The Story of the Gaian Tarot: Life/Death/Renewal, Part 3

Lisa's deckPart 3 of 3 parts. With the new Schiffer edition of the Gaian Tarot on the edge of release — some people have their copies while others are still waiting — I thought a lot of the people who are new to the Gaian Tarot might enjoy hearing a bit about the story of its creation and publication in various editions. Deck creators interested in the publication process may also find it interesting. And long-time fans may want to get nostalgic with me! 

Continued from Part 2.

In May 2010, I started an online community called the Gaian Tarot Circle. This was one of the best experiences of my life. Every other week we met on a teleseminar, once to study a card, and once with a guest teacher who taught whatever she or he liked, using the Gaian Tarot. There was a private forum, open 24/7. It was a thriving, wonderful community. It lasted for four years until I decided it was time to let it go.

Llew Gaian 2011The Llewellyn edition of the Gaian Tarot was released in September 2011. It was pretty thrilling.

I especially loved the light yellow-and-green box that Lisa Novak designed. There was one big snafu with the cards. The Builder card (my version of the Emperor), had “The Emperor” printed on it instead of “The Builder.” Both the publisher’s proofreaders and I missed that typo. I caught a lot of flak about this from people who bought the deck, and rightfully so. There was some talk about Llewellyn correcting it when they reprinted, but . . .

Out of Print: Waning, Dark Moon

Llewellyn decided not to go back for a second printing. This was the spring of 2013. I was very disappointed and discouraged, and felt like I was branded a loser with a big L on my forehead. I announced it on social media, and people started snapping up copies right and left. I think a couple of hundred decks sold in one month, and I heard stories of some people buying multiple copies to stockpile them.

I finally realized that, even though the Gaian Tarot did not have a huge following, it did have a devoted one. And I was (and am) very grateful for that.

Gaian Tarot appA year later, I had my rights back. I signed a contract for the electronic rights with the Fool’s Dog who created a fabulous Gaian Tarot app.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was receiving frequent emails from people who wanted a deck but couldn’t find one. I thought about self-publishing a small, travel size version, but I honestly did not want to self-publish another deck. I was kind of horrified to hear that people were buying copies of the Llewellyn deck for $300 or more. Later I saw it listed on Amazon for $2000 or $3000, but that’s ridiculous. No one is going to buy a deck for that much money. It’s just a marketing tool to entice you to look at the other things the seller has in stock.

Renewal: New Moon Once Again

The gang at RS15
At the Readers Studio 2015. Clockwise: Nancy Antenucci, Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, Carrie Paris, me, James Wells, Andrew McGregor.

In April of 2015, I went to the Readers Studio in New York, after having been away for 2 or 3 years. (I had gone every year starting in 2004 I think.) I had a great time hanging out with old tarot buddies and making new friends. I came away with the determination to come back the following year with a new self-published Majors deck, the Pentimento Tarot (which I did). While I was there, I decided to talk to Chris McClure from Schiffer. I was nervous, even though I’d been acquainted with him for several years. I summoned up my courage and asked him if he thought Schiffer might be interested in publishing a new version of the Gaian. He was interested, and said to send him a proposal. I did, and a month later I spoke to Pete Schiffer and signed a contract. I worked on the material for a solid month, and turned it in to them on July 1st. It happened very quickly!

Now, in July 2016, the Schiffer edition is almost out in the world.

Reviewers have their copies, and so do some folks who pre-ordered last fall. Amazon has it listed as “temporarily out of stock.” I am told that shipments to suppliers will happen very soon

The new edition is gorgeous. Schiffer has great production values.

Schiffer Gaian TarotThe deck and cards come in a sturdy, beautiful box with a hinged lid. The cards are 4”x6” and gilded silver on the edges. The book is full color inside! Just beautiful.

I made a few changes in the text of the book, updating some of the divinatory meanings based on things I learned over the last few years. I also added a few new spreads at the back of the book. The artwork is the same, except for one small detail in one card that was important to me. I think I’m going to let people discover it for themselves.

What Would I Change Today?

As I look back on the deck now, there are a few things I would change if I were creating it today. I would show more gender-fluid people. I might also change the Lovers card. More than one lesbian friend has given me a hard time about the heterosexuality of the card; I still don’t quite know a way to show all the diverse forms of loving in one card. I admire deck creators who create more than one Lovers card, so the reader can choose which one they want to use. Other deck creators show animal Lovers, or mask the sexuality of the human Lovers. When I created the Pentimento Tarot, I purposely put two women in the Lovers card. It is such a joyful photograph, it’s clear that the message of the card is “Love is love is love is love is love.” I would also redraw a couple of the cards where I think the artwork is weaker than it needs to be.

