The Gaian Tarot: A Review

The Gaian Tarot: A Review September 8, 2011

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.

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