Mind-body-spirit publishers are shuffling the deck on tarot cards, bringing forward diverse authors and myriad perspectives ranging from contemplative Christian cards with Bible verses to card guides from LGBTQ authors. Many are branching out from Pamela Colman Smith’s ornate, Eurocentric artwork in the venerable Rider-Waite-Smith tarot 78-card deck, which has been the basis for generations of divination decks since it was first published in 1909.
Weiser Books is tracking both trends. In September, it’s launching The Weiser Tarot, a new edition of the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck featuring updates by Weiser editors. The original guide to reading the cards will now offer tips and resources for beginners, tarot history, and additional information for people interested in Jewish mysticism and astrology. And Colman Smith’s line art is repainted with a “rich, vibrant palette,” says Weiser associate publisher Peter Turner. He calls it “a landmark event in the tarot world,” which is being timed with Weiser’s 65th anniversary.
The press is also publishing Finding the Fool: A Tarot Journey to Radical Transformation (Mar. 2023), a book with contemporary explanations about each card written by Meg Jones Wall, whom Turner describes as a “self-taught queer tarot reader.” Unlike in most books on tarot, Wall does not include images of cards; rather, Turner says, she is “asking the reader to trust their unique natural sense of intuition, wisdom, and magic. Her writing focuses on keeping tarot intuitive and accessible, using gender neutral language, and welcoming readers of all identities into the community. One of the core challenges for today’s tarot readers is that the traditional images used to convey the archetypal figures in the tarot are clearly patriarchal and binary in sexual orientation. And often the most popular tarot decks don’t include people of color.”
Turner quotes Wall, who says, “The tarot isn’t about following rules or adhering to a strict set of narrow meanings; it isn’t only for a certain kind of person.”
Magic for every body and belief
Running Press is releasing three titles that reflect the idea of tarot for all. One is not a deck but rather a graphic biography of Colman Smith, written and illustrated by artist Cat Willett. The Queen of Wands (Sept.) sheds light on Colman Smith’s experiences, including being mistreated due to her biracial appearance, being paid very little, and, like many women creatives in her time, not being credited or designated any royalties for her work on the famous deck. “Many of the same injustices that contribute to the hardship of marginalized groups today also inhibited Pamela,” Willett says. “The beauty of Pamela’s work is that it made tarot more accessible, and I think that the nature of tarot is to be reimagined over and over again.”
Running Press executive editor Shannon Fabricant is also highlighting two other books aimed at widening the tarot audience. The first is Black Tarot: An Ancestral Awakening Deck and Guidebook (Dec.), by Nyasha Williams, who describes herself online as a social justice griot working to “decolonize” spiritual practices, with illustrations by Kimishka Naidoo. Fabricant calls it “the deck you’ve been missing, complete with 78 tarot cards featuring all Black representations of classic tarot figures and iconography.” The press is also releasing The Trickster’s Journey: A Tarot Deck and Guidebook (Apr. 2023), by painter Jia Sung, which reimagines the tarot “through the lens of Eastern mysticism, folklore, and spirituality,” says Fabricant.
The Sacred Web Tarot (HarperOne, Sept.), a cards and guide set written by yoga teacher and artist Jannie Bui Brown and illustrated by her son, James W. Brown IV, offers a “transformational and timely approach that moves beyond traditional, gendered imagery, card names, and interpretations, focusing on personal and communal growth,” according to the publisher.
And at St. Martin’s Press, executive editor Keith Kahla says the forthcoming deck and accompanying guide One World Tarot (Oct.) was created “to encompass many centuries and cultures, embrace our global diversity, and apply to all genders.” The guide is by Australian author Lena Rodriguez, host of Tarot Down Under on YouTube, and tarot reader Seanna Rose, with writer June Rifkin and illustrator Alexandra Filipek.
