Hola gorgeous Goddesses!

A special post to share with you today… an interview with Joanna Powell Colbert, the creator of the Gaian Tarot.

Joanna has been in the process of creating her Tarot for ten years now, documenting it along the way on her website – and the deck is finally complete!

I’ve been watching Joanna create the deck for about four years, and adore the way she uses the Tarot concepts, and transforms them into her own love song about the earth, the goddess and her spiritual journey.

Check out the beautiful video above of her tarot artwork {with stunning music by her hubby!}

Joanna is an artist and writer known internationally for her mythic art and her Tarot deck-in-progress, the Gaian Tarot. Her artwork and writing have appeared in the magazines SageWoman, Circle and PanGaia as well as many other alternative publications. Amber Lotus Publishing Co calls her one of “the most accomplished and well-loved artists in the Goddess-spirit community.” Joanna has taught classes on the Tarot, women’s spirituality and earth-centered spirituality in the Northwest since 1991. The Gaian Tarot combines Joanna’s love of symbolic, archetypal art with the mysteries of the natural world. The first edition of the Majors-only deck sold out before it was released. The entire deck and book will be released as a collector’s edition in Spring 2010, then published by Llewellyn Worldwide in September 2011. Joanna currently has a special until November 3rd on pre-orders for the Limited Edition set.

How did you have the calling to create the Gaian Tarot?

In the late 90’s my spiritual path shifted away from ritual and Tarot and books. I began to focus on learning directly from the earth Herself. I heeded Starhawk’s comment that “for pagans, Nature is our Holy Book, and most of us are illiterate in it.” I put aside Tarot cards and other systems of divination and instead began to study the native plants and wildlife of the Place where I lived, which was a small rural island in the Pacific Northwest of the US. I learned to connect directly with the energy of the earth and the sea. In the fall of 2000, I traveled to Chicago as the Artist Guest of Honor at a conference, and was challenged by a woman that I met there to create a Tarot deck. It seemed to me that she spoke with the voice of the Goddess, and I took the challenge on. Later I realized that the perfect theme for me would be to combine everything I’d been learning about living in harmony with the earth, with the rich archetypal imagery of the Tarot. It’s been a grand ride.

How is the Gaian Tarot different from other tarot decks?

It’s multicultural and contemporary, and is not an esoteric deck. While I stayed true to the classic Tarot structure and was inspired by the Rider Waite Smith deck, the deck is not a reworking of familar RWS imagery. With each card, I asked myself: Where is the voice of Nature in this card? I wanted to show a community of people, plants and animals all living in harmony with each other and the planet. In some ways the deck is a vision of what it could be like to live in the world. But it is a vision rooted in reality. All the figures in the deck are people that I know, or are based on people that I know. Also, every card, even the challenging ones, offer advice and counsel on how to triumph over that particular challenge.

What are your three favourite cards (and interpretations) from your deck?

It’s pretty hard to narrow it down to three cards! These are my three current favorite cards. (Earlier I would have put the High Priestess and the Canoe at the top of the list.)

3 of Earth – I love this one because it shows the bonds of friendship between women, and more specifically because it reminds me of my Friday night circles with these three women when I lived on the island. There’s a lot of warmth and joy in the image. The interpretation is: communal creativity. Getting together with others to create something for the good of the community. In this case, the women have gathered herbs and are making tinctures, salves and potions, for the healing of bodies and spirits.

9 of Water – This one is a self-portrait from the day I visited Merlin’s Cave in Tintagel, Cornwall, UK a few years ago on a women’s “Journey to Avalon” with Mara Freeman. The cave had incredible energy, and I stepped up, opened my arms and began to sing to the Ocean Mother. It was one of the most ecstatic mystical experiences I have ever had, and the image on this card (based on a photo taken by one of the women with me that day) perfectly captures the memory of that experience. The interpretation is: communion with the Divine, mystical experience, merging with All That Is. In this, all our dreams and wishes are fulfilled.

