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Ann Théato, International Psychic Medium and Spiritual Tutor, investigates psychic development, mediumship techniques, and paranormal science, so that you can come to understand your own innate psychic ability and expand your knowledge, whilst learning to develop a curious mind.

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This Week’s Episode

My special guest this week is Rachel Pollack – one of the world’s foremost authorities on the modern interpretation of the tarot.  Rachel explains why the tarot is a source of wisdom and understanding, and discusses her classic book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, just released on Audible.

PM 032
78 DEGREES OF WISDOM EXPLORED

My special guest this week is Rachel Pollack – one of the world’s foremost authorities on the modern interpretation of the tarot. 

Rachel explains why the tarot is a source of wisdom and understanding, and discusses her classic book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, just released on Audible.

Listen to this episode and learn how to lay down different tarot cards to tell different stories.  Expand your understanding of tarot as a source of wisdom, learn how by going into the card in meditation and experiencing it directly, you can open up the meaning of it and learn how the tarot cards can talk to each other.  Yes, it’s all happening in this episode!  Listen and learn with the best of the best – the fantastically talented, tarot tutor, writer and creative visionary, Rachel Pollack!

 

You’ll Learn

 

  • Why you can lay down different tarot cards and they will tell different stories
  • Why there is debate it the tarot community about representation of gender and equality
  • How by going into the card in a 3D meditation, you can open up the meaning
  • Why the tarot can be a source of wisdom and understanding
  • Why the Kabbalah is very entwined with the Tarot
  • How Tarot cards talk to each other
  • Why you don’t need to memorise the meanings of the cards
  • What is meant by a tarot reversal
  • What happens at a Tarot Conference

Episode 032 Resources

Here are some resources referred to in Episode 032, which you may find helpful.

 

Thanks for listening.

Why not share it now?

Or ask a question over on Psychic Matters! Podcast Facebook page

TRANSCRIPT

Hello everybody! My name is Ann Théato and welcome to the Psychic Matters Podcast – episode number 32. 

If you are already subscribed to the show, thank you so much, that is really fantastic, and I really appreciate you!  If you’re new to the Psychic Matters Podcast, welcome to the community! Do make sure you subscribe to the show, because I am here, not only to teach you proven techniques for spiritual and psychic development from the comfort of your own home, but I’m also here to investigate the teachings of experts across the globe, to bring you their wisdom, their advice and their spiritual wealth. 

My guest this week is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the modern interpretation of the tarot.  So, make yourself a hot drink, settle back in your chair and tuck that blanket just a little closer around you.  I really hope you enjoy this episode – and if you do please consider leaving an honest, written review on iTunes or Stitcher. I’d be so very grateful to you and they really do help the podcast move up the podcast charts.

So, if you’re ready, let’s begin …

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Ann

I have a hugely talented and incredibly creative guest with me today in the Psychic Matters studio, I mean where do I start? This lady is an author of over 41 different books.  Three of her novels have won or been nominated major awards in the science fiction and fantasy fields and, as well as being a science fiction author and comic book writer for the cult comic favourite ‘Doom Patrol’, she is also a world expert on divinatory tarot. She has created her own tarot deck, Shining Tribe Tarot.  She has aided in the creation of the Vertigo Tarot Deck, writing the accompanying book, with illustrator Dave McKean and author Neil Gaiman, and she lectures at tarot seminars and symposiums across the world.  If you are a Tarot fan you may well have read her famous book 78 degrees of Wisdom which has just been released on Audible.  I am so happy to introduce her to you today, Rachel Pollack, welcome to Psychic Matters!

 

Rachel

Thank you very much, thank you for that wonderful introduction.

 

Ann

It’s a pleasure, it’s so good to have you here, Rachel.

 

Rachel

It’s lovely to be here, thank you.

 

Ann

Your life is stretches across so many different areas, you’ve done so many different things, I mean, your incredible writing, your tarot books, your poetry, you’re just, the way that you look at life, I really don’t know where to start, where do you think is a good place to dive in?

 

Rachel

We could start with how I became involved with Tarot; I suppose.

 

Ann

Yeah, let’s start there.

 

Rachel

Okay yeah, so I was teaching at a College in New York near the Canadian border, very, very, cold place and it was so cold, you really didn’t want to be outdoors at all, even during the daytime. And one of the other teachers didn’t have a car, you know, it was just a 10-minute walk, she didn’t want to walk, so she and said she would read my Tarot cards if I would give her a ride home.  So, I didn’t know much about Tarot.  I knew it appeared in some of the literary things I had studied, particular The Wasteland by TS Eliot, one of the great poems of the 20 century and I was a little bit none the wiser, not much.  And she read my cards and I was so struck by the cards, not by the reading, I don’t remember anything of the reading I just remember how wonderful the cards were.  And it was like, it was the Rider deck, so there were scenes in every card, and what I remember was the Six of Swords, a famous picture of what looks to me always like a woman and a child in a boat, and the boat’s being pushed through the water by a man standing up with his back to us. It is a punt. So, the water must be very shallow, like a shallow river, you know.  And so, who is he? Who was the woman?  Who are these people?  And why are they carrying these swords in the boat?  And where are they taking them?  So, it was just full of mystery, and actually, to me, oddly enough, it was like a comic book, but not a single sequential story, but each frame, each card, was like a frame in a different story, that you could weave together into a story.  And that was the other thing that I just loved so much about it, that it was not fixed.  That’s the thing that I liked all the time with Tarot and the thing that is so essential about it, that it’s not a fixed format. Every time you pick up the deck, it’s simple because you shuffle it.  And I know in a lot of traditions, a lot of the occult traditions, they see it as kind of compendium of knowledge.  But that compendium often demands that everything be seen in the correct order, which suit comes first and last, where the Fool goes in the major arcana, first, last, next to last, etc., but to me, the essence of it, is that it’s not fixed.  It’s a deck of cards or pack of cards essentially, I always like that expression a pack of cards, and so you just, you can learn them forever and then you mix them and it’s all new again, and to me that’s such a wonderful, wonderful thing.

