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How accurate is 78 Degrees of Wisdom for this deck?

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Deana's Avatar
Deana  Deana is offline
Join Date: 05 Mar 2005
Location: OH USA
Posts: 379
How accurate is 78 Degrees of Wisdom for this deck?

I bought the Giant Rider Waite so I could see more detail in the pictures and I bought 78DW to study with it. Almost every other page, I find myself saying, "What is she talking about???!!!"

Don't get me wrong, it's a good book and the author seems very intelligent and has a grasp on human nature. But why is she calling the little boy on the six of cups a dwarf? Why is she calling that woman on the stained glass window in the four of swords Christ? Why does she say no one but the dogs can see the old man on the ten of pentacles when the little boy is clearly peeking around at him? And why, oh why, does she insist on calling the World the World Dancer? (That woman looks to me like she's ascending, not dancing). Am I blind or something? Is she looking at different pictures? This is really confusing me. Even the eight of wands, to me they look like they're taking off, to her they look like they're about to hit the ground. She even called that man on the five of cups a woman.

Is her book accurate to the intent of the cards? (My deck did not come with a book by Waite). Am I stupid? Why do these cards look totally different to my eyes than to hers? Am I way off base here? Maybe I should study a different deck?

I'm very confused.
Top   #1
psychic sue's Avatar
psychic sue  psychic sue is offline
Join Date: 14 Jan 2005
Location: Somewhere between the spirit world and UK
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psychic sue 

Hi Deana,

I've got this book, and I do like it, but I think she does give a negative kind of feel to the Rider Waite deck. Its a bit confusing because she gives you the history of the card as well as the divintory meaning. I also found it a bit annoying in places, when she only gives a brief description of the card (like the three of cups). Having said all that though, I do like this book and I have found it useful.

I think a book on the tarot is like the Tarot iteself. Some people love the Thoth deck, others can't work with it at all, for example. If the book is not working for you, try and find another one that does. I have loads of books on tarot and I take a little bit from each one (and of course your intuition will come into play when interpreting too).
Top   #2
mercenary30's Avatar
mercenary30  mercenary30 is offline
Join Date: 19 Aug 2003
Location: MIles Under the SurfAce
Posts: 3,963

I have fairly recently read this book, and know exactly what you are talking about.

To me it seemed that many of the things Pollack had to say, were her own interpretations. This book is not a definitive study of the symbols found in the Waite deck, but a point in time snap shot of what Rachel saw in those cards. I think the intention was to expose you to alternate ideas and meanings for the cards as well as to show the reader that it is okay to deviate from the keyword meanings for the cards.

This book documented her exploration. Read it, enjoy it, but if you donít agree with it please donít let that be a hang up. She has a lot of interesting things to share.
Top   #3
Sophie's Avatar
Sophie  Sophie is offline
Join Date: 10 Oct 2004
Location: moving again
Posts: 20,323

I agree with Mercenary, and that is why I found the book so interesting. Because it was obviously (well, to me) a personal book, and I was just starting out with Tarot (RWS), it gave me a freeedom to explore the cards on my own, too look deeper elsewhere - I started to get intereted in symbols, how they were used, etc. I also like Pollack's way of comparing two or more classic decks.

I do think some of what she says is built on scholarship, some on personal observation, and some of personal feeling and response.
Top   #4
Aoife's Avatar
Aoife  Aoife is offline
Join Date: 09 Jan 2003
Location: England
Posts: 1,469

Its important to remember that the book was first written in 1980, and whilst its been revised, it is still very much a product of the early RWS modern revival period.

Its possible that Rachel Pollack did not have access to detailed prints at the time. And I don't doubt that if starting from scratch now it might be a very different book. But the fact that it has stood the test of time is a tribute to its merit.

As others have said, take what you find useful, anaylse what you find incongruous, and value your own personal insights.
Top   #5
BlueLotus's Avatar
BlueLotus  BlueLotus is offline
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Join Date: 06 Dec 2003
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I have bought this book on the recommendation of many on this site, and started reading through immediately.

But, along the way, something didn't exactly click, for some reason. I know the author is a renowned tarot expert and a very good one at that , but she seems to interpret the RWS quite literally and sometimes she would go overboard and imagine things that may not be there or are barely visible or significant , or would do her own interpretations of the image which takes a lot of patience and good intentions from the reader's side to know where she is coming from; and that was fine with me.

Well, until I found that she built the interpretations of the 78 cards of this deck on some interesting presumptions which are hard to see and sometimes quite interesting .

Actually right now I am reading another book on the major arcanas and I find it very good and user-friendly.

