Suppose you could go back in time 100 years. Imagine that you suddenly found yourself in London, in 1912. What would you do first? Stare at the buildings, take a ride in a hansom cab? Maybe buy some stamps or collect a few coins to take back with you? Go to a book store to buy first editions, or maybe a newsstand for the latest Sherlock Holmes story? Dash over to the British Museum to see what treasures they have brought back (plundered) from Egypt or India?

But suppose you saw a poster, “Mr. Arthur Edward Waite and Miss Pamela Colman Smith will speak about their recently published ‘Rectified Tarot Pack,’ Atlantis Book Shop, Museum St., this evening.” Might that be your first choice? And as you rushed excitedly to the Atlantis, what would be in your mind? What would you want to ask?

Maybe you would ask whose idea it was to have action scenes on all the cards. Or how those scenes were chosen. Were they based on some over-riding idea–the Holy Grail for the Cups, Masonic myth for the Pentacles, as Mary Greer has suggested–or were they derived from the fortune telling meanings they were meant to illustrate? Or was it all based on the Kabbalah Tree of Life? Or maybe you’d ask about the mysterious “stages” that some characters seem to be standing on. Or whether the Court cards were based on actual people.

Most of all, you might want to ask, “What truths can I learn from these cards? What will help me become a better reader?”

Well, as far as I know, no time machine is available (unless, of course, H. G. Wells should show up in his own invention and say to you “Quick! Get in, we’re going off to meet Waite and Smith”), but something along those lines will be happening in just a few days at the Omega Institute


The third annual Omega Tarot Conference will be held July 27-29. Mary Greer and I have been teaching at the gorgeous Omega campus every summer for 24 years (we might be Omega’s longest-standing teachers). Two years ago Omega asked us if we would like to host a conference, the two of us plus three other teachers.

This year our theme is “Readers and Deck Creators,” with Caitlin Matthews, creator of the Arthurian Tarot and many others, in a rare American appearance, Robert Place, creator of the Alchemical Tarot and many others, and possibly the supreme Tarot artist in the world right now, and Joanna Powell-Colbert, whose Gaian Tarot has been leading Tarot readers around the world to new and profound insights into what the cards can teach us. And of course Mary Greer, who worked with Ed Buryn on the William Blake Tarot, and myself, creator of the Shining Tribe Tarot, and the Vertigo Tarot, with Neil Gaiman and inspired artist Dave McKean.

So–what would you ask people who actually create the decks? What could you learn that would make you a better reader–no matter what deck you use? How could you see the cards–again, no matter what deck you prefer–in new and dynamic ways?

I have to say, I am excited every year when we do Omega, but this is special. There has never been a Tarot conference quite like this before. At the same time, this is not about the teachers, or how we made our decks, or what they mean to us. As with every Omega Tarot class for the past 24 years it’s all about the participants. How you can become a better reader. How you can develop a new relationship with the cards. How you can discover the Tarot’s deeper messages, and what they mean in your life.


And now, as they say on late night television–Wait! There’s more!

5 days more, to be precise. Immediately following the weekend conference Mary and I will be teaching a Monday to Friday workshop, Reading Tarot Cards With Magic and Wisdom. We will be drawing on the wisdom of the Tarot’s ancient traditions but also the individual wisdom of each person’s life. And we will experience the magic when the cards come alive in a reading, when the cards act as an opening for intuitive understanding to pass between the reader and the questioner.

Come for the weekend. Come for the five day. Join us at Omega for a wonderful experience!

