The twelve cards of the Botanica Tarot are split into three groups: the Tree, the Flower, and the Leaf. These three correspond to the three primary elements: Fire, Water, and Earth. These work together to represent the Self and the Divine Feminine in the noumenal plane, and their influence can be seen in the material plane.
I am an empath. An empath is a person who, when in a state of comfort or joy, can ‘tune in’ to other people’s emotional space. This allows one to feel what another person is feeling, hear what they are thinking, and become aware of their needs and desires. When one is in such a state, one can observe their actions, including their thoughts and feelings, and give advice to the individual.
Botanica Tarot, published by Beehive Books, is truly one of the most exquisite tarot decks I have ever faced. Beehive Books is a publishing house specializing in quality books.
While the 78 cards of the tarot deck represent 78 allegorical points that are universally experienced on the circle of life, the cards that most often speak of human life, these 78 cards speak of the circle of life in the plant kingdom.
The images are by illustrator Kevin Jay Stanton (psst… join his Patreon here), who describes himself as an illustrator with green fingers, according to his Instagram profile. Good. The result is paintings of flowers that radiate a lively personality.
Conveying emotions in illustrations of plants is one of the most difficult aspects of art, and Stanton does it with grace and ease. The photo above shows one of the postcards included in the herb printing edition. Frame these bonus cards in a 4″ x 6″ or 5″ x 7″ frame for a beautiful decoration on the wall or desk.
The gold leaf on the back of the black cards, the gold leaf on the storage drawer, and the attention to detail in every aspect of its manufacture elevate the Tarot Botanica to the level of satisfying luxury. This patio is so beautiful you’ll want to show it off.
I can’t speak to the similarity between the plants and the tarot cards because I don’t know enough about plants, but judging by the explanations he gives in the guide, I can follow him pretty easily, and each of his similarities makes sense. I want the dandelion to be the fool: Like floating dandelion seeds, the fool begins a journey filled with hope and the promise of new growth.
Mistletoe was sacred to the Druids and represents magic and male energy. The magician thus represents strength and resourcefulness. The high priestess card represents the elderflower, which was also worshipped by the Druids. Balanced with the mistletoe on the sorcerer’s map, the elderflower represents feminine power, and it is said that witches gathered under the elderflower when the fruit was full.
The little white book that comes with the game is a godsend, especially for those of us who have no green thumb and can’t tell the difference between an amaryllis and a magnolia. In the above illustration of the Major Arcana layout, you can see the icon of each Major Arcana, which is the only designation on the cards that allows you to understand what is what.
Most are easily understood, such as the symbol of the lemniscate for the magician, the triple diadem of the goddess for the high priestess or the twelve stars for the empress. Others are not so easy, for example I am not sure I recognize a seed of a dandelion in Fool himself. But if this game becomes your work game, you will probably remember it as a standalone game.
I will be the first to admit that this is not the easiest tarot deck for me to read. The Great Arcana cards are not numbered, there is no signature (a design decision I agree with), and the little white icon at the top in the middle of the card is used to indicate which Great Arcana you are looking at. Most of the time I can guess correctly, but I admit that sometimes I get confused.
A little gold foil in the middle and bottom of the cards would have improved the art. For example. B. the card in the top left corner of the photo, above the more discreet gold metallic seal below: PEONY and then a small horizontal gold stripe followed by The Lovers underneath. Or, alternatively, replace the white icon at the top entirely. The card in the middle of the bottom row has the STERRENANIJS, a thin horizontal gold band, and the medicine wheel below it.
Moderation is a water iris, which here traditionally corresponds to Western occult books. Stanton then adds a botanical explanation that deepens my understanding of this traditional correspondence. Water irises stand between land and water, feeding both where they take root and helping to prevent erosion.
There were other moments of resonance that tantalized me. Stanton designed Jasmine for Star (pictured above, bottom right). For my game, SKT, I represented Kuan Yin on the star chart. Jasmine flowers are associated with Quan Yin.
Belladonna, or deadly nightshade, is the devil. I love the tips and anecdotes in the booklet. LWB is worth reading from cover to cover. For me it was both entertaining and informative.
The moon card is the Queen of the Night, one of my favorite colors. They grow in my garden and on late spring and early summer evenings it’s great fun to watch them bloom, one evening after another. The next morning, it had withered away. Like the moon itself, its power is fleeting, but its attraction is enormous, Stanton notes.
The sun is a sunflower and the brew is an Easter lily. Write on the Easter lily: These flowers have been given the meaning of purity and chastity in Christian symbolism, and are believed to announce the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Similarly, Judgment is a call to action card, a trumpet preceding a decree. It means the end of darkness and the dawn of something new.
To denote the minor arcana, the letter A is used for the ace, followed by the Roman numerals from I to X, P for pages, KN for knights, Q for queens and K for kings. Next to this designation is a glyph symbolizing the color.
