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Jacqueline Lichtenberg's
Never Cross a Palm With Silver
A Book Review

I bought Jacqueline Lichtenberg's "Never Cross a Palm With Silver" expecting it to be an essay by a religious scholar about how Tarot archetypes can be found in Bible passages. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lichtenberg is a science-fiction writer and Star Trek fan, and there are maybe two Bible passages quoted in the entire text. But this does not mean that "Never Cross a Palm With Silver" is a worthless book - far from it. It simply means that it did not conform to my expectations.

While it does not contain much Biblical language, Never Cross a Palm With Silver is full of Biblical philosophy. The conflict between Biblical morality and Hellenistic law inherent in our modern society is a central theme of the book. Though she never links the Tarot to any Bible verses, Lichtenberg makes it quite clear that the concepts of Tarot are Biblical in origin. And while it does not have much to say about how Tarot cards work, this book is an invaluable resource for exploring how people think the cards work.

The cover image is the Qabalistic Tree of Life, but this subject is not brought up until the sixth chapter. The first five chapters deal with a number of issues that confound both novice readers and novice clients alike, including "Why does the Bible forbid divination?", "Is the Tarot Devil worship?", "Does Tarot defy science?" and "Why do some readers refuse to accept payment for readings?"

This latter topic is one that must be addresed by all professional readers at one time or another, and Never Cross a Palm With Silver gives good arguments both for and against taking money for readings. Of course, it all boils down to a matter of personal beliefs, but by reading the examples and analogies given, in becomes easier to figure out what one's personal beliefs are. This is where the real strength of the book lies.

Do not let the large print and bad illustrations fool you because there is a lot of insightful material in here. Much of the Qabalah theory has been simplified to the point of making a trained Qabalist cringe, but this book was not written for trained Qabalists, or even for trained Tarot readers. It is intended as an introduction to the topic and a discussion of Biblical ethics as they relate to the Tarot, and at this task it succeeds nicely.

Rather than reciting material in lecture format, information is given, then dissected, then discussed from multiple points of view before any tentative conclusions are reached. Ultimately, the book does not give any real answers, nor does it attempt to. Instead it challenges us to ask ourselves, and to find the answers that already exist within us.

Copyright 2000 James Rioux