Updated: Oct 13
I want to share 3 important round Tarot Decks that were all created by Women in the 1980's and 90's:
1983 - Motherpeace Tarot by Karen Vogel & Vicki Nobel
1984 - Daughters of the Moon Tarot by Ffiona Morgan & Shekhinah Mountainwater (published in color for the first time in 1991)
1993 - Songs for the Journey Home - Alchemy Through Imagery: A Tarot Pathway by Catherine Cook & Dwariko von Sommaruga of New Zealand - Self-published
Read on to find out why I consider them groundbreaking and essential to my Tarot Reading deck collection and personal spiritual growth.
Women's Tarot & Women's Spirituality Divinely Linked
I've been collecting Tarot decks since 1993 and began my personal studies into Goddess-based Nature Spirituality at the same time. One of the first books I acquired and read was 1955's The Great Mother by psychologist Erich Neumann, but that was a very clinical archetypal analysis, and even if he was a Jungian, it was still written by a man.
That led me to The Great Cosmic Mother written by two women Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor published in 1987 and I dived into reading it cover to cover with great enthusiasm. Here was the forgotten, ignored and hidden evidence in archaeological, anthropological, mythological and religious sources of how women (since paleolithic times) were the spiritual leaders for humanity. The first religions were based on Goddess Worship.
The Chalice and The Blade is a classic by Riane Eisler. It describes how peaceful matriarchies in ancient times were conquered by invading tribes led by violent men. These nomadic warrior peoples took over the partnership-based settlements of the peoples of the Earth Mother Goddess imposing their dominator-based social systems on them and their Sky Father God. Patriarchy was thus born from war and male violence. It didn't evolve naturally. Humans are not born naturally violent. It was a choice. Partnership and cooperation is likewise a choice and it's the choice that allowed humanity to evolve into having civilizations and being civil.
Focused as I was now on Women's Spirituality and the old Goddess religions it became important to me to acquire the Round Tarot Decks created by Women. Each has it's own brand of women's spirituality.
Motherpeace (not Fatherwar)
The Motherpeace Tarot is currently available and is the most well-known of these decks with four accompanying books released over the years and I have three of them in my library:
Motherpeace - A Way To The Goddess Through Myth, Art and Tarot by Vicki Nobel that was published in 1983 and was the Guidebook at that time. I have the 1994 Edition with a new foreword by Vicki Noble.
The Motherpeace Tarot Playbook - Astrology and the Motherpeace Cards by Vicki Noble and John Tenney published in 1986. I have the 5th Edition published in 1993. It's loaded with information not in the original guidebook about how to read tilted and reversed cards, and includes many additional spreads.
Making Ritual With Motherpeace Cards - Multicultural, Woman-Centered Practices for Spiritual Growth by Vicki Nobel published in 1998.
Reclaiming Her Story
The artwork itself is colorful but, it's somewhat amateurish in the execution (Nobel and Vogel are writers more than artists). However, I believe the real treasure of the Motherpeace deck lies in what the depictions convey about ancient Goddess traditions and, the herstory of women's spirituality and women's rituals across time and across cultures, even if the drawings themselves aren't that skilled. I specifically use the word herstory. History is a men's word that implies "His Story" is all there is to the past. Women have their own story of the past and male conquerors tried to erase it over the centuries.
The dramas of life are played out through different eras in the suits; Wands depicts images from the Stone Age and Swords from the Bronze Age. Cups is renamed Vessels (the sacred womb) with images from the Mediterranean Island of Crete in the 2nd millennium where peaceful Goddess worship held out the longest against the forces of violent patriarchy. Pentacles is renamed Discs (creation and procreation) with images of communal life in present day surviving matriarchal cultures in tribal Africa and in Native American tribes before they were forced onto Reservations.
Its Court cards are reimagined as Daughters, Sons, Priestesses and Shamans which duplicates the Thoth Tarot's court structure of Princesses and Princes (younger woman/younger man), and Queens and Knights (older woman/older man).
This deck is about reclaiming our ancient heritage to live in harmony with the Earth and with each other.
While Motherpeace does retain the 78 card traditional structure of standard RWS and Marseilles style decks, the artwork is a total departure from Eurocentric Christian symbolism stuck in Medieval times as well as the Golden Dawn narrative.
