Illustrated by: Kris Waldherr
Published by: U.S. Games Systems
Distributed by: U.S. Game Systems
Year Published: 1998
Type: Deck of 78 Cards
The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr is a wonderful reinterpretation of the standard RWS imagery from a gentle feminist point of view. The art work strikes me as very ephemeral. In some cases I would have liked to see some more defined lines in order to give the cards a bit more authority. But, overall, the artwork is very pretty and very effective. Ms. Waldherr has chosen to change the traditional figures in the cards, and match Goddess from various cultures to the standard meanings.
Each of the Minor Arcana suits follows the story of one goddess. The suit of Staves (Wands) corresponds to the story of Freyja, the element of fire, and has a border of lava. The suit of Swords corresponds to the story of Isis, the element of air, and has borders of mountains. Venus’ story is told in the suit of Cups, which corresponds to water, and has ocean borders. And the suit of Pentacles follows the story of Lakshmi, corresponds to earth, and has garden borders. The court cards of each suit are Princess, Prince, Queen, and King. Although the figures in the court cards look similar to goddesses of the suits, none appear to actually be the goddess Herself.
Ms. Waldherr has made many changes to the Major Arcana. Although she has, more or less, kept the traditional meanings from the RWS tradition, she has changed all the figures into goddesses. She has also made some changes to the names of the cards themselves. Below is a list of the Major Arcana in this deck. In brackets following the goddess name is the pantheon to which She belongs.
- 0 – Beginnings – Tara (Tibetan)
- 1 – Magic – Isis (Egyptian)
- 2 – Wisdom – Sarasvati (Hindu)
- 3 – Fertility – Estsanatlehi (Navajo)
- 4 – Power – Freyja (Norse)
- 5 – Tradition – Juno (Roman)
- 6 – Love – Venus (Roman)
- 7 – Movement – Rhiannon (Celtic)
- 8 – Justice – Athena (Greek)
- 9 – Contemplation – Chang O (Chinese)
- 10 – Fortune – Lakshmi (Hindu)
- 11 – Strength – Oya (Yoruba)
- 12 – Sacrifice – Kuan Yin (Chinese)
- 13 – Transformation – Ukemochi (Japanese)
- 14 – Balance – Yemana (Santeria)
- 15 – Temptation – Nyai Loro Kidul (Javanese)
- 16 – Oppression – The Wawalak (Australian Aboriginal)
- 17 – The Star – Inanna (Sumerian)
- 18 – The Moon – Diana (Roman)
- 19 – The Sun – The Zorya (Slavic)
- 20 – Judgement – Gwenhwyfar (Celtic/Arthurian)
- 21 – The World – Gaia (Greek)
I am a bit confused by Ms. Waldherr’s choice for some of the cards. For example, I personal don’t think that Gwenhwyfar is the best choice for Judgement. Also, the choice of The Wawalak for Oppression, or The Devil, doesn’t sit quite right with me. It seems to really change the meaning of the card, making it more about a situation you can’t escape then about finding a way to change your life and escape bad habits, etc. Of course, this is all personal opinion.
The LWB included with the deck is a fairly good size. It explains why each goddess was chosen for the Major and Minor Arcana card that She is featured on. The meanings given for the cards are very similar to RWS meanings, making this deck usable with most standard RWS books. The LWB also explains the images on the Minor Arcana cards, something that very few LWB do.
The backs of the cards are a lovely, soothing blue with gold decorations. The design isn’t really reversible, but if you don’t look too closely, it works well enough.
Overall, I find this a very pleasant and gentle deck. It seems to be well suited to readings about love, women’s concerns, or moderate questions. There seems to be very little symbolism relating to the Qabala or other esoteric systems, making this deck of little use to students of these paths. I would recommend this deck to anyone looking for a feminist alternative to the RWS imagery.
Summary of Features
# of Cards: 78
Reversable Backs: Yes
Symbol Inspiration: RWS (Rider-Waite-Smith)
Suits: Wands – fire, Swords – air, Cups – water, Pentacles – earth
Size: approx. 12.5 cm x 9.25 cm (approx. 4.7″ x 3.5″)
Rating: 4 – excellent deck for beginners interested in Goddess lore, contains RWS symbolism, art work is a little too ephemeral