As someone coming out of Christian fundamentalism, I was scared to death by idea of divination but when I read Ms. Lichtenberg's science fiction, there was something so deep and meaningful to it that I had to know where she got her understanding of reality. I was dimly aware that she was a tarotist, but I managed to ignore the fact for many years. One spring break, though, I discovered the extensive site at www.simegen.com, the official web site of Ms. Lichtenberg and her writing partner, Jean Lorrah. Among other things, it contains a series of articles ( www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/) on using fiction -- especially science fiction and fantasy -- for the Magician's personal growth. Magician's personal growth? Well, OK, maybe I could ignore the word magician's, and focus on the personal growth part. Once I had read the articles -- and I printed out and read all 200 pages worth three times within a three-month period -- there was only one thing by Ms. Lichtenberg left that I had not read -- Never Cross a Palm with Silver. With trepidation, I ordered it.
I could not have selected better!
Ms. Lichtenberg is an Orthodox Jew, a student of Kaballah long before its study became trendy. She bases Never Cross a Palm with Silver on the Bible -- the Jewish Bible -- and on Kaballah. Her Bible has the same words that we have in the church I grew up in, but the take on those words is very different.
Each chapter of Palm discusses a question. Chapter 1: Why does the Bible forbid Divination? Chapter 2: Why do some people equate tarot reading with devil worship? And so on. She doesn't answer the questions, but she gives you lots to think about to help you answer them for yourself.
One of the most useful questions that she asks is, "Do you want to get involved with tarot reading, considering the risks?" Since informed consent is such a hot topic in the magical arts, this is an issue of prime importance. In order to help the reader make an informed decision, she presents a wide array of information ranging from rabbinical discussion on the definition of divination to the lack of link between ESP and tarot to the presence of link between tarot and a deep unconscious of the individual and collective unconscious of humanity and the benefits of using tarot to get at the deep unconscious and the collective unconscious.
She also discusses the value system inherent in tarot and the difference between the Hellenistic or Greek value system and the ancient Hebraic one. The Greeks believed that each person has an unchangeable fate. The Hebrews believe that each person's fate may be altered at any time by repenting of her wrongs (sins) and changing her behavior. The tarot reflects that Hebraic system. In other words, at the time of any reading, a person may be on one path, but at any time she may change that path, and everything in the reading will thus be changed from that point on.
Palm was originally conceived as the first in a series of six books -- the subsequent five to explain the Major Arcana and each suit of Minors. The next two have actually been written and sold, but due to a shift in the financial structure of the publishing world, they have not reached print. It is to be hoped that another shift will happen soon, and the series will reach completion.
Never Cross a Palm with Silver is not a how-to manual of tarot or an explanation of the meaning of each card. But if you are curious about whether you wish to start using tarot or not and why, and want a book to help spur your thinking processes as you make that decision, you cannot make a better choice than this gem by Ms. Lichtenberg.
Amazon.com lists the book as being out of print, but its publisher, Toad Hall, has plenty of copies available.
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