Review by Bonnie Cehovet
I count myself
amongst the people that were blessed to be able to attend
The Reader's Studio 2003. I say blessed, because it
was here that I got to meet Rachel Pollack and see
"The Shining Tribe Tarot" in person. Rachel used this
deck in her presentation on "The Forest Of Souls", her
latest book. I had seen this deck being discussed many
times on on-line Tarot lists, and it was on my "most
wanted" list - but I didn't have it yet. After seeing it -
I had to have it!
"The Shining Tribe Tarot" grew
out of a previous deck done by Rachel Pollack called
"The Shining Woman Tarot". Part of the reason for the
revision was that "The Shining Woman Tarot" was perceived
by some as a feminist deck, which in itself is not a
negative thing, but it was not the author's intention. The
deck was actually named for one card within it - the
Shining Woman, which was Rachel's representation of the
major arcana card The World.
There is much more than
that to the revision of this deck. At its heart, this
is a "deck of many cultures", represented by Stone
Age hieroglyphics, Native American and African
shamanism, Australian Aboriginal art and the Kabbalah. As
Rachel points out - these are amongst the earliest forms
of tribal art and divination. The artwork itself is
primitive - and yes, takes some getting used to if one
depends on the graphics for interpretation. The basic
nature of the deck has not changed - while the art is
non-traditional, the meaning and structure of Tarot has remained
The gift that Rachel brings us is one of
recognition - as readers, we are accessing the cards through
very old symbols, the symbols of the ancient ones, our
forefathers. As readers, we carry the same energy of our
forefathers - that of membership in the tribe of diviners.
The cards are on good quality, glossy card stock. At
approximately 2 3/4" by 4 1/2" they fit well into smaller hands,
and are easy to work with. The backs are earth colored
- the primary color being a burnt orange (or
something close to it!), with two yellow figures in the
middle. The figures are head to head, arms and legs
outstretched, with hands touching over their heads.Each figure
has three short lines over their head. There is a
great deal of energy here - and it would be impossible
to tell reversed cards before they were turned
The face of the cards has a 1/4" yellow/gold border,
followed by a slender white border which encases the
picture. The name of each card is written across the bottom
in black letters. The artwork is primitive, including
some human forms, many birds, some buildings and
natural environment and many lines and spiral forms.The
manner in which the images came about fascinated me. They
were not drawn to either express an idea or to conform
to the intent of the card - they were encountered in
images (from stories and from sacred art found in books),
they came through meditation on the traditional Tarot
cards and they came from images that Rachel encountered
in her travels to sacred sites.
The titles have been
changed on four of the Major Arcana cards: the Hierophant
becomes Tradition, the Wheel Of Fortune becomes the Spiral
Of Fortune, the card of Judgement becomes Awakening
and the World becomes World - Shining Woman. In her
introduction to the Major Arcana, Rachel does a wonderful
presentation of the three layers of interpretation (cards 1-7
are line one, cards 8-14 are line 2 and cards 15-21
are line three, with the Fool appearing above them).
This is a presentation worth studying, as it tells not
only the story of the Fool's Journey, but it shows how
the cards relate to each other.
In presenting the
Major Arcana, Rachel shows a black and white photo of
the card, along with introductory words (I want to
call them poems - four short lines that describe the
card), a description and discussion of the card, along
with Divinatory (upright) and reversed meanings.
Minor Arcana suit names have been changed to reflect the
elemental nature of each suit. Trees represent Fire, Rivers
represent Water, Birds represent Swords and Stones represent
Pentacles. I am going to include Rachel's defining keywords
for the numbers, as they are very concise, lucid ...
and they are an integral part of the foundation for
interpreting the pips.
