The Tarot of Perfection
The Tarot of Perfection is a book of tarot tales by well-known tarot author, Rachel Pollack. Mixing tarot and fantasy, the esoteric and the imaginative, the stories are multi-layered and can be read over and over.
By Alex Ukolov & Rachel Pollack · Book · Published by Magic Realist Press
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
“The Tarot of Perfection” is not a Tarot deck per se – it is a collection of stories, two of which are woven around a deck of cards entitled the “Tarot of Perfection”. There is no way that Rachel’s work could go beyond one’s expectation – once you have read her work, you understand that there are no rules, there are no boundaries, and that the world opens up for her readers through the magick of her words, and through her own personal understanding of life – esoteric and mundane.
The world’s within this book reflect a deep seated understanding of, and experience with, the esoteric world. No one is left behind – each story can be understood on multiple levels, so that the reader takes away what is meant for them to see at any specific time. These are the types of stories that one rereads time and time again, and coming away with new understandings each time.
Two of the stories in this book have appeared before: “The Girl Who Went To The Rich Neighborhood” appeared in “Beyond Lands of Never”, ed. Maxim Jakubowski, Unwin, London, 1984. “The Fool, the Stick, and the Princess” originally appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction, No. 567, October/November 1998. The other six stories: “The Tarot of Perfection”, “The Pickpocket’s Destiny”, “The Souls in the Trees”, “Carolina in the Morning”, “Simon Wisdom”, and “Master Matyas” are original to this book.
I could not put this book down. I was immediately drawn into each story, nodding and smiling as it unfolded. Mythical (universal/esoteric) truths were presented in such a fashion that everything seemed real – even when it blatantly was not. One could easily expect to see that some ancient Master had written each of the stories, and that they had been translated for our pleasure. In other words – these are not just stories to be read for amusement, they are of mythical quality, and will last beyond our time.
Rachel begins this book with an introduction into Tarot and story telling. She describes the Tarot as an engine of pattern making, in that each card may suggest events, characters, and possibilities. A person’s life, as seen through the cards, becomes a story – their story.
She speaks of Eteilla, who is credited with creating the first full system of divinatory meanings, and with drawing his own deck (incorporating Egyptian imagery into the cards). Rachel also made a comment that I find quite interesting – that before the cards were used for fortune-telling, they were used for making poetry.
Shared in this book are two spreads, the first one developed from a workshop that Rachel teaches at Goddard College called “Tarot For Writers”. The questions used for this spread are:
1. Who is my character?
2. What situation does he or she face?
3. What is the outer motivation?
4. What is hidden?
5. What opposed her or him?
6. What helps?
7. What is at risk?
The second spread is one that we can all use, whether we are writers, wanna-be writers, or simply readers. It is used to look at a favorite story from childhood.
1. What gift did this story give me when younger?
2. What about it stayed with me?
3. What lesson can I find in it?
4. What secret does it carry?
Her first story, “The Tarot of Perfection”, is the story of an ancient scholar called Joachim the Brilliant, and the detailed “palaces of memory” that scholars constructed in their minds in those days to catalog and remember information. Joachim the Brilliant constructed seven such memory palaces, one for each of the seven planetary spheres.
His personal story moves on to talk about the Kallistochoi, and the talking head (Guardian) that lead him to discoveries about himself, and to discovering the picture cards called the Tarot.
“The Souls in the Trees” is an uncomfortable, but amazing story about a woman finding herself in life. Many women – and men too – will find some very scary resemblances to things that are going on in their life. They will also find that, once acknowledged, life can be handled. And … that death takes many forms.
Three of these stories carry the “Tarot of Perfection” theme strongly: “The Tarot of Perfection”, “Simon Wisdom”, and “Master Matyas”. They made such an impression on me that I wrote Rachel, telling her that I felt that this was excellent material for a made for TV movie (or for a big screen movie).
The front cover shows a picture of a woman in a lovely dress, holding a small globe of the world in her hands (which rest in her lap). Her face is a white mask, with red lips, a red heart in the third eye area, and other esoteric markings on her cheeks. Her hair flows behind her, with a background of a black and red. Her dress is cut low, and her arms are bare. My impression is one of a total mask – not just the face, but the entire body. That if I look long enough, she will come apart, piece-by- piece, with who knows what emerging!
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about the Tarot, anyone who is interested in personal/spiritual growth, and anyone who just likes a good story!
© 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.