Tarot of Magic Herbs by Gabriel Vazquez Molina, Illustrated by Jabier Herreros Lamas
Review by Valerie Antal
The Tarot of Magic Herbs is a 78-card Tarot deck, which combines the healing properties of herbs and flower essences with the archetypal meanings within the Major Arcana. Completely lacking the four suits, the 56 Minor Arcana function more as an oracle. Gabriel Vazquez attributes keyword phrases to each card along with a corresponding plant to strengthen the associations and facilitate healing. The pastel drawings by Jabier Herreros Lamas, a self-taught artist, are expressive, charming, and richly colored. Reminiscent of cameos, the illustrations are shown in ovals centered against a swirling background of green and purple. The Major Arcana, or respective keyword phrases, and plant names are written on each card in both Spanish and English.
Jabier Herreros Lamas depicts figures who seem to originate from flora and trees. Represented by the Birch Tree, the Lady of the Woods is revealed as the white bark unfolds to show her face as fair as the Moon. The waters of a stream course through the growth of standing trees to show freely moving energy of the spirit. The Empress sits in a curled position at the center of a fully opened Rose. Her hair, as red as the petals, drapes along her nude body. Her position, reminiscent of a fetus, shows both the power of feminine creation and the promise of fertility. In the Lovers card, a woman is facing the sun as a curve of light issues from the sky in union and illuminates her. She is half clothed by the leaves of the daisy and she seems to rise from the green like a bloom. Her position in relation to the sun conveys attraction, which is usually depicted between a male and female but here conveys a love of nature.
Images of the Goddess and her corresponding flowers and herbs are detailed within the 56 oracle cards. The Goddess Side (at top) shows a female with hair composed of the gleaming red seeds of the Pomegranate stretching down to a large fruit that blends with the jeweled red of the landscape. She holds a pomegranate in each hand in offering of her confident sexuality. As a face round and fair in a red sky, the Goddess Artemise stares with green eyes the color of Artemisia. The Moon is her emblem, a mirror of magnetic vitality—the link between the psychic realm and wild nature.
Not all of the depictions of the cards resonate strongly with my intuitive sense. The Inner Light, St. John’s Wort pictures a face with closed eyes inside a glowing, egg-shaped source. This card makes me think of a vitamin supplement. Some capsules are challenging enough to swallow due to their huge size and I prefer not to think of my vitamins as having faces. This is especially disturbing because I have in the past used St. John’s Wort as a healing remedy. The Force of the Universe, Ash, looks like a teenaged boy with his arms raised while red spirals weave around him. I understand the power of youth energy, but in my own cosmology I do not equate “fortitude, wisdom, and spiritual connection” with teenage males, despite whether or not the average teenager perceives himself as the Force of the Universe.
Although the Major Arcana shows only a faint similarity to the Rider-Waite-Smith, the originality displayed does not overcome the traditional interpretations of the cards. When I view the fire rising from the surging volcano in the Judgment card, and the spread of the red lava moving between the growing Celandine, I think of the rejuvenating and transforming powers of the Earth symbolizing inner release and renewal. The Justice card simply depicts a Plantain growing around a set of scales. Marking the central leaf shows a pattern of the measuring dial between the scales. This card reminds me of the balance existing in Nature. Vazquez’s plant associations with the 22 Major Arcana are in accordance with the healing energy of the herbs and flowers. I have used many of these plants in healing formulas and I felt an affinity with his correspondences.
The High Priestess—Sage
The Wheel of Fortune—Basil
The Hanged One—Passion Flower
The Moon—Black Elder
The text by Gabriel Vazquez was originally composed in Spanish and the booklet offers both English and German translations. The maddeningly small print requires a magnifying glass or an adjustment period for the eyes. I read the descriptions a few pages at a time to slowly complete the book. Measuring approximately 4x4 ¼ inches, the booklet is then folded in half to fit in the standard cardboard box. I wish the booklet had been printed in a larger format, not only for the type size, but also because once it has been opened and read, it is difficult to fit easily back into the box along with the cards. I would recommend housing the deck and booklet separately within a roomy bag or wooden box.
Although the booklet details six spreads ranging from drawing three to 28 cards, I prefer using the Tarot of Magic Herbs to pull a single daily card. Vasquez composed “messages” for all 78 cards, which act as a guide for meditation. Each message is three to four sentences long beginning with the affirmative “I”. The following is the message for the Chariot: “I repel bad energies and thoughts which obstruct me. I control the direction of my life with faith, decisiveness and lucidity. I am in control of my life and I have the necessary ability and will power to realize my projects and objectives. Life is a continuous journey which I must take up again to progress and evolve.”
The non-reversible backs depict a larger detail of the Lotus card in several tones of pink mirroring the color background and lettering of the box. The keyword phrase for the Lotus card is Universal Elixir and its message of peace and harmony fit with the overall experience of reading with the deck. Divinatory meanings are provided for both upright and reversed cards listed as Front and Back respectively. The meanings are more attuned to metaphysical states rather than fortune telling. A question about love would more likely reveal the way to heal the emotional heart center than inform the querent of the likely outcome of her upcoming Friday night dinner date.
Vazquez’s holistic approach to Tarot is further detailed in his reversed divinatory meanings of the cards. Along with the emotional and psychological issues the querent may be working through, he also lists the physical disorders that can be overcome with the help of the herb pictured on the card. The reversed meanings of the Justice card are as follows: Injustice, criticism, imbalance, inflammation, uneasiness. Lack of compassion and love. Unfair treatment. Condemns. Just or unjust recompense according to our karma. Bitter experience. Possible imbalances: Inflammatory processes in general, inflammation of the bladder and genital organs, prostatitis. Obesity, fluid retention. Intestinal inflammation, diarrhea. Rheumatism, Irritated throat, hoarseness. Reading through the lists of the possible imbalances for all 78 cards makes me relieved that I do not typically read reversals.
The combination of Vazquez’s 27 years of medical research and seven years of working with the spiritual aspects of plants and flowers make the Tarot of Magic Herbs invaluable to the medical intuitive. Anyone interested in the healing properties of plants would benefit from working with this deck. I would also recommend the Tarot of Magic Herbs to collectors and those who utilize the Tarot as an aid for meditation.
The Tarot of Magic Herbs is published by Txertoa, San Sebastian, Spain. You can obtain it here.
Valerie Antal is a Dianic Pagan living in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently writing a book of ritual meditations to the Goddess to honor the Celtic Wheel of the Year. She works as a Tarot reader, via phone and in person, specializing in Triple Goddess Readings and Celtic Animal Meditations. For more information, visit her on the web or contact her via email.
Review © 2005 Valerie Antal
Page © 2005 Diane Wilkes