"That's how this deck, based on the secret language of flowers, their symbolism, legends, and origins, came about: ancient gods, nymphs or feys transformed into plants as punishment or to escape bad luck." - From the LWB
If images of cherubic children, faeries and flowers are your cup of tea, you may enjoy the Spirit of Flowers Tarot. Arranged as a 78-card deck, the Majors follow familiar themes and titles, including common symbolism. For example, the Fool card depicts the hobo bag and dog, the High Priestess a scroll, and Justice a scale and swords.
As I began to look through the Spirit of Flowers Tarot, a smile crept on my face. By the time I hit the Hanged Child, it was a full-blown grin. How charming! This could be a very readable deck, especially good for children, I surmised. Alas, as I worked through the Minors, my joy was short-lived.
Riccardo Minetti (from Lo Scarabeo) one said in an interview "Having art without meaning will make decks useless." And judging by the illustrations alone, I felt there was no apparent message in the Minors; rather, they simply appeared to be posed children amongst floral landscapes.
However, the Little White Book mentioned that the Spirit of Flowers Tarot correlated with the renowned Victorian book Language of Flowers--so I decided to give this deck a chance. Florigraphy, a complex system associating flowers with particular meanings, swept through England in the early 1800's. Even mixed bouquets could convey intricate messages based on the flowers used.
I am familiar with the Language of Flowers via the Victorian Flower Oracle (Magic Realist Press), and assumed that the interpretations provided in the LWB would shed light upon the flower/card pairings--which would serve as the "meaning" so important in a Tarot deck.
Unfortunately, many pairings were nonsensical, with the florigraphic interpretation nowhere near the meaning of the card assigned to it. For example, the Chrysanthemum is assigned to the Death card, but the LWB states that the Language of Flowers meaning is "thinking about a proposal". Yet, traditional meanings are provided for Death: Transformation, end, breakdown, illness, completion of destiny, closure and inheritance.
What do those meanings have to do with a proposal?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with revitalizing Tarot by correlating the cards with other systems and fresh associations. However, there needs to be *some* type of message intended! And, if the Language of Flowers meaning is a new spin on Tarot, then why resort to regurgitating the same old meanings--most which have *nothing* to do with the floral interpretation offered by the author?
With staged models and static scenes, it would be very difficult to glean any insight from this deck either as an oracle or as a Tarot. The Majors are executed nicely, but even they have some inexplicable touches (e.g., what is the significance jack-o-lantern at the Hermit's feet?).
Also, I compared the florigraphy interpretations from the Victorian Flower Oracle and the Spirit of Flowers Tarot, and was surprised that most of them did NOT agree! Why this is surprising is that both books claim that the interpretations are from the Language of Flowers! Here are but a few of the disparities:
Narcissus - In the Victorian Flower Oracle, it's said to mean "egotism" (which makes sense given the mythos). For the Spirit of Flowers Tarot, the meaning is "withheld feelings".
Iris - The Oracle says this flower means "messages", while the Tarot says that this flower means "willingness to conquer".
Water Lily - In the Oracle, this flower means "purity of heart". In the Spirit of Flowers Tarot, it indicates "unattainable dreams".
The cards of the Spirit of Flowers Tarot have fully reversible backings, and measure approximately 4-3/4 x 2-5/8 inches. The Minor suits are demarcated by coloring:
Cups - Purple flowers (LWB says "blue")
Pentacles - Yellow flowers
Wands - Pink flowers (LWB says "red")
Swords - White flowers
The Court Cards are Knave, Knight, Queen and King, but even *those* don't seem to jive. For example, the Knight of Swords sits atop a snail--something I'd expect the Knight of Pentacles to be riding!
A great idea in theory, the Spirit of Flowers Tarot is a cute deck displaying dozens of flowers and sweet children. However, because the flowers chosen (nor their Language of Flowers meanings) aren't meshed coherently with the image (or the other traditional interpretations provided), this deck fizzles. It would have had potential as a flower oracle, but even that possibility seems removed by the stagnant depictions and lack of "story" to the figures.
(To see 12 images from this deck, visit the Reviews--Decks section at [...])
Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book: Picture the Past, Experience the Cards, Understand the Present (coming Fall 2008 from Hampton Roads Publishing)