Here is the link for the 5 day:  http://eomega.org/workshops/omega-tarot-conference

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 1:02 am  Comments (9)  

The Tarot–GPS For The SOUL In Catastrophic Times- Webinar on November 17, 2011

Searching Out Unknown Layers

Will the world we know collapse?  Will a new one arise?  And if such huge changes happen, could we use the Tarot to guide us through catastrophe to rebirth?  This is the theme of my new book Tarot In Magical Times, written with famed German Tarotist Johannes Fiebig.  In it we look at the Tarot as a prophecy of transformational change and a promise of rebirth–whether for our world as a whole, or in our individual lives.  But this is not my only new book.  Soul Forest, a collection of articles written over two years, has recently appeared.  Inspired by my earlier work, The Forest Of SoulsSoul Forest explores the many ways we can use the Tarot to explore the mysteries of existence, from readings inspired by the sacred festivals of many cultures, to a reading about contacting dead spirits, to a reading that asks the cards to help us grasp the horrors of the Holocaust.

Come join us as we let the Tarot guide us to new dimensions! Click here for more on this Global Spiritual Studies webinar!

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment  


Spring and Summer mark two major events in my year. April 27-30 is Readers Studio, one of the Tarot world’s great tribal gatherings.

Several hundred people come from all over the country, and many other countries as well, to attend presentations by major speakers, evening workshops, breakfast discussions, private readings, impromptu deck exchanges, and just hanging out in the hotel bar.

I’ve been a featured presenter at Readers Studio three times, but this time will be my first time doing an evening workshop. I’m very excited about the topic—doing readings using only the Major Arcana.

I’ve actually been exploring this subject for several years, inspired by a simple need. There are many very beautiful and fascinating Tarot decks that consist only of the 22 Major Arcana cards (also called trumps), as well as numerous decks where the Majors are alive with imagery and symbolism but the Minors seem little more than an afterthought. Now, there certainly are spreads designed just for the Majors, but these usually focus on large issues, and primarily spiritual themes.

Here is a three card spread I made up some years ago.

1 3 2

Card 1, on the left—Spiritual history—what energy have you been experiencing?

Card 2, on the right—Life Challenge—what is coming up for you? This can be something you would really like to see (maybe the Lovers card, for a new relationship, after a History as the Hermit), or something you might want to avoid (the Devil, for an addictive relationship).

Card 3, in the middle—Gift—what Spirit, or the Universe, gives to you that will help you meet the challenge. For example, the Empress might help you either realize your Lovers relationship, or else be in charge of your emotions and thus not fall under the Devil’s sway.

So there are ways to look at big issues with Majors only. But what of readings that are detailed, close up, and practical? In the Saturday night class we will try out different techniques as well as share some wonderful Majors only cards

Readers Studio is also my favorite place to show and sell the necklaces I make. Here is a recent one that I especially like.

Readers Studio is the end of April. At the end of July comes the wonderful week at the Omega Institute, with Mary K. Greer—a decades-long partnership! This year, as last, Mary and I will be hosting a week-end conference, July 29-31.

The theme this year is Tarot: Fate and Free Will. This is an age-old question, and we are excited to look at in depth with three terrific teachers: Marcus Katz, from England, author, teacher, and founder of Tarot Professionals and the networking site, TarotTown; Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, from Oregon, creator of Tarot of the Crone; and legendary Toronto Tarot reader and teacher, James Wells.

This will be followed by a five day intensive class, July 31-August 5, The Art of Becoming A Great Tarot Reader.

Last summer Omega recorded short videos of Mary and myself talking about our love of Tarot. You can watch mine here

and Mary’s here.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Readers Studio and Omega!

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 4:48 am  Comments (4)  


I discovered Tarot—really, the Tarot discovered me—in 1970. At that time, I had a lifelong interest in mythology, and had occasionally looked at books of both mysticism and occultism—strangely, my home town library had a whole section of occult books that I read, without much understanding, as a teenager—but knew nothing of Kabbalah. I had never heard of the Tree. Through Tarot I learned of this wondrous image of the cosmos, and later worked out how to use it as a spread for readings that looked deeply at who we are. I first described how to use the Tree as a Tarot spread in my book 78 Degrees Of Wisdom. The spread can be done in a “short” form, with one card for each position, which is, of course, the usual way we do Tarot readings. But it also offers us the possibility to do a reading that uses all 78 cards. Over the years since 78 Degrees I have changed and developed some of the meanings I use for the positions in the spread. Now I’ve decided to offer this full deck spread as part of my reading practice. Below is some information about the Tree, the reading, and how it works.

