that uses astrology to assign and interpret one card to each decan (ten-day cycle) in a year.  These interpretations are useful throughout Pluto’s stay in Capricorn, that is, until the end of 2024.

Tarot for Magical Times is the best sort of modern tarot book in that is has enough new meaty information to make it interesting to an advanced tarotist, and enough practical instruction to make it appropriate for even the most nervous tarot novice.

That the authors refer to times of difficult global upheaval as “magical times” captures the essence of the book itself.  While sugar-coating nothing, this book presents tarot as a useful tool of positive perspectives and helpful advice during times of personal and planetary difficulty.