Customer Reviews: Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot
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on November 12, 2002
This revised and slightly expanded version of two long sadly out-of-print books ("78 Degrees of Wisdom: Major Arcana" and "78 Degrees of Wisdom: Minor Arcana") is a welcome addition to any serious Tarot reader's library.
Although I wouldn't normally recommend this book for the Tarot beginner, I'd recommend it highly to serious students of Tarot wanting to know more about the many different meanings of Tarot cards. Some beginners might find Pollack's usages of the definitions of cards to be more than the superficial ones.
Going far beyond the "This one covers you" school, Pollack gives many different ways to interpret the meanings of Tarot cards, both from a spiritual viewpoint ("What does this card mean to you?") and a metaphysical viewpoint ("What does this card mean to the person you're reading for?"). It also allows for meditation and self-study of Tarot cards.
Although set up like a standard Tarot book, with chapters covering the Major Arcana, the Minor Arcana, and some readings, (including a sample reading or two) Pollack's definitions of the cards goes far beyond the ordinary superficial "Death means something in your life is going through a major change - you are about to stop one thing and start doing another." Each card has a picture - many from the Rider-Waite deck that most Tarot card readers start with, but some from other decks that you may not have seen. Each card has numerous definitions - and even some examples of what that card might mean when in certain placements in a Tarot card reading, both regular and reversed.
I've no other books in my Tarot library that are more heavily thumbed than my old copies of the two "78 Degrees" books, and I was very glad that Pollack has found a publisher willing to not only reprint them, but allow her to revise them and include both books in one volume. Highly recommended for serious students of Tarot.
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HALL OF FAMEon February 3, 2003
Rachel Pollack's SEVENTY-EIGHT DEGREES OF WISDOM is a key work described by many (including Joseph Campbell) as an important source for understanding the wisdom of the Tarot. The book appears to have been first published in the early eighties in two volumes, one dealing with the Major Arcana and the other with the minor Arcana. Since few authors examine the minor cards Pollack's book is a must for serious students.
Pollack writes insightfully and intelligently, including longer passages for each of the cards of the Major Arcana. She includes reversed meanings and encourages shuffling the deck so as to ensure some cards fall upside down for a reading. She provides two examples for each card, one from A. E. Waite's deck illustrated by Pamela Coleman and the other from various other decks. Pollack notes that when she first wrote her book no one compared the different pictorial representations of various decks. She includes points of agreement and disagreement with interpretations from Waite's "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot", Aleister Crowley's "The Book of Thoth" and other works.
Unlike many contemporary authors on Tarot, Pollack subscribes to the notion that one can use the Tarot not only for interpretation of current circumstances but for seeking advice. She describes how to cast the Celtic cross a descriptive tool which can be used to gain insight into a present situation. She also shares a layout she created that the reader can use to gain insight into possible courses of action regarding work situations. Of the many books I've read on Tarot so far this one is the best.
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on March 20, 2003
I bought this book along with others because of the great reviews I saw. However, most of the other books did not live up to the great reviews. With one exception. SEVENTY EIGHT DEGREES OF WISDOM. This book doesn't give you formulas to memorize and it moves away from tradition and dogma. Ms Pollack asks the reader to let the tarot speak it's own unique language to each individual reading, querent, student and situation.
It gives the historical, mythological, spiritual, etc., meanings and attributions for each major card and also her personal insights and experience. She does the same for the minor cards, however, she doesn't go much into history and myth here but delves into her own experiences and interpretation. She also has GATE cards that allows the reader to get connected to particular cards that elucidate the intrinsic meanings of the suit. I'd love for her to do a book about meditations on the tarot.
To the back of the book there is an exposition on doing divination with the cards and she gives examples of the two spreads she covers to explain them better. Her Work Cycle spread is one with promise although I was left wanting a little more. I can't seem to find a resource where one can learn more about this spread.
There is one thing that I would ask every newbie to do when studying the cards. Get a resource that details occult symbols and colours. See how they fit into the particular cards and then you have a more detailed description of the cards. The meaning of some cards often don't appear in the artwork (figures etc) however the colours (red, orange, black etc) and the symbols (white rose, black staff, circle, etc) will clear up anything you have a question about.
Also, see MK Greer's book: Tarot for youself and Rachael Pollack's new book: The Forest of Souls.
Phoinix Sky
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VINE VOICEon November 15, 2005
I own ten or more books on the Tarot and if I had purchased this one first, I would not have needed the others. This book has everything you need to know to study the Tarot for personal growth/enrichment or to teach yourself to read the cards. I disagree with the reviewer who said it was not for beginners. It is written concisely and clearly and was a huge help to me when I was a beginner. I own several of Ms. Pollack's books and she is by far one of my favorite authors on the Tarot.
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on February 10, 2000
I've read dozens of tarot books over the years, and if I had to toss them all away except two or three, this book would clearly be one of the keepers. Pollack writes clearly and outlines both her own philosophy and the philosophy of others. Her outlook is broad rather than limited to formulaic "meanings". Most important in my mind is that she can explain why multiple interpretations are not contradictions. It may sound corney to say, but this book stirred up my mind as much as an examination of the cards. This book is a cup of coffee for your spiritual/mythological mind. Ms Pollack, Thanks!
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on December 9, 2013
I feel almost like I'm violating a shrine here, but I'm going to write the review that I wish I had read before buying this book. It was obviously written with good intentions, and I found some of the interpretations interesting.