 

Ann

I love that, and I was reading 78 degrees Of Wisdom and you talked about seeing each card almost like a picture and stepping into the card and exploring what goes on in that scene.

 

Rachel

A lot of people have done that exercise in a class.  I have done that too sometimes.  I haven’t done it in a while, but often in classes I will have everyone like close their eyes, and then kind of relax and then see the card in front of them with their eyes closed and then see it get bigger, so it’s like a door or window, and then they step into it, and then they find themselves inside that place, and then they see what they experience, and they come back. And so, they have gone into the card and looked at it for moment.  This is the Lovers card from the Shining Tribe Tarot that I made.  And this came from one of those exercises, I did it myself. And so, I took the Lovers card from the Rider deck, I’ve got that one right here. So, the picture that, in The Shining Tribe Deck, it shows basically a person and an Angel in the sky, embracing.  And they’re like, the human’s legs are around the Angel’s legs, the angel’s wings are around the upper body of the human, and there’s like flashes of light coming all around them. So, they are the lovers.  This is the Lovers card from the Shining Tribe Tarot and it’s like a human and a spirit and there’s lots and lots of meanings to this, but this comes from one of those exercises.  So, the next card concerns the Lovers card from the Rider deck, which is a very traditional deck which many of your listeners will know. So, in that picture it shows Adam and Eve being blessed by an Angel.  There’s the sky above them and his arms are out, blessing them, Adam and Eve are both naked and they’re down on the ground.  So, I went into that picture, in that method and I stepped inside, and as soon as I went into the picture, I saw Adam and Eve were having a picnic.  So, they were still naked, and they had a big wooden picnic table and there was a big bowl of potato salad, and the barbecue was going like an American picnic.  And this is nice I thought, this is great. So, I set off to join the picnic, and at that moment, the Angel swooped down and grabbed me, lifting me up into the arms for a passionate kiss, and that became the card in the Shining Tribe Deck. And what was so interesting though was, there’s a lot of debate in the Tarot world, about representation of gender and equality of, it’s a lot of people feel that the deck because it is late Victorian, is very much biased towards kind of patriarchal kinds of images, you know. There’s a lot of argument about this but you can see it in many ways, but you know, I thought that OK, did I want to have the Lovers card to just be a heterosexual couple with Adam and Eve or anyone else. And I had this whole ambitious idea of an Avenue of couples, there was this avenue and then on either side there was this figures, so that the two women, two men, and a man and a woman, a human being and an animal, two animals, angels, whatever I could think of, you know, and on the sides there would be a group of people dancing in a circle, so it wouldn’t just be couples, I was going to be really inclusive, right?  I could never draw that. I mean who could draw that?  This gigantic scene, right?

 

Ann

Yeah.

 

Rachel

But I had that meditation experience, that visualisation.  I realised after I drew it, I realised that the age of the human being in my lovers’ card, are so entwined that you couldn’t tell if one or both of them is male and female, so everyone is therefore included, except the people who want to be in groups. 

 

Ann

Yeah.

 

Rachel

But that’s an example of how, by taking a direct approach, going into the card and experiencing it directly, you open up the meaning of it, without even thinking about that. If you kind of plan things, it becomes too planned out, but if you allow yourself to experience it then something wonderful can happen.

 

Ann

Is that how you created your Shining Tribe Tarot deck?

 

Rachel

Pretty much, pretty much.  I waited for images to come to me, I did not plan what they were going to be. Here and there I had a concept, but often I was inspired by something I’d seen, something I’d read about like that one on meditation, and very traditional concepts from different cultures.  I had to be careful.  The issue of … you can’t just use somebody else’s sacred image as if it’s yours. So, I was really careful to never have it exactly and if I did use something from a different culture, to never have it exactly right. You know, often it was quite fanciful, but if I did anything that was really directly inspired, I’d be careful to get something different, so I was not actually copying and always of course to give tribute to where it came from and also to say, that I don’t believe I’m representing that culture in any way because I’m not allowed to do that, but I am allowed, I think, to be inspired by things around the world that are exciting and thrilling.

 

Ann

And so just going back then to your early experiences with tarot when you said you first had that reading that you can’t remember, but you were very inspired by the imagery on the pack, how did you take it forward? So, you just had that experience and then what did you do from there?

 

Rachel

Well, the first step was to get a deck, which at that time was very difficult.  It’s hard to imagine now, as there are millions of tarot decks flooding the world.  You can go online now, and you can find hundreds, if not thousands of tarot decks for sale. But this phenomenon is wonderful, it’s a great explosion of creativity but back then, there was pretty much nothing.  If you could find a little occult shop someplace, but they would probably have maybe two or three different decks and that was about it back then.  So, I had I had a look around, I didn’t have any knowledge of that world, so I had to search around and finally I found one, I think, I found it in Montreal because I was up near Canada. And so, I just had it, and I began looking at it and began, and I got a book too, the book’s written by a woman called Eden Grey, who many of us now, from that early period really revere.  And I got to meet her at a Tarot Conference, which was such a great experience.  It was in Chicago and it was a very early international experience, early 90s – actually it was the late 90’s, anyway, and Eden was the Guest of Honour, she was 96 at the time and it was so thrilling to meet her, she was really our hero for so many of us, you know.  When she was introduced, the whole audience just leapt to our feet and there was a gigantic ovation for her and so many of us who were old timers knew this, she was the person who introduced us. So, I started with that, you know.  And the other thing I did immediately was to do readings for people.  Later I would learn that some people, some teachers say, well you mustn’t do a reading until you have memorised all the meanings. And I would go, what?  That’s ridiculous.  Because my readings were so much freer, I would put down the card, I would look at the book and then I would just see what I saw.  So, I started doing readings for people, and the great story about that is I discovered that all my friends were having affairs! Isn’t that funny, it’s wild?! But I was like, you know, I mean, really quite a few, you know, at least like three or four people I discovered.  And it did really help them in situations, but then I also did not just use the meanings in the book, I worked around the pictures.  And one very early thing I did, which was really significant for me, was that I had a friend come over who was a poet, and you know, I write fiction, so we were both connected to imaginative things but also traditions.  And so, we just looked at the cards 1 by 1, turned them over and with each one we told him we saw, and we started going beyond the picture and beyond the book description of what it meant, and seeing different things.  And that was a huge step for me, to be able to realise that there were things in the picture that probably almost certainly were not intended.  But sometimes they were, you never know, because Waite, the designer of this deck that was my original deck for many people was and still is, very, very steeped in traditions. Spiritual traditions, theological ones, Christian traditions, he was Catholic, you know, esoteric, secret orders and so on and so on.  And Pamela Smith the artist was an intuitive, a brilliant artist and a lot of her steps just were things that came to her.  So, who knows what was intentional and what wasn’t intentional, but some things really feel like they were unintentional but they’re there?  The one I always remember, the one that really like triggered something for me was the Ten of Pentacles from the Rider Deck, so it shows there’s an archway, there’s a family in the archway.  A man and a woman, the man is not looking at the woman, the woman’s kind of looking away but holding onto his arm, and then the little child is not looking at either of them but holding onto his mother’s skirt as if he’s frightened.  And then there’s outside the archway there is an old man. He’s got white hair, he is wearing a robe of many colours I like to call it, he’s very mysterious looking.  And he’s just outside the family archway and the only ones to see him are the two dogs.  None of the people notice he is there.  And so, at first, I thought he’s very magical but then I thought of Odysseus in The Odyssey, so when he comes home, he disguised as an old beggar.  And only his dog recognises him.  So, then I saw that card as a moment in The Odyssey which I’m guessing was not the intention. I don’t know what Waite & Smith meant by the old man …

 

Ann

Yeah.

 

Rachel

…who he was, but he’s a wonderful magical figure. So that was a step to me towards getting into the pictures in a way that was very much, my own and mostly very connected to what’s on the card, not something I’m taking from outside and pushing it on the card, but the card leads me to think of this other thing.

 

Ann

Yeah, it’s a beautiful way to work and I know you said that your cards are your source of wisdom and understanding.  Can you say more about?

 

Rachel

Well, they lead you to, if you give yourself to them, they will open things up for you.  Like that vision of the Lovers and then the realisation that it transcends the issue of, you know, male and female, or different groups, because you can’t see exactly which human beings they are, so just things like that, it just opens things up to you, but also it just leads to awareness of traditional ideas and concepts because you start to learn about them. And you learn about things like Kabbalah, which is very entwined with Tarot. I’m Jewish and I grew up in a fairly traditional but ordinary Jewish home, not ultra-orthodox or anything like that but you know, my parents were orthodox in outlook, again everything was kosher and things like that. I never heard the word Kabbalah, ever.  I’d never heard the word even though it existed until I got into tarot. And when I got into tarot, I saw this word in reference to Judaism, I started looking it up.  I started reading books. And this led me to Jewish mysticism which is a wonderful, wonderful subject and magic and so many things, but the tarot has led me to so many worlds that I didn’t know about beforehand.

 

Ann

Yeah, it’s beautiful and what about memorising the meanings of cards? I know you’ve spoken about that.  Do you think it is important to have a knowledge of, or some knowledge of the original meanings of the cards?

 

Rachel

Yes, but you can do that just by looking in a book and use but not staying with that, not having that be the only meaning.  So, you start opening it up immediately.  And I have a good friend, and I respect him a lot, but he has a very different approach to me in teaching.  He once said that he will not allow his students do any reading until they have memorised all 156 meanings of the cards 78 upright and 78 reversed.  They have to memorise all of them before they can do any readings.  Personally, that’s backwards.  It’s the only way to get to know the meanings is by doing readings. 

 

Ann

That’s right, because by the time you’ve learnt all the meanings you have to start again ‘cause you’ve forgotten the first ones you’ve learnt!

 

Rachel

Yeah, yeah, but you learn by doing.   

