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Seven Ways to Get to Know the Herbcrafter’s Tarot

in 0-Library, Herbcrafter’s Tarot, Herbs, Tarot

Get to Know the Herbcrafter's Tarot

I’ve been teaching tarot a long time, and you may have heard me say that I encourage you to trust your own intuitive take on a card before reading the book. I’ve also said that you should not assume that your own take on the card is wrong, if it’s different from what is written in the book. It’s important to develop your own relationship with the cards outside of what the deck creator intended.

However, the Herbcrafter’s Tarot is a deck where I strongly encourage you to read and use the companion book, especially if you are not already familiar with herbs and plants. The energy and message of the particular plant we chose for each card is just as important as the traditional tarot meaning. There are specific qualities assigned to the numbers, people cards, and elements in the HCT which will also enhance your understanding of the deck. (You can read all about it in the book!)

My co-creator Latisha Guthrie and I were inspired by our friend Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s Dark Goddess Tarot to write three “pithy wisdom statements” (as we call them) for each card. Those three sentences appear first on each card’s page and are a kind of distillation of the wisdom of the card and the plant.

For example, for The Empress, Rose:

Be vulnerable, yet strong.
Nurture love and compassion.
See beauty and abundance in every stage of life.

Latisha wrote the book, and she did a beautiful job. It is full of heart-felt experience and wisdom. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Herbcrafter's Tarot and Roses

Seven Ways to Get to Know the Herbcrafter’s Tarot

Choose a card ...1. Go through the deck, pulling out the cards that particularly attract you. Write about the card in your journal, especially noting any personal associations you may have with the plant or other imagery on the card. Then look the card up in the book and notice any particular sentences or phrases that jump out at you.

2. Pull one card a day and write about the card in your journal; your own impressions first, followed by something you learned from the book. Be sure to notice any cards that show up more than once in a week or a month; those cards are calling you!

3. Do a “Getting to Know You” Spread.

My friend Deb Strom likes to ask a new deck these three questions:

  • What type of relationship will we have?
  • What must I do in this relationship?
  • What will I receive in this relationship?

I would add a fourth question:

  • How can I best serve the spirit of this deck?

4. Do an Interview Spread.

I first saw this spread on an Instagram post by Morgan Josey Glover, and I love it. She says that when she gets a new deck she asks it the following questions to set intentions for working with it. It’s a variation of a spread in Courtney Alexander’s guidebook to the Dust II Onyx Tarot.

  • What is your main characteristic?
  • What is your strength?
  • What is your weakness?
  • What is the key lesson you teach?
  • How do you deliver your wisdom?
  • What is the potential outcome of our relationship?

(Morgan posted a two-part video of her interview spread with the Herbcrafter’s Tarot here. Very fun!)

5. After pulling a card from the Herbcrafter’s Tarot, pull the corresponding card from the Gaian Tarot or another favorite deck to compare and enhance the meaning of the card.

6. Look at your Birth Cards to see which plants may be calling you as allies for further study and relationship. (For example, my Birth Cards are the Tower / Chariot. In the HCT, the corresponding plants are Mushroom and Cedar.)

You can learn how to calculate your own Tarot Birth Cards from our friends at the Tarot School here.

My friend Sara Galactica is doing some lovely work reframing tarot birth card “constellations” as ecosystems. Read all about it here.

Herbcrafter's Tarot Empress Rose7. Take a few cards that particularly call you and anchor them in the physical world by crafting with the plants. For example, for Rose, Latisha shares these suggestions in the HCT book:

Crafting with the Empress

Arrange rose thorns and petals together on your altar to cultivate vulnerability and strength.

Create a rosary out of rose buds, rose hips, or dried rose petal beads for love and compassion.

Celebrate the many stages of life by learning the remedies for each season of the rose: rose buds for childhood, full blooms for midlife, and hips for elderhood.

I’m sure you have your own favorite way of getting to know a new deck too. I hope these ideas are helpful!

