The Blue Rose Tarot by Paula Gibby
Review by Diane Wilkes

This review has taken me many years to write. I've had the deck since 2001. It's 2004. That's a pretty long time to ignore a deck you use more than any other, wouldn't you say?

But don't blame me. I was waiting for the book. And it took a long time for Paula Gibby to write it.

And to review this deck, without including the oh-so-much-more-than-a-companion-book, seemed wrong, not because you can't use the deck without a written comrade on the journey, but because it is such an enlightening friend to all tarotists.

I have hundreds of tarot decks, but the Blue Rose Tarot is the one I use most in my professional tarot readings. I do not do this out of friendship for Paula or for any reason, really, other than I find it's a deck that speaks straightforwardly and powerfully to querents and allows me to go deeply into the profusion of symbols. And that profusion is not some jumbled mishmash of images, but wonderful scenes that demand you enter them and absorb their intricacy and their value.

This is a hard review for me to write, precisely because it is a deck I have used hundreds, probably thousands, of times. Isolating individual cards and explicating them seems unfair to the neglected ones, yet that is my review writing modus operandi, and so I will attempt some of that here.

The Fool starts us out on this incredible journey, and he does it with a bang, riding into our lives on a skateboard, arranged in a position that would be the envy of a power yoga master. He shares the skateboard with the obligatory dog, and this little fellow wears the fool's cap with all the insouciance the archetype demands as they fly atop the cityscape. The world is their oyster. But what's that at their back? Could it be the white rose of purity? This incredible melding of tradition with innovation gives us a living Fool who carries with him all the layers of history in his wake, literally.

The Magician wears greasepaint and is recognizable from his rôle in a Cirque de Soleil, Alegria--which means jubilation in Spanish. His stance is that of one who has mastered his trade. The High Priestess ripples into her woodland temple, all ethereal power and magic. The Empress rules her domain--all of nature, from the mountains to the sea, as she calls her children home.  Yul Brynner played the ultimate Emperor in The King and I--he so definitively owned the part that, despite his long career, he is always identified with the role. Gibby uses an image of him at his most imperious in the card, and we see the golden city that has resulted from his supreme power--as well as the individuals who have been harmed by its complete dominance. 

I could go on and on about how each trump seems alive and dominates its archetypal world, card by card. And this review would be as long as Paula's companion book for this deck, which is quite a tome itself, so I will limit myself to talking about one or two more cards (and I'll hope the other Majors will forgive me).

Strength is, perhaps, my favorite card in the Blue Rose Tarot. For a while, my Leonine friend Debbie found this study in blue disappointing, because it wasn't fiery enough for her tastes. Once I reminded her that the blue part of the flame is, indeed, the hottest part, she embraced it at once. This is a card of calming blue, but the fire, the passion that burns within it is the most powerful of all. It gives me chills to write that. It gives me chills to see this wonderful card, flaming its fiery power in a reading.

The Sun is another of my favorites.  As the beautiful girl-child offers a crystal pineapple in the radiant luminescence of the sun, she offers the best of herself. This card is traditionally a harbinger of bright light, but few illustrations rarely provide the nobility that this image radiates.

The World card (above) is unique, powerful, strong--we create our worlds in our own images. It is wise for us to recognize this early and often.

Great as the Blue Rose Major Arcana are, the Minors are equally insightful and poetic. I will share but a few of my favorites. The Six of Wands, frequently an augury of victory, offers the spiritual message of a young girl triumphing in the Special Olympics.

The Seven of Cups is beautifully rendered, showing the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) options as lovely and elegant. Yet the bowl of green water that the woman at the center carries is stagnant, moldy, the dross of inaction and stasis. The Ace of Swords shows the power of the mind and its power to create worlds better than any sword I've ever seen. To me, that's the essence of this card, and a pure vision of the elemental. The Nine of Pentacles removes the woman from the garden and places her in an elegant setting, her home, where she is in full command of all manner of the material world.

I limited myself in my rhapsodies about the Blue Rose Minor Arcana so that I could spend more time on the court cards, which I always use in my classes when we enter the cards. They are fully animated and recognizable, yet they also remain true to the traditional spirit of the cards. Utterly accessible court cards! That's a difficult trick, yet Gibby pulls it off...magnificently. 

