Between August 17, 2020 and March 13, 2021, I illustrated a full tarot deck. The combination of quarantine and 6+ weeks of unexplained hives made me anxious and frustrated and I had been itching — pun intended —for a creative project and a lens through which to process my feelings.
Rather than picking a really specific overarching theme for the deck, it simply features the things that make me feel most connected to the broader universe. The minor arcana was broken down as follows:
- WANDS: flowers and blooming plants
- CUPS: potted cacti and succulents
- PENTACLES: celestial bodies
- SWORDS: crystals
Each Major Arcana card depicted a small woodland creature that I could imagine seeing while I roamed around the Audubon Society as a kid.
Once I reached the second to last card in the entire series, I realized that I wanted to use a different style of illustration. You'll notice the new style later in the Major Arcana and I'll be replacing these as I re-complete them.
major arcana card descriptions
The Fool is the first card in the Major Arcana — it represents new beginnings, improvisation and believing in the universe. A caterpillar operates on instinct; there’s no better example of putting your faith in the world around you.
The Magician encourages you to use your talents to your full potential in service of necessary transformations. What could possibly represent that better than a chameleon doing its thang?
The High Priestess represents intuition, subconscious, divine feminine, so this symbol of womanhood and omen of good luck feels like a perfect fit.
The Empress represents feminism, beauty, nature, abundance. I think damselflies are very pretty and shiny and they remind me of this pond I used to walk around in the Audubon Society preserve near my childhood home. That was one of the first places I was allowed to go alone — and it was for sure the first place I really connected with nature. Also they’re shiny
The Emperor represents authority, the establishment, and fatherhood. I knew I wanted to pick a beetle because their exoskeletons represent fortification — like what would be protecting the establishment. I didn’t want to pick a beetle that telegraphed toxic masculinity, though, so I googled “shiny beetles” and eventually keyworded my way to this guy — a golden jewel beetle — which is more of a rainbow hue, but shiny AF.
The Hierophant represents tradition, institution, and spiritual balance. Bees function in such a regimented society with clearly defined roles, but they also communicate by dancing — balance
The Lovers represent, well, love as well as harmony, aligned values, and choices. I’ve always thought fireflies were very romantic — a very cliché take — but there’s something about feeling like stars are that close to earth, ya know? I really appreciate that this card isn’t just about romance, though: it explicitly addresses the way you choose to love someone everyday
The Chariot represents control, willpower, decisive action, and success. I knew I wanted a spider because they strike so precisely and efficiently. I wanted a spider that didn’t really fucking upset me to look at, though, so I googled beautiful spiders and discovered the mirror spider — aka the sequined spider. They look like lil disco balls with lots of shiny mosaicked panels and I really enjoyed drawing it: success.
The Strength card represents — stick with me here — strength. It also represents courage and persuasion. Anyway, I googled "strongest bug in the world" and the mother-fucking diabolical ironclad beetle came up. What is that name! It's the most incredible name I've ever heard! How can I made it my name! Anyway, you can run this beetle over with a car and it just keeps trucking; color me persuaded of its strength
The Hermit represents solitude, introspection, soul-searching, and inner guidance. I picked the marbled newt for three reason, in reverse order of how influential they were to me:
1. It is one of the members of the salamander family that hides and naps. This is NOT HIBERNATION! Pls trust me when I tell you not to call it hibernation on amphibian message boards
2. They live mostly in France — certainly a country in the world where I’ve done a lot of reflection!
3. THEY NAVIGATE TO THEIR PREFERRED BREEDING AREA USING THE STARS! That’s the gayest shit I’ve ever heard! These lil lizards might as well be reading their own GD tarot to figure out when they’re gonna meet their future wife! Relatable
The Wheel of Fortune represents luck, destiny, opportunity, and positive changes. I knew I wanted a dragonfly in the major arcana, and instead of going in order, I picked which card this should be first. Buckle up because this caption is gonna be a long one.
