Happy to review this deck long since added to my Tarot of the QTPOC list, The Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert.
The original version of the Gaian Tarot was indie released in 2010, then LLewellyn in 2011, and this year by Schiffer and I’m glad for it. Decks like this often sell quick- people are hungry to see themselves in the decks they work with- and what is left available after the first printing is usually price gouged to the high heavens (prayer circle for the Collective Tarot). Reprintings keep decks more accessible, and I especially encourage folks to prioritize the support of indie reprints.
When I was first creating the Tarot of the QTPOC list, I’ll admit to not having any knowledge that the Gaian Tarot even existed. Thankfully, the internet happened and drew my attention to the deck. I was surprised by the diversity and impressed at the inclusive approach to her art Joanna took.
Joanna’s art for the Gaian tarot is a combination of photography, line art, digital manipulation, and digital wax pencil coloring. Which sounds like a lot of work, in fact in Joanna’s write-up of her creative process she notes that it took her nine years to finish the art for the deck!
Being a deck whose subtitle is Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves, most of the people are depicted interacting with nature in some way. What I love about it, is that they are often doing so in non-idealized ways grounded in the everyday but still visioning a more harmonious walk with the earth. There are also a good amount of cards that do not depict any people in them.
“In these cards, you’ll find a multicultural, contemporary community of people living sustainably on the land and working to heal Mama Gaia. Animals frolic, plants unfurl, and elements sparkle. Each card is a teacher who is brimming over with lessons to share.”
At first I found the art a bit too old fashioned for my tastes; it evoked paintings from old religious posters and books which I admit biased me against it. It also made the deck look much older than it is relative to its actual publication in 2010. Add to that, most of the cards that folks posted pictures off seemed like more of the same that was out there- very straight and very white. However, after downloading the tarot app version, I was won over. It is clear that Joanna wanted to begin from inclusivity not just token additions.
“You’ll recognize yourself in these cards and will be able to envision new, inspiring possibilities for your life. You’ll learn to heal yourself, and to heal the earth as well.”
All suits and major arcana have cards with people of different races, age, and body type. There also multiple cards where gender can be played with, and is open to queering. No two cards feel or look alike, and she does very well with weaving the common thread of a suit. She also brilliantly changed some of the major arcana titles to align better with the theme of the deck without foresaking their meanings, for example Bindweed as The Devil.
One more way to win me over is to eliminate gendered court card titles and depictions. For the Gaian Tarot, Joanna used Child, Seeker, Guardian, and Elder for the Page, Knight, Queen, and King respectively. In the not so LWB, Joanna gives clear and helpful insights into her visions for the card; she does not read reversals instead asking the reader to consider the gift and shadow of a card.
I recommend this deck to tarot readers of all levels. The art is evocative of the often referenced Rider Waite Smith tradition without being bogged down by it. The images in the cards allow for readers and querents alike to glean relevant messages beyond traditional meaning. As always, support decks that do the work of representing the communities they serve.
Purchase the new printing of the deck and book box-set from Schiffer Publishing.
The tarot app is still available from The Fool’s Dog.
Check out my Tarot of the QTPOC tag for reviews of more decks you can support!
All images from The Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert
All quotes from Joanna Powell Colbert