Who knows what will happen from here?  What kind of a future will the Gaian Tarot have?

Perhaps we should consult the cards.

Gaian Tarot DeathWhen you get the Death card in a reading …

Something in your life is dying, while something else is nearing its time to be born. Take the time that you need to recognize that this is a natural process, a part of the great cycle of all life. Grieve if you need to for that which is ending, whether it is a cherished dream, a relationship or a belief system. Don’t rush the process or deny all your turbulent feelings. Whether a literal death or the ending of a chapter in your life, death isn’t pretty and it can hurt. It’s painful. Whatever dies, is gone, and it will never return again in the same form.

But just as the Dark Moon gives way to the New, and Winter gives way to Spring, Rebirth will surely follow Death. Releasing that which no longer serves your best interests clears the space for new beginnings and an upsurge of vitality. When you are ready to let go of grief, you will find yourself emptied out and clean, and ready for the next stage of your journey.

— from the Gaian Tarot companion book.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading all the way to the end. And here’s a link to order the Schiffer deck on Amazon, if you think you’d like to have one.  Blessed be!

(For an in-depth study of the Gaian Tarot, I invite you to enroll in my self-paced course, “Gaian Tarot for Tarot Beginners.”.)

12 thoughts on “The Story of the Gaian Tarot: Life/Death/Renewal, Part 3

  1. Thank you Joanna for sharing your story, I feel that much closer to you, the Gaian community and the cards. I’m one of those who has multiple decks (including electronic) primarily because it is one of the few decks that speaks a healing message and where I can go to recover, reenergize and reground into earths energy. As I reengineer my own career path, your story has given me great encouragement, thank you for all you do.

  2. Thank YOU !
    I really enjoyed reading all about your process and will do so again… So pleased you were able to create success for yourself… it’s an inspiration to me and gives me hope that one day I may succeed with my own endeavours. xo

  3. Wow, what a labor of love!❤️ So glad you stuck with it as it truly is my favorite deck of all times. (Which is saying a lot, I have a lot of decks and have been working with them since the mid-80s.)
    Thank you for journaling about your process. And BTW I Love love love the lovers card! I know what you mean about being gender fluent, I have a lesbian daughter that I’m very proud of. But I love that card so much.
    Can’t wait to see the new deck! I have two on order.
    Congrats on your new birth!

  4. Joanna,

    Thank you so much for your persistence and vision. I’m relatively new to tarot. I don’t have your previous editions of this deck. But soon as I saw the upcoming Shiffer edition on your site, I felt compelled to pre-order it.

    As I tore off the out packaging and glimpse the inner package, I burst into tears. I’ve never cried upon receiving a tarot deck before! I’m sure it’s an indicated of a deep connection with the message and vision behind these cards. This edition is SO beautiful, from the box to the cards (love the silver edges) to the book. I am so very grateful.

    I look forward to becoming fluent in the Gaian Tarot. And, most importantly, getting outside more to tend to our small fruit farm. Much love and gratitude to you.

  5. I finally got my copy!

    Your deck was the first one that helped my to really understand the meaning of the cards…its SO relatable.(I also live near the ocean..!) I have just begun using your deck but I have been consulting it from your site for years, so I am very happy to finally have them in my hands!! Its surreal how beautiful, how full of amazing details they are…

    Congratulations for a excellent work!!! And thank you so much for making this deck, from the bottom of my heart =)

  6. Joanna –
    Thanks so much for telling your story. I have been using tarot for many years to clarify my thoughts and to seek guidance. And so I was very drawn to your deck after my wife passed away 2 weeks ago. (Yes, my first Valentine’s Day without her in 48 years.). She loved nature, a true earth mother. For the moment, I am stranded away from home by a snow storm, but very much looking forward to using your deck, which is waiting for me on my front porch, as a means of perhaps communicating with her, or at least my feelings about her passing. Thank you so much for your dedication to such an inspiring project!

    1. Gérard, I am very sorry to hear of the passing of your wife. I am bearing witness to your deep grief after 48 years together. I hope that the deck, and even more, that our beloved Earth will bring you comfort. When the snow melts, may you find your way home.

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