Padma’s new creation: The Sacred She Tarot

Meditation & Therapy

The creator of the Osho Zen Tarot and the Tao Oracle speaks on her new deck

The Sacred She Tarot by Ma Deva Padma

After completing the Osho Zen Tarot and the Tao Oracle, I thought my deck-making days were done. However, in 2007 I was inspired to try and convey my lived understanding of life, love, and letting go. That inspiration became a seed that gestated over the next sixteen years. During that time, I underwent multiple life-changing events that affected my body, mind, creative output, and especially my approach to living and dying. I was driven to create something that truly reflected my ideas and experiences, free from the constraints of any particular tradition or philosophy. While I deeply respected the beauty and wisdom of Osho, Rumi, Lao Tzu – a yearning to express my gratitude to life, and my take on being human became very strong and could not be ignored.

The original Sacred She concept metamorphosed several times before it rose, like a phoenix honoring the divine yin element that exists in all things. For a time, I thought it might become an illustrated book rather than a deck of cards. I changed the title to The Transmission because The Sacred She could appear as an overly feminist title that would alienate men. This chaotic phase also required me to step back and give nature a voice while challenging myself to express this awesome concept in art and words. I hoped to weave a lifetime of experiences, observations, and understandings into a multi-colored collage, then offer it to existence and say, Okay, this is what I have to share; it is my gift to you.

Deva Padma holding The Sacred She deck

Then, in 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer; that shocking news upended all plans for a year. The diagnosis was a massive wake-up that forced me to recognize the inevitability of death. Sometimes we coast in life as awareness grows gradually, but when a lightning bolt flashes, it starkly reveals the truth of what is. There is no getting away from it. I saw that I would not last much longer without pacing my compulsive creative surges. I would have to use my time wisely.

Recovery took months; my center of gravity had shifted, and so had my art. I dropped teaching, exhibiting paintings, and leading mandala workshops. My thoughts turned inward, and began reflecting on my life. I kept notebooks of dreams and insights, recorded everyday moments, and sketched and doodled. Sometimes, there were glimpses into dimensions that beckoned me to go deeper. I resumed regular sitting outside in the early morning with the cat. Surrendering to non-doing became sensual. Sound was magnified, dreaming was off the chart colorful, and emotions, particularly empathy, revealed an intimate connection to nature and all that surrounded me. The body healed, the mind cleared, and creative juices began flowing again.

Ashika, my partner, and I longed to move deeper into nature, away from the sounds and sights of busy neighbors encroaching from all sides. Both of us felt this was a turning point. We sold our property with its sculpture garden, both our studios and gallery space, and moved into a semi-remote bushland setting. Over the next several years, we rid ourselves of many things our identity as artists had been wrapped up in.

Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I was in an ambulance headed for emergency open-heart surgery. It was a triple bypass that, due to complications, kept me hospitalized for nearly a month.

When I came out of that, everything that had given my life meaning and that I felt was important just evaporated. There was this sort of tabula rasa, this empty slate. I was left naked, vulnerable, and totally dependent. I didn’t know what I was still alive for and couldn’t find a purpose; the thread was missing. And so, for close to a year, there was no desire to create. For days on end, I sat in this sort of vacuum. It scared and worried me.

After an exhaustive struggle, I gave up trying to control things and just let go. In that surrender, a deep trust began to develop. I learned to listen, and dialogue with my inner voice, which gently guided me forward. I realized that whatever was meant to happen would happen, and I just needed to be patient and allow life to unfold in its own time. Whatever wants to come through you next will reveal itself. You just have to be patient and give life time to show you whatever it is.

About six months before that emergency, I had dropped the idea of creating a third deck and had canceled my relationship with my publishing agent in the States. It took a near-death experience for me to wake up and discover that this was all about stripping me down to a place where I could create a deck from my truth as it is happening now; in this body, in a world of change and uncertainty.

Again, I felt compelled to create from reflecting upon my life, love, devotion, and death. We all go through chaotic times of pain and upheaval, let-go and renewal, take leaps into the unknown, and reach out for support. If we’ve been fortunate enough to experience profound guidance in our lives, we are moved to contribute to life before we are gone. I think of the solitary cuckoo in the forest that Osho told us about: it cares not whether anyone is listening, it simply has to sing. His wisdom impacted my life in indescribable ways that provided a solid spiritual foundation… grounded in the knowledge that creativity was my meditation, must be shared unconditionally, and must never be compromised.

So I contacted my agent again and said, “Nancy, I want to resurrect that project.”

