Before you scroll down to look at the cards, here are a few notes on the construction of the deck. I used Rider-Waite imagery and parallels for the most part, largely because the images and most apparent meanings are well-known and comfortable for many Tarot readers including myself, and also because in most historic decks the numbered cards of the Minor Arcana are decorated with pips rather than illustrations. I have included links to the Rider-Waite Tarot cards, so named because they were originally illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith at the direction of Arthur Edward Waite for Rider Inc.
The majority of dolls in my Barbie deck are from the modern era of Mattel, even though Barbie dolls have been around for nearly 50 years. This is partly because it is so much easier to get interesting and clear photos of the more contemporary dolls, but also because Mattel has provided far greater variety not only in costuming but in the ethnicities and facial detail of the more recent Barbies. And -- purely as a matter of taste -- I prefer the more subtly made up, smiling Barbies of the modern era to the pursed lips and stylized makeup of the earlier Barbies, though it's a shame that such lovely features as rooted eyelashes are now quite rare.
Because there are so many more Barbies than Kens and because there have been several Barbie series devoted entirely to princess dolls, I decided for the Minor Arcana court cards to use princesses and princes rather than pages and knights. In addition, all of the king cards portray a couple rather than a man alone, because in the world of Barbie, what is a king without his Barbie, anyway? As a result of these changes, the parallels with imagery on the Rider-Waite deck are not as direct, though I have attempted to maintain the meanings.
I suppose that, as a feminist, I should justify my interest in Barbie in the first place, since her face and figure have never been remotely realistic or attainable for women and the doll has been criticized as setting poor standards for girls. I think that what gives girls a negative self-image are the barrage of media images of real live women who starve themselves and reconstruct their faces in the name of fashion; I don't think little girls have any more trouble discerning that Barbie does not represent a real woman any more than a plastic blinking baby doll could ever be mistaken for a real baby.
Moreover, despite a regrettable lack of diversity in the Barbie play line until recently and some really stupid marketing choices ("Math is hard"), Barbie has achieved every school and career goal she has ever set for herself; she has attended dozens of universities, played on both college and professional sports teams, become a doctor, lawyer, ambassador, photographer, movie star, teacher, paleontologist, Army captain, artist, dentist, circus star, musician, firefighter and President of the United States, all while helping to raise her younger sisters, carrying on decades-long friendships and maintaining a romantic relationship of long duration. G.I. Joe's achievements have never come close.
All images of Barbie dolls, the background imagery from the boxes and the names Barbie, Ken, Teresa, Stacie, Christy, etc. are copyright and trademark Mattel Inc. All Rider-Waite card images are copyright US Games Systems Inc. No infringement is intended and no profits are being made; this is a labor of love. If you want to save or print these for your own personal use, wonderful, but please don't repost them or hotlink directly to the images.
THE MAJOR ARCANA
0 The Fool Elle from Legally Blonde
Traditionally The Fool depicts person setting off on a journey, often a reckless one, and nearly always accompanied by a loyal dog. Elle epitomizes both Barbie's fashion sense and her refusal to be told that there's anything she can't do.
1 The Magician Merlin from the Magic & Mystery Collection
Who better for the card of balanced elemental influences, originality, willpower and confidence than this famous Western wizard? Merlin comes in a set with Morgan le Fey, who helped to bring about his doom, so the need for judicious use of influence is suggested as well.
2 The High Priestess Midnight Moon from the Celestial Collection
Traditionally dressed in blue with the moon under her feet, she represents wisdom, intuition and purity of knowledge. Here she is packaged with the moon behind her, holding strings of pure white pearls and wearing a priestess' circlet.
3 The Empress Empress Josephine from Women of Royalty
An older woman, sometimes associated with fertility and sexual potency, she represents action and accomplishment, though the card reversed can mean indecision or vacillation. This doll portrays Josephine at the height of her beauty, elegance and influence over Napoleon.
4 The Emperor Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings
The masculine image of accomplishment, potency and earthly achievement. This is Aragorn at the end of The Return of the King, enthroned and about to marry his longtime love, having overcome the reverse meanings of immaturity and indecisiveness.
5 The Hierophant Sultan from Tales of the Arabian Nights
The Hierophant is a card of orthodoxy -- usually spiritual, often social -- which sometimes can mean mercy and institutionalized charity but sometimes can mean being bound by convention, arrogance or conformity. In this case, the Sultan performed acts of incredible cruelty but ultimately spared Scheherazade and accepted her wisdom.
6 The Lovers Jude Deveraux's The Raider Set
On the Rider-Waite version of The Lovers, Adam and Eve stand before the two trees of the Garden of Eden, the one with the snake already wrapped around it despite the angel above them. Based on their pose, this Barbie and Ken could be taken as either the romantic meaning of trust and harmony or the flip side: frustration, aggression, betrayal.
7 The Chariot Secret Hearts and Earring Magic Ken
The card of the journey is often illustrated by a cart being pulled in two different directions or by two different animals, representing willfulness and turmoil as well as resolve and determination. These two Kens have appropriated one of Barbie's cars and are off on their own journey. (It would be remiss of me not to note that Earring Magic Ken is affectionately known among Barbie aficionados as "Cock Ring Ken" due to the silver loop on his necklace, and that this image is from a postcard licensed by Mattel and sold at FAO Schwartz.)
