Flowers of Life Tarot by Cerrithwen Genetti - Review by Paula Gibby


Being a mother is, bar none, the greatest blessing of my life. I am continually in a state of wonderment and awe as my girls evolve and grow. They are two of the many fascinating, magical beings that grace the universe.

I remember when my eldest daughter went off to college and finally began to pursue her "vocation", speech pathology. From there, she has progressed through her various degrees and is now entering her doctoral program.

This past summer, she spent two weeks with me and many of our wonderful talks included sharing her experiences working with autistic and Downs Syndrome children in one of Utah's elementary schools. I listened to her, fascinated by her as she spoke. Gone were the recitations and memorized statements of the philosophies and opinions of others. She was a thinking, reasoning adult, assimilating a myriad of data...but then drawing her own very erudite conclusions and applying them to her daily activities.

Thinking, reasoning, independent thought and action. What more can a parent hope for?

And I was filled with an almost painful pride as I gazed upon her fresh, young face.

What does this have to do with a tarot review, you ask?

Well, this brief capsule of information will help you understand my initial reaction when I first opened Cerrithwen Genetti's Flowers of Life Tarot.

My initial, consuming reaction was that Alexandra Genetti must be filled with that same sort of overwhelming pride and love.

And so she should be, because Miss Genetti's Flowers of Life is an impressive contribution to the world of tarot.

Ponder upon this. A young, high school student decides to create a tarot deck for a class assignment. Ah, you think that sounds simple? Well, think again, because how many of us have been tinkering about with the very same idea...that of creating our own set of images? And how many of those sets have been completed? If you promise not to ask me, I promise not to ask you.

In her youth and innocence, Miss Genetti took on a task that has daunted many a seasoned tarot aficionado and/or artist. And, as so many times happens, the result of that young, vibrant energy has achieved surprising and impressive results.

As stated previously, the Flowers of Life Tarot was conceived and created for a high-school project. The fruit of that assignment resulted in a handmade set of tarot majors accompanied by a lovely little handmade book. The entire presentation is colorful and eye-catching, with meticulous attention paid to each tiny detail.

The set arrives in a beautiful, handmade, foldover tarot bag. I don’t know if the same fabric is used for each bag, but I can tell you that the fabric selected for my copy is exquisite and would be appealing to either gender, as well as any age and/or taste. The foldover flap is strengthened by a length of black ribbon stitched along its perimeter.

Speaking just from my own personal taste, I much prefer this type of bag structure to the drawstring type. The books and cards lay flat – neat and tidy – in their very attractive case. The foldover flap allows easy access to the cards. Since the flap extends the entire length of the bag itself, there is no need for a fastener. The cards are in no danger of sliding out. In addition, the rectangular structure of the bag and the precise measurement of it  prevents the cards from sliding around.   The bag proportions have been carefully calculated to fit the accompanying book with just the right amount of leeway.  As a quilter, I appreciate the high quality production of this little tote.

Before we get to the cards, let's spend a little time with the beautifully produced book. Not being an artist or a bookbinder, I can't provide a lot of detail regarding the assembly of the book. However, the quality and durability is apparent at first glance. The book is a hardcover affair covered with a lovely paper which has a faintly Asian flavor to it. Again, the choice of the decorative paper would be appealing to most clientele and it coordinates well with the accompanying tarot bag and with the cards themselves. The printing is easy to read against its background of soft lavender.

The book provides all the information that I, personally, crave the most. Miss Genetti obviously devoted some serious time and attention to writing her little book. Not only does it provide the overall meaning and interpretation of each card, but it also goes into a great deal of detail with regard to the individual symbols used, why they were chosen, as well as Miss Genetti's own personal set of astrological correspondences. It is a very satisfying read.

Astrology is a fairly closed book to me, which could be an advantage when using this deck, because Miss Genetti's attributions stray from what are considered to be some of the more "traditional" assignments.

And why not? Why not take two systems that you understand and derive a great deal of satisfaction from and marry them together in a form that provides the most ideal set of interpretations for your own individual purposes?

While her attributions may cause raised eyebrows in some circles, I applaud her initiative and creativity in creating a set of correspondences to which she can relate and which make just as much sense as any others I have seen. At times, the correspondences can seem a little forced, but that is the inevitable difficulty which arises whenever you attempt to combine astrology or (as in other decks) the Hebrew alphabet with the tarot. What usually happens is that you proceed along quite well and then you run out of the most logical and clear-cut attributions, thus falling into those rather murky waters where the correspondences begin to seem a bit contrived.

So, all I can say is "bravo, Miss Genetti". Your system works just as well as any other. I understand your selections and can follow them. And, if I can, anyone can. Well done.

