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Join Date: 11 Dec 2004
Location: Ucluelet, BC, Canada
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Sophie-David 

It would be difficult to compare Shakespeare with Arthurian legends, since the bard was most likely a single author (although that has been debated) and the legends were developed over a millenium by many different contributors. As far as what a literary scholar would say about Arthurian legend that would depend very much on the scholar in question. Anna-Marie Ferguson certainly qualifies as a scholar of these legends, having studied all available sources and most of the important commentaries - she has a most impressive bibliography. Although her artwork is romantic and feminine in style, she has certainly put a lot of analytical research into her work and it shows - whether or not the deck might appeal to you, I would not in any way characterize her efforts as lacking insight or balance.

On pages 5 and 6 of the Second Edition of A Keeper of Words Anna-Marie notes:
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...a number of Arthurian sources have been drawn upon, including the early chronicles, the medieval romances, and the Quest for the Holy Grail, Celtic legend, beliefs, practices, folklore, and, when available, historical or Arthurian fact...The symbolism of the deck is a blend of traditional Tarot symbolism with the pre-Christian Pagan symbolism of the Celts and the Christian symbolism of the latter versions of the Grail Quest. This melding of Pagan and Christian motifs reflects the atmosphere of the historical Dark Ages.
Anna-Marie attempts to recreate the balance of beliefs which actually existed in the "Dark Ages" of Arthur. She certainly did not try to design a neo-pagan deck.

As far as the metaphor of a woman representing the body of the Land, Anna-Marie discusses this in reference to Britannia, the Queen of Cups (see this thread for an accurate scan of the card done by WalesWoman rather than Llewellyn). This metaphor of the land as a woman is called a Sovereignty. She mentions that in the Irish story, Conn of the Hundred Battles the Irish Sovereignty is called Eriu; in the Welsh Peredur stories she is "both the beautiful maid and replusive crone". Britannia is still used as the symbol of British sovereignty, and her depiction in Roman times is described here and here (scroll down to the Britannia entry). The Romans struck coins bearing Britannia's image in a submissive role, as described at this site:
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Roman coins often depict Britannia pacified or in submission. There is a touching coin on Wildwinds that has Britannia with her forehead lowered onto her hand.
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