The Motherpeace Tarot is an unusual deck with definite feminist leanings, but unlike many feminist decks it does show a few males. This was the first of the round Tarot decks.
I pulled out my Motherpeace Tarot deck the other day and realized I have never written a review on it. Iíve written reviews on so many other decks, itís surprising to realize that Iíve never written one on the Motherpeace. Most Tarotists have a special deck; one that carried them into the world of the Tarot. A deck that made them feel comfortable and confident reading for others, and unlocked its mystery in a spiritually gratifying way. Back in 1984, Motherpeace was all that and more to me. While studying the Motherpeace, I had also become a serious student of Yoga, taking several classes a week, and the writings of Carl Jung. When I began studying the Motherpeace and found images of Yoga positions and references to Jungian psychology, I felt as though I had found a multifaceted tool that could be used to adjust and aerate the deep recesses of my soul. Yes I do tend to wax poetic about the Motherpeace!
I was introduced to the Tarot (like so many others) through a reading done with the Coleman-Waite back in 1974. I studied the deck for a few months but put it aside when other demands on my time took increasing precedence. In 1984 I was at the counter paying for a book in the Toronto Womenís Bookstore, when I noticed the Motherpeace Tarot on a shelf behind the clerk. I asked her what it was and she explained it was a feminist Tarot deck. I burbled over with mind-altering joy, ďA feminist Tarot deck!?Ē
Without a second thought, I purchased the deck and book by Vicki Noble that explained the deck. I spent months studying and playing with this deck. I read and reread Vicki Nobleís book several times until I felt like I had a solid grasp on her material. In the spring of 1985, I had a brainstorm to offer readings to women using the Motherpeace. I posted ads up on bulletin boards offering my services at parties. Within a surprisingly short time I was getting invites to womenís functions and parties around Toronto. It was so gratifying to read the Tarot from a feminist perspective! I was soon teaching this Tarot in evening, College continuing education classes. For several years I taught this feminist deck at senior centres where women flocked with excitement and participated enthusiastically with stories of their own experiences of discrimination and connection to the Goddess. It was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life.
The Motherpeace Tarot with its focus on the Goddess and matriarchy was a very unusual product back in the early Ď80ís. Itís difficult to imagine today just how rare, revolutionary and enlightening Vickiís work was at that time. Iíve often wondered throughout the years if Vicki Noble realizes what a profound impact she has had upon the psyches of women. Because the feminist teachings were couched in a Tarot format many women were attracted to the work for its enticement of play and pleasure and garnered incredible consciousness raising almost serendipitously.
The Motherpeace Tarot cards are round affording more creative opportunities for interpretation than square cards. Square cards can only be placed upright or reversed but round cards can be used like a dial Ė if itís turned down too low, the energy is slow and perhaps even blocked. If the ďdialĒ points to the right, the energy of the card may be overbearing or in some situations extreme. The names of the cards not surprisingly, have been changed in many cases to a more feminine foundation. For example, The Hermit is the Crone and the Hanged Man is the Hanged One. It is in her feminist perspective of the cardís meaning, however where Vicki shines brilliantly. The Emperor is patriarchy (I continue to interpret the Emperor from this perspective), and the Hierophant is the traditional religious leader who oppresses feminine values and her unique spiritual voice (this too lives on in my interpretation of the Hierophant). The court cards have been completely renamed to reflect family identities such as Son, Daughter, Mother with the Shaman at the head of the tribe. The meaning applied to these family members has also been changed to reflect a more matriarchal interpretation of the energy.
The artwork done primarily by Karen Vogel is childlike, colourful and positive. When observing the Motherpeace images, my Tarot students would often comment on how delightfully engaging and uplifting the imagery was to work with compared with some of the darker imagery seen in the more classic decks. Vickiís interpretative work also guides the Tarotist to read in a positive and constructive fashion. This deck is empowering to women and fosters feelings of strong personal agency and appreciation for the feminine in general.
people teaching a Goddess course this set should be on
their reading list and for those Tarotists who are tired
of the traditional deck or wish to explore an
alternative approach to Tarot, you will find this work deeply
satisfying and thought provoking. Itís not easy, simple or
superficial however, and Iíd advise you to be prepared to
dedicate many hours to learning this deck well. It will
alter your relationship to the Tarot more profoundly
than any other deck on the market. Motherpeace
generated a wave of conscious awareness across the globe
whose ripples continue to flow to this day. In 2013,
Motherpeace celebrated its 30th anniversary and continues to
sell thousands of copies yearly. Like anything that is
true and honourable it will prevail for many, many
Suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Discs (Pentacles) court cards: Shamans (Kings), Priestesses (Queens), Sons (Knights) and Daughters (Pages).
