The author begins her book with a "Gallery of Quotations," utilizing diverse sources--a Reconstructionist Jewish prayer book, personal correspondence, T.S. Eliot, and the Bible. Being a font of fabulous quotations, Pollack is also self-referential.
In the ensuing chapters, like the reverently irreverent Tracy Ullman, Pollack takes on such subjects as the Tarot's origins, wisdom questions (as opposed to asking, "Will X marry me," she asks, "What is marriage?"), Jewish and Kabbalistic thoughts as they pertain to the Tarot, and formulating new versions of the Fool's Journey. The author does a reading for God ("God's Reading") and finds Christian symbolism abounding in her own Shining Tribe deck when she performs "A Reading for the Resurrection: Easter 2001."
What do I mean by reverently irreverent? Some might call doing a spread for God irreverent. Yet Pollack's awe is reserved for what is truly profound, and part of that profundity is in pushing the limits of what we have done before or think we know. She pushes those limits not out of irreverence, but reverence for the truly infinite. And for the tarot, in what it can offer us in terms of infinite wisdom
If you have been fortunate enough to attend a workshop with Rachel Pollack, you know that her style is humorous and digressive. She is widely read and thinks and speaks in an unconventional, intellectually searching voice. This voice is manifested in The Forest of Souls, far more than in her previous tarot writings. I could actually hear her in my head, alluding to Professor Irwin Cory and tales of her dog's exploits. The tone of the book has an immediacy and vitality that makes it easy to read, which is an amazing feat, as the concepts and thoughts are both complex and challenging.
They are also unique. I cannot think of another book like this in the tarot oeuvre. It is also demanding, particularly in its structure. While Pollack offers us a panoply of different ways in which we can use the tarot, this is no traditional workbook. She describes what she has done, but she certainly doesn't set up a format that we can follow by rote. She doesn't make it easy. One example is her approach to alternative Major Arcana journeys. I am excited by doing one of my own, but I must admit I would have preferred some step-by-step instructions, even as I feel challenged in a positive way. Pollack's Forest of Souls isn't a stop on the Carnival Tour. This isn't the Easily Digestible Approach to Tarot, but one of visionaries, dreamers, and explorers. Only adult tarot readers need apply.
In high school, I read Elie Wiesel's The Gates of the Forest, a moving novel about the holocaust and Kabbalah. I remember being so engrossed in this book that I was shocked to feel something wet on my shoulder. It was a tear that had fallen without me even being aware that I was crying, so enmeshed was I in that compelling story. The title of that book, so similar to Rachel's, brought that memory back to me. The synchronicity of the subject matter seems to align with the magic of the Tarot, another inviting and complex forest for which we are blessed to have a guide like Rachel Pollack.