Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections

December 1, 2004

Gems of Self-Publication: Gaian Tarot
Valerie Sim, CTGM




The Gaian Tarot
By Joanna Powell Colbert

Most of my friends in Tarot know that I seldom review, or even purchase, the run of the mill Majors-only deck. I am not breaking any personal rule here -- in no way is this is a run of the mill deck. This is a gorgeous pagan Tarot that I have had the privilege of watching come into being. It is the latest creation of noted artist Joanna Powell-Colbert. Ms. Colbert’s art is often featured in SageWoman and PanGaia. She is not merely a gifted artist who took on the Tarot randomly as a challenge. An avid Tarotist as well as an artist, she is currently the author of PanGaia’s “Tarot Journey” column; her third segment, on the Magician, is in their winter issue. She is known not just in the United States, but internationally, for her artistic talent, her pagan knowledge and her superb attention to detail.

I mention that attention to detail because Ms. Colbert excels not only in the art itself, but in the way she presents her art as well. Those who purchase this deck receive the vibrant cards printed on archival paper and with archival inks, a sumptuous purple velvet bag to hold them, a companion booklet that is both rich in detail and professionally presented, and an herbal sachet containing lavender, sage, cedar and sweetgrass. Overall, the entire package screams “gaian”, or of the earth.

If I commented on my favorite cards I would mention well over half the deck, so I am going to limit myself pointedly to just a few that I find to be especially remarkable.

One of the earliest cards I remember seeing from this deck was the High Priestess. In this card viewers will find no seated maiden, nowhere therein will they find the pillars of dark and light, and there is neither veil shielding the mysteries, nor a scroll in the maiden’s lap. Instead this Maiden/Crone holds a pomegranate, reminiscent of Persephone, she who ate of the red fruit and henceforth resided in the upper world for six months of the year, and in the lower world for the remaining six months as the bride of Hades. Though the symbolism in this card may be regarded as unconventional to many, I have seen few cards that so beautifully and simply express the energy of this trump. Here we find the literally dichotomous maiden who is young, yet timeless in her antiquity. She is Maiden and Crone, both yet neither. She is the vivid personification of the guardian of mysteries with one foot in both worlds. The visual duality of this card is further reinforced with the inclusion of sun and moon, fowl (owl) and fish (salmon).

Another of my favorites is The Magician. No mere drummer he, this shamanic Mage is caught up in the ecstasy of the beat and makes your feet tap to the rhythm of his journey. And Ms. Colbert paints not just with color, but with words. Of this card she says, “Our Magician is a ritual drummer, the drum his magic wand. He plays the djembe, caught up in the bliss and ecstasy of the trance created by the sound of the drum... Firelight flickers on cave walls, painted with a thousand hands, inspired by the prehistoric handprints in the Cave of Hands (Cueva de las Manos) in Argentina. An altar with shell, feather, gemstone and candle for the four elements anchors him in sacred space.”

For the sake of space, the last card I will mention is Death. I have never seen a Death card like this one, and yet never have I seen one as reverentially appropriate to the theme of Nature and its interconnectivity. In this card, quoting the author, we see “On a bright spring day, a dead heron is laid to rest in an old decaying boat near the beach. Ants and spiders crawl on the carcass and a vulture hovers overhead.” It sounds like a grim beginning and hints at a visual one would rather miss, but you’d be wrong… “Wild roses and elderberry grow up through the rotting boat and butterflies flit through the greenery. Sinuous ropes like snakes are coiled below the deck. To the west are the islands of the Otherworld, and late afternoon sunlight sparkles on the water.” This card captures the bittersweet message of Death: that we are all destined to die and our physical remains to return to the earth, but that out of death comes life and that even in the stark reality of that physical fact that beauty can be beheld by those that are not afraid to see… The reverence with which someone placed this dead heron into the boat speaks volumes about the fact that at least one person honored the majesty of death and was unafraid to acknowledge death as the eternal partner of all that lives….and will live again.

It should be mentioned that the card titles in this deck are not conventional, yet are consistently faithful to pagan themes. They are as follows:


Gaian Tarot

0 - The Fool

The Seeker

I - The Magician

The Magician

II - The High Priestess

The High Priestess

III - The Empress

The Gardener

IV - The Emperor

The Builder

V - The Hierophant

The Teacher

VI - The Lovers

The Lovers

VII - The Chariot

The Canoe

VIII - Strength


IX - The Hermit

The Hermit

X - The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel

XI - Justice


XII - The Hanged Man

The Tree

XIII - Death


XIV - Temperance


XV - The Devil


XVI - The Tower


XVII - The Star

The Star

XVIII - The Moon

The Moon

XIX - The Sun

The Sun

XX - Judgment


XXI - The World

Gaia, The World

I heartily recommend this deck to not only to all who love the Tarot, but to all pagans who love fine art. Correct that. You don’t have to be pagan to appreciate this deck. Its sheer beauty and depth of symbolism will captivate many who are not on the pagan path. If you are interested in this deck, please go to to learn more about it and to read the artists marvelous recital of the creative process behind the deck and the journey she went on in order to birth it. To order it contact And now let us hope that we will be able to shuffle a 78 card deck from this Tarot artist soon!


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