One other thing I want to mention about the book. As you read it, you are immediately aware that these are the writings of a young person, someone who has not yet fully honed her writing skills. The clarity of thought is absolutely there; however, the more mature, polished phrases have not yet been developed. The seeds are definitely there, though.

But you know what? I find the prose to be utterly charming. It may not have polish or sophistication, but it is forthright, clear and absolutely devoid of the pompous and ponderous language that weights down so many other tarot "tomes". The book is a delicate breath of fresh air flowing through an overcrowded room.

As I read and reread the book, I mentally applauded Alexandra Genetti for the distance she must have kept from her daughter's project. The words and phrases of that book are clearly Miss Genetti's alone. Keeping this distance is very difficult for a mother to do, and I take my hat off to both mother and daughter.

Let’s now move on to the cards themselves. If you are fortunate enough to own the Jumbledance Tarot, Hero’s Journey Tarot, Mansions of the Moon or Sheba’s Tarot, then you will be very familiar with the process.  These are laminated cards that have been carefully and precisely cut, with smooth rounded corners and  marbled backs chosen in a lovely shade of soft gray. The laminating materials used are of high quality, making for sturdy cards that can truly be used over and over.

And you will want to use these cards because they are marvelous.

The art form is collage, which, as many of you already know, can easily result in a messy, conflicted or just plain uninteresting set of images. However, in the hands of a sensitive and imaginative individual, it can also result in a set of images that are stimulating and beautiful, with all the small "pieces" flowing together to make an insightful and memorable "whole". Miss Genetti’s images leave you in no doubt. They are all these positive adjectives and more.

First, the quality of the collage is excellent. Miss Genetti’s precise, clean cutting skills and her artistic eye for capturing just the right combination of images makes for a seamless presentation of each card. None of these cards look "assembled". Each small image flows smoothly into the next…and the next. Each card has an aliveness and freshness that makes one want to come back to them again and again. Flowers sprout as if by magic from the dark depths of the universal skies. Light plays delicately over mountaintops and creatures of the earth. Butterflies of various sizes and colors sweep and swirl about the central figures. Each of these cards is a visual feast and a delight for the eye.

But a tarot deck has to be more than that. Each image has to express the idea of that particular card. Yes, the "idea" can vary in its interpretation from deck to deck, but there has to be a message, a point, a central, seed idea. If this is not accomplished, then the images cannot be called a tarot deck. They are, instead, a set of pretty pictures, suitable for framing or to be used as postcards.

And Miss Genetti’s cards? They are the real thing. They are beautiful and they are tarot images.

It’s hard for me to pick favorites from this deck because all the cards are interesting and vivid, with each idea clearly expressed. You could cover up the card titles and still easily identify each card. They are that well done.

In any deck, there are going to be cards you love right away and others you may have to work at. Sometimes, you look at a deck and there are cards that you just know you’re never going to be able to accept. For me, there are no such cards in the Flowers of Life deck and there are only two (Fool and Justice) that I think could have been improved upon. However, in both cases, there are so many fascinating and imaginative details to these two cards that what I consider to be the slight flaw in the selection of the central figures is satisfyingly overridden.

Look at the Fool and delight in the wonderful combination of images presented to you. There are those flowers blooming in the night sky. Instead of the traditional dog, we have two charming little puppies, one of which is sniffing inquisitively at the Fool’s foot. Take a moment to enjoy the mountain range in the background and the interesting counterpoint of its reflection in the pool of water below it. Then, let your eyes feast upon the flowers and other images that delicately entwine the Fool like a set of psychedelic tattoos.

All of this bounty makes the figure of the Fool less of a disappointment. Not that I mind gazing upon this very pretty boy clad only in a pair of black underwear. It’s his facial expression which doesn’t seem to capture the essence of innocence and enthusiasm as described in the accompanying book. With his typical "dumb jock" expression, this youth seems more clueless than innocent.

I have a similar reaction to Justice. Here again, the choice, combination and placement of images are a delight. I love the images of the crystals, particularly the fluorite. Here, the "scales" of Justice are the Sun and Moon themselves. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. Justice herself (who knows no boundaries or limits) floats in mid-air against a stunning backdrop of sea and sky. A Sri-Mantra floats behind her head and a rainbow (representing spiritual enlightenment and harmony) shines over all. A wonderful card with such creative energy; however, as with the Fool, the choice of Justice herself, doesn’t seem as inspired as the rest of the card images. Here we see a very pretty young woman, who might be more concerned with hair and makeup than other, more weighty issues.

