The Herbal Tarot Deck by Michael Tierra and Candis Cantin
Review by Teresa Michelsen

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Contained within this deck and its companion book is a wealth of herbal lore and a wonderful tool for mental, physical, and spiritual healing. This is one deck that should not be purchased without its associated book, or much of its value will be lost – the book is discussed in a companion review, and this review will focus on the cards themselves. While the artwork of this deck might not stand out to most readers on its own, its value is greatly increased when viewed as a tool to access the lore and insights in the book.

The design is pleasant, if a bit basic. The colors used are mostly blues, yellows, greens, and reds, and are generally pleasing to the eye, tending toward deeper saturated hues rather than pastels. Many of the major arcana are beautifully designed, while the minor cards tend toward only the most basic symbolism of the suit. When using this deck, it would be helpful to already have a firm grounding in the Rider-Waite symbolism, so that it could be called to mind easily. The court cards in particular feel somewhat motionless, and are simple figures sitting or standing in a fairly plain (but nicely colored) landscape.

Dominating each card is a beautifully-drawn depiction of the associated herb, often towering over or twining around the figures in each card. The herbs and plants are often much more finely detailed than the rest of the scene. The name of each plant is written in tasteful cursive at the top of the card, and the traditional name of the card is at the bottom within a white border. The herbs on the cards are dominant enough that, unless the reading was clearly health-oriented, this might not be an appropriate deck for use in public settings, since clients could be confused by the visual focus on the plant.

While the images on the cards and their corresponding general meanings are typically very close to Rider-Waite, there are occasional differences that add unusual and interesting twists to the deck, usually inspired by the herbal lore that goes along with the card. For example, the Six of Wands shows a man grasping a hawthorne wand, with five other wands set into the ground near him. He has won a momentary victory, and is looking off into the distance, as if to decide whether to continue pursuing his battle (using the hawthorne staff as a weapon) or to stay here and rebuild in peace (using the staff as a material for building).

Within the trumps, there are several minor renamings of the cards, and one more significant one. The Hierophant is called the High Priest, the Hanged Man is the Suspended One (he is underwater and the associated plant is kelp), and the Devil has been renamed to Pan. The Wheel of Fortune is titled the Medicine Wheel, and is the main departure from typical Rider-Waite trumps, although well in keeping with the concept and symbolism of this deck.

The cards are comfortable in the hand, are the perfect size and shape for shuffling, and are printed on good-quality card stock that will stand up to repeated use. The backs are a lovely design of rosemary leaves, blue flowers, and ladybugs, which is mostly reversible (there are tiny differences in the way the rosemary leaves fall, but you wouldn’t notice them when laying out a spread).

Although the cards at first appear to be somewhat limited to health-oriented readings, they work surprisingly well for daily and general readings. Another reason to use this deck in the privacy of your own home is that the book is essential – every time I lay a new card and look up what the authors have to say about it, I find fresh insights into both the general meanings and how I can approach my overall health – mind, body and spirit. The use of this deck and book together are like a breath of fresh air, and I recommend them to anyone with an interest in herbs or a new approach to spiritual, mental, and physical health.

The Herbal Tarot by Michael Tierra (author) and Candis Cantin (illustrator)
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN #: 0880793325

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Teresa Michelsen (Thrysse) has been studying tarot cards for over 25 years, and is a teacher and professional reader. She contributes articles and discussion to several tarot lists and newsletters. Her tarot-related projects currently include completing her CTM requirements, teaching beginning and intermediate on-line tarot courses, maintaining a tarot website, and running a role-playing game for learning and experiencing the major arcana. In real life, she lives near Seattle with her husband and black cat Shadow, and is self-employed as an environmental consultant.

Images © 1988 US Games
Review © 2002 Teresa Michelsen
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes