The Dark Goddess Tarot by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince and Brenda McCallum
Publisher: Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit (Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.), October 2020 RRP: £30.99/$34.99 ISBN: 978-0-7643-6033-0
When I was offered this deck to review, I was hesitant: I have to admit the artwork didn’t speak to me at all. And yet, something told me not to be so quick with my judgement and to do a little bit more research. This I did, and discovered the deck might be fantastic for shadow work (which I’m a huge advocate of), describing itself as “representing aspects of life that people find uncomfortable”. I was hooked and I signed myself up for an experiment – would I be able to connect and work with a deck I’m not drawn to?
Working with the deck for quite a while now, I do have a lot to say, and have divided this article into categories for easier orientation and reading. I would also like to mention that I was sent a mass-market edition and haven’t seen the first, indie, version that was published in 2013. Lastly, I would like to add that issues that I had with this deck seem to have been resolved, as per the publisher.
The deck comes in a beautiful, big and sturdy box. To be exact, the measurements are 15.5x23x6cm/6.1x9x2.36in – and as you can see, you will need some space for it. There is a magnetic closure which seems to be strong enough. The issue with the box is the insert which makes taking the cards out difficult. The full insert can be removed of course, but that’s problematic in itself.
A big change from the indie version is the accompanying 176-page book…and I really love it! There is information about the author, how to work with the deck and a few spreads. All the Major Arcana cards are listed, including their Goddess identity. And if the name has been changed, the information is included as well. For example, Temperance becomes Alchemy, Devil is Corruption, and we find the Tower card under its new name – Destruction. The left-hand side pages are fully dedicated to the card image, so one can see it clearly and in colour. On the right side is a description of each card – both as a brief introduction of the Goddess as well as what the card suggests if it appears in a reading. The only, very minor, issue is the first line (or its beginning) which is written in a very hard-to-read font, but overall this book is fantastic.
The cards and working with the deck
At 7.9×12.8cm/3.1x5in, these cards are bigger than a classic RWS deck. This may not bother you if you have bigger hands, but I found them to be slightly difficult to shuffle. The deck has grey borders, and I would prefer it to be borderless; hence smaller and easier to handle. I’m afraid that this also caused a little bit of confusion or disappointment, because on the box, the cards are depicted without borders. Just something to bear in mind.
The cards are gold-edged, which I’m not a fan of in general and, in this instance, some of the gilding was missing — particularly on the corners. This, combined with the large size of the cards, made them quite painful to shuffle.
The print seems to be very well done and the cards are centred. The colours are just beautiful, vibrant and really enjoyable to look at. The card stock is fantastic with a sheen finish and the deck shuffles very well. I don’t riffle shuffle, so I can’t comment on that.
I do like the backs of the cards, too. There were some changes in the design and I prefer the current one much more. Instead of a fish-scale pattern, the cards now have a single, compass-like image that makes them reversible. However, the author doesn’t make provision for reversals.
I’ve seen that some people had issues with the font on the cards and they found it harder to read, but I personally like it.
This is a full 78-card Tarot deck but in comparison with the classic RWS, there are a few changes here. I’ve already mentioned some cards that have their name changed, but also, instead of classic court cards names – Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings – we find Amazons, Sirens, Witches and Hags, respectively. The suits are named after the four magical elements – Fire, Water, Air and Earth. On each card, there is a name of the suit at the bottom and the name of the corresponding Goddess at the top.
The Dark Goddess Tarot doesn’t follow the classic RWS system when it comes to the images; therefore, I don’t think it’s the best one for beginners. Or is it? Let me explain. If you’re looking for, at least, some details that would be reminiscent of the RWS system, you will not find them here. Let’s take the RWS’10 of Wands, for example: this card depicts a man carrying a heavy stack of 10 Wands to the village. In the Dark Goddess Tarot, we find the 10 of Fire showing the Greek Goddess Thyone (the myth can be read here) who seems to be tied up by fiery-looking ropes showing her death by thunder and lighting. This card is nothing like the burdened man.
But you don’t need to know how to read Tarot to use this deck. Working with it, I found out that if one were to use both RWS and the Goddess interpretation, it would make the whole process incredibly time consuming!
At the beginning, I really tried interpreting the cards by following both the RWS meaning (and it is naturally tempting because the names are on the cards) and its Goddess description. I was not familiar with many of the Goddesses (with almost none, truth be told), so I had to use the book to understand every single card. And it simply took so long. I can’t imagine doing the full Celtic Cross with this deck! I tried the spreads mentioned in the book, but I found the process to be too confusing and complicated.
In the end, I simply drew one card as my daily guidance and I ended up using the deck as an Oracle deck instead. And for this reason, if you asked me if this deck is suitable for beginners, I would say “No, it’s not, but yes, it is.”. It truly depends on what one is looking for, how they’ll learn to work with this deck and how much time and effort a reader is willing to put into working with it.
I used the deck mainly for shadow work and, for this purpose, it is a great tool. When I felt that something was not going quite right in my life, I asked for guidance – what to focus on and what negative traits of mine I needed to work on. The Dark Goddess Tarot will not sugar-coat anything (“Face the harsh truth. Accept the pain so you can learn how it may be healed.”), but even this, for some hard-to-digest information, is delivered in a kind and gentle manner. I found it beneficial to combine the outcome of a reading with journaling. The deck also offers some practical solutions, and a reader can follow advice to try painting or inventing a new recipe, for example.
What was interesting for me was seeing what cards I felt the most drawn to – thinking about my origin, I expected it to be the Slavic Goddess, who didn’t speak to me at all. On the other hand, I could stare at the picture of the Egyptian Goddesses for hours, and I believe that’s because I lived in Egypt in my past life. So just this is very interesting.
What’s the biggest drawback of my experience is the quality of production – £30 will not break the bank, but, for a mass-market print, we are surely in the higher price range and the quality should reflect that.
In my opinion, this deck is fantastic for those who want to learn more about themselves. However, working with it can be very time consuming unless or until a reader knows enough about the goddesses and tarot interpretations not to have to rely too heavily on the book. For that reason, I would find it most useful for personal readings where using the book is not the distraction it might be when reading for a querent/client.
The biggest question I had when working with the Dark Goddess Tarot was: “Does this really need to be a full tarot deck?” I believe that, because of its nature, it would benefit much more from either being a Major Arcana deck or even better, an Oracle deck.