Aces: Prime quality of the suit
Twos: Duality and resolution
Threes: Strong expression of the element
Fives: Loss, sorrow, healing
Sixes: Passion, exploration
Sevens: Daring, communication
Eights: Movement, change
Nines: Confronting truth, healing
Tens: Fullness, completion
The presentation for the cards is the
same as for the Major Arcana: a black and white photo,
words of introduction, a description and discussion of
the card, and Divinatory (upright) and reversed
With the Vision cards we add a new twist to
interpreting the Tarot. These are not direct counterparts to
the Court Cards in other decks. They retain the same
traditional energy, but are more directly connected to the
elemental energy of their suits, and to the understanding
and use of this energy. In Rachel's world of myth, the
first card encountered would be Place (Page) - this is
literally a physical location so that we can see this energy
as a concrete being, rather than as an abstract
thought. The Knower (Knight) then gives us the feeling of
actually experiencing this energy in our lives. The Gift
(Queen) speaks of leaving our world and entering the world
of spirit (please note - this is my interpretation of
this card). Here we are able to recognize the gifts
that we hold in our own lives. (The four Gifts appear
together on the card of the Magician.) The Speaker (King)
allows us to see images of acting from a place of power
within ourselves. I appreciate this view of the court
card energy, as it does not reflect the energy as
actual people in the Seeker's life, nor does it relate to
them as personality types. I love it when someone sees
things the way that I do!
At the end of the book Rachel
has written a chapter on reading the cards, where she
presents a series of spreads, along with examples. For me -
this is the best way of learning how a story can flow!
She also talks about doing Wisdom (Soul) readings,
which do not ask for personal information, but which
address specific issues. She also discuses activating a
Tarot card through working with meditation,
affirmations, writing and other venues. Rachel talks a bit about
reversals, and then she does something magickal - she
encourages the reader to form their own Shining Tribes - to
form Tarot study groups and do things like start their
own psychic fairs. What a wonderful gift - to
encourage the reader to recognize that they are part of the
"Shining Tribe", and to walk their talk.
While it may take
some getting used to, I recommend this deck to all
students at all levels of Tarot. It can be taken for
readings anywhere (public, private party etc), and is a
gentle guide and mentor. The accompanying book is a
marvelous gift on its own - full of both information and
inspiration. Rachel - many thanks for the work that you have
gifted us with here!
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 Solandia
I had heard great things about the original Shining Woman Tarot and I was looking forward to seeing the revised and updated version of Rachel Pollack’s deck - the Shining Tribe Tarot.
At first glance, I found the art in this tarot deck to be hard to like. It is intentionally primitive looking, based on prehistoric and indigenous art and culture from around the world. It looks similar to cave-art, and has a spare, two-dimensional flatness. The boundaries between human, animal and land are indistinct.
A medium thick border of a pale yellow to deep yellow blend surrounds the card scenes. The ‘sky’ in the cards are a range of pastels; pinks and blues and most often pale lemon yellows. Physically the cards are well-made, thin and flexible cardstock of the standard Llewellyn size. The back of the card is ochre-red, and two stylised, deep-yellow human figures are placed head to head in the centre of the reversible card.
According to the Shining Tribe Tarot book, the deck doesn’t use private symbolism and is based firmly in tarot’s origins. It does use the traditional tarot structure of 78 cards, major and minor arcana, but I initially found it difficult to derive much meaning from the cards without reading the companion book.
In the Shining Tribe book itself, black and white image of the card and its title are shown first. (Some cards are also dedicated to particular people.) Then two to three pages of associations, snippets of history and word play to accompany the card. Finally, there is a succinct paragraph of divinatory meanings, and a paragraph of reversed meanings.
Unusually, this book also lists the titles of major arcana cards that have been renamed from the originals. The Hierophant has been renamed Tradition; the Wheel of Fortune the Spiral of Fortune; the Hanged Man the Hanged Woman; Judgement to Awakening; the World to the World/Shining Woman.
The Shining Tribe Tarot deck is self-admittedly more inclusive than the original deck and now includes men and well as women. The suits have been renamed from the usual Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles to Trees, Rivers, Birds and Stones. The deck also does not have court cards as such, but now Vision cards of Place, Knower, Gift and Speaker.
Don’t let your initial impressions of the art put you off. The few readings I have done with the deck have been illuminating. It is possibly better suited for those with enough time to memorise and get used to a new set of card images and meanings; I think, though, that it would be worth the effort.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.
