Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Connecting With the Gaian Tarot

When the box arrived at my front door on a sunny morning a few weeks ago, my heart did a little dance - I knew that what lay inside was a copy of Joanna Powell Colbert's gorgeous Gaian Tarot. What to do??? Should I dismantle the package right on the threshold and have the deck in my hands at once, or should I wait for the right moment?

I decided to wait for the right moment, for the unwrapping of such a soulful gift calls for spirit, an open heart, gratitude and deep respect - for the deck and its sublimely gifted creatrix certainly, but for the Old Wild Mother and all Her creations too.  First and foremost, this magnificent tarot deck honors Mother Earth herself, Gaia in all her times and seasons and boundless gifts.

Joanna and I are long time mermaid sisters, and I been watching in delight as her creation took shape over the last several years.  I have a copy of the exquisite handmade Majors only deck, and one Major Arcana card after another captured my rapt attention on meeting initially, each my favorite until I turned over the the next card.  The Seeker, the Moon, the Star, the Priestess, the Hermit, the Wheel, Gaia - I've come to love them all since encountering them for the first time.

In Joanna's inspired revisioning, the Fool has become the Seeker, and the High Priestess is simply the Priestess. The card called the Empress in most other decks has been reborn as the Gardener, and the Emperor is now the Builder.  I especially liked the reshaping of the Hierophant as the Teacher, the Chariot as the Canoe, and the Hanged Man becoming the Tree this time around.  Gaia, formerly the World card, is one of the most beautiful, inspiring and healing tarot cards I have ever worked with.  Other changes include Bindweed (formerly The Devil), Awakening (formerly Judgment), and Lightening (formerly the Tower).  The Death card in this deck is one of the very few I have ever liked.

The Gaian Tarot's Four of Earth is partially based on a photograph taken in one of my favorite woodland groves in the Lanark Highlands, and I cherish Joanna's gift of a print - the framed image hangs in my studio, and I can see it as I am typing way here.  No stranger to the Major Arcana, I thought I knew what wonders the Minor Arcana would hold, but when I opened the box, the contents dazzled mine eyes - they were a banquet, a symphony, a sumptuous feast for the senses. Every card was a jewel, the colors vibrant and glowing, the images flowing through one's hands like birds, like leaves, like the world itself in effortless flowing transformation.  How sweetly the cards sang, and their song seemed to be in the voice of this planet we all call home.  I was blown away on first seeing the deck in its entirety and sat quietly for quite a while, just holding the cards.  The Guardian of Air left me absolutely speechless.

This is a deck for those of us who love the earth, who follow her rhythms and strive to honor her in daily life and our spiritual practice, whatever form that practice may take.  The suits are elemental, Water, Earth, Fire and Air rather than Cups, Pentacles, Wands and Swords, and that feels exactly right.  The Court cards are Children, Explorers, Guardians and Elders rather than Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings, and that too feels right.  I have long felt that the notions of aristocracy implicit in the court cards of most tarot decks are not apt for our times.  There is a lovely balancing of male and female energies in this deck, and sometimes the genders depicted on the cards are different than those shown on traditional cards.  It is always surprising when it happens, and there is always food for thought when it does.

The book which accompanies the cards is a jewel on its own, eloquent, thoughtful, and the perfect guide to setting off on what is often called "the Fool's Journey".

One cannot work with such a remarkable deck without thinking about past tarot journeys, and this old road of mine has been a long and winding one.  My first tarot deck was the Rider-Waite deck created by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith and published in 1909 by William Rider and Son of London, England.  I discovered the deck in my university bookstore as an undergrad, and it was the only deck there at the time - there were not as many tarot choices then as there are now.  I still have those original cards, and their once vivid colors have faded over the years - they're soft and pliable from so much handling, their edges dingy, fragile and quite tattered.  A cherished artifact from times gone by, my old deck marks the beginning of this fool's long trek through the living world with tarot in hand.

Other decks later followed the Rider-Waite into my tarot cupboard: the Aquarian, Marseille, Visconti-Sforza, Robin Wood, Motherpeace, and Daughters of the Moon, to name a few.  Then along came the Greenwood tarot created by Chesca Potter and Mark in the nineties, and that was my favorite working tarot for several years. For starters, I felt a bone deep kinship with what Mark Ryan described as the pre-Celtic shamanism of the mythic forest.  Then there was the profound causal relationship between the cards and the living earth  - it was a radical approach to tarot in those days, one that grabbed me and shook me right down to my roots.  Working with the Greenwood cards, I felt, not yet at home perhaps, but on my way at last and happy to be traveling the road.

There have been many other beautiful and much loved decks over the years, and they have all been fine teachers; Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot, Songs for the Journey Home, Will Worthington and Phillip Carr-Gomm's Druidcraft Tarot and the Wildwood Tarot (the Greenwood Tarot as newly revisioned by Mark Ryan, Will Worthington and John Matthews). 

The Gaian Tarot is among the most beautiful tarot decks ever created, and working with it is a wonderfully positive and uplifting experience.  When I do a reading, I feel joy and hope, the deep intuitive wisdom of the cards, a sense of rightness and being rooted, kinship with the earth under my wandering feet.  Such things are all too rare and precious in these, or any times for that matter, and they are to be cherished.

The Moon was the first card of Joanna's magnificent deck I encountered, and seeing it, I knew that something extraordinary was coming into being. The lunar card reappeared prominently when I did a reading with the full deck for the first time.  I seem to have come full circle with that reading, and that feels grand and magical.  Here's to La Bella Luna, lighting up the velvet night and our road to wisdom and connection, lighting the way along this dancing earthly trail we are on together.


Sue Simpson said...

Oh wonderful....I have ordered from the US and mine is due to arrive in 2 days time! Like you I just know my heart will give a jump. The cards are not available in the UK until the end of October and I can't wait that long.
I too hope I connect well with them.
Many blessings,
Sue x

Karen Hall said...

How beautiful - when I read that the Empress is The Gardner. and Death is Bindweed - this resonated with me.

I also worked with the Greenwood Tarot - but I suspect that the Gain Tarot may be finding its way here to Wales.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

The pictures are beautiful.
One Woman who lives in the woods
does not know anything about Tarot Cards...

Anonymous said...

I've used medicine cards but not tarot--I found tarot too harsh. But these are enticing.

Anonymous said...

I've used medicine cards but not tarot--I found tarot too harsh. But these are enticing.