Diversity

Recently my tarot partner, Carole, and I did readings at a birthday celebration. The guest of honor sat down for her reading and The Lovers card turned up. Ordinarily I love it when this card appears, knowing it is the most hoped for, but this time I winced inside.

lovers.jpg

I pushed on. “How would you describe this card?” I asked her. “Well, there’s a man and a woman,” she said, pointedly. She was a lesbian. I knew this only because her partner, a woman, threw the party.

I love the Rider-Waite deck, but The Lovers card, the Two of Cups, and the Ten of Cups—the three cards of love—all depict male/female couples.

Lee Bursten and Antonella Platano created the Gay Tarot (Lo Scarabeo publishing), which depicts positive images of gay men in their daily life. I was excited to have the opportunity to use this deck in a reading for a gay friend. I laid out the Rider-Waite cards in a five-card spread, and as we discussed the cards, I pulled out their counterparts from the Gay Tarot to see what new insights might arise. Of course, not every card from the Gay Tarot is obviously gay themed, and sometimes a Rider-Waite card would appeal to my friend more, but there were marked exceptions. The Six of Wands, for example, in Rider-Waite, shows a hero on horseback, returning victoriously from war. The scene in the Gay Tarot could be right out of the Gay Pride Parade. There is a man on horseback with a sign that reads, “Sin Prejuicios.”

Ideally, I would like my tarot deck collection to reflect more diversity. I do not know of a lesbian deck, and while I have some decks that are multi-racial, such as the Gay Tarot, The World Spirit Tarot, and Motherpeace Round Tarot, most of my decks—and I have many—are populated by white figures—youthful figures. The Gay Tarot is the only deck I have that shows a true range of ages.

Certainly tarot, like any other cultural pastime should reflect the values of our time. The fact that there is a market for the Gay Tarot suggests progress.

Pamela Colman Smith, the artist of the Rider-Waite deck (1909), never married and lived for years with a woman friend named Nora Lake. I can only speculate that she might have been a lesbian. Her roots are are very interesting. While she was born in England to American parents, she had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica with her father, whose job took him there. They may even have lived there for some time. Colman Smith was clearly affected by the culture. She was known to have soirees where she would tell Jamaican folk tales, dressing in West Indian costume, and her art had a Jamaican influence as well. How I wish I could commission Pamela Colman Smith to do a new deck today. Perhaps I am being idealistic in thinking her approach would be different in 2007. In any case, I think that it is realistic to expect tarot artists to be more inclusive in their work.

If anyone can recommend nice decks which celebrate diversity, please write in!

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llustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

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One Response to “Diversity”

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