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Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot

(Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot #1-2)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,315 ratings  ·  84 reviews
The two volumes of 'Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom' have inspired a whole generation of students of the Tarot. Described by many as ‘the Bible of Tarot readers’, the books brought awareness of myth and modern psychology to the Tarot’s ancient esoteric symbolism. Now, for the first time, the texts for 'The Major Arcana' and 'The Minor Arcana' appear in one volume. To mark ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published November 17th 1997 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1980)
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Danusha Goska
Jun 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Rachel Pollack's tarot book "Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom" epitomizes the errors of New Age thought.

Writing clearly is thinking clearly. Clarity is non-existent in Pollack's book. Her constant fudging of consensus reality is typical of New Age thought.

If one wanted to use tarot for divination, it would be necessary to assign clear meanings to each card. Pollack doesn't provide that. She provides rambling stream of consciousness. An example: her "explanation" of the Chariot card. Here's a pa
“Yes, I know of the Tarot. It is, as far as I know, the pack of cards originally used by the Spanish gypsies, the oldest cards historically known. They are still used for divinatory purposes.”
(Jung letter to Mrs. Eckestein, 16 September 1930)

“Another strange field of occult experience in which the hermaphrodite appears is the Tarot. That is a set of playing cards, such as were originally used by the gypsies. There are Spanish specimens, if I remember rightly, as old as the fifteenth century. The
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
These days most anybody can do a tarot reading. There are literally hundreds of different decks all complete with canned readings for each card. In a way, it's rather like reading your daily horoscope as the results are rather generalized to match virtually anyone.

Definitely, not every tarot reader is equal in quality. The best readers go beyond simplistic generalizations. They not only tailor their layouts and reading results to match the individual but also look to the deeper meanings of the
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
I bought this book based on positive reviews and an observation I thought I'd read somewhere about Harold Bloom having said that it was essential to understanding the tarot. (I have since looked and been unable to find mention of this anywhere.) I was rather optimistic about it, thinking I’d at last found a book that could elucidate the symbology of the (Rider-Waite-Smith) tarot for me.

Less than a hundred pages later I was grinding my teeth, doing my best to dig out any interesting bits from all
Shannon MacLeod
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one book that I can't recommend strongly enough, and one that I feel belongs on the shelf of every Tarot enthusiast. Using the popular Rider-Waite deck for illustration, it contains essays on each card, covering aspects of the symbolism as well as origins, history, mythology, and sociological, psychological, esoteric and religious implications. It's rare to say that a book on Tarot is a “can't put down page-turner”, but this one is it!

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is very well written
Aug 16, 2010 is currently reading it
It's official: I am the auntie who wears healing crystals and peasant dresses. All that aside, Rachel Pollack has much in common with Joseph Campbell and her analysis of archetypes is really interesting.
Yannis Theodossis
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great book for beginners and intermediate in tarot reading.

Well, I guess that there are two main approaches in tarot reading: New Age and Mystical. This book is one of the new age approach, no doubt about that. And I don't really like New Age personally. But this book is not a Bible; it will not teach you the Tarot once and for all. It is an excellent introduction to its world and I firmly believe it does not tie you to a certain school of thought about it. You may begin with it and then switc
Sep 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
I started getting frustrated when I found myself drowning in a miasma of numerology, somewhere in the preface. The connections seemed rather tenuous, and my doubts were raised. I also found that the interpretations of the meanings of the cards didn't speak to me as did other sources, although they did seem to be a little more helpful in the context of doing a multi-card reading, especially for another person. But that's not how I've been using tarot, so it wasn't particularly helpful in that reg ...more
Andrea Paterson
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a super interesting look at the Tarot from a historical, philosophical, and psychological perspective. This is not a book about fortune telling. It's a book about the Tarot as a system of symbols that can be used to access the depths of your sub-conscious mind. It really reads the Tarot like a complex book that can be interpreted in almost infinite ways. A fantastic introduction for anyone who has any interest in the Tarot and what it really is--not magic, but a psychoanalytical tool th ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Armed with this book, I am preparing myself for my encore career: psychic to the stars! I will look into your soul and discover your deepest secrets! FEAR ME.

Or not. As Tarot books go, this is by far the best I have seen - lots of subtle nuances that are missing from standard books. I love Tarot because I am a huge fan of the power of symbolic images; the Tarot deck is like a Bacchanalian feast to me. I won't really tell all your deepest secrets. But I will enjoy the heck out of seeing how Tarot
Stacey Riley
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tarot
This is one of the best books for tarot that I own. It's very insightful and I learn something new every time that I read it. I haven't read it all yet as there is such a lot to take in. If you wish to purchase a tarot book alongside one for a beginner, this would be it.

My only gripes are that I wish the typeface wasn't so small, and that there isn't an ebook version available yet, so I could carry the book around with me.
Terri R
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am not ready to rate this book just yet, but so far it is very insightful and well organized.