Witch garlic (top left) is the queen of cups. This power herb of Circe… Circe was a Greek witch with transformative powers. The symbol that belongs to the flower is a golden tiara with the Hercules knot. The King of Cups wears a golden laurel wreath, symbolizing the laurel wreath awarded to heroes. The centaur whose flower is depicted on the king owes his name to the immortal centaur Chiron, the wisest and most beautiful of all centaurs (Homer).
During my first few weeks with the maps, I had to keep coming back to LWB. While the Minor Arcana cards were easy to identify, I still had trouble identifying some of the Major Arcana cards with only a small code of symbols. And then I want to look in the LWB to read about the factory correspondence.
Although I don’t know much about plants or gardening, I keep a dozen fruit trees, a few potted flowers and grow herbs. And I talk to my trees and plants. If you are with them long enough, you are sure to see the unique personalities of each and build a bond with them.
This sense of connection to my trees and plants is replicated in the way the botany of the tarot works for me. Just as occultists describe tarot interpretation as a connection with a spirit or ghostly realm to communicate, something similar is happening here, but with the Plantae realm. Just as our physical world has a metaphysical counterpart, the Tarot Botanica connects us to the metaphysical dimension of plants.
The bleeding hearts are the three swords! I love it. Then the Four of Swords is a snowflake. Snowdrops symbolize hope and purity. It is believed that Hermes gave snowdrops to Odysseus to ward off evil magic. The four swords on this card are the xiphos used by the ancient Greeks. The five of swords is a nettle.
There has been so much deep thinking about the Tarot Botanicus on so many levels that this deck and the accompanying LWB are a real treasure. Mandragora root, an item every witch needs for witchcraft, is the side of swords. To mark it as a court card, see a Greek tiara. You may not see it in the picture, but Dionysus and Ariadne are engraved in the tiara. Such fine detail is what I mean by the layers and layers of depth that Stanton put into the art.
Oh, and the Knight of Swords is wearing a silver Cherokee Gargoyle. The Queen of Swords, representing the red oleander, connects with Durga through a kiritamukuta, essentially a conical cylindrical crown resembling a mitre. The King of Swords brings the Japanese symbolism of the camellia. As a symbol of the court we see Date Masamune’s helmet with the half moon, or ornament, which according to Star Wars lore served as inspiration for Darth Vader’s costume.
Multicultural references, beautiful illustrations, luxurious production – everything comes together to create a unique tarot deck.
The wand is a hawthorn, symbolizing spring, and here you see a maypole surrounded by ribbons. Two of Bars is the cockscomb herb, a Mediterranean wildflower that will invade the garden if left unattended. The sceptres here are of Egyptian origin. The Sakai tree in front of the three chopsticks is the sacred tree of Amaterasu, the Japanese goddess of the sun. So the Magic Five is a reference to the Norse goddess Frigg.
Let’s move on, we only have one costume story: You will discover the Scottish legend, the Cochise of archaic America, the England of Elizabeth, how the Datura plant was used as a poison by the Indians and the link between the Huluppu tree and the goddess Inanna. As an exclusively plant-based deck, the Botanica Tarot is diverse and inclusive, faithfully representing all regions of the world.
The photo above also shows some of the fun stickers you will receive as a packaging reminder with your deck order.
In the Queen of Wands is the Hulupu tree of Inanna. The golden crown on the card is the horned crown of Inanna. The pomegranate is the king of wands, which is evocative and different from western occult traditions. Here the link to the King of the Stick is made with the red colour of the pomegranate seeds and the fact that its juice resembles blood, symbolising war, power and passion. Through the pomegranate, the wand king communicates with Hadad, the Semitic god-king of thunder and agriculture.
As for the coin’s bait, it’s the grape. This fruit is associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of hedonism. The coin on this map is a tetradrachm (ancient Greek silver coin, equal to four drachmas) representing Dionysus. The Two of Pentacles, one of my favorite cards in this deck, is a water lily. The Egyptian deben was a form of proto-coin, used here to denote the color of the coin.
Stanton’s handling of money is admirable. The three pieces representing the saffron plant represent Persian dariqs. The four coins, a honeysuckle, represent wampum, the proto-money of the Eastern Woodlands tribes of North America. The pieces of the Five Coins represent the symbols of Athena. The thistle is a piece five for its black magic properties, sacred to witches and goddesses.
We often speak of tarot as a language. Botanica Tarot is a hybrid that combines the language of Tarot with the language of flowers (…like Spanglish or Chinglish…?). And something about the energy of this game is definitely bilingual.
For me it was a learning moment. The Botanica Tarot reading is accurate, but most of us can rely on the LWB for a while before we get oriented. LWB also prompted many adventures down the rabbit hole, as I wanted to learn more about the cultural references in this game.
FTC Notes: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, Guidelines for the Use of Endorsements and Reviews in Advertising, I received the Botanica Tarot from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here honestly and accurately reflects my opinion of the game.
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