Wild Flower Tarot by Hilde Douchar Review by Paula Gibby
If you are a collector of the tarot, chances are that you either own or are familiar with some of the decks created and published by the multi-talented Gillabel family. There is Carol, whose jewel-like "Illuminated Tarot" graces many a tarotist’s collection and who has also produced many other tarot and spiritually-based decks, all of which seem to have been painted with strokes of liquid light.
Then, there is her husband, Dirk, who has created at least 15 tarot decks, all of which are unique, thought- provoking and innovative. One of these days, I’m going to talk Dirk into creating a 78-card tarot deck…and I’ll be first in line to buy it.
Last, but not least, is Dirk’s brother, Guido. Not only is Guido a very talented artist (see his Cosmic Egg), but he is also a printer by trade. He has produced his own Cosmic Egg, Dirk’s Pictogram Tarot, and the Alchemisten, a joint effort by Dirk and Guido.
It would be impossible for such a gifted family not to inspire and influence other artists and students and such was the case for talented graphic artist, Hilde Douchar. Ms. Douchar was a member of a tarot group led by Guido Gillabel and, during this time, she became inspired to create a tarot deck of her own. During this period of intense personal growth, Ms. Douchar absorbed the tarot philosophies and teachings from Guido’s tarot group and combined it with another passion – a love of wildflowers and plants.
The assimilation of both these passions gave birth to the Wild Flower Tarot.
Ms. Douchar’s training and talent as a graphic artist comes through clearly in her cards. Without the enhancement and visual diversion of color, black and white decks depend heavily upon strong drawing skills. Movement, expression, nuance…all must be communicated with only black ink on white paper. It is a daunting task, but the results, if well done, can produce a black and white deck to be treasured.
Ms. Douchar’s tarot drawings are fascinating to study. The lines are strong and bold with high visual impact and the central figures of each card seem filled with inner purpose. They know their places and embrace their roles. They know what needs to be done.
However, Ms. Douchar combines that boldness of line and portrayal of inner strength with figures whose facial expressions, with just a couple of exceptions, are serene, gentle, tranquil and filled with an inner joy. It is as if they have all traveled this "Fool’s Journey" before and now stand ready to help each new traveler on his/her way. Even the exceptions – the Devil and Tower cards – are not daunting to look at. They seem to convey that their current confusion and unhappiness is but a transitory thing, something that is meant to be encountered, experienced, lived through…and left behind.
Ms. Douchar has further enhanced her cards with the assimilation of various wildflowers and other plants. Frankly, I love tarot decks like this. I love researching the additional "themes" and discovering why a particular image was chosen and how it was incorporated into the card. This is what I did with the Wild Flower Tarot and I have to say I spent several hours happily reading about various plants and mulling over their inclusion in the cards. Whether or not my conclusions exactly follow Ms. Douchar’s is not important. The purpose has been served…in studying and meditating upon the symbols and their placements, an overall understanding of the cards, their concepts and ideas is achieved.
Which is one of the great purposes of the tarot.
So, let’s move on to the cards themselves. We start with the Fool and here we have the traditional young man, marching forward with his pack hanging from his walking stick. He blithely and unconcernedly crosses a fallen log , all the while looking upward towards the sun. His lips are pursed as if he is whistling a happy tune to himself and he clutches a white rose in his hand. The wildflower incorporated into this image is the Chickweed Wintergreen, a slender, rather delicately-built plant which produces a beautiful, white, star-shaped flower. We can see the leaf of the plant extending jauntily from the Fool’s cap, while its starry blossom is replicated in his cape. Wintergreen plants are known for their distinctive taste and are often incorporated into teas. Their sharp and refreshing flavor makes this plant a very nice choice for the Fool, where all is fresh, vibrant, and new.
Progressing forward, we come to the High Priestess, a card that becomes more and more interesting the longer it is studied. Our attention is focused first upon the High Priestess herself. No surprises there. She sits in her throne-like chair studying the heavy book lying open upon her lap. By her side are additional books and scrolls. What makes this card interesting is the additional image of the apple tree in the background (a symbol of the Tree of the Knowledge from the Old Testament) and the choice of wildflower – the Columbine. The columbine is a lovely plant which produces a small blue-violet flower, a color perfectly suited to the High Priestess. It has become a rather rare and difficult to find plant that must be handled carefully because of another characteristic…it is poisonous. I find this choice of wildflower to be quite evocative of the High Priestess. It reminds us that just like the columbine, the High Priestess can be a rare and difficult archetype to discover and one which must be approached with caution and respect.
Contrast the cool, rather distant visage of the High Priestess with the warmth of the Empress. She sits comfortably in her chair with a welcoming smile upon her face. A jeweled tiara adorns her head and a sparkling ring graces one finger. Both symbolize opulence and a celebration of the things of the physical world. The lush greenery surrounding her is another wildflower – the Dog Rose. Not just an ornamental plant, the Dog Rose produces a berry like fruit called a "hip". These hips are relished by small animals such as mice and are also used in teas and jams and, according to Ms. Douchar, can be used to make wine. So, here we have a flower, normally thought of as serving a solely ornamental purpose, accomplishing something we associate with the Empress – bearing fruit.
