A Curious Herbal (1737) by Elizabeth Blackwell: Hand-colored engravings

These hand-painted engravings of healing herbs and garden vegetables are a delight, and I’m sure at least one creative person seeing this will get ideas, download, and do something lovely with these illustrations, so here you go.

They’re from Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal (1737). Below you’ll find a zip file you can download of high-res images from the book. Or view it in the entirety, courtesy of The British Library, Catalogues & Collections.

A Curious Herbal (1737)

Download Zip File

About the Book:

Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal is notable both for its beautiful illustrations of medicinal plants and for the unusual circumstances of its creation.

[It] contains illustrations and descriptions of plants, their medicinal preparations, and the ailments for which they are used.

The first herbal was written by the Greek physician Dioscorides in the first century AD.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Aberdeen in about 1700, but moved to London after she married. She undertook this ambitious project to raise money to pay her husband’s debts and release him from debtors’ prison.

Blackwell’s Herbal was an unprecedented artistic, scientific and commercial enterprise for a woman of her time.

She drew, engraved and coloured the illustrations herself, mostly using plant specimens from the Chelsea Physic Garden.

It was highly praised by leading physicians and apothecaries (makers and sellers of medicines), and made enough money to secure her husband’s freedom, although she later had to sell the copyright as well.

This finely-bound copy of A Curious Herbal is from the collection of King George III, held in the British Library.

British Library 34.I.12 -13

Learn About Your Moon Sign (pdf download for astrology beginners)

This pdf was shared in my newsletter group last year and then I kinda forgot about it. If you missed it then, here’s the download now.

Learning About Your Moon Sign

(click above to download pdf)

If you ordered a 2021 Metaphysician’s Day Planner from me, then you already have your natal chart. You can use this manual to figure out the house and sign placement of your natal moon, what that means, the decan ruler over your moon and what that might mean, a few key angular aspects, and more.

My moon sign Leo and its decan ruler Mars (in Leo)

The introductory pages offers a quick written tutorial for the total beginner to help you figure out your own moon’s house and sign placement. (And we’ll practice on the birth charts of Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo, Sigmund Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir.)

There’s also a formula given for calculating your moon phase at birth, and what your moon phase at birth says about your personality.

The pdf has been formatted with all headings bookmarked, so if you work from a PDF viewer, like what you see above, you can open up a navigation pane and click directly to the section you want to read.

And… another SKT III status update…

I’ve finished the first draft of all 80 cards, but that doesn’t mean much because I’m returning to the Majors to fix up Keys 1 through 7, at the very least, and maybe whatever else I see that needs fixing.

The substance of the court cards will remain the same, but they, too, need fixing. This one’s arm looks awkward; that one’s nose is, like, what is that, that’s not even a nose; and then when you line up the same court card from the four suits, I want there to be some cohesion, so where there are glaring inconsistencies, I’ll need to fix that up, too.

By the time I got to the pip cards, I finally got the hang of digital painting, so I don’t think much substantive revision will be necessary. Wait, no. That Five of Swords, though… I think it could use a little more tinkering, perhaps even a significant reconsideration of what should go in that background.

Continue reading “And… another SKT III status update…”

Last SKT III Update for 2020: Revelation

Going in the order of the cards I’ve presented here, I’m ending 2020 and beginning 2021 on the Ten of Swords. Hmm. Yah I’m not going to read into that. =) Moving on.

While the style and approach for the earlier editions asked of you to journey inward, this third edition, which I’m calling The Revelation, asks of you to journey outward. If my earlier editions were about depth, then this third edition is about expanse.

Realm of Sevens

The Revelation Edition can be treated as an entirely different deck from the First and Vitruvian Editions. It’s within the SKT family, hence the deck name remains the same. And while it shares the same DNA, SKT III has really evolved to solidify its own unconnected identity.

Realm of Eights

I cannot wait to share with you the companion guidebook. It’s basically a new Book of Maps, because it had to be. I go into detail explaining the who, what, where, when, and why for each card illustration, and then for interpreting it, the how.

Continue reading “Last SKT III Update for 2020: Revelation”

Grogu Does a Tarot Reading (Fan Art)

(click to download JPG)

You can click on the above image to download the 4.26 MB, 500 dpi art print, if you want. It’s 8″ x 10″, which you can print centered on a standard US Letter 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. Make sure to check your printer settings. You could also select “print to fit” and print the drawing borderless.

And if you want to make your own Stuff with this cute little doodle, click on and download the below.

(click to download)

You can create your own custom T-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers, whatever. You do you.

If you don’t like my saturation, color, or contrast levels and you know a thing or do about photo editing, then go ahead and edit the images until you’re satisfied.

Continue reading “Grogu Does a Tarot Reading (Fan Art)”

Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights Walk-Through

The Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights was published back in 2005 by Lo Scarabeo, with the artwork collection edited by Pietro Alligo. It’s art deck featuring the works of the late 19th and early 20th century French painter Léon Georges Jean-Baptiste Carré, living around the time Waite and Crowley.

Carré moved to Abd-el-Tif, Algeria and concentrated his body of work on Orientalist subjects. (Orientalism is the European and Western study and commentary on Middle Eastern culture.)

Continue reading “Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights Walk-Through”

The Lua Tarot by Maree Bento of DivineMuses

The Lua Tarot created by Maree Bento is a black and white collage deck of 19th century engravings. Lovers of the Victorian Era, you are going to adore these cards. “Lua” means “moon” in Portuguese, which is the perfect name for this deck, given its style and how the grayscale speculative aesthetics induces inner reflection.

Bento is the creator of the Divine Muses Oracle, which I’ve reviewed here. There’s this mystical-alchemical dream quality to her art style, and while Divine Muses was more mystical, Lua Tarot is more alchemical.