Dragonflies are born in water and grow up to fly, so they represent transformation. Dragonflies were one of the first insects to ever evolve 300+ million years ago — butterflies showed up around 50 million years ago. In Japan, dragonflies are the national emblem and represent joy and rebirth. To the Mayans, they represent creativity. In various North American Native Tribes, a dragonfly represents some combo of the following: adaptability, connecting with nature, rebirth, and an invitation to explore your hidden feelings.
This card is intensely personal to me. When I someday pull this card, it will represent my whole future — which I hope is full of art and mountains and adaptability and love and introspection. So I picked a lil bug that encapsulates all of that. I specifically picked a Flame Skimmer Dragonfly because skimmer larvae are buried the deepest in the mud underwater and thus have the more dramatic transformation. Flame Skimmers burst out of the earth and travel through the water so they can take flight on fire. With all of the elements represented, they’re the perfect inspiration for my future — and I hope it resonates with you too!
Guess what Justice card represents! I picked a snake bc it is the only vaguely thematic animal that appears on the statue of Lady Justice, but also bc I am interested in the confluence of a few things.
1. the card also represents cause and effect and fairness,
2. snakes represent evil, being stepped on by Lady Justice, in that image, and
3. snakes are unfairly maligned based on stereotypes and assumptions and then prematurely murdered by representatives our justice system.
The Hanged Man represents pause, surrender, and new perspective. I knew I wanted to do a butterfly because the transformation between caterpillar and butterfly is driven by instinct. Caterpillars eat uncontrollably until they pupate.
Then the caterpillar digests most of itself and uses the resulting juice to fuel the development of the butterfly. Butterflies remember stuff they learned as caterpillars, but they apply it differently. It’s a cycle of surrendering to instinct, pausing to take in information, and moving forward with what you’ve learned. I went with the Chinese Peacock Butterfly because they’re a new take on an old concept
I spent almost a month trying to talk myself into drawing a death-feigning beetle bc the Death card doesn’t actually mean what you think, but one day I was like, “idk maybe you hate that beetle, Bridge, that’s okay.” Instead of being an upsetting omen, Death actually represents change, transformation, and growth, so I picked a carrion beetle, which eats corpses to thrive!
The Temperance card represents balance, moderation, and patience — snails are slow, but by definition they have shells that are big enough for the snail to retract into, fully. What they lack in speed, they make up for in stability, which is a kind of balance I’ve struggled to find. Hopefully the snail can remind me about it.
The Devil card represents the shadow self, attachment, addiction, and sexuality So what could I choose besides nature’s tiny vampire? The bat represents all the spooky, dark stuff — plus it represents our snuggly dog (hello, attachment!) and all of her her hot bi moms.
I totally changed style for these last, like, six cards, but the flat style stopped working for me and I'm trying not to lock myself into arbitrary choices made mid-pandemic. Speaking of which, the Tower represents sudden change, upheaval, and chaos. I picked a butterfly for change, but I picked the spookiest one.
The Star represents hope, faith, purpose, and renewal. I picked a glass-wing butterfly, because I guess I only care about butterflies now — but specifically, a glass-wing is the most fragile looking version of fragile part of a fragile insect and that's how I feel about hope these days.
The Moon represents illusion, fear, anxiety, subconscious, and intuition. Slugs make me anxious, but they also are functioning on pure animal instinct, y'all. Slow, steady, and in whatever direction their gut sends them. And btw, the slug's stomach is in their foot, which is pretty on the nose, imo.
The Sun represents positivity, fun, warmth, success, and vitality and I like hummingbirds. That's all!
Judgement represents rebirth, inner calling, and absolution. What can it be be but another, very peaceful butterfly? The Mexican Bluewing looks very calming and balanced and they eat rotting fruit instead of other bugs.
The World card represents completion, integration, accomplishment, and travel. The cosmic turtle is a myth that persists in a ton of different cultures around the globe, in which the planet is actually on the back of a real big turtle. I think that’s really beautiful! I think, as a planet, we should be on a slow and steady march toward justice! I think turtles are dope! Go Terps!
Minor Arcana: Wands
wands card descriptions
The ace of wands card is for new beginnings rooted in creativity or innovation. I picked a flower that stood tall and strong, that represented originality, and that was in a color palette that makes me feel inspired.
