Tarot for Magical Times
Tarot for Magical Times reflects a world of magical practices and interpretations for each of the 78 cards of the Tarot, coming from the perspective of two of the finest minds in the Tarot world, Rachel Pollack and Johannes Fiebig.
By Johannes Fiebig & Rachel Pollack
Book - 160 pages - Published by US Games
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
I can never say enough about Rachel Pollack's work, and this book, co-authored by Johannes Fiebig, with a contributing article by Ernest Ott, is no exception. Reflected is a world of magical practices and interpretations for each of the 78 cards of the Tarot, coming from the perspective of two of the finest minds in the Tarot world.
In their forward the authors address the fact that these are changing times. They talk about the years 2008-2024 as representing a “phase” in which we find the planet Pluto in the sign of Capricorn. They note that the last phases that saw Pluto in Capricorn were the era of the Reformation (1516-1532), and the era of Enlightenment (1761-1778). The common thread here being that Pluto in Capricorn places focus on the basic tenets of both the individual and their culture being subjected to a process of change.
The Tarot is offered as a tool of change, and it is offered in a very unique manner. The first three chapters of this book serve as a kind of triptych, with each of the three authors (Pollack, Fiebig, and Ott) presenting their approaches on how the Tarot can best help us in these times. All three chapters are incredibly well written.
Pollack's chapter, entitled “It is the Moment, Not the Date”, works with the concept of the Tarot as representing the larger picture of the world falling apart, and then coming back together in such a manner that the past is able to be released, and a new world ushered in. I have always liked the manner in which Pollack presents the Major Arcana in the “3X7” theory, with the Fool above the cards, and three lines of seven cards each beneath him. In this book, she presents other ways of looking at this progression: (1) in two lines of 11 cards each, with the first line as 0-10, and the second line being 11-21, (2) with the Fool as the journeyer, and standing above the other cards, and the World as the destination, and standing below the cards. Between them are two lines of ten cards each (1-10 and 11-20). The Minor Arcana are denoted in an interesting manner: Wands – the way of struggle, Cups – the way of the heart, Swords – the way of Sorrow, and Pentacles – the way of the earth. The Court cards are seen as forming their own group, representing people, as opposed to actions or events.
Fiebig's chapter, entitled “Riding the Storm”, focuses on the cultural revolution, around the time period of 1968. He sees the hippie movement of the 1960's, and the feminist movement of the 1970's as the “chief agents” behind the mass circulation of the Tarot. He notes that as with all symbolic languages and oracles, the Tarot is of special help when we have reached a dead end using other means. He also notes that all three contributors to this book, without consulting each other, gave the Tower central importance. Not surprising, since this is a book about change. As Pollack did in her chapter, Fiebig bases much of his commentary on the events of 9/11, and different people's reactions to it. He talks about the archetypes as representing patterns of behavior of the soul, and the “Twin Towers” in Manhattan being destroyed because of their symbolic importance. “Whoever dares an own design for a living becomes a “Rider on the storm”.”
Ott's chapter, entitled “New Life Blossoms In The Ruins”, focuses on the astrological significance of Pluto in Capricorn. (Note: Ott is Head of the School of Astrology in Karlsruhe, Germany, and founder of the German Tarot Association.) He talks about the three phases of moving from the old world structure to the new world structure: (1) Destruction of Walls, (2) New Life blossoms in the ruins,and (3) Resurrection of all that is buried. He notes that Pluto in Capricorn aids a resurrection of the shadow in the horoscope, and tearing down the walls of fear.
There is a short section by Pollack on spreads, presenting ways of looking at one, two and three card spreads. Fiebig has added an excellent section on paying attention to the positive and the negative of the cards – IOW, reading with 360 degrees of meaning.
Each card is presented with a small, full color image from the Rider/Waite/Smith deck, a short description of the card, the divinatory meaning, reversed meaning, and an action that can be taken based on the energy of the card.
The final section in the book talks about the qualities of time – the decans of the twelve months, and the cards assigned to them. For example: the Aries month is entitled “Turning a Desert into a Garden”, presents the basic quality for the sign of Aries (21 March – 20 April), discuses the Emperor, Tower, and Queen of Wands, as well as the three decans (1st decan – Two of Wands, 2nd decan Three of Wands, and 3rd decan Four of Wands). Note: Each decan has a short discussion, as well as words of advice. For the 3rd decan of Aries, the Four of Wands, the advice is: “Don't accept any rotten compromise. Avoid nitpicking solutions. Do not hide your true reasons and your authentic feelings. They offer the best motivation and guarantee beautiful results!”
We are in transformational times – the authors take this one step further and present the Tarot as being a prophecy for this transformational change, and a guide to a rebirth into a new world – both on the individual and the community/world level. Through the use of full color images and astutely written texts, the authors offer us a new way of thinking and a new way of being. For me, the presentation in this book was a magical as the concepts. And it doesn't end there – the book will be coming out simultaneously in English and German versions!
Needless to say, I highly recommend this book as a quality addition to any Tarot library, and a wonderful resource.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.
Review by Christiana Gaudet
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.
Christiana is a professional tarot grandmaster based in West Palm Beach Florida. She is the author of "Fortune Stellar" and the organizer of several tarot meetup groups. She also teaches tarot webinars to a world-wide audience.
Review by Wendy Stokes
‘Enlightenment is man’s emergency from his self-incurred immaturity.’ - Kant
Astrologically, we are influenced by the planet Pluto which entered the constellation of Capricorn in 2008. It will occupy this position until 2024 during which time we will experience a process of cultural and personal transformation due to the breakdown of organisational structures, dogma and habits. Previously, when this planetary configuration occurred, it was the time of the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment. The Magical Tarot focuses on this precise issue and uses the card of the Tower to play a central role in representing this planetary position.
The cards are taken from the Rider-Waite deck and Major Arcana is seen as offering a prophecy for the fall of the world and the Minor Suits offer different approaches to survival and the restoration of a new society; wands as struggle, cups as heart energy, swords as sorrow and pentacles as earth energies. The Court cards do not represent people but ways in which it is possible to respond to the crises and a method to assess opportunities that may be presented. Divinatory meanings are followed by recommended action to revitalise initiative, similar to the I Ching Book of Changes.
The well-produced explanatory book explains the Pluto connection and explains each card in detail. As with the Golden Dawn, The Magical Tarot divides the year into the astrological signs and selects three cards to represent each sign. Each sign is divided into decans, or durations of ten days, and a card is chosen for each decan. The book provides exercises in true and false security. It offers several spreads, including one card for each day of the year.
The authors are internationally renowned tarot specialists and are highly experienced tarot authors. This is the first time I have come across the tarot used to anticipate societal events and I think there is a valuable and mature personal understanding to be received from using the tarot in this manner.
Wendy Stokes is a mbs features writer and the author of The Lightworkers Circle Guide - A Workbook for Spiritual Groups.