Pamela Wells asked me if I'd take a look at her deck of "Inner Guidance Cards" called "Affirmations for the Everyday Goddess." I would have responded with a knee-jerk, "No thanks," except I took a look at the publisher's website first. Artmagic Publishing is a sweet site with all kinds of goodies that are divine-feminine minded, spiritually leaning, and just really good work. I took a look at the cards and decided, sure, why the hell not? It looked like a nice deck. I tend to shy away from oracle and affirmation decks. I do own one or two, but I tend to dismiss most of them as, oh...I don't know, spiritual chotchkies, not incredibly meaningful or useful. What specifically caught my interest was that these cards were described as TAROT Guidance Cards. Oh really? So I replied to Pamela letting her know I would like to review her deck on 78 Notes To Self.
Opening the deck upon arrival proved to be a genuine treat. It is enclosed in its own well constructed, sturdy, lined box (yes, it is lined!) The cover art is exquisite and reminiscent of ancient religious art. The figure on the front is clearly Eve standing beside the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She holds one fruit in her hand and is almost greedily reaching up to pluck another from the tree. The implication here is she is hungry for knowledge and despite any warnings to the contrary, she wants all the wisdom she can hold. Interestingly, the snake, which Christian tradition holds as the vile tempter, is echoed in the gown that drapes her body, enveloping her body. Its position reminds me of the cadeceus and the Rod of Asclepius, both symbols that represent healing and medicine. The implication is that while there are responsibilities and consequences to acquiring wisdom and knowledge, the effect of it is healing and growth. The end papers that line the box are richly patterned as are the gold borders of the cards. The bottom section of the box is lined in paper that is decorated with stylized, calligraphed names of God from various spiritual traditions and practices. Opening the box feels a bit like stepping into sacred space.
The 22 cards themselves are the size of regular (large) tarot cards, and they are gloss coated, so at first use they are stuck together, but once separated they shuffle smoothly and don't stick together. The shiny surface is a bit much and detract, I think, from the richness of the art as the light reflects and glares impede the ability to view the art the way, I believe, it was intended. I think the coating is unnecessary since this is not intended as a "reading" deck and isn't likely to suffer the abuse of constant use. The art is detailed and exquisite, the colors rich and vibrant. Some of the goddesses appear to be of ancient origin while others seem more modern which gives the deck a timeless quality, allowing one to envision the goddesses as timeless themselves. The women featured on the cards, we are assured, are real women. They are all very beautiful but I don't have a problem with that because they're goddesses, after all. Personally, if I was a goddess and able to choose my material form, I'm pretty sure I would choose an aesthetically pleasing one. I do appreciate the diversity of skin tones and hair colors and textures represented in this deck.
Only two cards do not feature a goddess image, although the Sun is anthropomorphized with a feminine face. After all these years of associating the Sun with a masculine energy, it is refreshing to see it personified as feminine. The nurturing gaze on the face of the Sun suddenly brings to mind the Empress and her creative, prolific energy. Of course! They are obviously connected! The other goddess-less card is The Tower. The tower itself does not appear to be in the process of being destroyed as much as it is being revealed by the "all-seeing eye" above it. The absence of the physical presence of a goddess is poignant because in times of extreme personal loss and devastation it can seem as if the Divine has in fact abandoned us or, worse, is the malevolent force behind the destruction. Therefore, the absence of a physical representation of the goddess on this card is particularly significant.
Each card includes an affirmation printed unobtrusively on the bottom border. I am not personally a fan of "extra stuff" printed on cards, like keywords, affirrmations, etc., so I like that one can use these cards without being forced to use the affirmation if one does not desire. So even though this deck is clearly intended as an Affirmation Deck, it does not overly impose that practice on the user. The affirmations themselves are intelligent and based solidly on a clear understanding of the accepted Major Arcana card meanings. They are positive, yet realistic, and don't feel "forced" when spoken aloud.
The affirmations would be enough in themselves but the artist has also authored a companion book that guides one through an intelligent practice of using affirmations in one's spiritual life. The book -- I refuse to call it a "booklet" despite its diminutive size -- is a worthy introduction to archetypes, the use of affirmations, and non-dual awareness. Dual awareness is what keeps us entrenched in dichotomies, such as masculine/feminine and other either/or ways of categorizing people and things. It is an effort I can deeply appreciate given my strong feminist beliefs. At first it may seem hypocritical to promote non-dual awareness with a deck that is clearly all feminine all the time. Yet this deck is clearly promoting non-dual awareness by imaging women in roles that are traditionally male dominated. One of the most striking cards in the entire deck is the Emperor. A beautiful ebony-skinned goddess with natural hair stands squarely facing the viewer. She holds a scepter, a symbol of power and authority, in one hand and in the crook of her other arm rests an eagle, an ancient symbol representing a noble nature, strength and aristocracy. A lion stands by her, also representing power, courage, authority and royalty. She stares forthrightly out of the card and one would be hard-pressed to deny her inner strength and determination. There is no doubt she IS the Emperor. No question. Imaging the persona of the Emperor as a woman assists in creating that non-dual awareness that allows us to see both men and women as equally suited for roles.
The book is a very helpful guide through each card as well, including as it does quotations appropriate for the meanings of each card and self-exploratory exercises one can do, or not, with each card. I love the flexibility of this deck which allows Major Arcana tarot readings, meditative exercises, and affirmation practice. One can use it as one chooses. And the art is gorgeous. You won't get tired of looking at these images. They're rife with hidden details and symbolism. This is most definitely a deck that would take a long time to uncover all the mysteries both in a tarot sense and in a spiritual sense.
Very well done, Pamela. Well done.