Tarot is a multi-faceted landscape of esoteric mystery and self-discovery.
The 78 cards hold a vast community of characters, landscapes, and symbols both familiar and strange. Included amongst the visual repertoire of the tarot are verdant gardens, richly embroidered plant-inspired robes, gentle bouquets, towering trees, and crowning wreaths. These plants – like the people, animals, and places that inhabit the cards – are teachers and can offer another layer of meaning and healing to our readings.
I’ve written the elemental and energetic connections between herbs and the tarot suits, but now I want to talk about herbal allies that can help us be better tarot readers.
Just as many of us find it useful to know how to spot a Knight of Swords in our lives or a situation that feels like the Three of Pentacles, we can also learn how to interact with plant medicine and magick from beyond the confines of the images on the cards. To help you on your journey of connecting with plants through the tarot, I’ve chosen a handful of herbs that can support a tarot reader’s connection with their divinatory craft. Some of these herbs have traditional connections with the oracular arts while others assist with cultivating certain skills essential to being a successful (and inspired) tarot reader.
If the purpose of a tarot reader is to translate the static images of the cards into a dynamic and useful narrative, than the herbal allies of a tarot reader should help them to bridge the path between the cards cast and the story being told. Hopefully you’ll meet an herb below that’ll help you do just that. Remember that when you work with plants, you are entering into a thousands of years old practice of humxn beings relating to and relying upon plant medicine and magick for nourishment and wellbeing.
Take time to honor the plants you are working with by educating yourself about their uses, sourcing them responsibly, interacting with them in kindness, and protecting the habitats in which they grow.
Meet the plants
Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Black, white, green, yellow, puerh, oolong, and kukicha all come from one plant – the Camellia sinensis shrub. The magick of the Tea plant is that humxns have cultivated it for thousands of years in order to use its leaves and twigs in ceremonies. The act of folks sitting together, sharing tea, and connecting with one another is found throughout the world. What better of an ally to have as a tarot reader than a plant that helps us connect with those we are reading for, as well as our own inner need for self-study and reflection.
Whether or not the other herbs on this list are accessible to you, you will most likely be able to find some quality Tea to incorporate into your tarot practice. Use Tea when you want to cultivate the connective qualities of reading tarot and the ability to find a cohesive narrative among many cards whether you’re reading for yourself or someone else.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
A classic and long-used herb in the western esoteric tradition for developing psychic skills and divinatory abilities, Mugwort is a Moon herb, meaning it has an ability to connect us to the hidden parts of our psyches and stories. For tarot readers, Mugwort can assist us in shifting our perception from the mundane to the magickal. The herb is also helpful if you are wanting to develop your inherent psychic gifts or looking to reconnect to your psychic abilities after denying them (which so many of us are tragically trained to do from a young age).
Additionally, Mugwort is known as the oldest of herbs in northern European mythology, which speaks to the plants ability to connect us to our ancestors. If you are pursuing a path of ancestral work with tarot, consider incorporating Mugwort into your practice.
Rose (Rosa spp.)
Another ancient herb, Rose is a symbol of spiritual wisdom. The fragrant, multi-petaled flower represents the unfolding of knowledge and the many layers of experience and expression of the divine. I love setting the tone for a tarot reading by spraying Rose Water throughout a space where a reading is about to take place.
The energy of Rose is opening while being protective, allowing for the vulnerability necessary for deep tarot work to occur while still leaving participants feeling held and cared for. Rose is an excellent ally for those just starting out with tarot as it helps guide the beginner’s mind through the many-layered worlds of tarot. It’s also a beautiful ally for seasoned readers who are ready to experience the tarot not just as a divinatory tool but as a beautifully personal philosophy for life.
