Deck Review - The Wise Woman's Tarot

By Sheri Harshberger

I was surprised when I received my copy of The Wise Woman's Tarot. I don't know why, but I was expecting the cards to be smaller than they are. This is a large deck. This deck was originally created 5 years ago by Flash Silvermoon, who I believe is a true Renaissance woman for our times. The illustrations were done by Barbara Vogel in close collaboration with Flash's vision.

I was immediately drawn to this deck. The illustrations are multicultural and very "human." I have heard commentary that the deck is too feminist. I don't find that at all. The Majors are all depicted by matriarchal figures, but there are male figures depicted throughout the Minors, and not in subservient roles. As I look through the cards, the images invoke feelings of equity; as their stories are acknowledged, humanity is freeing itself from a self-imposed bondage.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a large deck. The cards are nearly 6 inches tall and nearly 3.5 inches wide. This would seem to make the deck difficult to shuffle, except the card stock is thin and very flexible. This makes the deck very easy to handle. The only issue the size of the cards seems to present is the amount of space required for spreads of more than five or seven cards. A problem when I do readings at my desk in front of the computer, but not an issue on my 3 foot by 3 foot table I take to reading fairs. 

The structure of the deck follows traditional Tarot deck convention with 78 cards, of which 22 are Major Arcana and 56 are Minor Arcana composed of 16 court cards and 40 scenic pip cards. The illustrations are oval with a colored border that is keyed to the type of card it is. The border contains the card title at the top, and the god, goddess, or ethereal concept depicted, at the bottom. Normally, I am not a fan of words printed on cards, including card titles; however, having the names of the god or goddess that is portrayed in the card is very helpful to me, as I am not familiar with many of the gods and goddesses portrayed. The back image is not reversible and incorporates the name of the deck at the top with the names of the three women who made the deck possible: Allen (publisher), Flash Silvermoon, and Vogel (artist).

Each Major is associated with an Astrological symbol. While adhering to a 22 card Majors structure, she didn't just replace existing traditional cards with an updated or alternative image - she completely redefined the Fool's journey paradigm into one of "Spirit into Matter" - our evolution from the ethereal into the human race. Wow.  The Majors are depicted as below:

0 - Essence - Mu - Uranus 

I - Sorceress - Magic - Mercury 

II - Illumination - Isis - Moon 

III - Fertility - Oshun - Taurus 

IV - Star - Tara - Aquarius 

V - Nurturer - Venus of Willendorf - Cancer 

VI - Lovers - Soulmate - Venus

VII - Gorgon - Medusa - Gemini 

VIII - Strength - Asherah - Leo

IX - Synthesis - Cerridwen - Sagittarius 

X - Healer - Sarah - Virgo

XI - Amazon - Myrine - Aries

XII - Revolution/Revelation - Pele - Mars

XIII - Limitation - Oracle, Sarah, Myrine - Capricorn

XIV - Initiation - Eclipse - Neptune

XV - Awakening - Hecate/Pandora - Pluto

XVI - Moon - Ischel - Pisces

XVII - Sun - Amaterasu - Sun

XVIII - Justice - Maat - Libra

XIX - Wheel of Life - Kali - Jupiter

XX - Transformation - Phoenix - Scorpio

XXI - Universe - Changing Woman - Saturn

The traditional court cards of king, queen, knight and page within each suit have also been replaced. I won't go into the detail of the courts as we have printed an excerpt from the companion book that will allow Flash to discuss the courts in her own words (check out the article "Coping with the Court Cards" also in this issue).

This deck uses the traditional suits of Cups, Pentacles, Swords and Wands. Each suit is associated with an element and color. The colors aren't jewel-bright, but have earthy undertones which I find very attractive and applicable to the deck. The color and elemental associations are:

Cups - Water - Blue

Pentacles - Earth - Black

Swords - Air - Green

Wands - Fire - Red

Accompanying the deck are two cards that have "meanings at a glance" for each card in the deck. The meanings take 3 of the four sides, with the remaining side listing an extensive compilation of publications, performance and audio CDs and tapes, and products specific to The Wise Woman's Tarot. The cards are color-coded and sectioned so that key information can be easily and quickly found for any card in the deck.

The artwork for this deck is stunning. It is easy to see why the cards have to be the size they are. Each illustration is loaded with mythic and esoteric detail, freeing the deity depicted to be "themselves." While some images are more attractive than others, all are beautifully rendered and speak with a unique voice.

When I ordered my deck, it came with the companion book, which Flash refers to on her website as a "textbook." The companion book truly is a textbook on the ancient feminine and mystical matriarchal history, and also includes information on the traditional history of Tarot, so that the matriarchal viewpoint can be placed in context. The book has a table of contents, index, glossary, tables, charts and illustrations as necessary to present the information in the most understandable way possible. The book also contains more detailed discussions of each of the cards and the figures illustrated in the cards. There is a large section devoted to card layouts and sample readings, including how to read for pets. She includes the lyrics to one of her songs, River Goddess, in the section for the Majors card, Fertility. She also includes anecdotal examples and photographs. While a book of 180 pages might seem daunting, it isn't. Flash has a very engaging and reader- friendly style. It is apparent that she is a natural teacher and communicator. With this book, she invites the reader fully into her world for an educational chat.

If you are interested in starting an exploration into the ancient and mystical heritage of the feminine, this is an excellent deck to start with.


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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2008

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