Fair Winds editor Keyla Pizarro-Hernandez observes that it’s commonplace in media and mind-body-spirit publishing “to see the same type of group being represented—usually thin, white, blonde, cis—and not all of us relate to that particular community and don’t see ourselves reflected in their stories or circumstances.” The press is publishing The Pulp Girls Tarot Deck (Oct.), by sisters Cailie and Brianna Mitchell; they are artists known for illustrations in the style of old-fashioned fiction magazines called pulps. Their images, the editor says, “reflect a more realistic view of the various groups of women that exist in the world—women of color, women with different body types, and women from the LGBTQ community.”
One worldview rarely included in tarot deck lists, however, is Christian theology. Now, St. Martin’s Essentials is stepping in with The Contemplative Tarot: A Christian Guide to the Cards (Sept.), by Brittany Muller, who writes a monthly newsletter, Blessed Vigil, on Catholic saints and the liturgical seasons. The cards include Bible verses, meditation prompts for personal prayer, and “daily reminders of spiritual truths,” according to the publisher.
Oracle decks, free from the archetypes used in tarot, offer imagery from the heavens, the Earth, and the deck creator’s imagination. The decks, too, reflect mind-body-spirit publishers’ concern with representing and reaching diverse audiences whose interests include searching for love, security, and wealth, as well as protecting the environment.
For example, Sacred Nature Oracle Deck (Beyond Words, Nov.), by photographer Holly Wilmeth, shows men, women, and children of many racial and ethnic backgrounds, each “communing with a different plant,” says Beyond Words marketing director Brennah Hermo. The guide describes the healing power of the plants and herbs depicted. And The Cantigee Oracle: An Ecological Spiritual Guide and Creative Prompt Deck (North Atlantic, Nov.), by yoga and meditation teacher Rae Diamond, with watercolors by Laura Zuspan, includes a guide to use the cards to “address climate change with presence and care,” according to the publisher.
Upcoming oracle and tarot titles include the following:
● The All-Seeing Heart Oracle Deck (Watkins, Sept.), by tattoo artist Saira Hunjan, is inspired by Hunjan’s heritage and frequent travels to India. Publisher Fiona Robertson says the images of “protective beings or talismans” set in heart temples can be used for “healing and transformation.”
● The Amazonian Angel Oracle: Working with Angels, Devas, and Plant Spirits (Inner Traditions, Aug.), by shaman Howard G. Charing, features images of spirits in backdrops of Amazonian jungle plants and animals, celestial bodies, ancient temples, and more, according to the publisher.
● Anime Tarot (Simon Element, out now), by writer and editor Natasha Yglesias, recasts the archetypes and symbols of tarot in modern Japanese anime characters.
● Cozy Witch Tarot Deck and Guidebook (Andrews McMeel, Apr. 2023), by poet and witch Amanda Lovelace, interprets the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck with the simple country lifestyle viewpoint often called cottagecore. The artwork by Janaina Mediros represents racial and ethnic diversity, and all ages, abilities, and body types, says executive editor Patricia Rice.
● Magic Days: Your Journey Through the Astrology, Numerology, and Tarot of Every Day of the Year (Penguin Life, Oct.), by astrologer Nadine Jane, includes daily mantras, rituals, and journaling prompts aimed at promoting self-care and empowerment.
● The Tarot Spellbook: 78 Witchy Ways to Use Your Tarot Deck for Magick and Manifestation (Fair Winds, Sept.) is a traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck with a guide by witch Sam Magdaleno. She focuses on spells, journal prompts, and rituals inspired by the cards to deal with love, money, wellness, career, and more in daily life, according to the publisher.
● The Trick or Treat Tarot (Llewellyn, Sept.), by prolific tarot reader and author Barbara Moore with fantasy artist Jonathan Hunt, is fit for Halloween or any-time users want to face the future fearlessly, the publisher says.
● The Wild Unknown Pocket Animal Spirit Deck (HarperOne, Oct.), by author and artist Kim Krans, examines the wisdom of creatures both real and imagined, according to the publisher.
Cathy Lynn Grossman is a veteran religion and ethics writer living in Washington, D.C.