The Goddess Tarot: A Review by Sarah Ovenall

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There's been much pre-release discussion of the Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr, so I eagerly anticipated my copy. As could be expected from the name, the Goddess Tarot is a theme deck based on goddess imagery. The little booklet describes the purpose of the deck as "an accessible alternative deck for Tarot readers already familiar with the popular Rider-Waite deck, who seek a deeper experience of the Divine Feminine in their readings."

This is not a deck for Tarot purists: most of the names of the Major Arcana have been changed, and instead of traditional imagery each trump shows the image of a different goddess (or goddesses) from various cultures. For example the Fool is renamed "Beginnings," and depicts Tara. The Magician is renamed "Magic" and shows Isis. The Heirophant/Pope is renamed "Tradition", represented by Juno, and etc. The artwork of the trumps is of a high quality, each trump a beautiful depiction of a goddess. The accompanying booklet gives brief descriptions of the goddess and how they relate to each trump, though I think more information would be helpful to people not already knowledgeable about comparative religions and mythology. Perhaps the deck is meant to accompany Waldherr's "The Book of Goddesses," which I
haven't seen. Waldherr has clearly put a lot of thought into choosing the
goddesses, and I only had a few questions of interpretation. For example, I
wondered why she chose the Zorya (described in the booklet as attendants of
the Russian sun god) for the Sun, rather than Amaterasu, the Japanese sun
goddess. And there seems a tendency to gloss over certain elements of the
trumps, I assume to make them more palatable. So Death becomes
"Transformation" (Ukemochi), and the Devil "Temptation" (Nyai Loro Kidul).
The Wheel of Fortune is "Fortune" (Lakshmi), and seems to deal only with
good luck and prosperity. That said, the trumps overall seem a thoughtful
and internally consistent reinterpretation of the Tarot.

The minor arcana, unfortunately, did not impress me as positively as the
trumps. Each suit has been linked to one of the goddesses in the Trumps:
Staves=Freyja, Cups=Venus, Swords=Isis, and Pentacles=Lakshmi. The images
on the minor arcana depict women from the the culture of the goddess
identified with that suit. So the figures on the Staves are Nordic, those
on Cups are allegedly Roman (their clothing and hair didn't look very Roman
to me, but I'm no expert so maybe there were Roman women who dressed like
that), on Swords the women are Egyptian, and on Pentacles Indian. The only
men in the deck appear on minor cards: the Four of Staves and Two of Cups
each depict a man and woman together, and the Kings and Princes are men.
Compared to the trumps, the minors seem crudely executed and poorly thought
out. Instead of reinterpreting each pip card (as was done with the trumps),
the minors instead depict simplified versions of Waite minors, set in the
culture of that suit's goddess. The rushed, sketchy quality of the art on
the minors is my biggest problem with them, especially when compared with
the really lovely trumps. Holding a random trump next to a random minor
card, I wonder if they were done at different times. The title card
mentions that some of the cards originally appeared as illustrations in
"The Book of Goddesses," which may explain the disparity in art quality.

Overall, I highly recommend this deck for people interested in exploring
goddess imagery, as an art deck for collectors, and as a trump-only deck,
for meditative purposes or for spreads that only use the majors. Taken as a
whole deck I would have to give it a qualified recommendation.

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
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Sarah Ovenall

Copyright 1998 Sarah Ovenall

This page is Copyright 1998 by Michele Jackson