From a compositional standpoint, Bento layers the imagery with seamless perfection. There are clear stories going on in the foreground, midground, and background. You get a strong sense of earth and sky in every card image. Bento balances detailing and space in such a way that your eyes are always relaxed.

Continue reading “The Lua Tarot by Maree Bento of DivineMuses”

Button Soup Tarot: A Cult of Tarot Collaboration Deck

I’m intrigued by the strong opinions that tarot readers can hold for collaborative decks. Collaborative are decks where the artwork is done by a cast of different artists and illustrators, often of varying experience in art, from the amateur or self-taught to the professional. The Button Soup Tarot was organized by the Cult of Tarot forum members and the result turned out really well.

I speculate that the collaborative deck appeals mainly to a rather special, rare, eclectic, and liberal-minded personality. Each and every card is going to feature a different style, created with a different medium, ranging from traditional to digital art. I’m loving this particular collaboration. It feels celebratory and there’s such a joy to it.

Button Soup Tarot reads surprisingly well. I say “surprisingly” because it’s no big secret that most tarot readers are skeptical of how cohesive the messages from a collaborative deck can be. But then, I mean, when you do psychic readings, aren’t you pulling from the collective consciousness, and isn’t the collective consciousness little more than, well, a hot mess?

I love the namesake, Button Soup, a reference to the folk tale Stone Soup, where a traveler arrives in a village seeking food, but no one is willing to share. The traveler claims he can create an incredible soup with just one stone. Eventually, every villager chips in a little and all the contributions result in an incredible stew, and enough for all.

There’s also quite a Who’s Who dimension to this deck, as many incredible deck creators we all know and love contributed cards. Pamela Steele (Steele Wizard’s Tarot, Wizard’s Pets Tarot), Jessica Leigh Henry (Lions Gateway Tarot), Joan Marie (The Friar’s Delight Lenormand, which is in the queue for a forthcoming review from me), Yasmeen Westwood (Tarot of Enchanted Dreams), Gaby Merman (forthcoming Chromatic Chapel Tarot, and if this Instagram account is any indication, holy moly does that look like an amazing deck I can’t wait for!), Emilie Muniz (Simplicity Tarot), Kristine Gorman, and the incomparable M. M. Meleen (Rosetta Tarot, Tabula Mundi, Pharos Tarot).

Every artist featured is incredible– I was just naming a few whose decks I’ve reviewed in the past, or names I’m more readily familiar with.

My friend Cerulean, Mari Hoshizaki, was the one who alerted me that this collaboration was in the works, so of course I had to contribute. You see my Queen of Swords drawing in the above photo. =)

My favorite way to read with the Button Soup Tarot has been a simple past, present, future, and bonus 4-card reading. I shuffle, focus on the matter at hand, then cut the deck into three card piles, right to left. I go right to left here, so the right-most card pile is past, center is present, and left is future. If you want to give this approach a try, of course you can read any direction you like, left to right if that makes more sense to you.

So that’s the three card reading– past influences causing what’s going on in the matter at hand, present status, and where this trajectory is headed (future projection). Then I choose which area– past, present, or future– I’d like a little more info on, and pull a second card from that corresponding card pile for the “bonus” in this 4-card reading method.

And this deck takes to that method perfectly.

The card back design, deck box, everything is just beautiful. I’m so in love with how this deck came out. I don’t think any deck collection is complete without a couple of collaborative decks. They’re so much fun and such an incredible way to celebrate the tarot community.

This deck was organized by Joan Marie of Rabbits Moon Tarot. She also runs the Cult of Tarot forum. You can buy the deck here, with proceeds going to support the Cult of Tarot forum, an invaluable gathering place of tarot aficionados.

I should also mention that the li’l white book was so much fun to read! The artist for each card contributed a passage on the card meaning, interpretation, and artist intentions for the card they drew. To read this collective glossary of card meanings was a treasure.

Pistis Sophia (Majors Only) Goddess Tarot by Kim Huggens and Nic Phillips

Pistis Sophia: The Goddess Tarot is a 22-card Majors only deck by Kim Huggens and Nic Phillips, published by Schiffer. Pistis Sophia is the sequel to Sol Invictus: the God Tarot published by this duo over a decade ago.

The namesake for the deck comes from the Gnostic text Pistis Sophia, a compilation of narratives on the aeons and cosmology told through the stories of a feminine figure, Pistis Sophia.

The intention set for this deck was to take on a more hard polytheist approach to the goddesses, where the named goddesses are not mere faces to universal divine feminine concepts, but rather, are the goddesses themselves, in their own individual identifiable right.

What also sets Pistis Sophia apart from other goddess decks on the market is the creators’ scholarly approach. This becomes most apparent in the companion guidebook, which is a treasure trove of knowledge and impressively well-researched insights. The book itself, before we even get to the incredible artwork on the deck, is well worth your investment.

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Selling Art Prints & More Diary Notes on Learning How to Art

benebellwen.com/artprints

I’m now offering my art prints for sale, and if you’re interested, click on the above hyperlinked banner to go straight to the art descriptions page and instructions on how to order. But this is a blog post, so I want to get a little more cas (casual, pronounced “kage,” where “ka” is like “cat” and “ge” is pronounced like “george” omigod why am I taking so much time and text explaining something so stupid) and ramble about that process.

The above banner thing was totally just for fun, to amuse myself. I didn’t bother following any art composition principles, other than, well, the one I made up myself, which is “more is more.” =D Every single feature you see in that banner comes from the illustrations for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, The Revelation (my name for the third edition of SKT).

This blog post is just to share some of the behind-the-scenes art journeying.

Continue reading “Selling Art Prints & More Diary Notes on Learning How to Art”