Guardian of Water – I have a particular affinity for the Ocean Mother, in all the ways she manifests around the world. I love this piece because I think it perfectly captures the compassion of Tara and Kwan Yin, pouring out the waters of mercy upon a troubled world.

How did you find the images for each of the cards – did you search for them, or did they come to you?

They came in many different ways. Sometimes they were inspired by other artists’ work. Sometimes the idea came to me through an intense study of the card. Sometimes an image arose in meditation or a dream, sometimes through deep thought and focus. Sometimes I “recognized” the card when I saw it, out on a walk (that’s the way the Death card came to me). I think creative inspiration is a Mystery.

What message does the Gaian Tarot whisper?

Go outside. Connect with Mama Gaia in whatever way works best for you. Discover what your gift is, and give it to the world. Do your part to heal yourself, your community, and the planet.

How did you discover the Goddess in you?

Oh my. That’s going back a few years. I spent most of my 20’s in church, as a fundamentalist, charismatic Christian. I was married with two small children, a stay-at-home mom with a husband who didn’t make much money. My whole life was circumscribed by the church. I don’t even remember popular music or films from that era. In the late 70’s I had a “feminist epiphany” and realized that the church I attended was not about love, it was about power. The church leadership was interested in having power over the lives of the congregation, and men were taught to have power over women. I pulled my children out of Christian school and left the church. My husband followed, rather reluctantly.

I read a book called “From Housewife to Heretic” by Sonia Johnson, the woman who was excommunicated by the Mormon church because she supported the Equal Rights Amendment in the US (which did not pass). Even though I was not a Mormon, her description of her experience was close enough to mine that I deeply identified with her. The book gave me my first introduction to the concept of patriarchy. There was a footnote somewhere at the end of the book that said something like “All over the world, women are gathering in small groups at the full moon to discover the Goddess within themselves.” I sat straight upright, a tingle going up my spine. I had to find out about that!

I discovered the book “Womanspirit” by Hallie Austen Iglehart and wrote to her. She came to my house to do a weekend workshop (this was the early 80’s) and I met other local women who were interested in gathering together to discover the Goddess. That was the beginning, and sometime later I took a series of classes in feminist spirituality from Ruth Barrett (now of the Temple of Diana in Wisconsin). It was through those small circles of women that I came into my own power and found the Goddess, both within and without. I remember coming home from my first ritual that Ruth led. We had passed a hand mirror around the circle, looked into our own eyes and said “I am Goddess.” Then we showed the mirror to the next woman and said “You are Goddess.” Around the circle it went. I walked in the door to my house that night, and my husband said, “You’re glowing! What did you all do?” I just smiled. (That marriage did not last.)

What’s next on your journey now the Gaian Tarot is complete?

It’s not quite complete! I still need to finish the book, and plan to rework a couple of the cards in the next two months. Then I’ll be busy with production for the Limited Edition, which will start shipping by Spring Equinox. I have some ideas in mind for a Gaian Tarot readers’ certification course and a Gaian Tarot membership site. We’ll see! But other than those things, I’m looking forward to exploring new art mediums, as I’m a bit burned out on colored pencil work after doing it exclusively for 12 years or so. I also have ideas for a couple of illustrated books.

Thanks so much for this precious interview, Goddess Joanna!

For more of Joanna’s beautiful work…

Visit her Gaian Tarot website to see all of the Gaian Tarot, and check out her gorgeous blog too. Also check out her online oracle where you can receive messages from the Gaian Tarot. I just used the oracle for me… and the answers were deep, and just what my sweet soul needed to hear right now. The entire deck and book will be released as a collector’s edition in Spring 2010, then published by Llewellyn Worldwide in September 2011. Joanna currently has a special until November 3rd on pre-orders for the Limited Edition set.

If you have any questions for Joanna, do let her know in the comments 🙂

Hope you are all feeling muchos shining & inspired from this interview! It’s just so beautiful to see other goddesses living their dreams, & birthing their creations into the world!

Biggest love to you all on this gorgeous, inspiring day,