Indiana-based writer and herbalist, Sarah Baldwin is “the author of The Herbal Healing Deck; an oracle deck that explores medicinal plants and their unique archetypes”. Baldwin and talented illustrator Ashley Verkamp capture the teachings of the plants, their folkloric roots, and highlights the research of other influential healers and scholars. Baldwin’s deep seeded knowledge and spiritual gifts are conveyed by the oracle deck and handbook through a fluency of language as captivating as it is original. This powerful divination tool is for everyone, addressing the masculine and feminine energies within all of us. It is a manifestation of Baldwin’s visions and inspiration, with a profound historical, spiritual, and holistic herbal accuracy.
The Herbal Healing Deck is divided into four distinct suits with one compass point and season per plant group. Roots represent Winter-North, while Herbs signal Spring-East, followed by Flowers at Summer-South, and the Trees for Autumn-West. Black Cohosh is the first root depicted in the book. It is known for its ability to heal many female organ-related health concerns, including PMS, and post-partum disorders. It “represents the yin side of your being” (pg. 34), and draws an important link to deeper energetic and emotional healing practices by asking our higher selves to receive healing energy through the channels opened by the root. A card called “Darkness”, Black Cohosh asks us to delve deeply into our subconscious and address wounds in need of healing, calling upon love and the universe to do so. Deeply romantic, even poetic, Baldwin’s descriptions communicate with us on a divine level of understanding innate to us all.
“The wound is the place where the light enters you” – Rumi
I’ve such a profound affinity for this deck, as it always seems to offer me valuable insight when in need of it. Baldwin has taken on the role of interpreter for the plant world, gathering information from her visions and communications with them, and making these teachings available for our own personal healing. Yet the teachings of these plant spirits transcend mere individualism, as the guidance offered can be applied to our greater global perspectives and interactions. Herb Mugwort is an accurate description of what it is I mean.
The card of “Cycles”, Mugwort signals a time to “dance with the ever-changing cycles of your life, especially in the areas of friendship, romance, sexuality, intuition, creativity, inspiration, money, and physical vitality” (pg. 73). Although it cautions, “our culture is programmed to reject natural cycles, especially the inevitable periods of decay. The modern economy requires constant growth, and we are bombarded with the impetus to consume more and more. Yet within the body, the continual growth of cells without death and regeneration creates cancer. While the decline of any scenario can be difficult, it is required for our health and growth”. I experienced a period of impatient restlessness during a recent waning Moon, and found these insights to be greatly beneficial to my state of wellbeing. Baldwin encourages us to find the flow in life, as “a failure to honour the flow, even when it comes at seemingly inconvenient moments, can cause stagnation”.
“We trust nature to know what it is doing, but we are not nearly so kind, understanding, and trusting of our own rhythms and cycles” – Jeffrey R. Anderson
On my own healing journey, I consulted the cards early one spring morning and pulled Root Teasel for Protection, Herb Nettle for Receiving, and Tree Elder for Ancient Wisdom. Through this reading I was advised to protect my creative visions as to not jeopardize their manifestation, layered with a calling to heal past traumas through forgiveness. Nettle brings forth the message to wake up to all that nourishes our being, and to learn how to receive mindfully. While Elder folklore “paints this tree as a gateway to other worlds, to what some shamans call “non-ordinary reality”, as great creative feats can be accomplished with [the spirit of] Elder”. Through this teaching I felt a period of introspective rest would help me return to my creative flow by tapping into age-old bodies of knowledge, including herbalism and meditative practices.
“Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth” – Rumi
With the beginning of summer now upon us, I am delighted to pull the flower card Clover, “Flow”, as a final reading. A good omen for things to come, Clover, also known as Shamrock, represents faith, hope, love, and luck. “Drawing Clover is a sign for a pleasant turn of events. Clear away stagnation of the past to create more space for good to flow freely into your life” (pg. 94). This card also inspires feelings of gratitude for that which is already present in my life, knowing too that gratitude is the precursor to abundance.
“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving” – Kahlil Gibran
A synthesis of healing practices, plant-spirit teachings, and universal magic, the herbal healing divination deck is an essential tool for the herbalist, the curious, and the dreamer. I thank Sarah Baldwin for her great work and gift to the world, and to these cards for their guidance and beauty. Her insights are a model for our societies and interactions, yet they are perfectly simple. This simplicity is reminiscent of our intrinsic heritage portrayed here through the mythic tales of the natural world, long since predating humanity. Sharing ancient knowledge woven with deeply personal experiences, Sarah spurs us to evolve as a global community by healing ourselves first, and then working our way outwards.