 

Ann

Yes

 

Rachel

So, you know, if you’re doing it… we also just pick things up, like people would tell you something, ‘oh that’s wonderful.’  So, for example, the 7 of Swords in the Rider deck, it shows this man kind of sneaking away from a tent, he is holding 5 swords and two are left behind because he couldn’t carry them all.  And he’s like tiptoeing away, looking back and smirking.  So, he’s getting away with something, right you know?  So, there’s apparently a modern meaning of that, which getting back to the subject of affairs, which means someone is having an affair.  So, once you know something like that, it just starts to come.  And when it comes in reading, it is because that person is in that situation.  Obviously not every time, but it’s been amazing how many times that card’s come up and there’s been no discussion at all and I would say to someone… one time, I love this story, one time I was doing a reading for this woman and all the questions were very mundane, managing her time in the day, balancing work with her family, you know budget, just very ordinary kind of stuff, and that card came up, the Seven of Swords in the near future, not now but soon.  And I was like oh my God, the cards say they’re going to have an affair but no, it’s not him, it’s her.  And so, I said to her, are thinking of having an affair? And she said yes! So, there you have it, so there’s an idea about the card, a kind of official meaning so to speak, and then you connect it to your own intuition, which has not always been heard, and there’s no reason to think that you know? And yet, so, so, that’s how that works and then because you have that experience which is kind of unforgettable, that stays with you and you bring that to future readings.

 

Ann

Yes, and then how would you, a lot of people ask, how you might get the cards to talk to each other.  So, if you’ve got three in a row or one next to another, how do they relate to each other, or talk to each other?

 

Rachel

Well, there’s some wonderful ways.  Robert Place is my partner in creating modern decks and we’ve done other things together.  So, he, he’s an artist, he follows the composition.  So, don’t ever read one card, he’ll do three cards and say which direction they are looking at, are they looking at each other, are they looking away from each other, is there a sense of past, present, future?   For me it’s like, is there a centre and two sides to it?  They start talking to each other but sometimes you have readings which have three positions, but those positions are connected, like past, present, future, for example.  So, the past leads to the present and the present leads to the future and the future is pulling you towards it from the past.  So, there are lots of ways in which they start connecting to each other in a reading.

 

Ann

So, do you think it’s important Rachel, to layout the cards in certain spreads?  What are your feelings on spreads?

 

Rachel

Usually, they’re helpful. I’ll sometimes do one card but then I’ll do another one just to see, because of balance.  My favourite spread, in terms of what I often do for myself, is three cards, this was invited by my friend Zoe Matoff, … so if you Google Zoe’s spread until you find it, but it’s really wonderful, so it’s three cards but not 1,2,3, it’s one in the middle, 2 on the left, 3 on the right.  So, the one in the middle is what’s going on, and on the left is don’t do this-bad idea, on the right is do this-good idea.  So, it’s also kind of radical because the modern tarot, because the whole movement, in a sense it’s like, we’re giving things over to the person, we’re not telling them what to do.  The cards don’t dictate to them.  But here she’s saying, you know, I want to know what would not be good idea, when it would be good idea, it’s important.  So, I do this spread if I’m in a quandary and I’m having a difficulty, just to see what’s going on for the day.  And then sometimes it, amazingly it will show me something I don’t understand, or I don’t know what it refers to, and then later on that day, was that something happened and then, ‘oh my God, that’s that spread’ and then I know what to do and how not to get in trouble.

 

Ann

It sounds like something people might like to try at home.

 

Rachel

Oh yeah absolutely.

 

Ann

So, it’s one card in the middle and that represents you, does it? The card in the middle?

 

Rachel

It represents the issue for you, whatever is going on, the thing you have to pay attention to.

It could be you, but also it could be your situation.

 

Ann

Okay great, you or your situation or what’s going on.  So, that’s the centre card and then you lay 3 cards to the left of them…?

 

Rachel

No, just one on the left, one on the right.

 

Ann

Excuse me, one on the left, one on the right. I see.

 

Rachel

And the one on the left is don’t do this bad idea.  And the one on the right is yes do this, it’s just what you need to do, this is good.

 

Ann

Okay.

 

Rachel

And because it’s in the moment, it’s just for the day, I mean, it can be for much bigger issue obviously, you can, but I tend to think it’s a short-term situation.  I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t use that reading only.  I might purpose that reading at the end of a big reading.  So, the big reading, the Celtic Cross, the 10 places and maybe some other cards as well, that’s going to look at lots of dimensions of a situation, it’s going to reach into the past, these positions of past experience, issues with future, of feelings in terms of other people, lots and lots of things right.  But that’s so big, at the end of it, okay, let’s look at right now.  We’re not going to look at this long-term thing, right at this moment here’s what, here’s what’s going on, don’t do this, do that.  So, that just brings it to into the immediate moment, which is very beneficial.

 

Ann

Yeah, I love that, that’s really good. And what are your feelings, Rachel, on reversals?

 

Rachel

I always used to do them, because that’s what I learned. I have since learned the history of it …

 

Ann

Actually, maybe, sorry, before you go into that, maybe we want to explain, because some people may not know what a reversed tarot card is.

 

Rachel

I apologise. Right, OK, so let’s say the card of The Fool.  It is someone standing on the edge of a cliff, kind of dancing attitude, looking very free and happy.  If it is reversed as the card comes out, so it’s just literally upside down, the picture is upside down on the table, that’s all it means, is reversed.  So, you have shuffled the cards in such a way that that card and some others are going to be turned over just the wrong way.  So, then you have to think, what does it mean, the wrong way? And so, the books will always tell you upright meanings and reversed meanings.  So, for instance, the full upright meaning is saying take a chance, be in the moment, be reckless, have complete faith whatever you do is gonna work out fine, just act without thinking.  Upside down is going to be, be careful, be cautious, being maybe too hesitant, maybe frightened, maybe afraid to take a step and so on.  So, the reversed meaning is the opposite of the upright meanings.  So, I always follow that idea, for years because that’s what the books taught, and then when I made my own deck, The Shining Tribe, I realised I don’t want to do that because when you do it that way and it comes out reversed or upside down, what you end up doing is an intellectual exercise. So, say OK what does this card mean? Because if I turn it around what would that mean?  So, you’ve gone away from the picture and you’ve got into a concept of it, and you are no longer looking at the picture.  So now if I do reading, and a card comes up reversed, I’ll sometimes, or I’m doing it for someone else and I shuffle it in such a way, I’ll sometimes say to or give it to somebody, would you look at this picture, just like now, what catches your eye, because this is a new picture.  So, they might say, oh, I got caught by this person’s foot. That’s what I see is a foot, so you talk about that, what that could mean.  And also, something else you could say is, let’s say the Empress comes up, and the Empress is reversed, because the Empress is the card of passion.  So, you say, okay well what does it mean, do you think, to reverse that idea, passion? How would that be different?  So, we have a dialogue – with the person and with the card.  And sometimes there are wonderful meanings you can just draw on right away and sometimes, you know, two reversed cards can look similar to each other, or opposite rather.  So, it’s like each one is backing away towards the other.  For example, The High Priestess and The Empress.  The High Priestess is sitting in stillness, and quiet, meditative, not speaking, sensing things very powerfully, and deeply from within.  And the Empress is very passionate and very outgoing and very full of action and love and dynamic. So, they’re the opposites of each other, right?  So, if you reverse them, the High Priestess then becomes getting out from inside yourself being more extroverted, being more passionate. The Empress becomes pulling away from passion, becoming more intellectual, more conscious, more aware of things, holding back.  So, it’s like they are edging towards each other.  So, it’s like the person I can’t do either one straight forward.  Okay I’m going to be the actress, I’m going to be the Empress, instead they have to keep backing away from one to the other.  So that’s something to think about and again I think what’s important is you don’t say this is you, you say, yeah, think about this, is this is this something you do? Is this a way you do this kind of thing?

 

Ann

And do you have a favourite card that you love when it comes up in a reading?

 

Rachel

I think we all have favourites but then we also find other cards become very wonderful in certain contexts.  I feel like many people love The Fool because he is so free.  I love The Star card because it’s very open and healing and also for me, I relate a lot of the cards to mythological beings.   And so, The Star card is Persephone, returning from the land of the dead, returning to the land of the living, there are all kinds of reasons for that which I won’t go into. So that becomes a very meaningful thing to me also.  Plus, there’s my birth card.  If you add up the numbers in your birth date you get a number.  So, my number adds up and becomes 17. So, my birth card is 17 which is The Star, so The Star for that reason also, all kinds of things being your favourite card.  But often it’s experience and the things you have had.  And one of the great things about reading tarot cards is, to build on your readings for future readings.  So, you may discover something new in a reading, but then that stays with you for future readings. 

 

So, one time, Mary K Greer and I, we teach together for years, this is a long time ago now, we were teaching and our theme for the week was Soul Making and that’s a term from

Psychologist, James Hillman. And I thought well let’s ask the Tarot about the soul.  So, I said, what is the soul?  I was using my deck and I got the Ace of Birds.  Birds, like swords, but instead of violence, they are music and beauty.  So, I got the Ace of Birds, and the Ace of Birds is Owl, the owl is staring at us, it’s like looking directly at it, it fills the entire card, and it is looking at us very intently.  So that gave a new meaning, that the Ace of Birds is the soul.  When that card comes up now, it’s an image of the soul.  So, we’re saying that your soul is being evoked in that reading and that becomes a power you take to other readings.

 

Ann

That’s absolutely beautiful, and I know you mentioned Mary Greer there, and I know the two of you, Tarot divas of the world as you are, have taught together at Omega for 40 years.

 

Rachel

It’s a little over 30, it’s 30 years, yeah.   So last Summer which was, oh no it was two summers ago, last summer we couldn’t go there, so it was 2019, and it happened to be our 30th anniversary and it was also in July and so it was the 50th anniversary of Moonwalk.  So, I got in front of the class, introduced the weekend as there were five of us teaching, and I said this is a very special occasion I said, 30 years ago this week, Mary Greer and I taught our first tarot class here in Omega.  So, it’s a very special anniversary and people applauded you know, and then I said and 50 years ago two guys played golf on the moon, no I said two white guys played golf on the moon. That was fun! It took a lot of people to get it that it was the Moon Walk.

 

Ann

That’s really good.  Tarot Conferences – I know that you have taught, and you lecture at Tarot Conferences and Tarot Symposiums.  Can you explain what they are?  What is, what happens at the Tarot Conference or a Tarot Symposium?

 

Rachel

Well one thing that is really wonderful, it’s a sort of gathering of the tribes.  Because people come, some of them come from all over the world. We have our mix, and we get people from quite a few different countries, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Korea and places in Europe, places closer to home, and also there’s an event called The Readers Studio, and hopefully that will be happening again, I don’t know if it will because of the Pandemic again. 