The Tree of Life is an ancient Kabbalistic diagram of energy and its movements between the physical world and the divine. We all of us exist in different worlds at once, and the Tree, with its different levels, is a perfect way to envision and understand who we are, from our daily lives to our highest spiritual experiences. The spread shown below—which I have done for over thirty years—is a very powerful way to look at your whole self. Because it uses the entire deck of 78 cards it becomes not a question of which cards come up, but where they come up, and how they relate to each other. What emerges is a deep and powerful portrait of a person’s life and its possibilities, its joys and hardships, its difficulties and its triumphs.

Mystics have contemplated and studied the Tree of Life for centuries. Over the last two centuries Tarot has become increasingly identified with the Tree, almost like ivy covering the branches. The Tree contains ten positions called sephiroth (singular, sephirah). Because the sephiroth are often depicted as circles, some people assume a sephirah is a sphere, and this can be a useful way to visualize it. In fact, however, the word is derived from the Hebrew for sapphire, because each sephirah shines like a bright jewel of truth.

The Tree contains ten of these sephiroth, based upon a very old Hebrew teaching that says the universe was created with 22 letters (the Hebrew alphabet, often identified with the 22 “Major Arcana” of the Tarot), and 10 numbers. Not 9, we are told, and not 11. In Tarot we often see the ten sephiroth with twenty-two connecting lines, to show us the order of the Major Arcana (and their correspondences with the mystical energies of the Hebrew alphabet). For this reading, however, we will use only the ten sephiroth as the positions in the spread.

We draw the sephiroth as circles, but in fact they are radiant energy, each one an aspect of our existence. The Tree forms a perfect pattern of development. The energy moves from the wholeness and perfect unity of the Crown, sephirah 1, to the vibrant complexity of daily life in the world we see around us every day, known as sephirah 10, Kingdom.

10, not 9 and not 11. In fact, tradition teaches that an eleventh sephirah does exist, or rather has the possibility to exist, in a kind of gap between the top three sephiroth and the bottom seven. Because this sephirah, called in Hebrew Da’ath (in English, Knowledge), is more a possibility than a fixed state, I have given it the number 0 rather than 11. This reminds us that the “official” number of the sephiroth is 10. It also allows us to see the Fool as the image of Da’ath (just as we can see cards 1-10, the Magician to the Wheel of Fortune as representations of the main sephiroth). The Fool, and its 0 of nothingness, reminds us that we are never pinned down, we always the possibility of change. Da’ath thus becomes the line of transformation.

Here is the Tree, with the Sephirah in their places. The first name for each sephirah is the original Hebrew, the second is the same title in English.


Kether (Crown)


Binah (Understanding)


Hokmah (Wisdom)


Da’ath (Knowledge)


Geburah (Power)


Chesed (Mercy)


Tiphereth (Beauty)


Hod (Glory)


Netzach (Victory)


Yesod (Foundation)


Malkuth (Kingdom)

To use the Tree for a reading we need to “translate” these ideals into ways we look at our lives. There are, in fact, many ways to see the sephiroth as symbols of who we are. One is simply to look at the quality of the position and see how it can illuminate something about ourselves. Another is to relate them to what are called “planetary” energies, based upon the ancient astrological idea of the Earth, plus the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. A quick count will show you that this comes to eight places. As the highest places on the Tree, the Crown and Wisdom, sephiroth 1 and 2, lie beyond the limitations of a specific planet (some people see 2 as the stars, and 1 as the cosmos as a whole, but these ideas are not that easy to translate into places in a Tarot spread). Because it exists more as transformation, Da’ath—Knowledge—also is not part of a specific planetary energy. The meanings below are possibilities. In the actual readings I do we work intuitively to understand the message of each line.