But let me tell you, for me, these are minor quibbles. All of the other cards are an absolute joy and some of them are inspired.

Treat yourself to the scan of the Moon card. I say this even as I swallow my disappointment that my deck will not be the first to present the amazing and exotic images of the lunar moth which have found their perfect place in this evocative card. Here, they float quietly through the utter stillness of the night sky towards that incredibly present moon. A moon which almost touches the horizon, emphasizing its power over the ebb and flow of the tide that washes glassily towards the solitary image of the wolf who is poised upon a great, shimmering pearl. The wolf serves a dual purpose – he warns of the pitfalls of illusion and confused thought, while at the same time pointing the way to the hidden wisdom as represented by the great pearl. The exquisite interplay of images brings a spellbinding quality to this card which is so elemental in nature that it has quickly become one of my favorite Moon cards.

Moving along to another wonderful card – the High Priestess. Candles (symbolizing the light of wisdom and truth) mirror and balance the Grecian pillars. And the High Priestess…she is perfect. Tall, slim, ebon-haired, with skin as pale and smooth as the finest marble and a face (with a slight hint of vulnerability) that keeps her inner thoughts to herself. Dressed in a gown of pure, flawless white, she stands pristinely and serenely. Her body echoes the slim perfection of the marble pillars. Her icy glow is perfection when contrasted with the fiery flame of the candles that flank her. The pyramids at her feet symbolize her ancient and timeless wisdom. The full moon nestles within the leaves just beginning to change color. The leaves symbolize the turning inward that occurs in the fall season, when the tree goes outwardly dormant, all its energy focused within itself.

Contrast this cool, pristine image with the glowing power and vitality of the Strength card. In a field of vivid, orange poppies stands a female beauty whose red suit, assertive stance and glowing black skin exude feline power, passion and grace. Her inner, elemental nature is further exemplified by the molten rays framing her exquisitely boned face and by the lionesses who repose behind her, basking in the rays of sun streaking down through the clouds. This woman knows her nature. She knows who she is. She knows she is capable of handling anything. Capable of taking any challenge and embracing it…making it part of herself.

Everyone has favorite cards in a tarot deck and one of mine is the Hermit. It is one of two cards I go to first when I open a new deck and, as is to be expected, I am quite picky about it.

Miss Genetti doesn’t let me down. This is another masterful card. First, the card is just gosh darn beautiful. I don’t know how many collage pieces had to be assembled to put together this image, but it looks like one beautiful photograph. Again, very interesting contrasts are presented…the fire of the setting sun fills the sky with a glowing energy which is in sharp counterpoint to the delicate, icy beauty of the snow covered terrain. Each tiny branch is encased in a lacy shell of ice and snow. Even the tall shapes of the cacti are magically dusted. A small house is close by, its windows providing small, welcome pinpoints of light to any weary traveler. And in the foreground is the Hermit himself. Old and wise, he sits before the tablets, their glyphs representing his accumulated knowledge, gathered over many years and many journeys. The lamp of inner truth and enlightenment rests beside them.

I view this card and I want to sit with this man. I want to look into those eyes filled with awareness and see up close the wrinkles etched across his face. Those etchings of countless lifetimes lived. I want to pour over the knowledge of the ages spread before him. And then, I want to proceed towards that dark house, stopping frequently to touch with amazement those tiny, delicate branches glittering in their coats of ice. I want to sit before the Hermit’s hearth, sip a cup of tea and watch that amazing sunset flare into its final beauty before darkness brings its final cover. I want to bide for a time, turning inward, hearing sounds that make no noise and seeing images that cannot be drawn.

I could go on and on and bring each card to life for you because each one deserves to be savored and enjoyed. I come back to them again and again and I never tire of them. I experience anew the wonderment and appreciation of the work of one of our young, magical beings. What the rest of the world calls "just a teenager".

Teenager indeed.

Miss Genetti, I don’t know what grade you received for your project, but I give you an A+.

As well as my sincere thanks for gracing my collection with your beautiful tarot.

As for all you gentle readers, exit this website just long enough to hop over to the Wheel of Change website and order yourself a copy of the Flowers of Life. Do it right now because you shouldn’t deny yourself the pleasure of having your own copy of this lovely set of majors to enjoy and experience any longer than you have to. 

Flowers of Life Tarot by Cerrithwen Genetti
Self-published, signed & numbered Limited Edition of 22 Majors
Cards, Book, Tarot Bag included - $50

You can see more of this deck and purchase it here.

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 plans to create a tarot deck sometime in the future, but is presently quite busy as a Finance Manager in the Washington, D.C. area.

Review © 2000 Paula Gibby
Page © 2000 Diane Wilkes