My daughter Tika had been pushing me to keep the title The Sacred She because she felt it was relevant today. She kept saying, “Mom, the fact is that you are the Sacred She. You are a perfect vehicle for her because you have lived every imaginable aspect of a woman’s life, from being a wild and rebellious girl to being a creator, an artist who has met with success and failure again and again. You’ve been a disciple, you’ve also been a mother. You’ve had innumerable brushes with death. You’ve had amazing partners in your life and now you live in relative seclusion with your soulmate, a fellow artist, and you have so much to share. So, speak from that place, Mom!”

My agent replied, “Yes, that exactly will be the fundamental concept for this deck.”

We created a proposal called The Sacred She, and to make sure the text was engaging, I enlisted the help of Madhuri. I was concerned that my writing was too pedantic and lacked color. Madhuri is known for her spirited poetry and prose, so I felt she could bring flair and flow to the texts for our new proposal in an engaging way. I emailed her, and she was intrigued by the idea, so she and I had Zoom meetings. I would show her an artwork, and she would spontaneously talk about it as we both took notes. Sometimes we’d go back and forth by email. We discussed the nuances of meaning vis-à-vis tarot, and she would send back texts. My agent constructed a spiffy new proposal greatly enhanced by what Madhuri and I had conjured up. The pitch was crafted to focus on the Divine Feminine as integral to all of life as we know it.

The first publisher who jumped was Beyond Words. They’re an indie publishing house based in Ashland, Oregon. They had considerable success years ago with the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

Upon meeting Richard Cohn and Michele Ashtiani Cohn, the owners of Beyond Words Publishing, I was immediately struck by their enthusiasm. My agent Nancy Barton’s pitch of the Sacred She concept piqued their interest, and they were eager to meet via Zoom to discuss the project further. They had been searching for a “grounded” spiritual deck that would inspire people to reflect deeply upon their lives in ways that might transform difficult and troubling periods through self-reflection, meditation, and connecting to Nature. I was advised to trust my instincts, to express myself freely without being attached to any one philosophy or spiritual belief system. They felt that this approach could help me to create something truly exceptional. They expressed keen interest in publishing my work as “a new creation by tarot authority, Ma Deva Padma.”

Now, for me, this was, Wow!

During my time in the world of Osho, I relished his exceptional way with words and the inspiring atmosphere in his Buddhafield that fostered my creative expression. Those years of soaking up all that the Master offered were the ground of being, the basis, of my commentaries and art for the Zen Tarot book. Later, when I began developing the deck, the I Ching translations of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell and Brian Browne Walker helped me to compose a new take on the Chinese classic. Friends asked me to illustrate the poetry of Rumi, another star in the firmament of beloved sages. These literary giants have left an indelible mark on my journey as a creator and more importantly, as a human being. I am forever humbled by their contributions to the world. Yet I felt in my bones that the time had come to offer my next work directly from my own heart and in my own words.

The new publishers opened a world of possibilities. They requested a 78-card tarot with my art, plus inspirational text to accompany the cards in a book. While creating works of art is second nature to me, expressing through written words can sometimes be daunting. However, I was grateful for the opportunity to stretch and prove that an old dog can learn new tricks. It confirms that I’m on the right track and can’t wait to see where it will lead. With supportive collaborators and a thrilling new creative landscape to explore, a journey has begun at warp speed!

I was excited to start working on the text for the book – and to make sure everything was just right, I reached out to Sarito, with whom I had collaborated with on the Zen Tarot and the Tao Oracle. Her editing always helps me get to the heart of things in a no-nonsense way that I appreciate. Between her input and the texts compiled with Madhuri from the initial proposal, I was in the best of company. I began to enjoy playing with words and gradually found a comfortable and authentic style, much like painting.

As the project was nearing completion, I had an epiphany. The project needed to be affiliated with my larger family, the sangha. While creating paintings is a singular activity, I saw that this work should consist of a chorus of people from all walks of life, especially from within the sannyas community. Incorporating the voices of friends and kindred spirits, The Sacred She could be a masterpiece. This project offered an opportunity to honor my community, which has supported my work for decades.

After some introspection, I realized that a few unfinished texts needed to be more authoritative, especially ones that addressed charged or traumatic themes. Therefore, I reached out to friends with first-hand knowledge as counselors or therapists in order to add more depth and credibility to the written content.

Avikal was the first person I connected with. He had been so helpful in supporting me during some dark days in my recovery process. I was confident he would enjoy seeing the art and would want to learn more about The Sacred She project. His enthusiastic response to the two images I e-mailed further reinforced my conviction that the art was compelling. I clarified to him that a prerequisite to any text he would offer was to not quote anyone, but to speak from his own insight, which he enjoyed as much as I did. It was a delight to realize his observations perfectly aligned with my intention according to the images.