Coming Spring 2019: The Herbcrafter’s Tarot!

in Herbcrafter’s Tarot, Herbs, Tarot

Herbcrafter's Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert and Latisha Guthrie

I am over-the-moon thrilled to let you know about the new tarot deck I’ve been working on for the past three years, the Herbcrafter’s Tarot!

I created it with my friend Latisha Guthrie of I know tarot, Latisha knows herbs. We collaborated on the content, I did the artwork, and Latisha wrote the book. Together we’ve created something unique and beautiful! The deck and book set will be released by US Games in the Spring of 2019.

Here’s what it’s all about:

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot celebrates the handicrafts, tools, and time-honored folk skills related to herbs, trees, flowers, and other plants that share their gifts with us. The deck and book set explores the relationship between herbs and how people use them for medicine, creativity, delight, tools, ritual, and spiritual guidance.

It is not solely about the properties of specific plants, but our human connection to them. We focus on the craft instead of the clinical and the art instead of the astrological.

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot tells the story of the maker as much as the plants. 

It’s an engaging introduction to herbalism and plant spirit magic, and can be used as a profound divinatory tool. The set includes a 78-card deck and a 124-page book full of herbal inspiration and ideas for crafting with the cards.

“The magic is in the making.”

3 cards from the Herbcrafter's Tarot

From now until the deck’s release in the spring, Latisha and I will be sharing sneak peeks at some of the cards on Instagram and Facebook. I’ll also be sharing in my e-letter, Messages from Sea & Cedar.

If you are on Instagram, please follow our new Herbcrafter’s Tarot account (@herbcrafterstarot).

I hope you are as delighted by this good news as I am, and I wish you a most joyful Solstice!

Tarot Spread for Winter Solstice

in 0-Library, Tarot, Winter Solstice, Yule

Today the Moon is in its balsamic phase, the depths of darkness in the lunar cycle, when we surrender to the unknown. We also find ourselves in the darkest part of the solar year in the Northern Hemisphere, as the days grow shorter until Winter Solstice. This alignment of darkness in both the lunar and solar cycle makes it a potent time for divination, especially in exploring the gifts of darkness.
I designed this spread for those who, like me, are having a hard time with the onset of winter this year. Darkness comes early and stays late, as we approach the shortest day of the year on Winter Solstice. For many of us living in northern latitudes, winter can bring on depression, grief, and memories of all we have lost.

And yet the darkness has gifts for us as well … of dreaming, of rest, and of honoring our sorrow.

Come, toss the cards with me, and listen to the whispers of wisdom in your heart …

  1. Darkness / Dismemberment / Brokenness.
    What have you lost? What are you grieving? What is broken within you?
    (If you get a positive card in this position, you might want to read its shadow side or reversed meaning.)
  2. Promise / Rebirth of the Sun / Renewal.
    What is the promise of renewal that will come with the dawn of Winter Solstice?
  3. Integration of Dark and Light.
    How do the darkness and the dawn intertwine? What wisdom do they create together?
  4. Gift of the Darkness / Remember.
    What is the gift of the broken time, hidden in the darkness? What longs to be re-membered and restored?

My Own Reading

  1. Darkness: Two of Water (Cups).This is my broken heart, the loss of my marriage of 18 years, which ended in divorce earlier this year.
  2. Promise: Ten of Earth (Pentacles). Death and decay become compost for new life. I take my place as an elder and beloved member of my community. I still have much to give.
  3. Integration: Three of Fire (Wands). Dark and light, sorrow and joy, come together in the creative process, as I “take my broken heart and turn it into art.” (Carrie Fisher)
  4. Gift: Tree (Hanged One). The gift of the darkness is release, surrender, letting go of what once was, and opening up to the unknown. I especially see this as I sort through possessions and give away more than half of what I own, preparing to downsize and leave my beloved home for a much smaller place. There is pain, yet freedom and promise in letting go of so much. It opens up a huge space that I am content not to fill up, just yet.

If you are having a hard time this winter, I hope you try out this spread. I hope it brings you comfort and peace.