But I am still keeping 78DW for occasional insights, and maybe some day this book will prove me wrong.
Top   #6
HOLMES's Avatar
HOLMES  HOLMES is offline
Join Date: 31 May 2002
Location: ontario
Posts: 5,395
i loved the book.

i loved the book, as i loved most of the books like mystical tarot, spiritual tarot,
as a beginner to intermediate (as i am now for i don't feel i am advanced yet to quite some time lol )
i loved to buy many tarot books and compare their way of reading the tarot, and how they read.

as tarot readers i see that while the basic meanings, or perhaps advanced meaning behind a card is just a blue print, or framework upon which to base our inuition.

as such i loved the 78 degrees of wisdom for that for i had great joy in reading it. when i read it , i didn't compare the actual meaning to the card. in fact i never did i just looked at the picture that came in the book.

i will admit that is perhaps something that would shed some light on my views on the tarot .

example i never thought of the old man as odysses coming back from his journey on the ten of pentacles card.

one thing is i went through a phrase where i had a disdain for an book that focused soley on the 22 major arcana cards (i was sadden when the rabbie tarot, and living the tarot did just that at first but now i find myself glad i brought them for of the depth of the major mystery)
and thought a good book should cover it all.
now as a side note i love the focus of the majors,, and the focus on special topics like court cards, reversals, and the minor cards(everyday wisdom in the tarot)
so it was at this time i got the 78 degrees as a gift from a freind (yup thank you ). i devoured it. then once in a while i go back and read it.

i wouldn't recomend making any one book your bible of the tarot or one source.
example for those who use the toth , i would reccomend of course the man book for it, and all the rest designed for it, for sometimes in the littlest sentance is a pearl of wisdom that can open up the whole card for you.

i would say yes 78 degrees is essential reading. however i am a componet or is it propenet of researching from many differnt sources and enjoy taking in the unviersality of it all, and relish the indiviality of the many ways a card based on death, or fear can be read .
Top   #7
Deana's Avatar
Deana  Deana is offline
Join Date: 05 Mar 2005
Location: OH USA
Posts: 379

Thank you, Holmes, that does help. I am enjoying the book, but I was a bit thrown by some of her interpretations. Funny you should mention Living the Tarot; that was my very first Tarot book and I read it like it was a Bible. (That's why I'm starting 78DW in the Minor Arcana; I'm very familiar with the Major but not nearly as much so with the Minor). Seven years ago I bought Tarot of the Old Path and Living the Tarot. Well, the book and deck had very little to do with each other. But I bought the B.O.T.A. deck and colored it, though I've never used it, and I've read with the Old Path deck all these years. Now I'm like a beginner because I've decided to learn the RWS deck and the decks that are based on it (actually, Old Path is based on it, but you can't really see it unless you know RWS). So I'm reading 78DW and looking at my Giant Rider Waite, and I also bought Hanson-Roberts, Morgan-Greer, Robin Wood, and Universal Waite. Comparing them is a lot of fun.

I'm glad I asked about this book here, because all of your answers have helped me relax about whether it's "right" and just let the book be what it is and take what I need from it while letting the rest go.
Top   #8
shandar's Avatar
shandar  shandar is offline
Join Date: 07 Feb 2005
Location: Dancing along the mortal coil
Posts: 307
78 Degrees

It appears to me that you have had an immediate contact with the Rider Deck (which btw, I love). I also have Pollack's book. I like it, but use it as a back up, or as the beginning of an interpretation on a particular card. For example, the 8 of cups. She says we should celebrate moving away from certain situations. While it may be good when one makes a decision to get out of a bad marriage or relationship, I don't think anyone "parties hardy" upon making these difficult decisions. To me the person is weighed down by the decision he is making, and far from dancing off, like Fred Astair, he needs the help of his walking stick to move away.

I feel you have a feeling about your deck. Go with that feeling, study your deck, and note your feelings about your cards in your journal.

I also do deep meditations on my cards. For example, the Star is my personality card, but at first I didn't know how to relate to it. So I did a deep meditation with the figure in the card, spoke with her, and had a wonderful visit.

Just remember, no one interpretation is THE interpretation.
Top   #9
Hazelsdottir's Avatar
Hazelsdottir  Hazelsdottir is offline
Join Date: 29 Mar 2005
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Posts: 41

Deana, I think your approach is very wise: to take what makes sense to you, and to leave the rest. Or even to look at what DOESN'T make sense to you, really work out why you disagree with it... and use that understanding to deepen your reading of the cards.

Now, I absolutely love "Seventy-Eight Degrees." Pollack took what was (to me) becoming an overfamiliar deck, the Rider-Waite, and made it new and fresh again. Her insights are dazzling, off-the-wall, surprising. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I disagree vehemently. Often, her observations become a springboard to new associations and insights of my own. (You should see my copy of "Seventy-Eight Degrees", by the way - the margins are crammed with my notes!)

But ultimately, we read each deck uniquely, as each image will trigger very specific associations in us that no one else will have. For example: many years ago I went on an overseas trip. As I was leaving Toronto Airport, I spontaneously picked out a postcard and mailed it to my meditation teacher. It depicted the CN Tower - a tall, thin structure much like the Space Needle in Seattle.

Two weeks later, I returned to discover that while I was away, my partner had left me. Later, when speaking to my teacher, she said she wasn't surprised... and pointed out that the card I had sent her showed the CN Tower at night, being struck by a dramatic bolt of lightning!

(I would like to add that I have since looked many times for another copy of that postcard, each time I've passed through the airport... and I've NEVER found one.)

So for me, The Tower will always be associated with the devastating but ultimately cleansing experience of that sudden (for me) breakup, which shattered my world in a very profound way, but which also led to some personal change that was long overdue.

Top   #10



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