Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Rachel Pollack is one of my favorite authors, so as soon as I heard about this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. A large part of that curiosity was the target audience for this book - teens. How would someone approach the subject of Tarot for the teenage set, without wandering into the land of the "fluffy bunny"?
Well, it can be done, and it has been done in a spectacular fashion in Seeker - the Tarot Unveiled. From the tasteful cover - with those piercing eyes that make one wonder what they are truly seeing - to the conversational tone of the book, Rachel has gifted the younger members of the Tarot world with a tremendous resource. This Tarot "wise woman" deals in a world of truth, liberally laced with real life humor. Seeker is an ongoing conversation on the teenage level - speaking with the audience, not at them. Rachel gifts the teen set with the grace of intelligence, and makes a point of relating the Tarot to their personal lives, to issues that they address on a daily basis. She sometimes tells them what they may not want to hear, but in a manner that will not offend them.
The basics of what the Tarot is comes through loud and clear - from its early history, to its divisions of Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, Pips and Court Cards, and the elemental associations of the four suits. That it started out as a game, and was commissioned by royal families to commemorate circumstances in their lives - such as marriage.
Rachel speaks of the connection between the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot, and the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet (the association of Kabbalah and the Tarot). She also makes the point that, at its heart, the Tarot is a set of pictures that act as doorways into other worlds. This is the strength of Tarot, regardless of whatever else is overlaid on it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the section on "A Few Frequently (Or just Now and Then) Asked Questions About Tarot". These are indeed questions that are asked by people of all ages expressing an interest in the Tarot. Rachel's answers are traditional answers - couched in humor and whimsy, to make them palatable! She discusses things like: "Does someone have to give me my Tarot deck?"; "Do I have to wrap them in silk, or keep them in a wooden box?"; and "Can other people touch my cards?" The answers in this section bring about a certain comfort level in the decision to bring Tarot into ones life or not.
In "Getting Started", Rachel gives some very sage, down to earth advice on becoming comfortable with ones deck. To start out - take them out and look at them! See how you feel about them - divide them into two piles - the ones that you like, and the ones that you don't like. Look at the colors, the energy and the patterns in the pictures. Look at the people in the pictures - do they remind you of anyone in your own life? (This I do remember from when I first encountered the Tarot - the people in the pictures DID remind me of people in my life - which was sometimes good, and sometimes ... not so good!) Make up stories about the cards - with one card, or with several cards. She also suggests reversing the card positions, and seeing how the story then changes.
Playing with the tried and true method of drawing a random card a day, then seeing how that card plays out during your day is also presented. I found one comment in this section especially empowering - that if you draw a card that you don't relate to, or have a negative reaction to (such as any of the Swords for me, even after over ten years of professional reading!), remember that this card is only active in your life for that one day. And the events of that day may well show that the energy of the card is not as bad as you thought it was.
The Major Arcana is presented with the card number, in Roman numerals, and title at the bottom of the page. There is a black and white scan of the card, along with a side-bar listing keywords, astrological association, musical note, gift and challenge. The archetypal energy that the card embodies is discussed, along with what the card represents in a reading, and what the card reversed might indicate. I truly enjoyed reading this section - it was as wise, and yet as "down home", as another of my favorite books, Jason C. Lotterhand's "Thursday Night Tarot".
Rachel employs the tactic of comparing the energy of different cards as she moves through the deck. In her discussion of the Magician, Rachel remarks that a true magician is really a master of daily life. How empowering is that for a teen (or anyone, for that matter!) to hear! Feel the difference between the inward energy of the High Priestess and the outward energy of the Empress. The Hierophant can be a teacher, a mentor ... or the school system itself. Look at the postures of the figures in the cards - sit in those postures and see how you feel. Who are the three Archangels in the deck, what purpose do they serve, and how do they differ? The Hanged Man gives us a glimpse of the wisdom to be found in the World - but only is we turn ourselves upside down! How do these cards reflect in our relationships with teachers, with peers, in dating, and with parents? There is an incredible amount of "quiet" advice in this section!
In her introduction to the Pips (the numbered cards), Rachel discusses the meaning of the numbers (ace through ten), and suggests combining the meaning of the number with the elemental meaning of the suit, so as not to be overwhelmed with trying to understand forty different meanings (eighty, if we include reversed meanings). Each card is presented with the Number (written out) and suit at the bottom of the page, a black and white scan of the card, and a side-bar with keywords, elemental quality, and number quality. There is a discussion of the energy each card represents, how they could be seen in a reading, and what the reversed meaning might be.
The Court Cards are described as being the cast of character in the story of the other cards. They can represent other people in the Seeker's life, and/or parts of the Seeker themselves. There is quite an interesting table presented here - developed for one of Rachel's classes - listing a single one or two word description for each Court Card. The Court Cards are presented with the title and suit name across the bottom of the page, a black and white scan of the card, and a side-bar with keywords, elemental quality, and court quality. There is a discussion of the card, its traditional meaning, and what the reversed meaning might be.
For me, the heart of any book on Tarot - and the section that I turn to first! - is the section on spreads. Rachel has presented a variety of spreads, geared to teenagers, that will give them real-time options in their lives. These range from a one card draw; a two card draw, if two possibilities are under consideration; different versions of the three card spread (Past/Present/Future, Mind/Body/Spirit, Choices, Self and Others, Do/Don't Do); a five card Doorway spread; the traditional ten card Celtic Cross spread; a nine card connection spread; a seven card Conflict spread; a seven card Pressure spread; a six card Sexual Choice spread; a spread for Dream Readings; and a six card Birthday spread.
At the end of the book, there is an in-depth Suggested Reading list, and an index. Why on earth would I mention the index? Because many books do not have them, and I find the time they save me to be indispensable.
"Seeker - The Tarot Unveiled" sneaks wisdom in sideways, through the use of story and humor. It calms the fears and anxieties of its intended audience, and gives them a real shot at using the Tarot in readings for themselves and others. I recommend this book as a resource for any age beginning reader, and certainly for those in their teen years. What a wonderful gift this book (and a Tarot deck of their choice!) would be for the teen in your life.
© July 2005
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.