(Registration is now open for a new email-based course called “Seasons of the Sun & Moon: Root Yourself in Nature’s Rhythms,” in which we’ll follow the cycles of the sun and moon all year long. Please join us!)

Create Community Circles

in 0-Library, Circle Way, Community

One of the things I am hearing from many people is how challenging it can be to find a community of like-minded people.

I’d like to reframe that desire from finding community to creating it.

Community can be one or two people gathering together.
Community can be sipping tea with a far-off friend via Skype or FaceTime and having a good chat.
Community can be inviting an acquaintance to lunch.
Community can be picking up the phone and calling an old friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.
Community can be created by taking a class, or teaching one, on a favorite topic.
Community can be created by finding a way to serve.

Don’t wait for the just-right community to come along.

Create it instead.

I’ve started a number of local circles over the years. My own preference is for a circle of people who want to support each other’s life path, rather than a focus on ritual or study. I’ve found that the following format for a monthly 3-hour circle works well for a group of 4-8 folks: a check-in (using the Circle Way methodology), a seasonal activity (usually a craft or tarot play), and a potluck meal. In the past, I’ve invited a few people I know well and a few people I’d like to know better, and I’ve asked them each to invite a friend. It’s an easy way to get a local circle started. A different person can host each month, and that works out well too.

If you still feel at a loss as to how to find anyone to invite to such a circle, start by putting out the call. Go to your altar (or to the moon or the woods or the sea), and ask. Put out the call and be alert in waiting for a response. Sniff out the synchronicities. Expect magic to happen!

And remember, you can start with a circle of two.

(From my e-letter, November 21, 2018)

A Blessing for Place

in 0-Library, Place

Marsh House, Aldermarsh, Whidbey Island

When I visit the east coast, I’m always a bit disoriented to realize that the element of water is found in the east, not in the west. I’ve been calling the directions for over 30 years and have always placed water in the west. But that is not everyone’s experience of their own landbase!  So I started a practice of really centering myself in Place by imagining what physical features actually exist in each of the directions.

How might you honor the four directions that radiate out from the Place where you live or the Place you are visiting?

Begin by honoring the original inhabitants of the land. Do a little research, if you don’t already know. This map will help you discover who they are. Land acknowledgment is a simple yet powerful way of showing respect for indigenous people’s history and culture. (Here’s more information on why it’s so important.)

Then consider each direction in turn, studying maps and finding out more about the area’s natural and cultural history.

Here’s an example of a blessing I wrote for a gathering at Aldermarsh Retreat Center on Whidbey Island.

We respectfully acknowledge the Coast Salish tribes on whose homeland we meet; the Skagit, Swinomish, and Snohomish people who have stewarded this land throughout generations. We are grateful for the more-than-humans (the plants, the animals, the stones, and more) with whom we share this earth.

Now we open our hearts and minds to the Four Directions that radiate out from this gathering place, this Marsh House.

In the East, we greet the alder marsh, the gardens, the Chinook lands of the Whidbey Institute, the water that separates us from the mainland, and farther on, the glistening Cascade Mountains.

In the South, we greet the fields and beaches of this green island, the waters that we cross to reach the metropolis of Seattle, and farther beyond, the great shining mountain Tahoma.

In the West, we greet the beaches and waters of the Salish Sea, the luscious Hoh rainforest on the peninsula, and the vast Pacific Ocean beyond.

In the North, we greet Grandparent Fir, and the islands and waters of the Salish Sea; the small cities, towns, fields and farmlands, all the way to the pastoral lands and cities of British Columbia.

We give thanks for the Great Above, the Great Below, and the center, the still point of the turning world.

I invite you to write a blessing of the Four Directions for the Place where you find yourself today, and share it here in the comments. 

This exercise is part of my upcoming course, The Sacred Wheel: An Exploration of the Cycle of Life, Death, & Renewal through Nature, Tarot, & Art.  I hope you’ll join me!  We start September 10th.