Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Rituals and Practices with the Motherpeace Tarot is a companion work for the Motherpeace Tarot, co-authored by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel. It takes the diverse imagery of the Motherpeace deck and puts it into action, not only for divinatory purposes but also for personal exploration and growth. This work carries both a multi-cultural and a feminist orientation. Although both the deck and the book can certainly be used by men, the major focus is on helping women connect with their own feminine nature, become comfortable in their own skins, and come fully into their own personal power.
The deck that this book works with is one that I only recently came into possession of. While not the only feminist oriented deck that I have worked with, it is the first round deck. Reading the orientation of the cards has been a whole new (and exciting!) experience.
In her introduction, Noble talks about the history of oracles, and that they have been shown to be an integral part of female community. The Motherpeace deck was birthed from the thought that it was up to modern woman to reconnect with oracular skills, to reclaim prophetic powers. She makes an interesting statement when she notes that "woman's intuition" is an accepted notion, but that, for the most part, women are blocked from acting on their knowledge. I agree with her, having seen this happen even during my lifetime.
I am also impressed in that one of the first things that Noble talks about is that the Motherpeace deck (and to my mind, the entire field of Tarot) does NOT belong under the category of New Age (think how we all cringe when we hear that word! It is grounded in shamanism and earth-based healing practices, presenting itself through a feminist foundation. Noble goes into the background of why the images in this deck were chosen (and they were researched and chosen for a reason), noting that many of the images show women engaged in various forms of oracular practice (i.e. the visionary practice shown in the Two of Wands; the spontaneous creativity of the rock art in the Three of Wands and the trance meditation of the Nine of Wands). In a more indirect manner, the other three suits follow along this line, with the medicine woman on the Nine of Disks; the intense meditation of the woman in the Two of Swords; and the dance of celebration in the Three of Cups.
I really felt like part of the process when I was reading this book. Noble goes into a great deal of background, and is a Master Storyteller in that she brings her personal life experiences in as a part of the story, and not as ancillary "examples". There is great joy here - as in the end of chapter one, when she suddenly announces "Time to read the cards." It is part of the flow, so no one has time to get nervous, or slip out a side door. She asks the reader to start with one card readings, and then briefly discusses ways to get to know the cards - such as emptying your mind, and looking at the symbolism in the card closely. See each tiny part, and see it as part of the whole. Note the colors, the action (or lack of action), and the ambiance of the card. Address the cards in a respectful, yet playful, manner. Have some fun!
One last thing on reading the cards. Noble suggests first finding the story in the card(s), and then making a guess as to where/how the story is taking place in your own life. What better way is there to begin your Tarot journey! She also suggests becoming comfortable with reading for yourself, and then perhaps to begin doing readings for friends. I agree wholeheartedly - an excellent way to get feedback, and a comfortable atmosphere to get it in.
Noble addresses a topic that is inherent in the use of the Tarot, and certainly something important for a beginner to address, and that is fate versus personal will. She points out that nothing is written in stone, and that the use of oracles from the beginning was meant to help people take personal responsibility for making choices that allowed them to live in tune with natural laws - with the consequences of their actions.
To place this aspect of the cards in action int he readers life, Noble breaks down the structure of the Motherpeace deck, which is the basic structure of Tarot itself. She asks the reader to sort their cards into Majors, Court Cards and Pips, and to line the piles up, in that order, left to right. She goes on to describe the basic energy of each of the three divisions: the Majors representing forces outside of our egos, and therefore outside of our control (and a place where we need to let go of control and flow with what is happening); the Court Cards representing a place somewhere between fate and personal free will (with Daughters (Pages) and Sons (Knights) representing our younger selves, and Priestesses (Queens) and Shamans (Kings) representing the more mature expression of our personality); and the Pips (numbered cards) portraying the area of manifestation - i.e. where the activity is going to take place.