But. If the very mention of Freud makes you involuntarily roll your eyes, do not get this book. It's heavily reliant on psychoanalytic theory. And if old-fashioned dichotomies like female=intuitive and male=rational make you want to give someone a piece of your eminently-analytical-and-judicious-female-mind, do not get this book.

If, on the other hand, these things don't bother you, go for it. But I hope this review will be helpful to other people out there like me.

It's also not very well-written (muddled, tangential, poorly-sourced, contradictory).
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on January 25, 2004
If you are a Tarot beginner, you will be temted to buy at least 10 decks before even doing any reading at all, you will also buy about 5 tarot books to explore. I have passed that road too, and yeah there are a lot of good books for beginner.
Time after time, you will come back to just one deck: Raider White deck, and for me the miniature deck (the size of almost a usual regular bicycle deck). And you will start to forget all the book and time to time come back to the very few books you love. And this one is it. It is a very rich book with deep reading of all the cards. It touch you and teach you deeply and teach you how to grow your own way of reading the pictures of tarot deck.
This is not for the ultimate beginners! But invest in this one. After you get "bored" to the beginner books of tarot, you will start to appreciate this book. It is not for the people who just "want to know a bit" about tarot.
In fact if you only want one book on Tarot, this is it.
The book describe deeply and richly for each card.
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on February 6, 2013
Unfortunately, I have to side with bad reviews which are surprisingly very few. I wasn't impressed by this book at all. She gives detailed descriptions of what you see on the card, like "there is water flowing under his thrown" but is very vague at explaining HOW to interpret it in a reading. Lots of references to different cultures/religions/eras makes it hard to get through. If you want to read this book to get a different prospective on Tarot it might be informational but it's not very handy when you just want a quick reference on a card meaning.
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on June 23, 2000
I have been studying the Tarot about two years know. This book was one of the first ones I purchased. My interest in the Tarot is to understand it for myself rather than to give readings (though I am starting to read for myself). If you are looking for intellectual depth and thought as you approach the Rider-Waite deck, this is the book for you. I echo another reviewer in that I have never highlighted, cross-referenced and generally marked up a book as I have this one. This is not a casual read! It's a book to be taken very seriously. If you don't immediately get that she is writing from very deep and spiritual place, then I suggest the book it not for you. Check out her encyclopedia as well if you just want to wallow in beautiful graphics. It's a great way to get exposure to many many decks. Thank you, Rachel, for your wonderful masterpiece!
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on November 18, 1999
May not be the best book for beginners, unless used in conjunction with books for tarot newbies. I find this book gives a depth and thoughtfulness that many "mass market" tarot books do not. Pollack really knows her tarot. I like her analysis of each card, with the specific briefer divinatory meanings for both upright and reversed positions.
I use several books when analyzing a reading, and this is one of the first I use when I want a complete story of a card. Highly highly recommended for any serious tarot student. Best buy!
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