In 2003, Karen Vogel wrote her own book: Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook (I don't have this one). She and Vicki Nobel co-created the deck images and both are still selling the deck on their respective websites.
What is it about ROUND Decks??
But, why did all of these different women decide to create circular tarot decks? I think Vicki Nobel expressed it best in her 1983 Motherpeace book:
"Discs, of course, are circles, which Giedion calls the oldest symbolic form to emerge from the human consciousness as an objective symbol. Circles mean feminine reproduction and perpetuation, the beginning and end contained in a perfect form. In prehistoric or "matriarchal" cultures, circles are the dominant motif. Houses are circular, burial tombs are round. In Stone Age caves, archaeologists have found hollowed our circular "breast" marks (cupules) in the walls, circular perforations, and colored spots or discs (usually painted red) that surround hands, breasts, or animals, or stand alone. They have also found circular discs, slabs of stone with perforations on them, which scholars assume must have been used ritually in some way. In the Native American way of living, as Evelyn Eaton shows, "the Sweat Lodge is round, the hole in the center containing the fiery rocks is round, the sun is round, the world is round, the bird's nest is round, life is a round between birth and death, and everything revolves in a circle, everything has its appointed place in the wheel of the Universe.""
Vicki liberally references the books of Feminist Mary Daly which guided her in Motherpeace's creation. So, Motherpeace has cards that also demonstrate the history of Patriarchy's Conquest with new feminist interpretations for the cards of The Emperor (the conqueror/ruler), The Hierophant (his priest and usurper/inverter of original Goddess religions) and The Devil with it's hierarchal pyramid of slavery to one male Pharoah or King.
Vicki Nobel is 76 today in 2023 and is still writing, leading, speaking, teaching and she's doing Buddhist Shamanic Healing work. I also have her book Shakti Woman and highly recommend it along with her other books.
The Women's Movement became Women's Spirituality
In the 1960's and 70's the Women's Movement made significant strides forward fighting for women's rights (Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973). Consciousness Raising groups regarding women's issues in society sprang up like seedlings and later blossomed into Women's Spirituality groups in the 1980's and '90s. The first part of consciousness raising for women was examining our exclusion from organized religions as a focus for Divine worship. Why no Goddess? Where was She? What happened to Her? Carol P. Christ, Theologian and Scholar wrote an Essay entitled "Why Women Need the Goddess" based on a keynote speech she gave in 1978 at the Great Goddess Re-emerging Conference in California at the University of Santa Cruz attended by over 500 women. It was later reprinted in the book Womanspirit Rising which was one of the books that acted as a catalyst for the resurgence of women's interest in ancient Goddess worship that coincided with the creation of Motherpeace and Daughters of the Moon. I first read the Essay in the mid-1990's when I joined a Women's Spirituality Circle for the first time. I've included the link for those who want to read the Essay https://www.goddessariadne.org/why-women-need-the-goddess-part-1 And, coincidentally, it was after my divorce from my first husband (surprise, surprise). Womanspirit Rising; A Feminist Reader on Religion by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow became a part of my Feminist Library.
Daughter's of the Moon
A Matriarchal Tarot
Ffiona Morgan (assisted by Shekhinah Mountainwater) created Daughters of the Moon Tarot. She graduated from the University of Santa Cruz in 1974 with a BA in Psychology and Women's Studies and earned an MA in Psychology, Social Science and Women's Studies from San Jose State in 1980. It is an unfortunate fact that there is a Transhumanist Agenda targeted at erasing women's herstory and women's rights and it's been working over the last two decades to cause the decimation of almost all Women's Studies programs at Universities. As dependency on man-made technologies increases so does the propaganda of disembodiment that seeks to normalize the commodification of the human body for profit with the creation of synthetic sex identities. It's being bankrolled by male billionaires invested in the biotech industry (think genetic engineering and artificial wombs). The Goddess of Nature is under attack by those who wish to become Gods of Artificial Reality (the Matrix). The Goddess doesn't make mistakes. No one is born in the wrong body.
The Daughters of the Moon is my personal favorite out of the three round decks because it's unabashedly and unashamedly a Goddess Tarot deck and was the culmination of artistic illustrations and paintings from a dozen women. The deck and cover of the Guidebook were black and white when published in 1984.