The two of wands card represents discovery and pushing past your comfort zone into something wonderful.
I first saw blue thistles in a grocery store. My girlfriend had just started a new job and I wanted to find a way to celebrate her and I saw a bouquet with these flowers I’d never seen before.
I looked at them and I thought, “these are weird and interesting and beautiful and I love them — and that’s how I feel about her.” Now, did that girl break the fuck up with me? Absolutely, she did.
But I still feel that way about the flowers, I still want to feel that way about my next relationship, and I still feel like something good is on the other side of my next discovery.
The three of wands represents confidence, foresight, and being on the precipice of expansion.
I chose to represent this with lavender, which is a calming plant. I like the idea of feeling relaxed and confident in the face of forward progress. You see all that's coming, but you know you can handle it.
The four of wands card represents homecoming, safety, and security. I wanted to give myself a flexible definition of what it means to be safe at home because my house is my home, but so are my friends, and weeknight football practice, and drawing, and the dog. So I picked marigolds because they can thrive in almost any condition and can build a home wherever they land.
The five of wands represents competition. I picked an invasive plant that I think is gorgeous — a reminder that asserting myself is a balancing act between ensuring my own survival and impacting someone else's lived experience.
The six of wands represents victory, progress, and self-confidence, so I pieced anemones — they're my favorite flower to draw, so it feels like a celebration of my growth and success to put it on this card.
The seven of wands represents protection and perseverance — usually depicting someone defending their territory. Verbena symbolizes protection, but it also symbolizes healing. It's a reminder to me that I don't need to be fighting for things constantly and it's okay for me to rest.
Upright, the eight of wands is about movement and fast-paced change; reversed it represents delays and frustration.
I picked the Icelandic poppy for this one. To be honest, I was trying to find a place of poppies in this suit and at first I couldn't. But then I started thinking about WHY I wanted poppies and the answer was 50% because I think they look cool and 50% because I watched the Wizard of Oz every day as a little kid.
To me, the poppies in that movie represent a choice to get stuck or move forward and thats's the choice that the eight of wands presents you with. As a person with severe anxiety, I often need to remind myself that I get to decide if I want to dwell or move forward.
The nine of wands is courage, perseverance, and strong boundaries — which are not my strong suit. This flower is closely related to the poinsettia.
I like the idea of using them to symbolize protecting myself because
a. While they do emit poison, you have to fuck with them to get poisoned and
b. they're bright red, as a warning, so you're fucking with them at your own risk.
The ten of wands represents hard work, burdens, and extra responsibility. It's often represented by a person who is hunched over, so I picked fuchsia, my favorite hanging plant. The flowers bend the stem, without breaking it,.
The page of wands represents ideas, inspiration, potential, and a free spirit.
These are apricot flowers, which grow on an (imo) underrated flowering tree. I think they're weird and beautiful and when I think about openness and creative inspiration, I think weird and beautiful
The knight of wands is energy, passion, and adventure. I was about to tell you that I picked the firecracker plant because it's the same color as adventures firecracker plant because it's the same color as adventures, but I'm realizing that assigning colors to concepts isn't a thing everyone does.
I think these are my adventure colors because I am obsessed with volcanos and the natural, neon, day-glo color of lava.
The queen of wands represents courage, confidence, independence, and determination. I picked dahlias.
There are a bunch of reasons they're. a good match for this card: there are hundreds of kinds of dahlias; I love drawing them; I associate reds and purples with courage.
The reason I picked them, tho, is that I wanted to put them here and I felt like not-second-guessing-myself was the energy I wanted to give this card.
The king of wands represents vision, leadership, and entrepreneurship. For me, those concepts are tied into my identity — I like that my first impulse in the hardest times is to dream a big dream and then make it come true. I picked the lotus because it represents rebirth and enlightenment, and each time I build something for myself in a hard moment, I'm a step closer to whatever comes next.
Minor Arcana: Cups
cups card descriptions
The ace of cups represents love, new relationships, and, creativity. The polka dot begonia is the first plant I drew for my now fiancé. When we first started dating and we couldn't meet in person, they used to send me pictures of their plants and I would make pieces using those reference images.
The two of cups represents mutual affection and partnership. Pilea are easy to propogate and often produce babies that you can give to your friends and loved ones.
The three of cups represents celebration, friendship, and collaborations, so the string of hearts is just… an on the nose choice!
The four of cups upright represents meditation, contemplation, and reevaluation. Reversed, it represents retreat and withdrawal. My tetra is my most reliable plant. I can trust her to survive anything and it is such a relief to watch her grow.
The five of cups symbolizes regret, failure, disappointment, and pessimism. Reversed it represents personal setbacks, self-forgiveness, and moving on. The Calathea is also called a prayer plant. I wouldn't call myself religious or even spiritual, but I'm all about a moment of of zen.
The six of cups is about revisiting the past, childhood memories, innocence, and joy. My bromeliad looks like a barbie dream plant.
The seven of cups upright represents opportunities, choices, wishful thinking, and illusion.
Reversed it represents being overwhelmed by choices. The connection my brain drew there was to the labyrinth and medusa.
The eight of cups represents disappointment and its reverse: aimless drifting and walking away. I've never felt more disappointed in or wanted to walk away from anything more than my FUCKING FIDDLE LEAF FIG.
The nine of cups represents contentment, satisfaction, and gratitude — these traits are well-represented by a pearls and jade pothos. Happily growing under most conditions.
The ten of cups represents divine love, blissful relationships, harmony, and alignment. My lithops is the plant I named after my fiancé because my fiancé has a great butt. Sorry this is a gay one.
Upright, the page of cups represent creative opportunities, intuitive messages, curiosity, possibility. Reversed, it represents new ideas, doubting intuition, creative blocks, emotional immaturity. This is one of the few cards that I think is a good thing no matter how it shows up, so I'm giving it the gift of my brain metaphor.
The knight of cups represents creativity, romance, charm, imagination, beauty, much like the gorgeous and understated Florida ghost.
The queen of cups is compassionate, caring, emotionally stable, intuitive, and in flow. Micans show up in a hundred different ways depending on what you give them to grow on. And they're soft.
The king of cups is emotionally balanced, compassionate, diplomatic. Reversed, it represents self-compassion, inner feelings, moodiness, emotionally manipulative. The ficus is tough and can right itself if it grows in the wrong direction.
Minor Arcana: Pentacles
pentacles card descriptions
The ace of pentacles represents abundance and opportunity. Jupiter is the planet associated with growth, expansion, and good fortune.
The two of pentacles represents balancing multiple priorities and being adaptable.
The planet Neptune represents collective consciousness, idealism, artistry, the destruction of the status quo, and the ocean.
I consider my adaptability to be one of my artistic superpowers and the ebb and flow of the ocean is a perf metaphor for balancing priorities.
The three of pentacles represents teamwork, collaboration, and learning.
The planet Mercury represents rationality, communication, and thinking in patterns, all of which are keys to successfully working and learning together.
Upright, the four of pentacles is about scarcity, control, and saving money; reversed, it represents over-spending, and greed. It usually depicts a man that is stuck in place because he is so afraid to lose his money.
Pluto is named after the god of the underworld and is commonly associated with transformation.
The five of pentacles represents financial loss, isolation, and worry. Eris, a dwarf planet, is named for the the Greco-Roman goddess of strife and discord.
Upright, the six of pentacles represents giving and receiving, generosity, and charity. Reversed, it's self-care and unpaid debts — it's basically a Taurus
Makemake is the creator of humanity, which seems like a great example of giving a gift that is used or mis-used.
The seven of pentacles represents a long-term view, perseverance, and sustainability.
Uranus is visible to the naked eye, but it's hard to see and moves very slowly, so early observers didn't know it was a planet. With a commitment to discovery and a flexible mindset, we eventually figured it out.
The eight of pentacles represents apprenticeship, repetitive tasks, skill development, and mastery.
Ceres is the goddess of motherhood and agriculture, two under-rated crafts that are best learned through experience.
The nine of pentacles represents abundance, luxury, self-sufficiency, and financial independence. It is usually depicted as a successful woman.