Major Arcana: The traditional titles are retained, with the exception of Hermit, who becomes the Crone (shades of Ellen Lorenzi-Prince's Crone Tarot!), and the Hanged Man, who becomes the Hanged One.
This past year has been one of "catching up" with the Tarot world for me. I have been working with both decks and books that have been in print for some time - they just haven't been residing in my home and in my hands! I have felt a deep need to immerse myself in this Tarot history, of which the Motherpeace Tarot certainly holds a place of honor. It is unique onto itself - by nature of its geometric shape (circular), and its format (feminist/Goddess oriented). (Well, perhaps no longer "unique", but it certainly set the path for work outside of the more traditional work of the Tarot.)
There are two versions of the Motherpeace Tarot - a regular size deck, and a mini deck. I am working with the mini deck and Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook set. Even before I opened the book or the cards, a smile came to my face. The sacred geometrical form of the circle is represented by the deck itself - I think that everyone understands this. However, when I turned the box that the deck came in over - there was a red square outlining a red circle, with the deck information in the middle. The circle squared says a great deal about this deck!
One of the things that I appreciated about the accompanying book was its gentle nature. There is humbleness and respect in Karen Vogle's words that one does not always find. It interested me to see that the Motherpeace project, from the beginning, was a joint effort coming from two women with differing backgrounds - Karen Vogel's in anthropology and biology, and Vickie Noble's in women's studies. The focus of the project was to find the root of the subjugation of women - which, in Vogel's words, seemed connected to sexuality and spirituality, and acts of suppression and control regarding each. The nature of their research was into psychic studies and Goddess history. Perhaps today we might find this not out of line with a lot of other work that is being done, but please remember that this work was being done in the 1980's. It took a great deal of courage to walk this path then (and still does - even though there is a great deal more support today for Goddess oriented work that there was then).
The book begins with a short history of Tarot, followed by a short history of Goddess cultures. The Motherpeace Tarot itself reflects Goddess cultures, as well as working within community. The Major Arcana uses scenes and symbols from several different cultures, and several different parts of the world. The symbols and the cultures are sometimes mixed, to reflect the understanding of the authors and the feeling that they wanted to portray.
In the Minor Arcana, each of the suits represents a different part of the world. Wands, representing the element of Fire, are located in ancient Africa. Cups, representing the element of Water, are located in the Mediterranean Sea, with images largely from Crete and Greece. The 10 of Cups and the Daughter of Cups use imagery taken from the Southwestern United States. The suit of Swords, representing the element of Air, is European based, largely in Greece. The suit of Discs, representing the element of Earth, is taken from the indigenous peoples of the America's, and from European Folk and Goddess traditions.
The write-up of the cards is done in a very interesting manner. As the cards are round, they have much more than an upright vrs reversed orientation. In the book, black and white scans of the cards are followed by a discussion of the scene on the card, and four positional meanings. I think that this is a good start, and Vogel does encourage the reader to determine for themselves what the cards mean to them, and what the orientation of the card means to them. I think that we can take this one step further: if we assign the most positive meaning for a given card to the upright orientation, and the most negative meaning for a given card to the reversed position, than we have a full 180 degrees of differentiation between the two. I find this very important, and a good reason to experiment with using a round deck, because it very much fine tunes what a given card means for the Seeker in a reading and in their life.
From the book:
The Magician is performing a ritual. She puts on her leopard robe as a commitment to the pursuit of justice. She takes up the knife as a tool to conduct the lightening of the mind through her heart. In her heart she transforms the lightening into the creative fire of the torch.
The Magician begins the ritual by looking to the Goddess of Wisdom who lives in the Egyptian Sphinx. She asks the Sphinx to watch her dance in the full spotlight of the sun. She lifts one foot and fills a beautiful cup with all the water she desires. From her other foot pours seeds and whatever else she needs to build her ritual towards its end.
Upright: The Magician takes action. The creative impulse of the Fool is brought into form. She has the ability to get things done with focused energy and power. The Magician represents outward fiery energy. She is able to harness all of the elements to get the desired results.