Aaron’s Rod, brings enhancement to the traditional meaning of the Emperor. Tall and sturdy, the Aaron’s Rod is an allusion to the Biblical story of Aaron. The rod of Aaron fostered several stories, including the instance when the rod took the form of a snake and overpowered the magic of the Pharoah’s priests and another instance when Aaron placed the rod in front of the Ark, where it miraculously blossomed and bore almonds. Just as Aaron and Moses led and governed their people, so does the Emperor archetype guard his people and his lands.
I love the organic nature of the Lovers card, where the two young figures seem to grow from the very flowers among which they sit. Indeed, they even seem physically joined to one another – notice how their hair is intertwined, how their backs press softly together. Their eyes are closed, yet we feel the connection between the two – they seem to even breath as one. They bask in the warmth of the sun shining overhead and in the warmth of their mutual love. The wildflower, Field Bindweed emphasizes their connection in both title and characteristics for this plant is a climber, swiftly surrounding whatever it comes in contact with. It also symbolizes the need for awareness of proper balance in this card. Love and connection is a wonderful thing, but too much connection with too little maintenance of individuality can become unhealthy, cloying and, yes, "binding".
The cyclical nature of the Wheel is also emphasized through the assimilation of Ms. Douchar’s choice of wildflowers. Not one, but four plants encircle the wheel, each representing a flowering corresponding to the four seasons of the year. Spring brings forth the Lesser Celandine with its bright yellow flower, Summer ushers in the Corn Poppy with its richness of color, Autumn produces the Meadow Saffron, its orange-yellow coloring mirroring the changing of the leaves and Winter is represented by the Winter Aconite, a small plant with tiny yellow flowers. Ms. Douchar has chosen well. The timing of each plant’s blossoming begins where the other leaves off, keeping Wheel ever moving.
The snapdragon is a tall, hardy plant with bright red flowers and the ability to grow in the most challenging of soils. It withstands heat and holds up well even under the most inattentive of gardeners. It relies upon itself to endure and thus is a perfect plant to represent Strength.
In all the cards, with a minimum of research, I have been able to make the attributions between Ms. Douchar’s choices and the card archetypes. An interesting exception is the Hermit. At first, I thought the booklet had simply omitted mention of the applicable plant, but inspection of the card shows no botanical attributions. The decision is obviously deliberate. Ms. Douchar does not discuss her reasoning and I am intrigued enough to plan to contact Guido Gillabel to see if he can shed some light upon this interesting twist.
This review would not be complete without spending some time discussing the printing and overall packaging, for when a deck is produced this well, it deserves special mention.
The Wild Flower Tarot was printed and produced by Guido Gillabel and his professional talents are obviously and pleasantly apparent. The cardstock is of excellent quality. The cardback is unlaminated and contains a depiction of a veritable garden of wildflowers done in a pastel green. The card fronts are well-laminated and glossy, but not to the point where the cards stick together. They are generously sized, measuring 3 ¼ x 5 ¼ inches.
The quality continues in the presentation of the deck. There are two title cards included. The first includes a picture of the Lovers card and the second replaces that picture with a space for Ms. Douchar’s actual signature and edition number. The cards are enclosed in a foldover sleeve, which will be familiar to those of you who own some of the Lo Scarabeo Major Arcana decks. The sleeve then slides easily and precisely in the outer box.
There’s more. The deck comes with a beautifully made little book written in both English and Dutch. Included is a very brief history of the tarot, a short bio of Ms. Douchar and a description of each card. These descriptions take the form of affirmations, which are simple yet evocative and a brief description of the particular wildflower is also included. I refuse to call this a LWB because it is of much higher quality. As if that weren’t enough, there is also an insert printed on the same high-quality cardstock. This insert is a well-organized table of contents, listing each card and its corresponding wildflower, giving their names in Dutch, English and Latin.
The quality of the production is such that any publishing house would be proud to claim it for its own. Guido Gillabel knows his craft and he has given Hilde Douchar’s art a professional production that any artist would envy and hope for.
The Wild Flower Tarot was produced in 1995 in a limited and signed edition of only 99 copies. Fortunately, there is still a small quantity of decks available through Dirk and Carol’s website.
I highly recommend this deck to collectors and other tarotists who enjoy herbal/botanical attributions in the cards. It is really a first-class set.
Wild Flower Tarot Deck
Artist: Hilde Douchar
Publisher: Guido Gillabel
Numbered & Signed Edition of 99 Copies/Major Arcana + 2 Title Cards, Booklet & Botanical Table
Review © 2001 Paula Gibby
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes
Images © 1995 Hilde Douchar
Paula Gibby first began to study the tarot in the summer of 1996, as a result of studying Kabbalah and the Tree of Life. She completed two B.O.T.A. tarot courses and is an active member of Tarot-l and Comparative Tarot. She has contributed tarot reviews to Wicce's Tarot Page and is a major tarot collector--at present, she owns over 300 decks. Her spiritual studies continue to widen; she has completed several Reiki courses and has received the Reiki II attunements. Inspired by the work of Arnell Ando and Michele Jackson, she created the Blue Rose Tarot and is working on a new Majors-only deck. She is also presently quite busy as a Finance Manager in the Washington, D.C. area.