I bought my Daughters of the Moon tarot deck in the mid 1990's when the color edition was available and the box has long since worn out and been thrown away. It was replaced with a blue silk zipper bag that is just the right size and is beautifully embroidered with a circular Asian design that has the Chinese character for Luck in the center surrounded by dragons.
I found a used copy of Ffiona's book "Mysteries of the Goddess" online a few years back (originally titled "Wild Witches Don't Get the Blues") and it's illustrated with the black and white cards from her 1st edition. Reading it is integral to understanding the journey of how this deck was created.
The Definitive Feminist Tarot Deck
Fjiona and Shekhinah fiercely restructured the entire deck and did away with Major and Minor Arcana altogether in favor of 5 Elemental Arcana with Aether for Spirit (containing the 22 Greater Mysteries) and Flames for Fire, Cups for Water, Blades for Air and Pentacles for Earth. The fact that they choose to create 5 Arcana also reflects the 5-pointed star of the Pentacle. The Court cards are completely feminized as Maiden, Mother and Crone (each represents one of the 3 blood mysteries of womanhood).
The Magician is now The Witch. The Hermit is now The Wise One. The Hierophant is merged into the High Priestess card while the Empress and Emperor are combined in Mawu the Mother who gives birth on the back of an Elephant (now that's powerful). Spider Grandmother spins the web of your fate and replaces The Wheel of Fortune as The Weaver. Justice is replaced by the Egyptian Goddess Maat who uses a scale to weigh your heart against a feather after death and it better be as light as a feather... or else!
These are just a few examples of the changes they made. It was a very bold deck when first published (what? no men?). It's a multicultural journey around the world with its vibrant colors and powerful images of forgotten Goddesses as well as images of women in different cultures who embody the Goddess and are mentally or emotionally or physically connected to Her primal energies and who still work Her Earth magick.
It has no male characters except for a Pan card with a flute carrying and rather wimpy Beta Goatherd that is supposed to represent a man attuned to Goddess spirituality (looks more like a boy or an attempt at a beloved son). But, fortunately, he's considered an optional card that you can choose to leave out of the deck and substitute with Coyotewoman the Trickster. It turns out that Ffiona was only a year younger than my Mother and sadly died in 2020 after being a lifelong Feminist and Civil Rights Activist on the West Coast. After succumbing to cancer, Shekhinah Mountainwater joined the Goddess in 2007.
The authors called Daughters of the Moon a Matriarchal Tarot. But, I think it's a quintessential Tarot of the Goddess with beautiful renderings of the Spiritual Power of women.
That's what makes it the definitive feminist deck for me more than Motherpeace. While that deck does focus on stories of matriarchies and images of women and men within matrifocal cultures, Daughters of the Moon shows us the Goddess Herself. It's interesting that both decks were birthed by women in California only one year apart from each other. It makes me wonder if any or all of these deck creators (Vicki Nobel, Karen Vogel, Ffiona Morgan and Shekhinah Mountainwater) attended that Great Goddess Re-emerging Conference at the University of Santa Cruz in 1978 where Carol Christ was delivering that Keynote Speech about the importance of why women need the Goddess? Hmmmmmm....
Songs for the Journey Home
Alchemy Through Imagery
A Tarot Pathway
Now we come to Songs for the Journey Home created in 1993 and self-published by two women from New Zealand. This round deck made it's appearance approximately 10 years after Motherpeace and Daughters of the Moon had emerged on the Tarot scene. Dwariko did the artwork and Catherine wrote the book and I was privileged to meet both of them at one of the World Tarot Congresses held in Chicago (not sure if it was the Congress in 1999 or 2002). I bought the 1996 2nd edition of the deck as well as the guidebook, which Dwariko autographed for me. And, how could I pass up that handmade plush and colorful Tarot bag embroidered with the deck's High Priestess card? I got a bookmark too. Ahhhhhh merch! When I got the deck home, it turned out there was one card missing. Whoops!!! So, I just held onto the deck and didn't really use it since it wasn't complete.
Divorce from Christianity
In the book, Catherine documents her spiritual journey as beginning when she became a divorced single Mother after leaving an abusive marriage which ostracized her from her Christian church as well as from her parents. This was before divorce was commonplace and women faced real social penalties back then. Divorcing a husband was looked down on as deserting a good man (a protector and provider) and taking his children away from him. During religious marriage counseling her Minister told her that biblical teachings about God's Will were the absolute truth and she must have faith no matter how she felt and, therefore, she must strive harder to be a good little wife. Ultimately, she didn't buy into that and gave up being a good little wife. She never remarried.