Again,  I will limit myself to one court per suit (and feel proud of my restraint). My significator is the Queen of Wands, and I don't really identify with Paula's version--but I'd like to! In her power suit of red, she combines utter professionalism with a mastery of spirituality. She's a Queen of Wands I can aspire to become.

The Queen of Cups is also powerful. She has the vision, no doubt about that, but she isn't overwhelmed by her psychic abilities--instead, she holds them in her hands, fully seen. She is not carried away by the oceans within or without.

Equal rights demand that I include some men, so let's look at the King of Swords, who moves the pieces of life with the power of his mind, recognizing it's all a game, one he intends to win.

Remington's vision of the American west invests the Knight of Pentacles with all the qualities of our most decidedly-not-urban cowboys. There's a rugged, earthy component of this Knight that speaks of a recognition of the land and its beautiful and brutal nature and an ability to ride it...and perhaps want to tame his own portion of it, even as he recognizes that it's too vast for one man to own.

Now let's turn to the book. While Gibby truly wrote it for herself, she provided it as a gift to those who ordered the Blue Rose before October of 2003, giving those individuals the option of a book in physical or printable e-format. The book, however, was never part of the initial price tag; both the Blue Rose and her Animal Tarot cost $125 plus shipping--with no written materials. They're expensive, but hand-made. I know they're worth the price, even as I recognize that they aren't in everyone's budget. One day, I hope, the Blue Rose will be available in a less costly format. Until it is, the deck now comes with the e-book (which the owner can print out at their leisure), and new deck buyers will have the option of purchasing a hard copy of the book for $20.

Enough about money! I want to really turn to the book...it's HUGE, for one thing. 263 pages huge, and that's not including the introduction and foreword. And I've never seen a companion book like it. As the foreword states, "If you are only looking for keywords for a card or a quick hit of understanding, skip to the last few paragraphs of each entry, because that's generally where they are. But if you are looking for a life-altering understanding of the tarot, you need to read this book from cover-to-cover, because it is nothing less than one fool's unique journey into the 78 card world, a journey that is the "pearl beyond price"...and one that's worth every second of your time and attention." I couldn't agree more.

Perhaps that's because I wrote the foreword.

I am smart enough to know that the words of this book will speak for it better than I can, so I am including the passage on The Tower below as my excerpt. If this kind of writing appeals to you, you'll find the book as valuable as I do. If it doesn't, you won't--but you'll still get to look at the pretty pictures.

And they are pretty. Pretty powerful, too. And a deck I love to use, a deck to which querents respond beautifully. It's more than worth the price of admission for me.

The quality of the deck is excellent. Constructed by Carol Herzer, the cards are brilliant color-copies backed by blue contact paper and hold up well to repeated use (I should know).

I give this deck my highest recommendation. It will serve those who respond to the images,  to people looking to expand their tarot worldview, readers, and, of course, collectors.

And I'd like to announce the good news here: the Blue Rose Tarot is now available in a smaller version. The price is smaller, too--$80 plus shipping. The smaller deck cards are four by two and a half inches in size and the e-Book is included in the price.***

*** The Blue Rose Tarot is unavailable until further notice.

The Blue Rose Tarot by Paula Gibby
Self-published

You can see all the images in this deck here.

You can see a sample reading with this deck here.

  Yes No
78 cards X  
Reversible Backs X  
Strength VIII, Justice XI X  
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) X  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions X  
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard                                            X
Larger than standard  
(approx. 3 1/4" x 5")                                          
X  

Excerpt:

Tower

How quickly a Soul can descend from the most illuminating of experiences into the vast abyss of self-doubt, falling victim to a bottomless sea of weakness that can smother and envelop the nobility of the spirit. 

How quickly can those waters extinguish the Great Lamp of the Soul.  How thin are the layers and how narrow are the pathways that separate the road to self-illumination and the road into that special Darkness wherein no light can shine and no candle can burn. 

But how loath the Soul can be to break itself from the hypnotic inertia that can overpower it and prevent it from continuing on the Great Journey. 