8 Strength Wonder Woman from Barbie Loves Pop Culture
This heroic card quite often features a woman prying open a lion's jaws or sitting in the midst of wild animals. It stands for courage and righteousness as much as physical force, though reversed it can mean impetuousness, arrogance or petty tyranny. Like most superheroes, Wonder Woman is capable of all of the above.
9 The Hermit Paul Frank Barbie from the Designer Series
An image of self-sufficiency, The Hermit can emulate the virtues of patience, meditation and inner counsel or the vices of immaturity, antisocial behavior and selfishness. This Barbie is hanging out in her pyjamas, hoarding her shopping loot, preparing for a nice relaxing evening, but what will she do if Skipper calls needing advice?
10 The Wheel of Fortune Fantasy Goddess of Africa from the Bob Mackie Series
Representing both the cycle of an individual's life and the prosperity or downfall of entire cultures, the Wheel is concerned with destiny, fate and the inevitability of change. This Barbie stands against lush greenery at what appears to be the peak of the fertile season, wearing a beautifully beaded, embroidered gown that suggests prosperity, yet her blazing headpiece and the red soil in which she stands put me in mind of the inevitable extremes of the cycles of the seasons.
11 Justice The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland
The traditional image is of a blindfolded woman holding the scales, balancing fairness and virtue against a lack of consideration and rigid intolerance. With the Queen, one never knows whether one is going to be welcomed as a treasured ally or pursued to shouts of "Off with her head!"
12 The Hanging Girl Classic Grace from the Prima Ballerina Collection
A card of willing suspension, surrender and readjustment, its flip side is pointless sacrifice and inappropriate passivity. This ballerina is in a position that no Barbie doll can actually achieve on her own; the absurd, unreal proportions of the doll combined with the limitations of her shoes and clothing mean that none of the ballerinas can actually take on ballet poses. And neither can real women without committing themselves to to starvation, body modification and hard work.
13 Death Sterling Silver Rose from the Bob Mackie Series
The Death card is a symbol of summation, transformation and release far more than mortality. Its negative meanings are stagnation and an inability to move on, not literal death. This Barbie's hair color is clearly not natural; she has remade herself as a brittle silver goddess. Is she growing up or clinging to lost youth?
14 Temperance Heartstring Angel from Angels of Music
This is a card of inner and outer harmony, moderation and balance, focus and skill. On the Waite decks, the illustration portrays an angel in a tranquil setting, which brings to mind this serene, confident violinist.
15 The Devil Catwoman from Barbie Loves Pop Culture
Licentiousness, lack of self-discipline and being a prisoner to one's own desires are all faults of the Devil, though the positive aspect of all this are lost inhibitions, passion and the understanding that comes with experience. Here is Barbie as Catwoman, gleefully waving her whip and celebrating her physical and erotic power. Does that disguise liberate her or entrap her?
16 The Tower Princess of Imperial Russia from the Princess Collection
The title of this card is deceptive, for its meaning refers not to the tower's height but to its downfall, symbolizing abrupt changes, shocking events and disruption of the familiar. At the least, it gets one out of a rut. This Grand Duchess, a daughter of the Czar, may have lovely clothes and live in a beautiful palace, but she comes from an era that ended in violence and can only be remembered with nostalgia if its violent excesses are repressed entirely.
17 The Star Lady Liberty from the Bob Mackie Series
The Star stands for bright prospects, hope, inspiration and self-sufficiency, which is what the Statue of Liberty represented to generations of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island from various countries where they fled hunger, ignorance and intolerance. In this version she does not stand beneath the star but wears the star as her crown and carries its light in her own hand.
18 The Moon Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings
Often associated with goddesses, women's rites, force and renewal, with negative aspects of fear, deception and danger, The Moon is almost always female and mysteriously powerful. Galadriel is not quite a goddess but she is immortal, wise, mysterious and not a little terrifying.
19 The Sun Goddess of the Sun from the Bob Mackie Series
Light and warmth bring success, satisfaction and happiness, with the only negative aspects being concern that these things might be negated. Here is Barbie as an elegant and striking sun goddess, glimmering with beads and bright oversized earrings; she appears confident yet her smile is restrained, content.
20 Judgment Le Papillon from the Bob Mackie Series
Not judgment in a legal sense but The Last Judgment, this card signifies forgiveness, atonement, transformation and rebirth. This butterfly was designed for Barbie's 40th anniversary, wearing a dress that pays homage to both Barbie's original striped swimsuit and the pink that became her trademark color as she evolved.
21 The World Whispering Wind from Essences of Nature
The traditional World card shows a naked woman floating in the sky and holding wands of power, surrounded by images of balance and completion. This Barbie has the ethereal beauty of the sky and holds a bird in the palm of her hand, smiling a fulfilled smile while her gown seems to float around her.
Majors ~ Wands ~ Swords ~ Cups ~ Pentacles
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