Pros: Cards aren’t huge; detailed cultural background
Cons: The art is nice, but these aren’t the most beautiful cards I’ve seen
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 2/5/2001
Tarot cards are a means of divination, fraught with symbolism and history. Each different sort of deck has its own style, its own take on the symbology. Each deck also has its own “personality.” These particular cards are not as overly huge as those of some tarot decks, making them easier to shuffle and handle. The card stock is good quality; it can warp a bit, but it doesn’t tend to fray quickly. The artwork is nice, and attractive, but not as stunningly beautiful as some decks.
This deck was put together by Magda Weck Gonzalez (Star-Spider Woman) and J.A. Gonzalez (Rattling Bear). Some people, when putting together a tarot deck that draws specifically on one culture or another, try to force-fit it into the traditional tarot form. This means that they try to make their symbolism and messages fit the traditional cards of the major arcana (Fool, High Priestess, Empress, etc.), the suits (Wands, Swords, Cups, Pentacles), and the court cards (Page, Knight, Queen, King). These people were wise and did not try to do this. They allowed the form of the deck to follow the function. The suits are Blades, Pipes, Vessels, and Shields – preserving the ideals of the suits while translating them into the cultural context. The major arcana start with Fool, Hosteen Coyote, Corn Maiden, and Medicine Woman. The court cards are the Matriarch, Chief, Warrior, and Maiden.
This book and deck are much heavier on historical and cultural background and lighter on divination material. This may please or displease you, depending on your preference. The set comes with both a small, short-interpretation booklet, and a large, 206-page book. The smaller booklet provides much longer interpretations than most such quick-start books. The pages may be small, but there are more than 100 of them! The actual divination material is short, but there are a couple of brief paragraphs on the symbolism of each card and cultural context. The little booklet even provides 5 different sample layouts – more than most large tarot books!
The larger book has a detailed index and blank pages in the back for taking notes. It also includes a lengthy bibliography of books on all sorts of Native American legendry, mythology, history, religion, and more. It’s an invaluable reference. There are tables of correlations with the major arcana – which cards match up with which deities of various religions, symbols of various cultures, chakras, points on the shamanic journey, gemstones, musical keys, plants, focus tools, and more. There are also instructions for using the cards as visualization tools and focuses for meditation. There are six sample card layouts (mostly the same as those in the smaller booklet, but in more detail).
The descriptions of the cards are long – even the short cards get a full page. They start out with a quote, many of which are quite beautiful. They go on to discuss the symbolism of the card (in more detail than the small booklet gives), bits of applicable history and culture from Native American traditions, and the card’s application to matters of divination.
If you’re looking for a new and interesting tarot deck, this certainly delivers. If you’re interested in gaining new insight into matters of Native American culture and history, this is an interesting and beautiful place to start. If you’re tired of tarot decks that only come with those tiny little quick-start booklets that provide only minimum guidance, this is a detailed, interesting, and useful deck. I highly recommend it.