This is an insightful and well organized book, which I found very helpful for the genre. I will continue to use the book as a reference guide.
Maggie Gordon
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Damn, this is a fantastic tarot book! Be warned, there's some woo if that's not your thing. But there's so much crammed into these pages that I was able just to ignore the woo bits and add so much to my understanding of the symbolism of these cards. Pollack does into such depth analysis of each card, often comparing different artistic renditions. It's been the most careful and considered tarot book I've read so far (though I would still recommend starting with the Joan Bunning, Learning the Taro ...more
Kathy McAnany
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is definitely one of the best out there for both beginners and advanced tarot card readers. I would consider it the Bible of tarot card reading. This book offers an in depth perspective on the tarot cards and their meanings. It goes a lot further than just giving the meanings of each card. Rachel Pollock goes into depth for each card. Each card is explored from both an esoteric perspective and a psychological perspective. Everything is included in this book. Tarot history, sample readi ...more
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. I'd call this a must read for anyone who works with the Tarot. Rachel Pollack takes a very through approach to the cards, this goes beyond those books that give simple formulaic meanings. She discusses the majors from many angles and it has given me new perspective. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading this.
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thorough and insightful work. Wish th at her explanations of reversed meanings were more fleshed out but still serves its purpose and leaves you with more than enough to draw your own confusions. Better read from cover to cover than merely used for reference.
Laura Hogensen
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A great reference source that emphasizes tarot as a means for reflection, meditation, and personal insight rather than its more commonly mistaken use: fortune telling. Pollack uses symbolism, psychology, and a variety of ancient religions and occult cultures to illuminate the Rider Waite deck.
Darius Rips
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is correctly regarded as a classic among tarot books. Having read it, I can see how it was important to the explosion of popularity of tarot decks that occurred around the time the book was originally published in 1980. But tarot is a very personal matter, and I am still searching for the perfect tarot book for me.

What is now called the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, (RWS for short), became the standard by which all other tarot decks were measured, because the num
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I was reading this book I was drawing pictures for a tarot deck.

I really enjoyed Pollack's treatment of the Major Arcana. Though the book is based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, she also includes imagery from other decks and more general exploration of the archetypes and their history. It's in no way rigorous and there were a couple blatant inaccuracies that annoyed me (saying π=22/7). But its main success is being ~suggestive~ and showing how many different cultural ideas are unified by
Kellyn Brooks
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I've heard people say that this is the best book you could possibly read to learn more about Tarot. I don't know if I'd agree with that, because, for my purposes, this book left a lot to be desired. I can definitely recognize the author's amount of education and experience with the Tarot, but this book had way more information than I really needed to go out and do a reading for someone else (or even myself). No way would I recommend this book for a beginner in the Tarot. This is strictly for som ...more
Mary Rose
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tarot
This isn’t a “pick up and leaf through mid-reading” kind of book, I’ll say that flat out. Instead Pollack prefers to study the occult symbolism and psychic significance of each card (to the point where, memorably, she went on at length about horse symbolism in The Chariot. Esteemed review-reader will note that there are no horses in the chariot card, only implied horses. This is the level we are operating on.) She draws from a ton of different resources, from Waite’s texts to Hermetic philosophy ...more
Fernando Guerra
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I though of this as a very intersting way to approach life and existential issues, other than just a simple guide to tarot and divination. Although I have to admit that I was looking forward to a more "detailed" or "rich" explanation and insight on divination and readings (especially regarding the minor arcana and the always troublesome court cards), this book proved to be a really good starting point for someone briefly acquainted -although still a newcomer- to the system.

I really liked all th
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tarot
Me tomó un buen tiempo leer este libro, pero fue realmente enriquecedor.
Para quienes estén interesados en iniciarse en el mundo del tarot, pero también estén interesados en la filosofía, historia y otros detalles detrás de él, este es uno de los básicos. No solo empieza por desmitificar muchas ideas que vienen de tiempos inmemoriales y que deben ser desechadas, sino también enseña, de manera ética, a aproximarse a la lectura de las cartas: cómo hacerlo, por qué y qué aprender de ellas. Me gustó
Since becoming interested in the archetypal artwork of The Tarot for a journaling project, reading this has piqued my curiosity and I sense the embarking upon of a journey deeper into comparable works. The Rider Waite Smith deck the book is based upon is not a firm favourite of mine, but does not distract too much from learning intriguing approaches to viewing life and our place in it. Toward the end, the author elaborated on Ignorance. None of us can ever hear this message too soon or often eno ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
DNF, skimmed through different parts.

It felt very preachy, and sure of itself. Some of the numerology connections were very stretched (and pi is not 22/7), and this was at the very beginning so it did not leave a good impression on me.

Some of the descriptions of the arcana were vaguely narrow, with only one general interpretation.

I definitely do not recommend this to learn reading Tarot.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A classic when it comes to tarot literature. This book dives into the history and evolution of each card complete with images. It was a bit boring at times because of the intense detail; but part of that has to do with the personal fact that I am not that interested in the kaballah and Christianity connections.
Lauri Zag
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Informative, enriching, and definitely a reference I will be going back to for inspiration and ideas for where else I should be looking/researching... However, this work is edited badly. The integration of two books into one is not completely successful, and is therefore repetitive, and difficult to understand in places.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am not at all into esoterica, but this book is as much about card reading as it is about philosophy, psychology, and, most of all, symbolism. A very enjoyable read if you have interest in symbolism and history.
Juli Anna
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirit
I know this is a classic, but I think Pollack's interpretation of the tarot is a bit esoteric or obtuse for me. I figured that after I read this, I would be purchasing a copy, but I must admit that I don't think I'll use it. I haven't quite found THE tarot book for me yet.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am obsessed! read it already but still consult it almost daily
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Rachel Pollack is an American science fiction author, comic book writer, and expert on divinatory tarot. Pollack has been a great influence on the women's spirituality movement.

Other books in the series

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot (2 books)
  • The Major Arcana (Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot, #1)
  • The Minor Arcana and Readings (Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot, #2)