In my experience, Rose also has a special connection to queer culture, especially those who walk the world as femmes, lesbians, and dykes. The plant can help address and heal the wounds we carry as queers so that we can connect more clearly to our magick.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow has a number of delightful folk names, including Devil’s Nettle, speaking to the herb’s association with the spirits that dwell between the worlds. This herb helps you see the Good Folk and connect with the spirits of the green world. The plant itself is considered a tool of divination – the divinatory system I Ching is traditionally made of Yarrow stalks.
Yarrow is a wonderful herb of clairvoyance and can aid those tarot readers who are peering backwards and forwards (and sideways) through time. If you do ancestral work with tarot, Yarrow helps to connect you to the spirits of place, including the elder ones of the land on which you dwell.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Herbalist Matthew Wood describes one of Angelica’s key qualities as the ability to “ignite the imagination.” Being able to imagine narratives, tell stories, and discover possibilities are all necessary skills of a tarot reader. Angelica helps us to see that which is hidden by reminding us of our power to imagine something different. This herb has a fantastic way of connecting us to our spiritual selves by helping us communicate with our guides, ancestors, and the benevolent spirits who dwell around us.
If you’re feeling uninspired by your interpretations of cards and spreads, consider Angelica.
Connecting With Your Herbal Allies
So how do you connect with an herbal ally once you’ve met them?
I’ve listed some suggestions below, but be sure to check out my other ideas on connecting with herbs through the four elements of the tarot. As always, empower yourself to do your own research on any herb you work with, and if you need further guidance be sure to connect with an herbalist to help guide your studies.
Single herb teas are an easy and accessible ways of getting to know an herbal ally better. If you can, make some tea and drink it while doing nothing else. Once your cup is done, cast your cards and observe the difference in your reading after you’ve taken a meditative tea break.
General dosage guidelines for tea are 1 teaspoon of herb per every 1 cup (8 oz) of hot water and then steeped for 5 – 15 minutes.
I love herbal baths. They are a simple remedy for folks who feel intimidated by making a good tasting cup of tea. With baths, the taste doesn’t matter and you’ll still reap the benefits of herbal medicine and magick. When I have an important reading coming up, I often take an herbal bath to help prepare my body and spirit for the work ahead. Light candles, place your favorite stones around you, and soak up the magick. Baths are gentle passages for journeywork, too, if you want to connect with your plant ally in that way.
For herbal baths, 1/2 – 1 cup of dried herb for a bath is a good amount. I like to mix mine with epsom or sea salt for added uncrossing and protective benefits (as well as to help soothe sore muscles).
If you have the benefit of a garden or appropriate indoor spot in your living space, grow your herbal ally – or find them in the wild or cultivated places around where you live. While we can certainly learn from our plant allies in all the forms they take, sitting open-heartedly with a living plant is an experience like no other. Bring your cards with you and use them to help you communicate with your new friend.
Pouches + Bundles
Grab some dried herb and wrap it up in a pouch or bundle to carry with you in a pocket, around your neck, tucked into your shoe or undergarment. Herbal bundles are an ancient practice that our humxn ancestors have been doing for generations – you should give it a try to discover why.
Make a ritual of it by blessing your bundle with cards from your deck (such as each of the Aces for an elemental blessing or a card like the High Priestess for a blessing of psychic vision), lighting candles, and whispering charms into your bundle before tying it up.
Finally, essences are an easy and safe way to connect with your herbal allies. Flower essences are vibrational medicine and do not contain any actual plant material within them. They are definitely on the far magickal end of the spectrum of herbal remedies, but I have found them to be uncanny in their effectiveness.
If you want to use an essence of your herbal ally, I would recommend adding three or four drops to your daily water and taking another few drops before readings.
Plants are our ancestors and carriers of great wisdom, which makes them all the more important for us to learn how to connect with as magickal folk. Whether you simply begin to pay more attention to the plants that show up in your tarot cards or choose to work with herbal medicine and magick, I hope that you’re feeling inspired to interact with your deck in a new way.
Alexis J. Cunningfolk (she/they) is an intersectional herbalist, witch, and weaver of remedies at Worts + Cunning Apothecary.