The Herbcrafter’s Tarot is a masterpiece, but it’s more than that. It’s a beautifully compiled trove of knowledge. Its companion book, written by Latisha Guthrie, is going to be one of your favorite go-to grimoires. The artwork by Joanna Powell Colbert is just perfection. She’s like a modern-day Pliny the Elder.
Production value for this deck is top shelf. It comes in a sturdy top and bottom lid box with a matte finish and everything, the deck and book, tucks in perfectly, with a matching green ribbon for ease of taking the cards out from its box.
The artwork is absolutely stunning. Look at Key 8: Strength, featuring garlic. I love the inclusion of garlic snapes and the detailing of honey-preserved garlic (one of my favorite recipes, by the way).
To see how you connect with the deck, choose one of the three cards above and remember which one you chose– left, center, or right. At the end of this review, we’ll revisit your selection.
The cardbacks are an assortment of plant life in a reversible design. Hmm, if I’m being honest, I feel neutral about this particular card back design, and I think it’s because the deck art is so extraordinary that the card back pales in comparison. On a less-than deck, that card back design would be fine and I might not even have noticed it one way or the other, but juxtaposed with the breathtaking beauty of the deck art Powell has given us, I do feel like this particular card back falls a little short. Composition wise, it’s totally different from the aesthetics of the deck art itself.
Now here, the deck art shines. It delights the senses. I love Colbert’s choices of plant life correspondences to each of the tarot keys. I love the diversity in selecting the herbs.
For me, I definitely use the deck in close working with its companion book, almost as a form of bibliomancy. I’ll use the deck to divine up the herbs and then I’ll look each one up in its incredible book, then consider deeper personal ritual work or spell-crafting with those specific herbs that came up in the card reading.
Those with a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine are going to take to Herbcrafter’s as well. The deck creators have absolutely done their research and what I found to be such a joy is the amount of cross-over between western herbal medicine and eastern.
Every nature-based metaphysical practitioner needs to get this deck. It’s going to be both an indispensable tool and reference guide. You’ll find medicinal recipes, creative rituals with herbs, trees, and flowers, and how to access plant life for spiritual guidance.
There’s the exploration of herbs as archetypes and how to tap in to plant spirit magic. And most significant of all for The Herbcrafter’s Tarot, how to work with flora as a divinatory tool.
So who is the herbcrafter? Powell describes the herbcrafter as “an aficionada of the botanical realm. She is in love with plants and longs to know them more deeply. . . The herbcrafter embraces the plant world as her teacher and friend through observation and botany, gardening and wildcrafting, medicine and kitchen crafts, fiber arts and weaving, art and magic. She recognizes herself as part of nature.”
The methodical and analytical-based approach for the deck’s architecture and herb correspondences is impressive. The Majors represent the wilderness and the journey of the herbcrafter to learn about wildlife and use that knowledge to cultivate a garden for herself and one for the world.
The four suits of the Minor Arcana are named after the four elements–Wands renamed to Fire, Cups renamed to Water, Swords renamed to Air, and Pentacles renamed to Earth. Then you’ve got the herbcrafter’s tools–mortar and pestle in the suit of Fire, kettles in the suit of Water, bolines in the suit of Air, and baskets in the suit of Earth. You’ve also got the skills of the herbcrafter: creating is Fire, nourishing is Water, learning is Air, and giving is Earth.
Each herb as it is assigned to its respective suit is done so based on its medicine. Then as they correspond with each numbered pip, Aces are the dooryard herbs, Twos attract pollinators or feed wildlife, Threes are plants that are easy to grow, Fours are plants used for hedges and borders, all Fives are plants listed as endangered or threatened, and so on. Sevens, for instance, are ancient trees; Eights are root medicines, etc.
As for the sixteen court cards, they represent renowned healers and medicine keepers throughout history. Tarot pages are the Hijas (children’s medicine), the tarot knights are Adelitas, or warrior plants, queens are Madres, featuring nourishing medicine, and the tarot kings are Curanderas, or Healers, the four most noble and ancient of healing medicines across different cultures and civilizations.
The execution of this deck is sheer brilliance.
Each card entry identifies the corresponding herb or plant life for the tarot key, its botanical nomenclature, and then easy-to-read accessible-to-all reference text about that herb. The bottom of each entry features how you can craft with that particular herb, especially if you want to work more closely with that specific tarot card. So, for instance, to work with Key 12: The Hanged Man energies, work with burdock.
Then there are suggested tarot spreads and ways to work with the cards, along with different methods of preparing herb elixirs, giving you instructions on how to make cordials, flower essences, honeys, incense, oils, salves, scrubs, infusions, and so much more. The last page of the guidebook is a bibliography for the curious and avid botany student.
Okay, now back to your card reading. Remember your three options? Top, left, and center? Let’s see which card you chose. Click on any of the photographs for an enlarged view.
If you chose the left card, you pulled one of the courts– Adelita of Earth (Knight of Pentacles). Here is someone who creates a bridge between herself and her ancestors. This is also the power of place, of honoring an earth-based spiritual path. You are realistic, hard-working and in service of nature without ego.
The guidebook goes on to suggest different ways of crafting with the Adelita of Earth. Create important symbols of your heritage, made from local plant life. There’s also a suggestion to study and learn about the yucca moth, or consider taking up a class about weaving fiber with yucca.
The center card is another court– Curandera of Water, or King of Cups. This is the healer archetype. This card is encouraging you to leave the shallows and move into the depths. Flow with the ebbs of life, yielding to it rather than fighting it. Navigate the changes of life with grace. You possess the qualities and powers of a Healer through your open heart and your incredible gift for comforting others.
If you pull the Curandera of Water, Seaweed, perhaps health-wise, it’s time to focus on strengthening your bones–snack on some kelp or eelgrass. There’s also the recommendation to rejuvenate through a seaweed bath. If you can, go on a roadtrip to be close to an ocean this weekend.
Finally, if you chose the third card to the right, you got Key 12: The Hanged One, corresponding with burdock. Perhaps life at the moment has thrown you some challenges, but shift your perspective: instead of feeling overwhelmed, understand these challenges as opportunities for growth. You’re in the midst of opportunities for deep personal change, and deep change takes time. Surrender to the process.
Consider cooking with burdock. Tap in to the wisdom of burdock by crafting with burdock roots and creating your own set of runes with them for divination. Enjoy a cup of burdock tea and as you sip that tea, let its magic release away your anxieties, worries, and fill you with calm.
I can’t sing enough praises for The Herbcrafter’s Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert with a companion text written by Latisha Guthrie. Their work has been beautifully honored by U.S. Games with incredible production value. Every aspect of effort that has gone in to Herbcrafter’s is outstanding. This deck has easily become one of my most treasured deck and book sets, for sure.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the The Herbcrafter’s Tarot from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.