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  1. The Motherpeace and DotM decks are circular in order to remove the concept of dualism, that is only being able to read a card as normal or inverted. Circular cards are meant to enable the reader to view each card as a whole spectrum of possibilities between the “normal” and “inverted” position. A tilt to the right means, roughly, “trying extremely (possibly overly) hard” and a tilt to the left means “trying too little, being withdrawn”.

    This is because at the time the decks were created (if I understand the thinking correctly as I wasn’t a part of the process – I just read the books) dualism and dividing things into good/evil (and consequently white/black, male/female, culture/nature, day/night, up/down, heaven/hell etc) was considered a thing of oppression. The Goddess (all-encompassing) was symbolised by circles, cycles and spirals. A circle/cycle is holistic and you cannot exalt or exclude any part of it because they’re all equidistant from the centre.

    I can look up the exact quotes if you’re interested, as I have both decks plus relevant books.

    • You know, I really would be interested in learning, if you don’t mind, 3Jane! I still don’t own either deck and want both. Would be great to read about the deck creators’ rationale behind making the circular decks.

      • Hey benebell, I’d say both decks are worth getting.

        Although I find Motherpeace to be unattractive, it’s very good for reading because it was created with a system in mind (all aces are about gifts, all twos are about balance, etc) and has a smaller version that is easier to handle if you have small hands. Also the books are very good (Noble’s “Motherpeace” with the emphasis on symbolism and explaining the cards, and Vogel’s “Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook” with the emphasis on actual reading.)

        Daughters of the Moon I find beautiful and inspiring, great for meditating and Goddess symbolism (I’m a Goddess worshipper), less good that Motherpeace at divination because the cards aren’t systemised. The book is thin, fairly good at explaining symbolism. There is a black-and-white colour it yourself deck version which strikes me as ideal for learning the cards. It wasn’t available when I first got the deck, so I got by, but I will get it at some point.

        As for the rationale behind circular decks, I reviewed a couple of books.

        Shekhinah Mountainwater, in “Ariadne’s Thread”, didn’t give a reason for making Shekhinah’s Tarot round, and neither did she on her page Xanax Buying

        Vicki Noble, in “Motherpeace: a Way to the Goddess through Myth, Art and Tarot” writes that initially she bought her daughter a Tarot deck, two cards were missing and she drew a replacement card (six of wands). That was when she realised she would draw a deck. Since the card was circular, she realised the whole deck would be circular as well.

        Ffiona Morgan, in “Daughters of the Moon Tarot” (the book that came with the deck) gives the fullest explanation. Here’s the quote:

        “THE SHAPE

        Previous tarot cards, except for Motherpeace (which coincidentally, was conceived at approximately the same time as Daughters of the Moon) were rectangular and had positive meanings when upright and negative when reversed. When this mode of reading is examined carefully, one can see that the method requires thinking in dualities or oppositions, a concept developed by the patriarchal either/or mind. Another opposition such as “day and night” is created by separating day from night and placing them in opposition. The feminist or wholistic approach envisions day and night as peaks in a connected whole, or cycle. If we apply this approach to other familiar dualities such as self/other, old/young, spirit/matter, life/death, we can see how differently reality appears.

        A more relative approach is possible with round cards. Each image can be seen as a cycle of energy with varying gradations of positive and negative blending in and out of one another. For example, The Five of Cups, The Storm, is concerned with intensely troubled water or difficulty on the emotional plane. It can be a crisis or an opportunity for growth, or a combination, in any variation of degrees.

        We hope to help bring the new consciousness of circles and cycles by the creation of round cards, as we believe that it is important to begin to think circularly, as did our foremothers who performed rituals in the stone circles.


        Hierarchy thrives in an atmosphere of dualisms and oppositions. If we are part of a cycle or circle, we are connected to each other, but if one of us is “higher” than the other, we are separated.”

  2. I tend to interpret the court cards in terms of level of mastery; as a person who is a beginner or an innocent (page), competent but not fully in control (knight); wholly in charge (queen) or a mentor and teacher (king). Gender then is up to the person I’m reading for, as is race and other personal characteristics. I like to use decks that are person-neutral where I can (should get a set of the Wild Unknown tarot 🙂 ), and at least not heteronormative, like the Silicon Dawn tarot.

    • Claire says:

      I use this “mastery” approach to the court cards too – sometimes it just makes the most sense in a reading (e.g. Page of Swords dominated my years in law school). But that method still uses a built-in hierarchy with king as the pinnacle that must be reached.

      I like to break down the hierarchy further by focusing on the elemental associations: Page as Earth, Knight as Fire, Queen as Water, King as Air.* This avoids the idea of linear “improvement” from page to king. No element is better than any other, they just have different qualities, and I think the same is true of the court cards.

      *I have seen different elements associated with the cards by different people. This one makes sense to me, but choose your own adventure!

  3. This is a great perspective on tarot and assumtions that we make as readers. The desriptions for the cards (blond hair, blue eyes etc..) stem from European backrounds and are linked with the european tarot reading systems. I fully agree That is all fine and dandy for europe but it sure does not work for the rest of the world.

    My perspective on the images, masculine and feminine absolutly do not mean male and female. I am a leo which is a fire sign, ruled by the sun so my personality is very masculine. I can be aggressive and seek power at times.

    After reading your post instead of saying he or she I am tempted to say Sun ruled personality or Moon ruled personality.

    Thank you for your insight. this is a great topic!

    • Same here, I do tend to shy from “male” and “female” when talking about the courts and will often go to “yin” and “yang,” which doesn’t correspond with gender, but rather talks more generally about the metaphysical binary that’s also expressed by Sun and Moon.

  4. Omer says:

    A word about trans-related terminology: One is not born male or female but *assigned* this category, and one sometimes identify as female or male but sometimes rather identify with gender (man, woman, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, etc. etc.), also the relationship between sex assignment and gender identity is complicated and not always contradicting (as hinted by the word “but”).

    • No one is assigned male or female. They are usually described male or female, though sometimes they have to be assumed male or female because the genitalia are ambiguous and the doctor can’t tell. But sex is real. It’s not arbitrarily assigned by anyone. Either you have potential to make egg cells or you have potential to make sperm cells and that’s true even if your genitalia did not develop typically.

      Gender has nothing to do with sex–it’s the rules a society formulates as to how a person with a given sex is supposed to look and think and behave.

      Transgender people are people who think sex and gender are the same thing except when they’re arguing with feminists, and that if your thoughts and actions don’t match the bits between your legs then it must mean you’re really the other sex.

      It’s not true, but that doesn’t stop promulgation of that silly sexist idea.

      Wear what you want, act how you want. It’s got no bearing on your reproductive potential. And no, I am not reducing you to your reproductive potential. I am reducing your reproductive potential to your reproductive potential. Liking dresses doesn’t mean you should have been born with the ability to make eggs. Enjoying working on cars doesn’t mean you should have been able to make sperm. See how this works?

      • Hi Dana.

        Transgender people are people who think sex and gender are the same thing except when they’re arguing with feminists, and that if your thoughts and actions don’t match the bits between your legs then it must mean you’re really the other sex.

        is not acceptable. This blog is an actively trans-friendly space and comments that make sweeping generalisations about what trans people ‘are’ or think are not welcome.

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