Sharing my thoughts and plans with friends was the validation I needed – and this validation confirmed that the time was right to manifest this beautiful creation. Next, I reached out to Turiya, a beloved friend who is not only a mother, a grandmother, and a compassionate therapist but also a woman of grace and gravitas, whom I love and admire. Her response to the deck’s description was so profound and beautiful that I decided to include it verbatim in the introduction to the book. Her appreciation of the subject matter’s relevance further affirmed the timeliness and significance of this work.

Step-by-step I invited people from all walks of life to share their thoughts on a card I would send them. Many are beloved sannyasins, while others are not. Some, like Deuter, and Deva Premal and Miten, have a worldwide following. Each person shared their insight with heart and spoke honestly and forthrightly from their own experience. Their contributions are included in the book. The overall effect is a circle of goodness, with unique souls joined together to share their wisdom, in harmony. Although many voices were present, they sang one song.

I knew from the start if the deck was to be published then Gopa must be the designer. When I insisted on this it became a sticking point as the publishers had their own “in house” designers. I was adamant, and after weeks of to-and-fro banter, they finally acquiesced. Gopa was taken on to handle design and prepare press-ready files for this complicated package. What clinched it was the gorgeous portfolio of her design work that can be seen on her website. So for a year Gopa and I partnered on the book and the packaging. Because the project kept morphing, we often found ourselves in swirling waters, unfamiliar to both of us, but our friendship and love for making beautiful things kept us afloat and smiling as The Sacred She Tarot took shape. I now know that beauty begets beauty, and our collaboration proves it.

Once I insisted on including quotes from friends and luminaries to accompany each card’s text, it created another design hiccup because the book layout that was already approved by the publishers didn’t include any quotes. We faced another hurdle when our redesigned book samples were sent to the publishers. Both Simon & Schuster and Beyond Words agreed to co-produce the deck, but Simon & Schuster questioned the inclusion of so many individual voices quoted in the book. However, I was confident in the decision and stood by the concept. I had to hold firm and explain that the idea was for a diverse chorus of voices from people worldwide. Wisdom keepers from all walks of life, especially my spiritual community, and that of kindred spirits had to be there. To my great relief, the publishers got it and agreed to include the quotes. Now the book is a co-publication with Beyond Words and Atria Books, a subhead of Simon & Schuster. Whew!

Things started to roll; more people were included and added to the list. One of them was Malala Yousafzai, who had received the Nobel Peace Prize. She had been shot by the Taliban after standing up for a girl’s right to an education. Then there was Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love; Amanda Gorman, American poet and activist, and other women and men whose voices have impacted the world. Even Oprah Winfrey is quoted on one of the cards – a single sentence sums up the card’s text perfectly.

The Sacred She Tarot spread

The Sacred She Tarot and Guidebook is a unique and timely creation that resonates with an all-inclusive voice of the divine feminine. She represents the womb that supports all, and this is not just a deck for women. It’s not a feminist deck that excludes men but rather a deck that embodies the Earth itself, echoing many voices calling out for change, coming together, respecting Nature, and what it means to be human.

At 76, I feel humbly grateful for the opportunity to create this inspired work. It was a labor of love, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of so many people. I feel the warmth of countless arms, hands, and hugs worldwide that supported me in bringing this vision to life.

The Sacred She Tarot will available in the United States, Canada and Australia on 7th November, and on the 9th in the UK. Lo Scarabeo will be publishing the Italian translation (I tarocchi del divino femminile) and will be launched on the 14th. They produced the Osho Zen Tarot in Italian and jumped on this one as soon as they learned about it. The publisher Édesvíz, will produce the deck in Hungarian.

Hopefully, there will be other translations. I would love for it to be translated for India, Germany, France, Spain, and in Portuguese for friends in Brazil. How fantastic it would be in Japanese, Polish, Russian, Chinese… Should I go on?

The Sacred She Tarot by Deva PadmaThe Sacred She Tarot Deck and Guidebook
A Universal Guide to the Heart of Being

by Ma Deva Padma – thesacredshetarot.com
Atria Books / Beyond Words Publishing, an imprint of Simon & Schuster – simonandschuster.com (7/9 November 2023)
Includes 78 cards and a 232-page guidebook
ISBN-10: ‎1582708983
ISBN-13: ‎978-1582708980
Available for preorder from Barnes & NobleBookshopBeyond Words and from amazon.com* – amazon.co.uk* – amazon.de* – amazon.in – or in your country. After publication date, 7/9 November 2023, it will also be available in bookshops.

Padma

Padma is an internationally exhibited artist, the creator and designer of the Osho Zen Tarot and the Tao Oracle. Her work includes paintings, collages, mixed media, book illustrations, and CD covers. embraceart.comthesacredshetarot.com

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