The age-old tales within the tarot find a new meaning…
Although many tarot cards have been associated with gods and goddesses, there aren’t many deities in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The closest you really come to finding a god is Temperance — although the angel on that card is associated with the archangel Michael, there are symbols that also tie this figure to the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.
(Oh, and Justice can be connected to the Greek Themis — but as this figure is the foundation for the classic personification of Justice, then she’s already a step away from being a deity.)
While the characters of the Major Arcana are arguably godlike figures themselves, sometimes it’s nice to add another note of mythology and folklore to the tarot. That was the case for Kathryn Briggs. Creator of the New Chapter Tarot, Kathryn is an artist but also a magical practitioner — and it was her experience with deities that led her to represent them within her tarot deck. “I’ve worked with them so much in both my artistic and spiritual practice, it feels like home for me to craft something from them.”
For those of us who have a deep love of mythology and polytheism, the New Chapter Tarot is a treat, with gods and goddesses scattered throughout the deck. Not placed on cards randomly, these deities were chosen specifically for the cards whose energy they exemplify, says Kathryn. “For example, the 10 of Swords features Osiris after He’s been slain by His brother; the death that must precede resurrection.”
The New Chapter Tarot is all about turning points and thresholds, poignant goodbyes and boldl new beginnings. Kathryn describes the deck as a portrait of change — because it was born from a major change in her own life, the experience of creating the New Chapter Tarot was, for Kathryn, a way of processing this upheaval. And the gods became a part of that, too.
“Some deities are there because I wanted to invoke their energy or ask for their help. I was having difficulty getting the Queen of Cups right, so I started seeking out Parvati for guidance; She ended up becoming the card Herself.”
Once Kathryn started including deities in the tarot, they became the best way to represent the age-old narratives embodied within the cards. While the RWS (and many other decks) represent Death as the Biblical fourth horseman of the apocalypse, Kathryn instead chose Ereshkigal, the ancient Sumerian Queen of the Underworld.
This choice deftly weaves a new narrative within the tarot, as the New Chapter’s Death card is now connected to The Moon, which features both Ereshkigal and her sister, Innana. “Death is a brutal, just, and necessary part of Inanna’s transformation,” says Kathryn of this story.
Although it can be a tool for divination, occult practice, or self-reflection, ultimately the tarot is about stories. Within these cards we can recognise the tales that have been told since time immemorial — and tarot’s relationship with story and archetype is what Kathryn wanted to highlight in the New Chapter Tarot.
“These are stories I believe in,” she says, “ the deities I draw strength from and sincerely hope that I am honoring. I find power and magick in the stories we’ve been telling for as long as we’ve existed. I feel connected to the generations of humans who have found strength, hope, or inspiration from these deities; I wanted to draw a line down and through that channel of energy.”
Tarot really is a story of stories. These narratives help us understand ourselves, and the cards invite us to tell the greatest story of all: that of our lives, and the lives of those we love.