Destined to Meet in an Ashram
In 1982, she was introduced to the writings of Bhagwan Rajneesh which encouraged her to express her spiritual feelings (that her Christian Minister had actively worked to get her to repress) and she was led to get involved with Rajneesh's disciples in Auckland who made her feel valued and appreciated for her intelligence. Over the next 3 years, she found solace in the meditative practices and emotional healing in the therapy groups they provided and then became a devotee herself and joined the Auckland commune in 1985 about 5 months before Rajneesh's corruption was exposed and his cult collapsed.
Maybe you've heard of the infamous Bhagwan? He became known in the media as The Sex Guru. He not only fleeced the followers at his Commune in Oregon, but also at his worldwide Ashrams and amassed so much money that he was able to afford a fleet of 74 Rolls Royces to ferry himself around in before he got deported and eventually returned to India.
Catherine met Dwariko at the commune in Auckland and they were devotees together. I can relate to Catherine's story as my Mother also left an abusive marriage that made her a single Mother in the 1960's. With the responsibility for supporting 3 small children she faced family and societal disapproval too. Likewise, my mother left her Catholic Church and never went back. She turned to meditation for spiritual peace and was drawn to studying Astrology in the 1970's. Fortunately for me, she avoided gurus and communes. She never remarried either and died at home in 2018 six months after entering Hospice Care.
A Tarot of Transcendentalism
This deck has no named Goddesses or women from ancient times. It does have symbolic images of women and men in ordinary modern life situations; enjoying its simplicities and navigating the complexities. The book also reflects the influence of time spent by the creators in the Transcendental Ashram where they absorbed Hindu concepts of dharma, chakras and transcendence (the movement later became known as Osho). Some of the cards are very abstract with a dreamlike quality reminiscent of The Aquarian Tarot. The crayon pencil drawings also make it childlike in appearance and almost whimsical. However, these cards and their interpretations strongly reflect the depth of Eastern spiritual principles held by the creators.
Songs for the Soul
Catherine has lovingly reimagined the traditional Tarot Major Arcana as Life Songs for the soul's journey. She arranged them seasonally on a Wheel of the Year illustrated in her book. The Minor Arcana are now Hearth songs with the suits elementally renamed Flame songs, Wave songs, Wind songs and Earth songs that have corresponding border colors. The Court cards have become Shell Songs with the Pages renamed Innocence cards, Knights are Awakening cards, Queens are Creating cards and Kings are Resolving cards. It's really quite a brilliant system for a path of personal spiritual awakening and transcendence. Dwariko has sensitively and beautifully illustrated it.
The Last Edition
Then a few years ago I saw online that there was a new Mini Edition of the deck published in 2005. The colors were much more vibrant than the pastel coloring of the original and I wanted one and if you wanted one you had to order it direct from Catherine Cook at her New Zealand website www.tarotjourney.
I contacted her through the website to buy the new 3rd edition Mini deck and explained about being at the Tarot Congress almost 18 years previously and buying a deck that was missing a card. Of course, she remembered the Chicago Congress and kindly emailed me back and was thrilled when I sent her a picture of the tarot bag and bookmark Dwariko had made so long ago. She had very fond memories of Dwariko's artistry in creating craft merch to boost and augment their Tarot sales. Sadly, that's when I found out she'd become very ill and passed away in 2010.
Incidentally, since it was a self-published deck and cost was prohibitive, the boxes aren't as sturdy as those by the big publishers. Fortunately, Catherine still had some individual cards from the 1st and 2nd editions left (but no complete decks) and I was lucky she had the one card I was missing in her collection of leftover cards. She was happy to send it to me when she mailed my new Mini Deck. I think that was in 2016 or 2017. During our correspondence I mentioned I was a Leo and that the Strength card was my Zodiac card in the Tarot. When I received the Mini Deck in the mail, I was surprised and pleased to find she'd included an extra Strength card as a gift for me. Women are thoughtful like that and her personal touch showed what a kind and generous soul she was with a caring heart and a genuine appreciation for her deck's customers (devotees?).