And they always get people, they actually have a people, they ask how many countries people come from, it’s really quite wonderful.  So, there’s that, and you see old friends, who you generally only see at these conferences.  So, it’s a wonderful gathering of people, and people who have known each other for a long time. And then there’s teaching, there’s presentations.  At Omega we begin now, for the last few years with a five-person panel called Masters of the Tarot, a kind of symposium, and then after that there is 5 days of just me and Mary.  And you know, we are teaching. We are teaching exercises; we are teaching concepts and traditions and things like that.  We try to make it very participatory; we try not to just lecture but always have people doing things and at the conferences there’s a mix of that.  Some people do the history lectures of tarot, some people give techniques that you work on and maybe it’s at your table for example.  So, there’s a lot going on and sometimes there are several things at once, so you have to choose, which is sometimes difficult, but it’s just, they’re just terrific events, just so exciting to do.  It’s so funny, you know, you arrive, and you get into this hotel, right? So, you arrive there safe, and it could begin Friday afternoon, and you know the second you walk in, who are the tarot people.   They’re not tarot people dressed in business suits and proper clothing; the tarot people are just looking wild.

 

Ann

Wild and free.

 

Rachel

Yes, wild and free.  It’s just glorious you know. Oh, and at some of these events, Saturday night they invite people to dress up as tarot cards.  And so, people come in all kinds of fun things.  But there’s always like 2 or 3 professional performers.  And there’s this one guy, he is so great, you know.  And he came in with these huge wings and this like, this golden crown and like gossamer trailing behind him, phenomenal you know, and he was like, he gets on stage, he said ‘Some of you might know this, but I’m a drag Queen.’  Really?  No!  Who would have guessed? He was delightful. He was so cute, you know.  But also, people just, whatever they can do, it’s just so much fun, you know.

 

Ann

Gosh it sounds incredible I’d love to see that.

 

Rachel

Yes, it’s a really great event, there’s galleries and breakfast and lunch.

 

Rachel

Beautiful, really beautiful.  And I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention this, but a little bird told me Rachel, that you were commissioned to do the tarot deck for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the TV show.

 

Rachel

Yes, I know. It didn’t happen. It was so great.  So, a group of us were working on it.  So, I suggested, show and themes and other people had ideas of what scenes they wanted to have in the cards you know. And some of the cards were so perfect, like the Four of Swords card of the Rider deck shows this figure, some people say it’s a person but the weight of the sarcophagus it’s a carving, but it’s a knight lying on a kind of stone box.  So, it’s the exact image of Spike, of his enemy/sometimes lover when he’s resting on his coffin in the daytime.  Some of it was perfect and it was wonderful, the artist did this great work, and at the very last moment, there was a contractual problem that no one really had anticipated, and it couldn’t happen, we just couldn’t do it, so it’s really sad.

 

Ann

But that was two years of hard work?

 

Rachel

Yes, it was a lot of work yeah, I don’t know if it was that much, but it was quite a lot of work, yeah.

 

Ann

Oh, my goodness.  Was everybody devastated?

 

Rachel

We were all very disappointed.  What can you do?  We had to accept it. But it was disappointing because it would have been so beautiful.

Ann

Yes, it would have been beautiful and talking of beautiful, the same little bird also told me that you create stunning pieces of jewellery.

 

Rachel

Yes, yeah, it’s my favourite thing to do. I love it.  It’s a hobby that has become a business because in order to finance doing it, I sell them at conferences.  So, what I do is, I get sacred objects, pendants, so right now what I’m wearing is a caduceus of Hermes that entwines snakes around a pole with the wings on top, which people mistakenly think it’s the medical profession but it’s not, it’s the symbol of Hermes the Magician.   So that’s why, so that’s a pendant, it is gold and silver and I make a bead necklace to wear with it, so it’s hanging from beads and the beads are always semi-precious or precious stones, no glass or plastic.  And then there’s metal beads, so it comes out and it’s very striking and they’re long usually.  And it’s my favourite thing to do almost.  It is so wonderfully meditative, and actually one thing about the pandemic which has been difficult for me is, I tried getting beads online and it’s not a good thing to do, you have to see them and feel them, so I can’t get to the bead stores in New York City.  Because it’s just not safe do that.

 

Ann

Yeah of course you can’t go out, can you?

 

Rachel

You can go out, but you can’t go to big cities like that.

 

Ann

Yeah, you can’t go purchasing

 

Rachel

On public transportation, you know.

 

Ann

but you’re so, with your tarot decks that you’ve created, your jewellery that you’re making and the incredible amount of books that you’ve written, you are just such a creative source.  Where do you think that comes from?

 

Rachel.

Well, it’s my life.  It’s what I do, what I love.  One of side effects unfortunately, is you can’t sleep very well, you know, because the mind starts racing onto the next thing.  Then I have these ideas that I will probably never get to do because there are so many other things.  So, I’m 75 and I’m still very active happily, obviously I’m not going to have another 15 or 20 years to be doing more things and yet I certainly have probably at least 15-20 years of ideas I’d like to do.

 

Ann

And ideas generate other ideas of course. 

 

Rachel

Yeah, ideas generate ideas, exactly.

 

Ann

And what about writing?  Are you writing anything at the moment?

