Gaian Tarot


Review by Sheri Harshberger

Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert

Published by Llewellyn Worldwide,

ISBN: 978-0738718910

In the July 2009 issue of Tarot Reflections, ( ) I wrote a review of the second edition of the Majors-only version of the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert. I tried, with some difficulty to remain objective during the review, despite wanting to throw my head back in a Homer Simpson drool at just the thought of the mass-production version of the Gaian Tarot being available in September 2011. It was so long away! Yes, getting the limited edition version that was available in the meantime helped, but it has been a long wait…

Boy oh boy, was it worth it!

As I mentioned, I have the larger, limited edition version of this deck also, and am resisting the urge to compare the two in this review. Not that this is a lesser deck, but because I think it deserves a chance to stand as its own, outside the shadow of its "older" sibling.

Llewellyn publishes this deck as a boxed kit, complete with 78-card deck and 288-page companion book titled, Journey through the Gaian Tarot. The box features the image from the Sun card on the front and images from several other cards integrated into the back. The book features the stunning Star card image and is soft cover.

The deck doesn't feel overly thick, and at first I thought it was significantly shorter than a Waite Smith, but it isn't. It is only slightly shorter, but it is at least a 1/4 inch wider. The card stock feels stiff, but it is flexible and I wonder if the width of the deck just makes it feel like it is stiffer. The deck shuffles smoothly and crisply, and the cards easily separate. I found it easy to shuffle, but would like to note that readers with smaller hands or used to a narrower deck may find they need to "stretch" across the width. By the second shuffle, I was already used to the wider cards.


This edition of the Gaian Tarot conforms to the traditional 78-card Tarot structure with 22 Majors and 56 Minors. The imagery of each card is bordered with white and all cards have titles centered in the bottom border. Some of the images "leak" out into the border, which allows the images to "escape" the bounds created around them. The Majors are numbered, starting with The Seeker as 0. Strength is 8 and Justice is 11. The deck is reversible friendly and reversed meanings (called the "Shadow side") are provided in the companion book. The backs of the cards feature a ring of green plants described in the book as a "wreath of blessing herbs--cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and lavender." She adds that the starry background is from the Star card and the wreath itself is from the World card. The wreath is an important symbol as it creates the portal between our world and the other side.

The Minors include Child, Seeker, Guardian and Elder which correlate to Page, Knight, Queen and King cards in classic decks. I don't want to use the term "replaced with" because I don't want to give the impression that the images are clones of the Waite Smith or other classic deck, they are not. This deck is one of the few that challenge the Tarot community by introducing us to a deck that deviates from the classic or traditional norm and brings relevant archetypes steeped in our modern world, in this case, the Pacific Northwest Native American and earth energy/spiritual cultures that Joanna Powell Colbert lives and breathes every day. The traditional symbolic Tarot suits of Swords, Wands, Coins and Cups that represent the elements of Air, Fire, Earth and Water have been abandoned in favor of real life or natural symbology… which I believe is what really makes this deck resonate with so many people. It demonstrates Tarot through archetypes in our world.


The images on the cards are from Joanna Powell Colbert's colored pencil paintings and they are sublime. The colors are soft, yet vibrant. The realism is gobsmacking, especially in the depiction of people. Joanna's self portrait in a field of lavender as the Nine of Earth is stunning! The water in the background of the Death card literally sparkles in sunlight. I could go on and on. This is a deck of 78 works of fine art. 

The companion book to this deck, Journey through the Gaian Tarot is more than just a book of card meanings. She explains what "Gaian" means and introduces us to her deck through descriptions of each card, as well as meanings for upright and reversed, or "shadow side" positions. For the Major Arcana cards, she also includes additional information to help readers deepen their understanding of the cards by including relevant themes, symbology information and journaling questions. Affirmations are also provided for every card, both Majors and Minors.  I like how the Minors are organized in the book: by rank, with each set of 4 cards prefaced by an introduction to the rank. This includes the Courts, too. The last section of the book is called "Working with the Cards" and features several spreads created by Joanna herself as well as Beth Owl's Daughter, James Wells, and Carolyn Cushing.

This deck is a stunning and worthy addition to both the Gaian Tarot legacy and the Tarot world!

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