I’ll sheepishly admit that I had some reservations about the Gaian Tarot. Rumor was that it was very feminine ala The Motherpeace Deck. I’m actually kind of masculine in nature so that concerned me. Would I be able to relate to this deck?
I also heard that some of the traditional names for the cards had been changed. And since I consider myself a traditionalist that troubled me as well. Would the changes water the deck down?
It was with great apprehension that I approached this deck. I worried that I would not be able to connect at all. (Funny how hearsay makes you uber-cautious about something as innocuous as a tarot deck.)
I’m happy to report that those assumptions were delightfully misguided.
The author, Joanna Powell Colbert, originally self published the deck – I am writing here about the recently mass published version from Llewellyn. This new version comes in a bright yellow box with the Sun card on the front. The deck consists of 78 cards and comes with a companion book, “Journey Through The Gaian Tarot”.
The book is well written, very meaty with a lot of information to absorb. The author starts out talking about how the deck came into being and how to use the deck and book. She then gives the meaning for each card but also adds an interpretation for the “shadow side” of the card (one could use this for reversals or for an overall negatively slanted reading). The interpretations provided are not cut and dried “predictions” – these are focused more on the energy surrounding the situation and has a more empowering and therapeutic vibration to it which allows the querent to have a feeling of being in control of their destiny.
She then provides meanings behind the symbols on each card, which adds further depth to readings. In the Majors, Powell Colbert offers “Journal Questions” which I found to be extremely valuable. This allowed me to use the deck for internal processing which made the Gaian Tarot a powerful tool for healing or therapy. All cards came with an affirmation. I happen to love affirmations so this was an added plus.
Although the overall tone of the deck seemed to be positive, the author did not shy away from the negative. That being said, the interpretations were always geared towards facing the dark side and healing it. This makes the deck appropriate for anyone, especially those who may have a negative view of the tarot.
The deck itself is beautiful. It’s colorful and stunning with clear pictures and symbols. Animals and nature figure prominently in every card. The people look realistic and expressive (the author used real people she knew as some of the models – you can see her granddaughter in the Child of Water – and the author herself in the 9 of Earth). Each card evokes the feeling that the author intended – you can see the despair in the face of the figure in the 9 of Air and the expression of sheer joy in the Sun. To illustrate another example, the Two of Water (in a traditional deck this is the 2 of Cups) shows a woman embracing a dog with an expression of happiness. The interpretation provided is: “You have a caring, compassionate response to another. You choose to begin or continue a relationship based on a deep heart connection.” Wow. If you are new to tarot this deck would be a great starter as the interpretations are so clearly depicted on the cards that you can really “feel” the meaning behind it.
Two of Water
Although the names have been changed, it did not hamper my ability to read with these cards. For example, in the Major Arcana, The Devil became Bindweed and The Tower became Lightning. This still keeps in line with the traditional meanings of bondage and sudden change – so the deck lost nothing with those differences.
In the Minors we have Water, Earth, Fire and Air instead of Cups, Pentacles, Wands and Swords. Court cards became Children, Explorers, Guardians and Elders. This did change the meaning slightly and I only say slightly because the traditional Courts are Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings – all nobility. In all actuality, the Gaian figures are more relatable to modern life. Also, Powell Colbert mixes it up further by adding two males and two females to each category. In a traditional deck, Queens are always female and Kings are always male – this shifts the vibration and reminds us that we all have male and female energy within us. I really liked that – especially because as I stated above, I’m actually a pretty “masculine” female and never identified whole heartedly with typical female imagery.
The cards are slightly larger than standard decks but not hard to handle. I have very small hands and they fit very nicely. The backs have an image of a wreath with a starlit sky behind it. Gorgeous.
At the end of the book, the author offers suggestions for working with the cards as well as spreads by tarot notables such as James Wells, Beth Owl’s Daughter and Carolyn Cushing. The spreads worked great and I think I found a few that I may add to my tarot tool box.
The overall tone of the Gaian is “healing” rather than predicting. The earthy images, the sensitive interpretations, and even the spreads lend to healing your future and past rather than simply divining what may come.
As an example, I recently have been working through a situation and decided to consult the Gaian for guidance. The card I picked was the 10 of Fire. The interpretation said: “Does it feel like your dreams have gone up in smoke? Are you overwhelmed or burdened by loss? Remember that new seedlings grow and flourish in the ashes of a spent fire. You must release your passions and your energies, whether or not you want to, whether or not you think you’re ready. It’s time.” This was very profound to my situation and gave me a peaceful feeling (and the impetus to do a burning ceremony). It was the advice I needed to hear (not necessarily what I wanted to hear).
My only complaint with this deck is the card stock. I wish it were made on more sturdy material. The deck feels a wee bit fragile and it may not be one that I use on a regular basis because I fear it would be wrecked quickly in the hands of an aggressive shuffler. (I am a high volume tarot reader so this poses a problem and makes unsuitable for a workhorse deck.)
I will need to be gentle with this deck. But considering the heart centered and sensitive nature of the Gaian tarot, perhaps it makes sense that I treat it with tenderness. The message is to “handle with care” – a message that we need to also apply to ourselves, each other and the earth.
I give this deck Two Swords Up!