1. Kether/Crown—Highest spiritual level. Unity. Cards in this line should generally be interpreted positively, from a standpoint of growth, and reaching to a higher level. However, some cards may show what blocks you from that highest achievement.

2. Hokhmah/Wisdom—How are you wise? What in your life leads to wisdom? (Alternatively, this card may also show the influence of your father.)

3. Binah/Understanding—What is your understanding of the world? What have you learned? (Alternatively, this card may also show the influence of your mother. Also, the realm of Saturn—what is born out of going beyond limits.)

4. Chesed/Mercy—How are you generous? How has life been good to you? Again, some cards may show what blocks the good things in life. (Also, the realm of Jupiter, largeness of spirit.)

5. Geburah/Power—How has life been hard on you? What tests you, what crises must you face? How do you express your power? (Also, the realm of Mars, aggressive force.)

6. Tiphereth/Beauty—Where is there beauty in your life? What is at the center of who you are? (Also, the realm of the Sun, how you shine.)

7. Netzach/Victory—What are your victories? How do you direct your will? (Also, the realm of Venus, and thus the emotions.)

8. Hod/Glory—What is your glory? What’s special in your life? How do you share your victories with others? What good things do others see in you? (Also, the realm of Mercury, and thus the intellect.)

9. Yesod/Foundation—What is the foundation of your life? What’s at the base. (Also, the realm of the Moon, and thus the imagination, dreams, stories.)

10. Malkuth/Kingdom—What is your world in which you live and act? What is the effect of outside events, other people? (Also, the realm of Earth, and thus the body.)

0. Da’ath/Knowledge—How do you transform things in your life? What makes change possible? What do you know so deeply it can change your life?

How, then, do we use the whole deck to do this reading? The answer is actually very simple and very elegant. A Tarot deck consists of 78 cards. There is a tradition that tells us to start a reading by taking a single card from the deck, called a Significator, and setting it above the place where we will lay out the cards in their positions. Usually this will be a Court card, and because it represents the whole person, it does not get interpreted. There are many ways to choose the Significator in a specific reading, but the simplest is probably to lay out the sixteen Court cards and ask the person getting the reading to say which one attracts him or her the strongest (my own method, when I read for someone, is slightly more developed).

If we remove one card, we end up with 77. Since there are eleven positions in this spread (10 plus the 0 line of transformation), we end up with a perfect pattern of seven cards for each sephirah. Usually we set these seven out in a simple line, but of course it’s possible to play with how to place them. To illustrate this, here is how the top of the reading looks:


First position. Crown

Cards 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Third position. Understanding Second position. Wisdom
Cards 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 Cards 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Following the pattern of the Tree we lay out positions 1-10, and then at the very end, lay out the final seven cards for 0, Da’ath.

Using the entire deck, with seven cards for each position, rather than the usual one, leads to a very complex reading. In my experience, each line has its own quality, its own movement. Sometimes the energy flows from left to right, or vice versa. At other times there is a clear center, and the other cards radiate from it, or go to it. At the same time, we see themes and issues emerge, not just in each line, but in the Tree as a whole. A Tree of Life reading is complex, and subtle, with wonderful variations and movements of energy. And yet, it is often very simple, getting right to the heart of who a person is even as it shows so many different levels.

A Tree of Life reading with the whole deck runs around four hours. The cost is $500. To arrange an appointment, please contact Zoe Matoff by clicking here.

Please note: this reading is (c) 2011 by Rachel Pollack.

Published in: on March 4, 2011 at 2:59 am  Comments (21)  

Return to Greece – May 2010



This coming May 20-29, 2010 I will once again lead a group of people on a spiritual journey to Greece.

It will be my fourth journey in Greece, and my second leading a group there. Last summer I also had the privilege of co-leading a trip to the Australian Outback with Linda Marson, founder of Spiritual Adventure Tours, and my co-facilitator for next May’s journey. You can see the details and sign up information on the website.

