The Raziel Tarot is a stunning presentation of significant mystical narratives bound within the tarot deck. In the precise artwork of Robert Place, Rachel Pollack has re-told the tales of spiritual ascent and glorious unification, through the lens of Judaic myth. In doing so, these cards provide us an illustrated architecture of paradise through which we may ascend and descend in our own life story through every shuffle and spread.
Rachel writes that the deck deals with the “great theme” of genuine reunification and liberation; and also the Shekinah, the presence of god most often depicted as feminine. The leading Kabbalistic scholar Moshe Idel in his ‘Ascensions on High in Jewish Mysticism’ explores the process of reunification through spiritual ascent and this deck provides us a means of realising that ascent; it is indeed a “palace built for her [the divine spirit of Shekinah], namely a sanctuary for her holiness, sanctified and inscribed with all the inscriptions of the supernal sanctuary” (Sepher ha-Temunah).
Should a tarot deck work with Jewish themes? None other than the great Kabbalist and mystic Abulafia wrote “know that most of the visions of which Raziel saw are based on the Name of God and its gnosis” and scholar Gershom Scholem continues, “the identity of prophecy with the love of God also finds its proof in the mysticism of numbers” (Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 138). Rachel points out that divination does indeed come from the divine, and prophecy is an essential if occluded element of Jewish myth.
The story-telling element of both Judaism and the tarot is merged together and emphasized in Rachel’s text accompanying the deck. This provides ample opportunity for the reader to explore the midrash, or narrative, of the process of spiritual development through the kabbalistic framework naturally underpinning the deck. This kabbalah is woven lightly but powerfully through Robert’s illustrations and is an ideal gateway into the avenues and orchards of that profound subject.
A final note that Robert’s artwork again meets the challenge of presenting the most enigmatic of concepts in the most accessible manner; his World card, illustrating not only the “Bride of the Earth” but also “the King” with whom she is united, is a triumph of illustration.
Marcus Katz & Tali Goodwin
Authors; The Magister, The Magician’s Kabbalah, Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot, Abiding in the Sanctuary.