No mythological siren has ever cast such a spell as the devils created especially by us from the deepest and most infrequently traveled parts of ourselves.  No chains have ever held a captive so tightly as those that we forge from the alchemy of our own fears and unenlightened desires.  No devil has ever captivated us as completely as the one we create especially to validate every fear, desire, need and opinion we can generate. 

Total validation and approval of everything we do, think, feel, say and dream.  There is no greater temptation under which to succumb. 

The forfeiture of our souls forges the chains, mortaring them deeply within the dense bricks of our short-sightedness.  The longer we are bound, the more we despise where we are and what we have become. 

The longer we are bound, the weaker we become. 

The weaker we become, the greater the fear of relinquishing the familiar and once more setting foot upon the arduous paths of the Great Journey. 

And in the relentless viciousness of that cycle, yet another link in that ponderous chain is forged and another brick molded, shaped and cemented into place. 

Sometimes the situation evolves to a point where the imbalance is so great that the Universe struggles to right itself – with or without our help.  It is at such times that we see the chains begin to rust and the bricks begin to crack and turn to sand. 

And the ultimate irony is that our weakness has become of such a nature that we find ourselves frantically struggling to repair the very chains and walls that entrap us.  We cling desperately to that tower of folly, built of our own need and weakness, our feet scrabbling wildly to find purchase between the disintegrating bricks. 

Such is the nature of our Devil.  The state of being that causes us to cling desperately and mindlessly to that which we hate and dread the most.  The result being that, not only do we know fear of our “master”, but…

We begin to love him too. 

A love born out of need and fear of such an intense nature that the craving for it burns terribly and constantly within the very center of our beings.  

It is the ultimate enslavement.  A state of being where we begin to crave and love that which makes us the most fearful and desperate. 

Such a paradox seems unexplainable to the rational mind; but then again, there is nothing rational about bondage and enslavement.  The mental and spiritual degradation is indescribable. 

It is the inevitable outcome of the unrelenting, inexorable darkness of the Devil. 

The tilting paradox engendered by the irrationality of this state of being can bring the full attention of the Universe to the forefront.  It is total imbalance - and the beauty of the Universe is that – if it hears the call - it will immediately struggle to right itself, attempting to achieve the perfected state of wholeness, harmony and balance. 

Dragging us kicking and screaming right into the vortex of that struggle. 

But how does the Universe hear the call?  How does it know with such amazing sensitivity that it is needed?  How can it hear this call when it is buried within the desperate, conflicted desire of a Soul clinging mindlessly to all that it abhors? 

Simple.  All that is needed to bring the full force of the Universe’s attention upon that paradox is the tiniest flicker of desire upon the part of any Fool to want to escape the snare of his devil.  It doesn’t have to be constant or strong.  Just the faintest flash of light escaping out of the enslaved Soul is enough to shine like a beacon, reaching out to the Universe. 

For part of the Great Journey is coming to an understanding of the Universe and how it operates.  And in this Great Journey, we have learned several things. 

First, we have learned that when we call out to the Universe…the Universe responds.  It may not be in a manner that we immediately understand or it may not respond in the manner in which we may desire, but it does respond.  Always. 

Second, we have learned that the Universe abhors a vacuum.  When it perceives emptiness, it will rush in to fill it.  And, as we have seen with our Fool, what rushes in may not necessarily be good.

And third, we have learned about the duality of the Universe and the eternal motion of the Universe to maintain equal balance of those dualities.  And whenever the Universe perceives imbalance, it will immediately (and sometimes abruptly) rush in to create balance. 

Turn your attention now to our Fool, so treacherously close to falling into the clutches of his beautiful, compelling devil.  The longer he gazes into that beguiling face, the more uncertain he becomes. 

And the weaker he becomes.  So weak, in fact, that the very idea of making the simplest of decisions seems impossible.  He despises himself for being weak.  He wants to be strong, but he likes being weak.  But he hates himself for being weak. 

In his spiritual struggle, the Fool realizes that a mental shift must take place.  And that realization goes straight into the very center of his being, to the essence of what he is – to the Great Lantern of his Soul.  And those tightly closed shutters housing his spirit shift open…just a tiny little bit. 