A common thread runs through all this travel, like the rope Ariadne gave Theseus to guide him in the dark depths of the labyrinth (see below). We go not just to look, but to see. Through archaeological guidance, through re-telling the myths, through finding their meaning in our own lives—and through using the Tarot to guide us, as individuals and as a group—we change and become something different than what we were. We learn to see sacred the places, and ourselves, in a whole new way.

The theme of this trip is Initiation As An Oracle Through The Sacred Sites. We will develop our own Seeing, through the temples, the landscapes, the sea, and our own work with Tarot, both individually and as a group.

I have written on this blog of the previous Greek journey, especially in the entry The Opening To Apollo.

So much happened on that trip, from astonishing omens—like the four tornadoes that appeared on the sea when we arrived in Crete—to the overnight healing ritual we did to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. And there were things that simply cannot be written about, but only experienced. I have taken enough sacred journeys to know with certainty that this trip too will be something you will never forget.

The itinerary for the journey is so exciting I only wish we were leaving tomorrow—though late May is in fact a wonderful time in Greece, before the summer heat, with wildflowers everywhere.

We begin in Athens, where a new and dynamic Acropolis Museum has just opened. Athens is the city of Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and we will invoke her guidance as we set out.

First stop, Delphi, the site of the great Oracle, with the mountain of the nine Muses rising behind it. Delphi was home to Gaia, the Goddess of the Earth, Apollo, God of the Sun, and Dionysus, God of Ecstasy (more on Dionysus below). The ancients called Delphi “the center of the world,” and there is no more magical place on Earth.

Return to Greece May 2010

From Delphi we go to Olympia, home of the original Olympic Games, and site of a massive temple to Zeus. The ancients described all events, past and present, as contained within “the mind of Zeus,.” Here we will open our own minds to the possibility of seeing beyond our limitations.

From Olympia we return to Athens and the port of Piraeus to head out for the islands. We go for two nights to Mikonos, known for its beauty—and its nightlife. Besides having some time for fun we go there for a very special reason, Mikonos’s closeness to the sacred island of Delos. Delos was the birthplace of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon, and her brother Apollo, God of the Sun. No one lives on Delos, there are no hotels, the whole island is a sacred sanctuary. As well as walking the land and seeing its wonders, we will awaken our own lunar and solar energies.

Return to Greece May 2010

Our final stop before we return home is Naxos, largest of the Cycladic Islands. There are no large temples here (though we will visit a site of strange prehistoric statues), but in the world of myth something very important happened on Naxos.

To understand it we need to know a little of the story of the labyrinth. Ariadne, princess of Crete, helped the Athenian prince, Theseus, kill the monstrous Minotaur hidden in the center of the labyrinth. Ariadne then fled with Theseus but when they came to Naxos he cruelly abandoned her. And there Dionysus, the God of Ecstasy came to her and joined with her in a sacred marriage, so that she was raised from mortal to divine. There are many mysteries around this story, far too many to describe here. On Naxos we will follow some of the lines, through the myth, through the land and sea, and through our own oracular initiation.

This will be an incredible journey filled with wonders. Space is limited, so sign up early.

Please note: since Spiritual Adventure Tours is an Australian company the price quoted is in Australian dollars. With the exchange rate the price becomes very favorable to Americans.

See you in Greece!

Return to Greece May 2010

Published in: on November 3, 2009 at 6:42 am  Comments (2)  

Return of the Blog—A Bit Like a Vampire Rising

It’s been awhile since I’ve done this, written an entry.  Mostly it’s my crazy schedule—occasionally I lie awake at night, ponder everything I need to be doing, and conclude, very sensibly, that it’s not physically possible—but I’ve wanted to come back to this, and recently was thinking of what might be a good place to start.

I could write about some really exciting news, a new trip to Greece planned for next May.  This will be my third time leading a group of people on a sacred journey.  But I thought I would wait until the plans were up and running.

