The Victorian Language of Flowers meets the Traditional Tarot

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I’ve always been a lover of all-things-vintage, so when I learned about the Victorian Language of Flowers I was totally hooked. Basically, in Victorian England (during the reign of Queen Victoria) strict social rules meant that lovers and flirts had to be super coquettish about sharing their feelings for one another. Using flowers as a way to communicate messages had already been used in Persia to a certain extent, but the Victorians took that concept and ran with it whole-hog. Floral Dictionaries started to be published, and Floriography was born.

But what I found most interesting about this use of flowers was how it seemed to perfectly represent all aspects of human emotion. Because if you were super into someone, you might give them a piece of bougainvillea, which means “Passion.” But if someone was courting you and you just weren’t feeling it, you might give them some Hydrangea, which means “Frigidity, Heartlessness, and Dispassion”.

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We think of flowers as being beautiful, gorgeous, and positive, but the fact that a lot of the Victorian meanings paired with the flowers themselves incorporated a lot of negative emotions as well is fascinating. And when, a few years ago, I started learning about the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot deck, I was struck with the similarity between tarot cards (which were designed specifically to span the whole range of human experience) and the Language of Flowers.

Tarot has it’s “bad” cards (like the Tower, Death, and the Three of Swords) and no one wants these cards to show up in a reading. But they’re in the Tarot because life isn’t all just candy and rainbows. We all face negativity and darkness in all aspects of our lives, and the Tarot is merely a way to uncover some of those shadowy realms. Rather than be afraid of them, the “bad” cards can give us the tools to face negativity with a new perspective.

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So, once I realized the really cool connection between these two seemingly disparate things, I was really inspired to mash them together to create a Tarot deck which took into account this historical floral language, as a way to put a new spin on two very classic things.

I love tarot because it’s a great intuitive tool. A lot of people associate tarot with fortune-telling, but I like to think of it as a way to spark conversation with yourself. It’s not that the cards you pull in a reading will come ‘true’ in a sense (‘Death’ doesn’t literally mean you will die tomorrow), but it is a cool way to bring the subconscious connections we all have with the things going on in our life to the surface.

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For example, when I was trying to figure out how to structure this post, I was having trouble with where to start - so I decided to pull a 3-card spread and decided the cards would mean Beginning - Middle - End. The first card I pulled (The Chrysanthemum, or the 2 of Cups) means ‘Partnership, Compatibility, and Attraction’, and my immediate thought was that I need to start by talking about what attracted me to the Language of Flowers, and how I had serendipitously made the connection to flowers and the traditional Tarot, and found them to be a great partnership.

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The second card I pulled (Holly, or the 8 of Pentacles) means ‘Education, Engagement, Focus’. I knew it would be important not to go into toooo much detail to keep people engaged, but I also wanted to make sure I stayed focused on the topic at hand, and had enough knowledge to educate people about tarot and floriography.

The final card I pulled (Buttercup, or the 5 of Pentacles) means ‘Scarcity, Insecurity, Isolation’. This was a tricky one to interpret, because obviously I don’t want my audience to feel any of those things. So I turned it back on myself, and realized that I might be feeling a bit insecure about putting this knowledge out into the world.

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So, I pulled a fourth card (because, really, you can do whatever you want) to cross the 3rd one, as a way to figure out how I might combat that insecurity. And the final pull (Iris, or the King of Cups) deals with ‘Balance, Control, and Wisdom’ and I realized that as long as I kept everything under my control, and was confident in the wisdom I had, everything would turn out just fine.