 

Rachel

Yes, several things, too many things it seems like, again it’s hard to turn away things.  My main project and it’s on hold while I finish up some other things, is a book called And On The Way I told A Tale and the subtitle is, My Life in Tarot, Storytelling and Magic.  So, it’s kind of a memoire, autobiography, very based on tarot and magic and the meaning of stories. So, I’m very excited about that.  Lately I’ve been doing the books and these introductions for different decks, I’ve done several recently, I really like doing that. There’s a couple coming up and they want me to do that, so that’s coming up.  I’m doing some work in comics which I love doing and that is a lot of fun.  A lot of projects I want to do.  I’d like to take some of my old stories, and do like special editions of them, illustrated and beautifully produced, I’d be interested in that.

Ann

Stunning. And you’ve got some beautiful books written up on your website because I was reading your lovely story, The Fool, The Stick and The Princess.

 

Rachel

Yeah, that was a great thing to do. I forget how that started, I forget if it came up as an idea I had during a class, or if it was somebody saying they wanted some fairy tales and so I came up with that.  Basically, it’s based on the Fool card in the tarot.  The idea in fairy tales, the fool is often the hero, in the sense of, like, you know, there is the three brothers.  The two are clever and the youngest one is a fool, and everyone thinks he’s helpless and of course he saves the day and everything that’s what that story’s about and it’s just inspired by the Fool card.

 

Ann

And you’ve used elements from the tarot within that haven’t you?   It’s like a fairy tale, it’s almost like a …

 

Rachel

Yes, it’s all from images from the cards.

 

Ann

Yeah, and it’s beautiful, I just think it’s very inspiring, if people are listening and they want to go and have a look at it, because it’s just very freeing the way that you’ve written it and it just gives you a way of writing through imagery, it is beautiful.

 

Rachel

Yeah, and a novelty story which I have no preconceived idea.  I just threw out some Tarot cards and said see what story they suggest. And in fact, Christine Matthews, I don’t know if you know her work, you could interview her sometime, she’s an amazing person, but she and I edited a book called Tarot Tales, and we invited a bunch of tarot readers and writers to make up stories based upon tarot cards.  And as some of them did it the way we wanted which was not have no idea ahead of time, but some of them had an idea and they fit the tarot cards into which is also good where they had the tarot card reader be the hero of the story, but all the stories are, one way or another, connected to tarot cards.

 

Ann

But I think just the way you look at the world, you’re creating stories all the time, like you say, your mind doesn’t rest, and I don’t know if you can just, maybe one of the last things you can say is, how can people, like how can people express their own creativity within?  Because some people think I can’t write, I have to have been told off at school for my writing or I can’t write because I don’t know enough language, or I don’t have enough of a lexicon.  How could people like, just write – have you got …

 

Rachel

Well, you have to just start doing it, you know, as long as you tell yourself I can’t do this you will never do it.

 

Ann

Where can they get their inspiration from?

 

Rachel

From things that they read that they love that inspire them.  From things they see, life experiences.   They can think of something that happened to them or a family member, maybe some famous family story, that is an amazing story that someone who came from another country and something happened.  There are all kinds of things that will give you inspiration for what you want to write about.  I have a theory, that you could walk down any street, pick any person at random and just start asking them about their life and the lives of their family and friends and you will hear the most incredible stories.  Things that are mind boggling, things that are just staggering, and I just so if you look at that, there is always stuff you wanted to.  I feel like, if you love fairy tales and if that’s your favourite kind of stories, then just start thinking of one.  The tarot can help you.

 

Ann

Yeah, that’s lovely.

 

Rachel

You know, pick a card at random.  The Six of Swords, there are people in a boat – how did they get in that boat?  Where are they going? What is the island they are travelling to?  There are many ways you could enter it and just don’t worry about whether it is good enough, just start doing it. Because nobody’s good enough when they first start.  You have to learn; you have to teach yourself things.  I remember my first novel I finished, it never got published and I felt I had to do it to learn what not to do. I really, you know, I could have read a book to tell me the same thing, but it didn’t sink in.  That was my learning, that was my practise, and after that things got better.  So, it’s all kinds of ways.  I used to teach writing at a college called Goddard College in Vermont, I taught on a master’s degree. These are all people who had some experience but still a lot of them, you know, they were really trying to discover what they needed to do, what stories they want to tell.  Often their stories would change in the two years they were there.  One woman began by telling this kind of light-hearted, kind of, almost satirical story about famous poets in the afterlife. And they all hang out in this bar together, and they are all jealousy of each other, it was a very funny story, I liked it a lot, but it became something much, much deeper in the telling.  You know, she was going through a personal family tragedy, it ended up becoming about what does happen after we die, and what our connections to the people we’ve lost.  It was a very beautiful process to watch.  And it became very experimental too.  She’s an incredible writer that woman and I could just see her just changing, growing in this class, in the year we worked together, it was phenomenal.   

 

Ann

Amazing.  Very inspiring and talking of writing, your book, here it is, 78 Degrees of Wisdom, has just been released on Audible and how can people get a copy of that?

 

Rachel

Well, they can go to audible.com or Amazon.  Audible is connected to Amazon I believe so

Amazon will have it for sure.  And just look it up.  78 Degrees of Wisdom audio or audible and it should be there.

 

Ann

And can you summarise what it contains for people who may not have heard of it?

Rachel

Well 78 Degrees is my first book on tarot.  My first tarot book and my first novel was published at exactly the same time, the summer of 1980.  The novel, called Golden Vanity disappeared without a trace, I love it it’s a wonderful book, and my nephew, it is his favourite book, but most people don’t know of it.  78 Degrees of Wisdom has been in print ever since, from 1980 on, so that’s 40 years.

 

Ann

Congratulations, that’s amazing!

