Monday, November 27, 2017

Deck Review: The Gaian Tarot

Joanna Powell Colbert, Gaian Tarot: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-7643-5062-7.

Here is the WorldCat record.
If you wish to get your copy, here is the publisher page.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre; Tarot, divination, spirituality, self-help, card decks
Format: 78-cards deck with paperback guidebook boxed set
Source: I own this one. 

This is a deck I was using recently until I switched decks over for the Halloween season. I admit that I was a bit reluctant to switch decks over because I enjoy using the Gaian Tarot very much. It is a very positive and affirming deck. If you are looking for an uplifting, positive, and light deck, this may be for you.

I have the recent edition published by Schiffer. I understand the deck started out as many other decks do: as an independent deck. Then Llewellyn had it for a while before Schiffer. I have not seen the previous editions, so I can't comment on them. What I can say is that Schiffer has made a very nice package of a very nice deck and book.

Let's start with the book. The kit does include a substantial book, which is arranged as follows:

  • Preface
  • Major Arcana
  • Minor Arcana
  • Working with the cards. This section includes a bit on reading cards intuitively, how do to do a daily draw, and a bit on asking questions. It also includes ten card spreads.
  • Endnotes
  • Bibliography. I found this interesting. In addition to featuring some Tarot classics like works by Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack, it includes works on symbols, nature, the Pacific Northwest, and even Clarissa Estes' book Women Who Run With Wolves.
 The book is a softcover volume. The pages on the left corner of the even pages are color coded: blue for Major Arcana, green for Minor Arcana, orange for Working with the cards. This is a small detail that is helpful in flipping through the book. Major Arcana is arranged in conventional order, by which I mean nothing surprising or outlandish. In this deck, Strength is 8, and Justice is 11. Note also that the author used Arabic numerals in the Major Arcana. It is another small detail, but it makes the deck feel modern and a bit more accessible to beginners. The Minor Arcana are arranged by numbers (Aces, Two's, etc.) rather than by element with the court cards after the numbers.

For each Major Arcana card, you get the following:

  • Small picture  of the card in full color. This is definitely a nice touch. Other books, if they even include a card illustration, it is often black and white. 
  • A text describing the card. 
  • A "when you get this card in a reading." Here is the meaning of the card. 
  • A "when you read the Shadow side of this card. . . ". This is your reversal. Use it if you read reversals (at this point in my Tarot learning journey, I do not read reversals). I still often glance at this in using the book as I find it interesting. This is also for the folks who do shadow work. 
  • A list of themes for the card. 
  • A list of the card's symbols with explanations. This is another thing I found helpful and that you rarely see in other decks. 
  • A list of journal questions. Use them for journaling or further reflection. I think you can also use them as aide if you hit a blank when interpreting a card. 
  • Card's affirmation. This is a favorite feature of mine for this book and deck. 
Minor Arcana pages are a bit leaner. You get first a page or two per number or court card giving you the themes and a text on the numbers and suit in general. Then for each card you get:

  • Card description.
  • Card's image, still in full color.
  • Card meaning ("when you get this card").
  • Reversal ("when you read the Shadow side").
  • Card's affirmation. 
The Minor Arcana section is not as comprehensive, but then again, that is common for most Tarot handbooks. What you get here is pretty good overall and enough to get you going.

The book is very easy and accessible. Colbert's tone is warm, caring, and comforting. The book is written in plain language. There is nothing overly complicated or esoteric, but do not let that fool you. There is a lot of substance and depth in the book, the cards, and the symbols. For those seeking to study a deck in depth, there is plenty of material to work on.

When I get a new deck that includes a full book (i.e. not just a little white book, or what the Tarotistas call an LWB), I will try to read the book fully at least once and usually before I start using the deck. Some books are better than others. This is one of the better ones due to its ease of reading and tone. It  is a really nice, comfy read. It  has depth but without an academic feel to it. Though keyed to the deck, you could use parts of it to complement your general Tarot study using other decks. Overall, this Tarot's concept is positive, bright, and uplifting, and the book develops and expands on that.

Overall, I really liked the book, so I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Next, let's look at the cards. You get a 78-cards deck. Each card measures about 5 3/4 inches by almost four inches. Some folks I have used the cards with for light readings observe they seem to be on the big side; that works well for me. Each card has a painting art image with a whine inner border and a blue outer border; this makes it look a bit like old style photos you stick in an album. The borders do not bother me personally, but I see where folks obsessive about borders may consider trimming the deck. The card stock feels good and light. The card's back design is reversible.

The art on the cards is contemporary and diverse. Much of the art draws from the Pacific Northwest images and setting. The art features people, animals, and plants. People are diverse in terms of appearance and body types. The images are bright and colorful. It is very easy to read the cards intuitively. There are no dark or threatening images. For folks who would like a "gentle" deck, this is definitely a good selection. It was for this reason I recently took the deck with me to do some simple card readings. For folks who may not know what Tarot is or maybe they fear it a bit, this is a warm, basic, friendly deck with modern images that people can relate to. For my personal use, I enjoy its positivity and warmth.

Colbert does change the names in some of the cards. Examples include:

  • The Seeker (The Fool)
  • The Teacher (The Hierophant)
  • Bindweed (The Devil)
 The Court Cards in this deck are:
  • Children (Pages)
  • Explorers (Knights) 
  • Guardians (Queens)
  • Elders (Kings)
Note that the court cards in this deck can be  male or female, so yes, a "queen" can be male and "king" can be female. This let's you reflect more on what the court cards do and symbolize rather than just gender.  In fact, studying the court cards in this deck has helped me better understand the court cards in other decks.

Overall, this is a great deck of cards with modern art. It is a good deck for daily use. If you are new to Tarot, this deck may be a good option. If you are looking something different, more light, bright, and comforting, this is also a good option. For me, it is one of the best decks in my growing collection. I am glad to have it, and I hope to keep using it for many years.

5 out of 5 stars for the cards.
5  out of 5 stars for the set overall.

This kit qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

1 comment:

Lynn Klein said...

I have read your review and think that you covered the qualities of the Gaian deck and book very well. I think that you may have purchased a different issue because the description..details like the borders, and the color coding of pages, and color photos of the cards in the book do not occur in my set. (I have a copyright of 2011 and the publisher is Llewellyn.)

Not that it matters...the heart and soul of of the artwork and the lighter, supportive nature of the descriptions are right on target.

I am sure Joanne Powell Colbert appreciates your warm and descriptive review.