There is a wonderful spread given here (the Fate Reading), where the cards are shuffled, and one card is drawn from each pile. The card from the Majors represents the archetypal forces at work at the time of the reading. The Court Card (or People Card, as Noble calls it) represents how the Seeker is working with, or managing this energy in their life. The card drawn from the Pips represents where in the Seeker's life the energy is manifesting itself. (i.e. Wands represents the world of spirit and energy; Cups represents the emotional realm and the world of dreams; Swords represents the mental realm; and Discs the physical realm and the real world). The suggestion is made here to make the study of the entire deck of cards a "year and a day" process, in what she terms the initiatory period of the Old Religion of the Goddess (as it is now for many Wiccan/Pagan groups). Noble also makes the very sensible suggestion that the student keep two decks - one for ordinary use, and one in a special place (such as on their alter), where the deck can remain separated and easily worked with.
In her discussion of the archetypal energies of the Major Arcana, Noble equates them with kundalini energy rising through the chakra system. For each of the 22 Major Arcana, she gives a brief explanation of this type of energy. For example, the Fool represents pure impulse, which flows into the Magician, who is the awakening of power in the first (Root) Chakra. The High Priestess is equated with the second (Sacral) Chakra, and the awakening of intuitive/psychic powers. This is a wonderful way of seeing in "real time" how the energies that we are activating are going to work in our lives, how they affect us on the earthly physical level as well as the higher level of Spirit.
Noble talks about determining "soul" and "personality" cards, as well as "year" cards. The year cards can be a special help, as they focus on the energy of each individual year in an individuals life, and what the focus for that year will be. She also suggests ritualizing, in some manner, the beginning of each year, which is something that I highly recommend. She briefly goes through each card of the Major Arcana, with suggestions as to how the student can work with the energy of a specific card during the next year.
Noble devotes specific chapters to past/present/future readings, to invoking good health, to personal relationships, and to yes/no readings. In reference to health issues, she points out that when we work with the Tarot in this aspect, we are accessing ancient healing traditions. (As a personal aside, I must caution that while this work can be done, and has great merit, consultations regarding the areas of finances, health and law are best left to the professionals in those fields.) The spread that Noble presents is a viable option. It is a four card spread, laid out vertically, with the bottom card representing the physical world, the second card the emotional world, the third card the mental world and the top card the spiritual world. She also touches on the use of "helper" cards - additional cards that are drawn to add insight into difficult cards in a reading.
There is a seven card spread presented in the chapter on relationship that works well to show the energy between two people on the levels of mind, heart and body, with the seventh card representing the relationship. Noble also addresses couples counseling session, and working with manifesting a relationship.
The yes/no readings are done on the basis of three cards, and their upright or reversed orientation. (Remember - the Motherpeace is a round deck - there are considerations here that the reader would not have with other decks.)
There is another section to this book that I really liked, and that was the section on sacred holidays (the eight points of power that define a calendar year). Each holiday is discussed, along with a small ritual that can be done to honor it.
The last topic covered is taking the Motherpeace deck (and this applies to all Tarot decks) "public". Noble makes some very wise suggestions about becoming familiar with the deck before using it in front of others, even family members. Bringing the cards into the venue of neighborhood, school, church and work require great thought, along with a conscious effort to remain centered. One of the best suggestions here is that if you wish to work with the deck at work, say in a decision making capacity, to wait until you feel comfortable simply taking them out and working with them. No explanation to anyone should be necessary. Be aware that they will draw people to them, and be prepared to talk about what you are doing. Keep the talk simple, fun and non-threatening. Take a deep breath, readers. This can be done!
There are appendices that cover additional resources, sources for Buddhist chants to be used in ritual, notes from each chapter, and a listing of products related to the Motherpeace Tarot. There is also an extensive bibliography.
I had a great deal of fun with this book - laughed a lot, learned new ways to work with the cards, and did some really great readings for myself. This is a wonderful resource - well written, with black and white scans of the Motherpeace deck throughout. Don't pass this by just because you may not feel that you want to work with this specific deck. Noble's wisdom is applicable to Tarot in general, and is a great gift.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.