When I tried going to Catherine Cook's website in 2020 and 2021 to see how things were going, I found it was non-functional. I didn't have her email address anymore and tried accessing the website again in the process of writing this blog post and it still wasn't working. So, I did some online research and discovered she passed away in 2020 in Auckland (her PO Box address was in Auckland). That's what I was afraid of. It was hard to identify what happened to her online, because her children didn't even think it was important enough to mention in her obituary how she was the author of Songs for the Journey Home and Co-Creator of the Tarot deck. I had no idea until I read the obituary that she was the same age as my Mother. She died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 80. And, that means this beautiful deck is now out of print and probably will remain so just like Daughters of the Moon Tarot is out of print. And with Ffiona Morgan's passing to be with the Goddess (also in 2020), we will not likely see another edition of that deck published either. It just breaks my heart that the legacies of these landmark Women's Tarot decks are not currently available to new generations of women unless you can acquire an old one. I will definitely treasure all the decks in my possession and despite the high prices that both of these OOP decks are commanding on Ebay, I'm not considering selling them.
The Great Cosmic Grandmother
In Catherine & Dwariko's Songs for the Journey Home Deck the #21 Life Songs card is The Homecoming instead of The World and it's a faceless depiction of the Star Grandmother which is also the image that graces the cover of the book and boxes of all 3 editions.
The complete story is too long to re-print here, but to summarize we start out as formless souls in the Spiritual Realm alongside our Star Grandmother and as we gaze down at the Earth plane we are seduced by our curiosity into wanting to go there and experience it for ourselves. Her great love for us doesn't allow Her to let us leave, so we have to sneak away while Star Grandmother is asleep. Using Her long braided hair as a rope we climb down to Earth and thus are born into physical shells when we reach the bottom.
The Fool's Journey
The Soul's Homecoming
In Catherine's words: "The image of the Homecoming tells a mythical story of our life's path on Earth. We come from the Stars... We come to Earth with the Star light in our eyes... In the shell of the physical body we are swept along by the Wave of Life... The voice of the Star Grandmother is spoken softly within each of us. The more we come to know her voice, the more we have a sense of coming home, no matter what our circumstances in the physical world. Her voice creates a bridge. This bridge is a safe pathway into the dimensions of the spiritual world, while we inhabit the body. The bridge is also the pathway we walk, with the joy of familiarity, when we eventually leave the body at the time of physical death. The ecstatic moments of life occur when we dance on this bridge, we experience both dimensions - the physical and the spiritual world - simultaneously. We understand the purpose of this earthly walk and we also know the place to which we will return... The invisible bridge is subtle - the subtlety of compassionate love, which is not defined by group identification or religious allegiance. It has a vibration - a song for the journey home; so many harmonies flowing together bridge the gap between the dimensions of physical and spiritual realities."
Thus, within Songs for the Journey Home Tarot a new version of the old myth of the Fool's Journey is created. I'm still awestruck or maybe I should say starstruck at how her words evoke such a beautiful Homecoming vision in my imagination. The Star Grandmother is as close as Catherine got to naming the Goddess in her work. I like to think of her as The Great Cosmic Grandmother.
Following my intuition, I decided to purchase each deck when I was in the right place at the right time in the 1990's. Thank you Goddess! And, I believe that includes the Mini Deck I bought just before it became unavailable forever.
Each woman-created Circular Tarot Deck was special despite how different each one was from the other. I express my respect and admiration when I say Thank You to Vicki Nobel, Karen Vogel, Ffiona Morgan (2020), Shekhinah Mountainwater (2007) Catherine Cook (2020) and Dwariko von Sommaruga (2010). Each woman in her own way was rejecting the limitations of the male-centered monotheistic religions she grew up in (like my Mother). Each chose to walk a path of peace and spirituality personified by women.
I feel so lucky to have been blessed by the research, knowledge, understanding and heartfelt experiences shared in their books. I cherish the beauty of the cards they birthed one by one with focus and with care. I consider them all brave and creative Mamas. The decks they birthed are precious children.
Beyond the Veil
Eventually, we will all cross the bridge and go beyond the veil into the realm of Eternity when the journey of life ends. At the end of the path waits the Star Grandmother arms outstretched and when She enfolds us in Her loving embrace we will feel the beautiful harmonies of the Songs of our Homecoming vibrating eternally from Her heart.
Maiden, Mother, Crone
Memorialized in Song