Tarot of a Moon Garden by Karen Marie Sweikhardt

Review by Patrice Walker

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

I was so excited when my Tarot of a Moon Garden deck and book arrived the other day that I ripped open the box they were shipped in and got the cards out for an immediate inspection. I was a little disappointed to find that the colors didn't appear to be as vivid as the colors depicted in the images I viewed on the Tarot Passages website, but I was still happy with my purchase.

I sat down later in the evening to view each card and read the descriptions in the accompanying book. The more I scrutinized the deck, the more delighted I became. First of all, the colors are really quite lovely: beautiful shades of green, blue, purple, orange and red . Secondly, the deck's creator, Karen Marie Sweikhardt, has remained true to the Waite symbolism and, at the same time, has adapted these symbols to fit the theme of the Moon Garden in very creative and unique ways. This comes across brilliantly in the Major Arcana. For example, as I viewed the World card, which shows a ballerina with butterfly wings, balanced on her toe in the center of a garden-wreath-like mandala, the full moon high in the sky, I didn't see the symbols of the four fixed signs of the Zodiac -- the bull, the lion, the eagle and the man -- and was a little disappointed that these symbols, which I think are essential to the card's meaning, were left out. It was only in reading the description of the card in the book that I realized they are subtly contained within the four quadrants of butterfly wings, barely visible, but definitely there.

Most of the cards' images have the moon pictured in either its waxing, full, or waning state in the night sky, or in some other symbolic form. I think the only Major Arcana cards that don't contain an image of the moon are the Lovers, the Tower, the Star and the Sun. Some of the Minor Arcana cards don’t include a moon, but the garden theme is maintained throughout, either in the form of a lush garden scene or in the form of one or more of the Moon Garden's inhabitants, which include dragons, butterflies, dragonflies, unicorns, and dolphins frolicking in the sea near the Moon Garden's sandy shores.

The sides of each image are bordered in flowering scroll work which starts off as lavender at the bottom of the card and shades into light blue. The card backs are reversible, and include two images of the same scene (except reversed) from the Moon Garden, which show a white birch tree, a crescent and full moon at either end of the image, and a butterfly frolicking through lush flowers and ferns.

The four suits are named Swords, depicted blade-down with blue dragonfly hilts; Staffs (Wands), pictured as living, white-barked trees rooted in the ground; Cups, slender golden goblets; and Pentacles, portrayed as pink thought bubbles with a large black pentagram emblazoned on them, the idea being that our thoughts eventually manifest as the objects of the material world. While the Waite symbolism is carried through in the Minor Arcana, many of the cards lose the people who animate Waite's images. Therefore, I think one may want to compare the Waite Minor Arcana with this one, because the traditional meanings of these cards are somewhat lost without these people. In the Moon Garden 10 of Staffs, for example, we simply see 10 towering trees behind which you can barely see a castle perched on a hill top in the background. A small white unicorn stands behind the trees in the foreground, peering up at the castle. Perhaps the unicorn takes the place of the man burdened with wands, and I simply need to study the card more carefully to understand what Sweikhardt is expressing in this scene. I think the Swords best capture the Waite symbolism. With these minor flaws aside, one can easily transfer from using a Rider or Universal Waite deck in readings to this one.

The book, Tarot of a Moon Garden, is very nicely designed and organized. Each card is described in three phases: The Rendering describes the image -- a must-read to understand the unique way the artist has expressed the Waite symbolism; The Reading provides an interpretation of the card when it appears in a reading; and The Ritual describes mostly Pagan ritual activities reflecting the cards' meanings that one can perform. I'm looking forward to baking the Empress oatcakes described in the ritual for the Empress.

The renderings are invaluable because they disclose aspects of the card that you might miss if you didn't eye it carefully, which happened to me several times. Moreover, including rituals that one can perform provides a way to incorporate the cards' meanings into one's daily life, a great way to solidify their meanings at a deep, visceral level of being.  Finally, while there are no separate descriptions of reversed cards, the author does include some possible negative manifestations of the cards.

I've only scratched the surface of the Tarot of a Moon Garden's rich images and know that a lot more will be revealed to me as I study it further. This is a beautifully designed deck that I know I'll return to often.

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

Tarot of a Moon Garden
Paintings by Karen Marie Sweikhardt
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN 0-88079-705-3

You can read another review of this deck here.


Patrice Walker has been studying the tarot and reading mostly for friends and family since 1979. In 1999, she decided to expand her skills and joined the American Tarot Association (A.T.A.). She is now a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and volunteers as a reader on the ATA’s Free Reading Network. Other interests include astrology and dream interpretation, which she believes add insight and depth to her tarot readings. Patrice is also a Reiki Master. She’s delighted that her 20 year-old daughter, Adrienne, a sophomore at Hawaii Pacific University, has taken an interest in the cards and now reads for friends and classmates. Patrice has worked for the past 15 years as a freelance instructional designer and lives in Washington, DC with her cats, Zanzibar and Precious.

Review © 2001 Patrice Walker
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes

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