Medicine Woman Tarot by Carol Bridges
Review by Valerie Sim-Behi

This is part of a larger article on Tarot and the Shaman

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I donít use these cards for shamanic reinforcement, but I can't help but enjoy this deck.  I can forgive its romanticized and loose Native American basis because of its primary focus on feminine spirituality and self-healing. This deck does not claim to be the "be all and end all of Native American spiritually" but attempts, even when clumsily so, to honor the Native American respect for all of Life on the quest for universal self-empowerment. It doesn't claim to be all tribes to all people, to combine Native societies, nor does it say that it has a unique view on such spirituality. And it does not preach. 

Everything about this deck is warm and nurturing. The color-scheme of the artwork is warm pastels, and the line drawings are delicate, yet precise. The style is almost childlike and exudes a sense of happiness and balanced well-being. The Guide is the friendliest Hermit I have ever seen. But this is both a virtue and a flaw. If you are seeking affirmation and are not up for a reality check, grab the deck. If, however, you want to look at a world that can be harsh at least as often as it is enjoyable, you will need a different deck or oracle.

The four suits are Stones (Pentacles), Pipes (Wands), Bowls (Cups), and Arrows (Swords). Though I have a problem with using pipes as a suit in a Tarot deck generally, this fits in well in this deck because the pipes are not trivialized.

Aside from being a tough match at best, the marriage of Native American ideas with the traditional Tarot archetypes has necessitated some compromise on both sides, resulting in a deck that doesn't really feel or read like traditional Tarot. This deck is far from a Rider-Waite clone, which many will find to be refreshing, yet reading with it does require some special study and "re-learning". Bottom line to me is that it reads more like an oracle than it does like Tarot. Carol Bridges does include the traditional names of the Majors on the side of the cards to make it easier to relate her cards depicting the people of Mother Earth to those of most Tarot decks, and I see the correlation, but I still find that this deck reads differently.

One thing I appreciate in this deck is the way the Court cards are freed from gender restrictions with their designations as Apprentice, Totem [Totem of Stones on the right], Lodge, and Exemplar. I like this system both as a woman and as a Shaman. Wisdom does not have a sex. And none of my statements above should be interpreted as invalidation. I find this deck refreshing; I just don't use it as a conventional Tarot deck, nor do I use it for shamanic insights.

See additional images from this deck here.

Read another review of the Medicine Woman Tarot by Michele Jackson here.

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

Medicine Woman Tarot by Carol Bridges
Published by US Games Systems
ISBN#: 0-88079-419-4

Valerie Sim-Behi is the founder and moderator of Comparative Tarot, an email list devoted to studying cards of different decks  in comparison to each other.   She has worked with the tarot for over 30 years.  Valerie created a spread that will appear in the book accompanying the Victoria-Regina Tarot by Sarah Ovenall, and has written various articles, including one on the Comparative Tarot method that will be published in Llewellyn's Tarot Calendar 2002.  You can visit Valerie at the Comparative Tarot websiteValerie wants to offer special thanks to Leah Pugh, Scanner Goddess for this series.

Review © 2001 Valerie Sim-Behi
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes
Images © 1992 US Games












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