The Forest of Souls
An innovative look at tarot through myth and story. Open pathways to transformational experiences, break down boundaries and explore possibilities through poems and meditations, exercises, rituals and invocations.
By Rachel Pollack · Book · Published by Llewellyn
Review by Sandra A. Thomson
Rachel Pollack titles her introduction to this book "At Play in the Fields of Tarot." "Playing" with the Tarot in its most serious and its most frivolous sense is much of what Rachel Pollack, and her latest book, are all about. It is one of her most creative and innovative books to date.
Part of the purpose of the book is to inspire us to learn to become "playful readers." We are called upon to learn to use the Tarot to explore unknown territory, to let go of more traditional definitions and layouts, and to use the cards in "divine play" to open pathways to the "sacred mysteries and riddles of existence." In Forest we are shown many examples of how to do that.
At the beginning of her book, Rachel quotes from Stephen Karcher's Ta Chuan, the Great Treatise: "Erect the gates. Then the transformation can take place between them." In that sense, Rachel's book might well be called the Book of Gates. Step through her gates for transformational experiences. Readings, she informs us are not ways to reveal secrets or describe the future. They are "ways to gain new perspectives and explore possibilities outside our normal ways of thought."
She sets us up right away to break boundaries with the "outrageous" (meaning delightful and serious) idea of considering that God consulted the cards to create the world and even of using the cards to discover the "very reading that God received."
Rachel suggests that we not despair over the many differing myths as to the origin of the Tarot, rather if we view them as "divine play," then we can appreciate the "poetic truth of each one."
The book is filled with delightful anecdotal stories from different cultures and traditions, including one that says Thoth invented the Tarot so he could play cards with the Moon. Never heard that? Read the book for more details.
Cards from many different decks are used to illustrate points, including Rachel's own Shining Tribe deck, as inspirational a deck as was ever created. In my Sacred Tarot group we find that the Shining Tribe deck is the only one that will give us full, rich answers to our spiritual questions.
In Forest Rachel reminds us that in a Tarot reading, the card is only half the answer, while the other half lies in the way in which we interpret it. What, she asks, if we do readings not just to reveal the forces that shape our lives, but also to embrace them? For our Sacred Tarot group, Rachel's deck and this new book help add depth to our attempts to communicate with and clarify those forces. Both the book and her deck are all about "breakthroughs."
For those who have never been able to have a reading with Rachel, Forest offers examples of some of the techniques and ways of reading that she puts into practice, and that you may want to extend into your own practice.
I am in my third reading of this book, and I love it more each time as I ponder different ideas-ones I only briefly considered the first or second time through. This is a book to shake your boundaries if you will let it. And, Rachel suggests, isn't that why we come to Tarot in the first place?