 

Rachel

Thank you, yeah, yeah.  Sold all over the world in many languages.  And it’s a book about tarot, it’s a book about the cards and what they mean. What happened with that was, I was teaching tarot, and I was teaching in a way that I’ve never seen in books.  The books were of two sorts.  One was basically fortune telling books, this card means this, and this is you know and so on. Eden Grey had very deeper levels, but on the surface, it was kind of a simple fortune telling book. Other books were very occult, and they were kind of inaccessible to people who didn’t already have some occult training.  They made all sorts of references to various traditions that you had to know already.   But what I wanted to do, was to do a book based on readings, but not based on readings of fixed ideas, of what the card should mean but to really explore them and to give each card to do.  So, I did not have the same number of pages for each card, which even now is very radical.  Most tarot books make sure to have the exact same number of pages or pretty much so.  And you know, one card might be two and a half pages, the next card might be eight pages, because I used whatever I saw.  And I learned about, I just put down. And that’s why I think people find it so helpful because it really goes deeply into the pictures on many levels.

 

Ann

It’s beautiful and congratulations on it being in print for all of these years, that’s such an achievement.

 

Rachel

Thank you, yeah, it’s very exciting,

 

Ann

Yeah, it’s great.

 

Rachel

Many different languages now, you know, it’s in Chinese, Korean and I think there’s a Japanese edition, European languages, yeah, Dutch, German, Amish.

 

Ann

Yeah, it’s amazing, it’s just amazing and what’s really great, is that it’s out on Audible, because not everybody’s got time these days because we are always so busy, to sit down and read a book, or pour over it, but to have that, that we can listen to while we’re going about our daily lives, is going to be an absolute joy for many, many people.

 

Rachel

And I believe, since I don’t have a copy as it just came out, but I believe that when you order a copy of it, you get it like, downloaded to, you know whatever you listen to things, they will send you a printed or a PDF copy of the pictures, so you know which card we’re talking about, you can look at it as you’re hearing it being discussed.

 

Ann

Well, that’s lovely and it’s really good.

 

Rachel

Because my way of doing it is so based on the picture, so it’s really important that people be able to see the picture I’m talking about.

 

Ann

And Rachel if people want to look up some of the beautiful stories that you’ve got written on your website, or learn a little more about you, what is your URL for your website?

 

Rachel

Well, it’s just www.rachelpollack.com it is way out of date I warn people, so not everything is on there, not at all the books are on there, some stuff that is on there is out of print.  It’s been a problem for some years now.  It was created as a gift from a brilliant artist, except that way back then, there was a different language for programming, so it’s hard to update.  Anyway, but there was some wonderful stuff, on there, there’s some artwork on there for the Shining Tribe Deck, people can see that which is very nice.  They can follow me on Facebook, my Facebook is just Rachel Pollack.  I’m up to the limit almost on people to be friends but they can just find me on it and then they can follow me and then they can get all the things I put out.

 

Ann

That’s wonderful.  Rachel, it’s been an absolute joy talking to you this evening, thank you so much for…

 

Rachel

I also have a blog, it’s also not up to date but if they go there it’s rachelpollack.wordpress.com and there’s quite a few things on there, so I mean, even if I’m not keeping it up to date now, because I do most things on Facebook, new ideas, the blog still has a lot of information and a lot of things about tarot that people find exciting.

 

Ann

Wonderful, that’s absolutely wonderful, I honestly can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing all your, your knowledge with everybody today and it is just lovely finding about out about you as a person, your life, and you’re, you’re a creative inspiration.

 

Rachel

Oh, thank you Ann so much, and I really, really enjoyed very much talking with you.

 

Ann

Thanks very much Rachel.

 

Well that was Rachel Pollack, world authority on the contemporary tarot, discussing her classic book, 78 Degrees of Wisdom which has just been released on Audible.

 

For those of you who are new to Psychic Matters podcast, please know that we have a thriving Facebook page, so do go to Facebook and look us up Psychic Matters podcast Facebook Group – everyone is welcome to join and you will be made more than welcome.

 

All the show notes for this episode, including a complete transcript plus resources and links for everything mentioned can be found on my website www.anntheato.com so do head over there and pick those up.  You can take a quick look while you’re there at the training courses I have coming up – there’s such a great one coming up on May 22 and it’s called Gypsy Magic – the Divinatory Art of Scrying.

Since time immemorial, our ancestors from every culture have used the ancient art of scrying to help them gain personal guidance, prophecy or inspiration via imagery, symbols and messages. Scrying is a type of divination which involves gazing at either a surface, candle flame, smoke, clouds, or any surface or object, in order to go beyond the physical eyes and allow us to receive visions and information using our intuition. During this workshop, I will teach you how to quieten your mind, connect to your life force energy and use it to assist you in the fascinating art of crystal gazing.  This workshop will help you develop and strengthen your own innate ‘sixth sense’ or intuition and you will learn techniques and methods you can use to receive prophetic visions or symbolic guidance. If you fancy this workshop – head over to my website and sign up!  May 22nd 3-8pm UK time zone.

 

Have a fantastic couple of weeks everybody, stay safe out there and don’t forget to go to Audible and download Rachel Pollack’s book 78 Degrees of Wisdom

 

Until next time… my name is Ann Théato and thank you for listening to PSYCHIC MATTERS!

CREDITS

Reach by Christopher Lloyd Clarke. Licensed by Enlightened Audio.

 

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