Then there’s the year long Tarot course I’ve been teaching, Becoming A Reader.  We’re almost finished with the first two of four sections, and it’s been wonderful. Section Three begins in September, and will be open to newcomers.  I’ll write about that too as it gets closer.

And of course there’s all the stuff that pops into my head when I’m walking with Wonder (best dog ever), or writing letters with 100 year old fountain pens, or watching Dr. Who.  Dr. Who!  Now there’s a subject, the best treatment of immortality I’ve ever seen (among all its other excitements).

But what I decided to share was a Tarot reading I did with Robert Place’s Vampire Tarot.  Robert is the creator of one of the great modern decks, The Alchemical Tarot.  His new deck is based on Dracula and vampire lore in general.  The art is among his best, which is to say the highest level.  The Major Arcana, or Trump cards, are characters and scenes from Dracula, the Minor Arcana, or suit cards, are based on the weapons against vampires.

Cups=Holy Water Vessels
Pentacles=Garlic Flowers (it’s not the edible bulb of garlic that repels vampires but the flower)

The reading was a standard one for a new deck, but it seemed to me to reach beyond that to make powerful statements about the whole practice of reading cards, that strange activity that has captivated me for so many years.

Here’s the spread:

2.        1.        3.


1.  What is the essence of this deck, what is its voice?
2.  How does it speak to us?
3.  What does it ask of us?
4.  What is possible with it?

And here were the cards:

Knight of Garlic Flowers      7 of Knives           2 of Stakes

9 of Stakes


7 of Knives

7 of Knives

The voice of the deck—Seven of Knives

The Seven of Knives depicts a vampire (based on the 1920s movie, Nosferatu) coming through an open window.  He is sneaking in, and indeed trickiness is quality often associated with the Seven of Swords.  As the essence of the deck, it sneaks up on us, but we also have to let it in.  Tarot in general is like that, we start doing readings for fun, or curiosity, and it takes us over in some way.  Of course, the vampire in this picture is up to no good (“Count Orlock,” he’s called in the movie) but we’re adapting here.


Knight of Garlic Flowers

Knight of Garlic Flowers

How does it speak to us—Knight of Garlic Flowers

The Court cards in the Vampire Tarot are based on writers and other figures connected to vampire literature or Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula.  The Knight of Garlic Flowers is John Polidori, who, Bob Place tells us, wrote the first prose vampire story.  Thus, as Place says, he moved “from the ethereal realm of poetry to the more concrete realm of prose.”  Tarot is a spiritual tradition, a complex intellectual and mystical structure.  But in readings a deck speaks to us by addressing concrete issues.  The spiritual is not abandoned, not at all. It comes sneaking through the window of the practical questions.


2 of Stakes

2 of Stakes

What does it ask of us—Two of Stakes

Here we see the character Lucy Westernra from Dracula, asleep as Dracula, in the form of a bat, approaches her window.  The window theme is repeated from the Seven of Knives, and the power of the Count will entice Lucy to open the window, to let him in.  While she is consciously innocent, there is a quality of desire and risk about her.  Place says “This is a card of attraction, hunger, and lust.”  So the deck, all decks, ask of us that we come to them with desire, that we open the window and let them bite us.


9 of Stakes

9 of Stakes

What is possible—Nine of Stakes
Here we see a vampire burning up in the Sun.  Place says this comes more from movies and tv shows than vampire literature.  He also says that the card represents “a burning away of what is unwanted.”  There is a kind of transfiguration implied.  A return of that spiritual dimension as the lower levels are consumed.  Thus, the cards take the ethereal symbolism and ground it in people’s life issues, but they also transform the ordinary, they raise us up.  This is not just a concept, I have seen it in myself and many others, that we start doing readings out of curiosity or excitement, and the cards change us, we become, through surrendering to them, more aligned to the ancient truths that run through all the cards.

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 4:26 am  Comments (12)