Left: The energy or will of the Magician is held back, or hard to access. There is a lack of confidence.
Right: The Magician is using a lot of effort and pushing hard to make something happen.
Reversed: The Magician's potential is unable to come out right now. Self-doubt is preventing the expression of her power or individuality. If this energy is too long repressed or reversed, there is a tendency to abuse power. The Magician may hurt someone and/or herself.
The cards in the mini-Tarot version of the Motherpeace Tarot are 3" in diameter - easy to handle for smaller hands (shuffling with round decks is not easy - the smaller version may well be the better version if you plan to use this deck a great deal). The backs of the cards (illustrated by Cassandra Light) are amber colored, with eight circles surrounding a larger inner circle. They are soothing, and lead to a form of meditative experience all on their own. The face of the cards has a 1/4" white border surrounding the inner illustration, which is bordered with a fine black line. The card number is listed at the top of the card, with the card title at the bottom. Copyright information is on the left hand side of the card, in small black print.
There is a separate card included with the deck, on which is printed the following poem:
Traditional "Charge of the Star Goddess"
I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters.
I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold - all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
Powerful words, accompanying a powerful deck.
The artwork in the Motherpeace Tarot is primitive (as in the Shining Tribe Tarot, by Rachel Pollack, which is another outstanding Tarot deck), and there is a great deal of nudity (which can be a consideration, depending upon your clientele). I was not bothered by either, and would not hesitate to offer it to my clients as a choice of reading decks.
In trying to pick out my favorite cards - well, there are so many! The Magician, dancing in her leopard skin robe, is certainly one of them. The High Priestess, seated between two pillars. The left hand pillar has an Owl on it that represents the Goddess's life experiences, the right hand pillar carries a geometric pattern that represents what remains to be done, and what lies ahead.
The Chariot is really unique: it shows a female chariot driver, guided by winged goats in place of the traditional horses, on a green hill, with a tree in the background. Nut, the Egyptian Goddess, watches over in the night sky.
The Wheel of Fortune shows planets in the middle of the card, with the 12 astrological signs surrounding it. Judgment is portrayed as an Egyptian Ankh that surrounds a globe of the earth with rainbow light.
The Ace of Wands carries a powerful image of a baby being born from a robin's blue egg, and being ignited by the fire of life. The Eight of Cups shows an octopus with a different beautiful cup held by each of her eight tentacles.
The Two of Swords shows a woman standing on the beach, balanced on one foot. There is a full moon in the background, and she carries a feather in each hand, which she uses to make the sign of the lemnescate around her. Her teacher, the Stork, stand beside her. The Four of Swords shows a woman who has placed four swords, one at each of the four quarters, to create a sacred space to work within. The Five of Swords shoes five swords placed in the shape of a pentagram, with a yellow jacket in the center.
The Four of Discs shows a woman standing in her doorway - ready to either open or close the door. A warm fire burns behind her, while behind her a rock deflects the wind from the fire. There are four signs on the wall to the left of the woman which carry interesting designs that are not mentioned in the book.
The LWB (Little White Book) included with the deck includes a section on Tarot and Meditation by Vickie Noble, card definitions by Vickie Noble, Minor Arcana meanings by Karen Vogel, a short section on the meaning of the numbers by Karen Vogel and a presentation of the same spread that she uses in the Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook, which is a permutation of the traditional Celtic Cross spread.
I am enchanted by the possible permutations on Tarot that this deck offers, and fully intend to use it in my practice and in future Tarot work. I would recommend it to students of any level - all they need is an open mind. (Note: While the references in the book are largely feminine, Vogel does suggest that if the reader wishes they may change the reference to the sex of the Seeker.)
After two years in a relationship with this deck, and after many flings with others, I must conclude that it's my best friend, confidante, support system and the one true thing I can count on at the end of a day.†
Its round images (available in smaller and larger versions--smaller version is easier to handle) are a beautiful alternative to the dichotomy normally depicted in traditional yes/no decks.† The round shape emphasizes a push and pull on energies, rather than a simple positive or negative.† Its primitively drawn images are inspiring, maybe not due to the artists' technical ability, but as a jumping board for the imagination.†
Its feminist emphasis on female images is another plus, but it
hardly excludes the male.† Rather, it de-emphasizes
traditional dichtomy of male/female in favor of integrating
the male/female/mixed aspects of all.† It is a deck
that has never let me down.† It is truly magickal!