The Spirit of Herbs: A Guide to the Herbal Tarot by Michael Tierra and Candis Cantin                                               Review by Teresa Michelsen

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

This book review, along with the associated deck review, is meant to stimulate the reader’s interest in an often-overlooked tarot deck, the Herbal Tarot. The Herbal Tarot may not be used as a primary deck by many readers, perhaps because of its relatively simple but pleasant artwork or its perceived limited applicability to everyday situations. However, the book that comes with the deck is a treasure, easily worth the price of the set, and does far more to encourage the use of this deck than most companion books because of the value of the information and insights gained. Upon reading and using the book, it becomes clear that this is more than just a theme deck and well worth a second look by experienced readers with an interest in physical, psychological, and spiritual health. This review focuses on the book itself, while a companion review focuses on the tarot deck.

The book starts off with an introduction to herbs and medicinal plants and the different ways they can be used, including meditation and spiritual healing, smudging, talismans and charms, and a wide variety of medical uses. Prior to the individual card descriptions, the authors discuss the relation of herbs to yin/yang and elemental energies that relate to tarot, and their vision of how the tarot can be used along with herbal healing. Each suit is assigned to a class of herbs – for example, the suit of Swords is assigned to Air, and contains herbs with medicinal effects associated with the lungs and nervous system. The herbs associated with the Major Arcana are considered life force, or chi, enhancers. Following the card descriptions, there is a section on use of the Herbal Tarot, including the Medicine Wheel and Sacred Herb spreads.

While the authors believe deeply in the spiritual properties of herbs, it becomes very clear that they are experts in the traditional and medicinal uses of these plants. A great deal of practical guidance is given for each herb or plant, including suggestions for meditation, how to prepare the various parts of the plant, several different ways in which preparations such as infusions, teas, or tinctures can be made, appropriate dosages for medicinal uses, and ideas for use in pouches or other talismans. Special care is given to identify the appropriate parts of the plants for use and to give any necessary cautions regarding poisonous parts or contraindications with pregnancy or other medical conditions.

Every card is given considerable attention, including all of the Minor Arcana. For each card, the common and botanical name of the plant are listed, along with its astrological associations. The introductory section provides the general meaning and interpretation of the card when used in a reading. While the interpretations and card designs generally follow Rider-Waite, there are unique insights in even these general sections that have added to my store of knowledge and concepts for the tarot. The general meaning is followed by a discussion of the spiritual properties of the herb, and a separate section provides the various medicinal uses of the herb. Then follows specific instructions on dosage, preparation, and use. Keywords and affirmations are provided near the end, and lastly there is a list of allied herbs, in case the herb primarily associated with the card is not readily available.

This deck and book set are invaluable for both general and specific health readings, and are equally applicable to mental, physical, and spiritual health. Keeping in mind all of the caveats about doing health readings with tarot, I have found this deck to be more useful and more accurate than any other deck or approach in both diagnosing and providing helpful suggestions for avenues of treatment of health problems. It is also surprisingly useful for everyday tarot readings, because of the interesting insights that the herbal lore adds to the general meanings of the cards. I would recommend this deck, and especially the book, to any reader who already has a grounding in the Rider-Waite tradition and wishes to extend his or her knowledge to new areas, or to anyone with an interest in herbs and medicinal plants.

The Spirit of Herbs: A Guide to the Herbal Tarot by Michael Tierra and Candis Cantin
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN #: 0880795255

If you would like to purchase this book, 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.

Image © 1993 U.S. Games
Review © 2002 Teresa Michelsen
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes