Why Create a Botanical Tarot Deck

Why Create a Botanical Tarot Deck

I created La Flora Tarot for selfish reasons. I did it for “me, myself and I”. I did it for the challenge, the experience of turning something I imagined into a tangible object or tool (depending on how you choose to look at it). I am a graphic designer and illustrator. I am obsessed with plants and I have recently reignited my interest in Tarot. In the end, La Flora is the combination of some of my professional and personal interests into ‘a single project’.

I have been working as an illustrator and graphic designer for more than 25 years but I wanted to take my illustration skills a step further. I decided to do so by analyzing the most striking botanical works created by master artists of the past. To draw a plant seems straightforward enough, but it is not. There is the composition side of things. Like a florist putting a bouquet together. It can be done mechanically, following a certain recipe, rendering a beautiful arrangement or it can be done instinctively by a florist so intensely in tune with the visual and tactile experience, that the final bouquet becomes something extraordinary.

Analyzing botanical masterworks was a self-initiated, completely loose endeavor. At first, the goal was to improve my illustration skills and, to me, there was no other way to achieve that than to spend time just looking at masterpieces. Looking at works which withstood the test of time. I wanted to understand them. While at it, I would also spend every chance I got reading, researching and contemplating about plants. That was when I came across ‘The Intelligence of the Flowers’, an essay written by Maurice Maeterlinck. It is a poetic work in which Maeterlinck demonstrates a remarkable knowledge of the Botanical world. I remember specifically what sparked in me the desire (and belief) that it was possible to connect plants to archetypes presented in Tarot. What touched me deeply was when Maeterlinck described the greatest difficulty a plant has to overcome: its immobility from birth to death. He then goes to compare plants with humans to finally end by stating that we all have a great deal to learn from plants and I believe that to be true.

The decision to use the botanical masterpieces themselves to illustrate La Flora, also freed me from my vanity and faults as an illustrator. Instead, I wanted the focus of the work to be on the connection between plants and the Tarot archetypes. Solely. Purely. While I like to think I that have reached my initial goal of improving my skills as an illustrator, most importantly, if I managed to create in you, the reader, a spark of interest in nature from a different perspective, or simply made you look at plants with a renewed eye, I can safely say that my goal for La Flora has been achieved.

My story with Tarot reading started when I was 19. I was sad, going through a rough time and did not even realize how bad it actually was until a friend from work asked me what I had done over the weekend and I told her that I had slept for days. She was shocked and replied: “Didn’t you do just that the previous weekend? For how long have you been sleeping your weekends away?” Truth was I did not even remember when it had started. I told her I was fine and tried to dismiss her remark by saying that I was just tired, to what she replied: “You are 19. Unless you are physically ill, which doesn’t seem to be the case, why so tired? Tired of what, exactly?” She then said something that stuck with me: “Isso é fuga.” which is Portuguese for some sort of avoidance. Her words “Isso é fuga”, “Isso é fuga” kept tormenting me somehow. I then realized I was indeed avoiding something, but what was it? I couldn’t figure it out, at least not consciously. A few days after that conversation, I found myself at an esoteric store, killing time during a lunch break, and came across a Tarot deck for beginners, with the added benefit of a guidebook! I instantly purchased in hopes of tapping into some magical power which would allow me to predict the future. I brought it home and started to study it. The guidebook stated that, for beginners, it was best to ask questions to which the answer would be a simple yes or no. To my utter surprise, I immediately discovered that learning how to read the Tarot was not as much of a challenge as it was to learn how to formulate the right questions. This pushed me further than anything I had ever tried before and worked as some sort of therapy. Suddenly, I found myself digging deeper and deeper into why I was feeling the way I was and then, gradually, enlightenment and self-knowledge presented themselves to me through Tarot. I finally understood. The process was shocking! Many times I found myself not wanting to sit for a ‘session’ because it was painful. It was difficult to face what I was ‘uncovering’ but once I understood consciously what was ‘it’ that I was running away from, I finally knew what to do. After those young years, I took a long break from Tarot. Only in recent years have I found myself drawn to it yet again, to Tarot’s calming, therapeutic and meditative qualities. 

Beautiful, as many Tarot illustrations may be, I have always been intrigued by and attracted to the designs used in the back of the cards. After all, the back of the cards is what we look at the most while living through high feelings of anticipation, and, for La Flora, I chose the four-leaf-clover as a symbol for the deck. The association comes from the fact that each leaf in a four-leaf clover represents: hope, faith, love and luck. To me, sitting down for a reading is an act of self-love. It is my attempt at growing further, at becoming a better person. Besides self-love, there is hope. Hope that I will ask the right questions. Not an easy task, as I previously alluded to. Following that, faith. Faith that the answers will come and if I did not have that faith to begin with, then, why sit down for a reading? Finally, there is the aspect of luck. I believe that everyone sitting for a reading is, at the end, hoping for good luck. I mean good luck in the romantic sense of happy-endings. So that was it. To me, the four-leaf clover had come full circle, turning into the quintessential symbol for La Flora Tarot.

This guidebook does not present Tarot spreads or sets of questions to be asked simply because, to me, the questions are the work and the juice. Pull as many cards as you deem necessary. In any order. Let it flow. Stop. Start again. Come back to it later. Let it sink in. Work hard on formulating the questions. Go deep and then, go deeper. Get to know ‘why’ you desire something. It might surprise you too, as it has surprised me many times over, when I realized that what I thought I desired, in reality, was not my true desire at all. I believe that anyone would benefit from sitting down with questions they have come up with themselves instead of a set of predetermined “universal questions”. Be with yourself for a moment, in your own mind. Be honest. Be unafraid. Most importantly: open yourself up to change. Change of thought, of process, of intent, of values or direction. Remember: the questions you ask will shape your life.

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