The Gaian Tarot: A Review

I feel a bit funny about giving tarot reviews. I read the tarot pretty regularly, and I even once tried giving professional reading a go, with the result that I have a great deal of respect for those who do that exhausting work for a living. Yet, if you want to have a deep conversation about the Tower card, I’m not your gal. Reviewing tarot decks feels a bit like being asked to review fine wine when you have a glass of Manischewitz on the rocks in hand.

However, the creator of The Gaian Tarot, Joanna Powell Colbert, asked me if I’d like to review her iconic deck and I didn’t have the heart to decline. I like my decks weirdly whimsical or brass-tacks Rider-Waite’s with fresh artwork. The Gaian Tarot looked so womanly, so touchy-feely, that it gave me the heebee-jeebies. I picked up the deck, gave myself a stern admonition to be open-minded and gave it a go.

I asked the deck what I should say about it and this is what it told me.

Turns out I had nothing to fear. The deck very strongly embodies that Northwest Coast current of Paganism that seems particularly grounded in the spirit of the coasts of Oregon and Washington state. The deck is very beautiful, depicting real humans, real bodies and real faces. It’s a big change from the stylized and often idealistic images found in many decks. It’s good to pull out a card and find a woman with hips dancing on it.

The book is well laid out, beginning with the major arcana and then grouping the minor arcana by rank, with all the aces together, all the ones together and so on. Two things I really like about this deck are the way it deals with reversals and the court cards. These are two areas I have always had a bit of difficulty with to the point that with some decks I find the court cards and any reversals to be superfluous.

In The Gaian Tarot the court cards represent stages of life: children, explorers, guardians and elders. The genders and ethnicities are mixed and all the cards portray very human subjects. These cards are very relatable and I find them far more open to intuitive reading than traditional court cards.  Not only do these cards feel like people you might know, they most definitely feel like people you can be. Not something you can say about a king on a throne.

The reversals in the book are thoughtful and give just as much information as the upright reading. Right-side-up or upside-down, this deck makes good sense right out of the box, and I’ve only ever felt that way about one other deck. This is a good deck to use to examine your own soul and your life’s direction. It’s very earthy, human and grounded, and I can see this as a deck I could use regularly. I didn’t expect that.

Another thing I didn’t expect was that I connected more strongly with the minor arcana than the major. The major arcana holds the “rock stars” of the tarot, so sometimes a deck gives all it’s attention to the major arcana and gives the minor the short end of the stick. That’s not the case here. I found myself far more engrossed in the minor arcana, and that was a very pleasant surprise.

The Gaian Tarot is on sale as of writing at Llewellyn Worldwide and buying directly from the publisher is a great way to support both the creator of the deck and an iconic Pagan publishing company. I recommend this deck to anyone and warn you that the pictures online don’t do it justice. It’s a beautiful, solid, intuitive deck that fits nicely in my small hands. Check it out!

*I was sent a free copy of the deck and book for reviewing purposes and that did not influence my review. If it sucked, I would say so.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Is the author from the Northwest Coast?

    From the cards you’ve shown above, I don’t quite get that feeling, personally.  I may be biased, since this is where I grew up, and it’s where I most feel is home, and the same landscapes and color palettes don’t quite seem to be there, at least in these particular cards…

    I do recognize the leftmost one of the middle row as being Chalice Well in Glastonbury, U.K., which is a wonderful and beautiful place (and that part of it in particular) that I’d highly recommend visiting if ever you have the chance.  Some of the best water I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink came from that well…

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      The author/artist hails from Washington state, and I get the same green, rainy, earthy vibe from the deck that I get from you, Erynn or Norah Cedarwind Young. My vibe may not mesh with the images, but then I’m an odd duck.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Is the author from the Northwest Coast?

    From the cards you’ve shown above, I don’t quite get that feeling, personally.  I may be biased, since this is where I grew up, and it’s where I most feel is home, and the same landscapes and color palettes don’t quite seem to be there, at least in these particular cards…

    I do recognize the leftmost one of the middle row as being Chalice Well in Glastonbury, U.K., which is a wonderful and beautiful place (and that part of it in particular) that I’d highly recommend visiting if ever you have the chance.  Some of the best water I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink came from that well…

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      The author/artist hails from Washington state, and I get the same green, rainy, earthy vibe from the deck that I get from you, Erynn or Norah Cedarwind Young. My vibe may not mesh with the images, but then I’m an odd duck.

  • kenneth

    I’m also by no means an expert reader, or even a frequent one, but I find that any deck with symbolism that speaks clearly to you, and that you work frequently with, is a good deck.

    And speaking of decks that give one the heebie-jeebies, I was the owner of a Hello Kitty deck for several years. Seriously! Picked it up at a Yule grab bag thing in my old coven, the ultimate white elephant gift, it seemed. I was tempted to pitch it, but I’ve learned that these things usually come to me for a reason, often to convey to the right person at a later time. Turns out it was a somewhat rare collectible and I sold it online for a pretty good buck to some woman who was actually very happy to have found one!

  • kenneth

    I’m also by no means an expert reader, or even a frequent one, but I find that any deck with symbolism that speaks clearly to you, and that you work frequently with, is a good deck.

    And speaking of decks that give one the heebie-jeebies, I was the owner of a Hello Kitty deck for several years. Seriously! Picked it up at a Yule grab bag thing in my old coven, the ultimate white elephant gift, it seemed. I was tempted to pitch it, but I’ve learned that these things usually come to me for a reason, often to convey to the right person at a later time. Turns out it was a somewhat rare collectible and I sold it online for a pretty good buck to some woman who was actually very happy to have found one!

  • Krystal H.

    I don’t think that photo does the colours justice, personally. :)
    I have a small but growing collection of decks and I must say I have mixed feelings regarding it. The colours are great and I love how the figures aren’t all white like in other decks, but I found the interpretations to be more New Agey than what I would consider “Earth-Based”, but I suppose some will disagree.

    I guess you could say I like the deck, but it’s not a “ZOMGS LOVELOVELOVE!” kind of deck for me.

  • Krystal H.

    I don’t think that photo does the colours justice, personally. :)
    I have a small but growing collection of decks and I must say I have mixed feelings regarding it. The colours are great and I love how the figures aren’t all white like in other decks, but I found the interpretations to be more New Agey than what I would consider “Earth-Based”, but I suppose some will disagree.

    I guess you could say I like the deck, but it’s not a “ZOMGS LOVELOVELOVE!” kind of deck for me.

  • Navie

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