Review by La Vonne Parker
Like the Fool, yesterday, I stumbled into Ferol's Shining Tribe Tarot study group an embarrassing 20 minutes late. Not knowing what to expect, the Magician always brings along an open mind, a backpack of favorite reference books, writing material and both her Shining Woman and Shining Tribe deck and like a good Priestess, I was prepared for anything.
Our wise leader, Ferol, began the meat of the session by painstakingly guiding the group through reading every word in the companion book, or least through page 3 by beginning with the very first word in the book. I kid you not! We started with the very first word. And, sure enough, before we even got to the table of contents the Empress within me gave birth to an epiphany.
I cannot disclose the entire epiphany, being that it is somewhat personal, but I can tell you that this epiphany reminds me that my life number is 4, The Emperor. In Rachel Pollack?s Shining Tribe Tarot book she explains that the antlers symbolize the branching off of creative thoughts.
Those creative thoughts included a decision of a new Tradition, a Tradition of always starting a new book from the very first word. As I sat there in my unforgiving folding chair I began to feel the warmth of the Lovers rising as I was Dreaming of all the inspired Google searches I wanted to do as soon a I got home.
But, before I was truly lost in dream our leader, Ferol, directs us to get up off our Chariot to practice the stance of the 'horns of consecration'. The stance was very helpful. I felt like I was revived and recovered a little of the Strength I lost while driving around looking for the study group for 20 minutes in the dark.
However, as one of my branches of creative thought I began to realize that a Hermit eagerly accepts whatever he will learn on his inner journey. And so, I hold my lantern up high and am illuminated to the added benefits of reading the parts of a book that most of us usually skip over.
Around and around the room we went, seeking our Spiral of Fortune as we took turns reading every paragraph and every word of that companion book all the way through the section titled 'The Structure of Shining Tribe'. It took awhile but we agreed that there would be no Justice to working with The Shining Tribe tarot unless we are properly prepared.
You see, The Shining Tribe is a deck of self discovery. One must surrender to the Hanged Woman to reap all its benefits. A tiny little Death within gives rise to new revelations. I hear and read words describing the fluid application of objects of nature giving rise to Temperance, replacing the man made objects of common decks. This deck draws on corresponding chemicals of nature rather than the corresponding tools of humans.
Sometimes I think it was no accident that the Devil is depicted as a man. Patriarchal energy has been so very destructive over time, lacking matriarchal balance and truths . The truths held in the symbols of these cards are bound to the truths of the earth, even when put under a microscope.
As the voices of women permeated the air, my thoughts climbed a ladder to the top of a Tower and danced with revelation. But I did not stop there. I then climbed my ladder to the brightest Star. I danced an ecstatic dance to the heartbeat of the Moon because I remember when I first received my Shining Woman deck as a gift from a friend many years ago. I instantly found the cards both primitive and challenging. I instinctively knew these cards held many journeys into the mystery of the soul and the unawakened.
Infinite possibilities danced through my creative thoughts. Many more possibilities danced through my thoughts than any mature rack of prime steed could branch. But, just as the Sun must surely rise every morning, so our Shining Woman Tarot study group must come to an end.
I was suddenly Awakened from my pondering as Ferol asked us to carry our coffee cups to the table while others were already folding their chairs along with the shimmering brocade tablecloths. As I snuck out the door and trotted down the stairs I gave birth to yet another creative thought.
This deck, The Shining Tribe or The Shining Woman which is the one I use, never fails to shake my reality, my belief system, my World. In the seven years I have been using this deck, its truths have held my hand through a myriad of personal journeys.
Rachel Pollack explains in the Preface that the deck is intended to light the way for travelers on their own sacred journey. From personal experience I know she has accomplished her goal. And since I am willing to be a Fool again I anxiously await for next Saturday so I can attend the Shining Tribe study group all over again.
La Vonne fell in love with Tarot in 1999. Since then she has worked as a public reader, teacher, and research writer. La Vonne went back to college in 2003 at the age of 40 to get a degree in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Women's Studies to create a research foundation for tarot study and writing.