I often find the concept of a "girlboss" to be reductive, so I'm re-envisioning Venus. The planet is named for the roman goddess of love, but she's also the goddess of prosperity and victory — and I love to see any representation of a woman winning.
The ten of pentacles represents wealth, financial security, family, and long-term success.
When the card is reversed, it represents the "dark side of wealth" and who can resist a Pink Floyd reference?
The page of pentacles represents manifestation and skill development. Mars is the Roman god of war, but unlike the Greeks, Romans treat their god of war as a god of peace, too — fighting only in the service of balance. For me, the pursuit of knowledge and skills feels a bit like going to war.
The knight of pentacles represents hard work and routine. What could be more pedestrian than the planet you’re on right now? Literally every slog you’ve ever slogged has been on earth.
The queen of pentacles represents nurturing, practicality, and working parents. Haumea is named after the Hawaiian goddess of fertility and childbirth.
The king of pentacles represents wealth, business, leadership, discipline, and abundance. Saturn is the Roman god of wealth and agriculture.
Minor Arcana: Swords
swords cards descriptions
The ace of swords represents breakthroughs, new ideas, mental clarity, and success, so I wanted to pick a stone that supported those things. Malachite is always this deep plant-like green, which reminds me of new growth and spring and healing plants.
The two of swords represents difficult decisions, weighing options, being at an impasse.
Petrified wood isn't actually wood. It's quartz that replaces the inside of a log or whatever after it dies. For me, it represents the value of sitting with a problem until a an elegant solution presents itself.
The three of swords represents heartbreak, emotional pain, and grief. Rose quartz represents universal love — love and heartbreak are two sides of the same coin.
Upright, the four of swords represents rest, relaxation, meditation, contemplation, and recuperation. When reversed, it represents burn-out and stagnation. I chose calcite because it's white, a blank slate, which can be soothing or frustrating depending on your mindset.
The five of swords represents conflict, defeat, or winning at all costs and, when reversed it represents reconciliation. Green Aventurine provides strength, confidence, and courage — the things you'll need to lose with dignity or win with grace.
The six of cups represents transition, change, rite of passage, and releasing baggage. Amethyst, translated literally, means “not intoxicated." It's also my birthstone. I hope to take on each new year with a clear head, to embrace change, and to heal old wounds
The seven of cups represents betrayal and deception and when reversed represents self-deceit. Rhodochrosite is a carbon mineral that's very delicate. In it's purest form, it is pink and white, but more commonly has streaks of red and brown. It's hidden softness and wide array of presentations are a good fit for this card, regardless of the direction of the card.
The eight of cups upright represents negative thoughts and self-imposed restriction and, when reversed, represents releasing negative thoughts and being open to new perspectives. The blue lace agate is a communication crystal, intended to clear the noise and allow you to focus on the thoughts you can believe.
The nine of swords represents anxiety, worry, fear, depression, and nightmares. Hematite strengthens you and I picked a rainbow hematite to give you something to look at besides your own fears
The ten of swords represents painful endings, deep wounds, betrayal, loss, and crisis. Tanzanite is a guide stone, to help you find the new beginning.
The page of swords represents new ideas, curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and new ways of communicating. Reversed it is self-expression, but also all talk and no action. Mookite is for nurturing — to help foster the good ideas — and also often contains fossils. It's ripe for discovery.
The knight of swords is ambitious, action-oriented, and driven to succeed. When reversed, it represents restlessness, lack of focus, and burnout. Lapis Lazuli is a metamorphic rock that has been valued consistently for centuries, much like the vague notion of success.
The queen of swords is independent, with unbiased judgement, clear boundaries, and direct communication. When reversed, she's a bit of a nightmare: an over-emotional bitch. Aqua aura quartz is formed from a fusion of gold and quartz. It is a balance between the earthly and the ethereal.
The king of swords represents mental clarity, intellectual power, authority, and truth. The garnet is used as a gemstone for jewelry and as an abrasive. It's one of the oldest crystals used for spiritual purposes and cultivates passion an strength — a valuable force to put behind truth.