Emitting the tiniest…

Flicker. 

It is enough.  Enough for the full attention of the Universe to be brought to bear, for the struggle within the Fool has triggered all three of the laws we have just discussed.  In that tiny flicker of a moment, the Fool has opened a space within himself - a space ready for change and open for filling. He has appealed to the Universe for help.  That tiny flicker of internal light radiating outward like a beacon in this absolute darkness, is immediately detected by the Universe.  And lastly, the indecision within himself and his own inability to decide his fate creates an imbalance. 

These three simultaneous triggers send shock waves through the Universe, compelling it to respond. 

And respond it certainly does.  Instantly.   

Suddenly a powerful shaft of light streaks through the cold darkness – a light emitting energy so electric that the air seems to crackle and sizzle.  The Fool’s attention is diverted from the frighteningly compelling Devil’s Gateway and its dark and beautiful master as his gaze snaps upward to follow the path of the light.  In a split second of time, he marvels at the vision, for, heretofore, in this strange darkness, there has been no true light.  And he realizes in that same moment that this light is from “outside”.  It is a light that is not part of this cold, clinging Nothingness.  And he wonders why it is here and where it is heading. 

But he doesn’t wonder long, for it heads straight for him.  Unerringly and inexorably. 

He hears a sound and turns back toward the Devil, whose face has been completely transformed.  No longer is it smooth and beautiful.  A snarl twists those sculptured features and the eyes fill with hot anger. 

The Devil leaps forward as if to reach through his gateway and bring the Fool to him.  The Fool shrinks back in fear, but there is no time for thought or reaction. 

Time is up.  For the Universe has taken over and what it wills, is what will be. 

The jagged light from above finds its target and, reaching down like some gigantic electrical hand, it snatches the Fool away from the Devil’s Gateway.  For one heart-stopping moment, the Fool is held in that mighty grip and then, as if some enormous, invisible, booted foot has planted itself firmly in his spiritual backside, he explodes upward in burst of energy that ignites the air around him. 

And behind him, the Devil shrieks in rage and defeat.

Still faster the Fool rockets, leaving behind the warm waters of the womb that had carefully cradled him, gently lapping away the dross of previous experiences and enfolding him in a soft cloak of love, self-awareness and the voices of his mothers and fathers. 

It was so safe, that warm, dim space.  But also, it was a space that contained the potential to breed stagnation of soul and spirit. 

The sizzling and crackling of energy intensifies – it courses abruptly through his being, sending jolts of energy into every tiny nook and cranny.  And anywhere it finds the vestiges of fear, self-doubt and weakness, it snaps at it like some vast electrical bullwhip.  But oh, the energy does not leave our Fool.  Instead it begins to build.  More and more intensely, the energy swirls in upon itself, its white heat creating an inferno within the core of his spirit. 

Fear combines with excitement until it is impossible to separate the two.  Faster and faster the Fool rises, and the intensity of energy building within him begins to spill outward, now crackling and snapping about him as he shoots upward.  The force of the acceleration and the energy rippling outward in white-hot rings brings pressure to bear upon the vault of this vast womb.  The walls begin to shake uncontrollably and pieces begin to fall away in great chunks, dropping downward until they splash and disappear into the waters that are now so far below him. 

And still the Fool soars upward.  Frightened yes, but there is a strange exhilaration, a reckless abandon which now pervades his senses.  He sees something - an opening - a gateway that wasn’t there before. 

An opening that was created by the Universe to gain access to the Fool and snatch him away. 

As he speedily makes his way toward that gateway, its aperture crackling with the same electrical energy that encases him, he sees something else.  Something so beautiful, miraculous and magical, that he is overcome with emotion and gladness – the tears springing from his eyes and rolling down his flushed face. 

And as our Fool explodes like a lightning bolt through that sizzling gateway, leaving the womb behind him, he weeps with joy and whispers a thank you to the Great Creator of the Universe who has interceded for him and allowed him to see what his eyes now behold. 

Light. 

Candles in the darkness. 

Hope. 

Stars.


Images and text cited © 2001-2004 Paula Gibby
Review and page © 2004 Diane Wilkes