The Druid Plant Oracle
This is an article that is appearing in Pagan Dawn magazine. Someone asked where they can buy this since it won’t be out in the USA until August 08 and Australia/NZ April 08 (and in French, German, Dutch & Czech translations then too). Well you can buy it here (The OBOD bookstore) and it comes with a first edition card of black and white drawings by Will and signed by all three of us.
Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s The Druid Plant Oracle has just been published by Connections. In 1994 Connections published their Druid Animal Oracle and a decade later their DruidCraft Tarot appeared which soon became one of the most popular Pagan tarot decks due to Will Worthington’s extraordinary evocation of another world in his artwork and the way in which the authors’ weave Druid, Wiccan and Tarot lore seamlessly together. Here Philip Carr-Gomm talks about how the third in this trio of oracles was created.
Not of father nor of mother
Was my blood, was my body.
I was spellbound by Gwydion,
Prime enchanter of the Britons,
When he formed me from nine blossoms,
Nine buds of various kind;
From primrose of the mountain,
Broom, meadow-sweet and cockle,
From the bean in its shade bearing
A white spectral army
Of earth, of earthly kind,
From blossoms of the nettle,
Oak, thorn and bashful chestnut –
Nine powers of nine flowers,
Nine powers in me combined,
Nine buds of plant and tree.
Long and white are my fingers
As the ninth wave of the sea.
translated by Robert Graves
I first became interested in the Druid path about forty years ago. I used to visit a friend of my father’s, the old Chief Druid Ross Nichols at his home in London and he began training me. He would make two cups of tea for us and then would read to me from a set of teachings he had prepared, and I remember so clearly how it was the sections on trees or plants that really inspired me. He was a poet and was able to write in a lyrical way about Nature. The scholarly failings of Robert Graves’ White Goddess had not yet been revealed and he had absorbed Graves’ work avidly, and had built upon that.
As the years rolled by, and I learnt more and more about the Druid tradition, I became disappointed that there was so little plant and herblore within the tradition. Scholars would point out that we only had Pliny’s references to four of the Druids’ favourite plants and that was it.
I was writing about one of these four – Vervain – for the revised version of the Order’s Ovate teachings when it suddenly struck me that perhaps, as with the traditional animal lore that Stephanie and I had researched 14 years ago for The Druid Animal Oracle, the plant lore of the ancient Druids and their contemporaries was not totally lost but simply had to be looked for in a different way.
We began researching traditional plant lore – and to our delight we started to feel that we were beginning to piece together much of the old herb-lore that would have been used in those far-off times. We did this by drawing on information from five sources: the relatively new science of archaeobotany; the information given in the old herbals that were written at the time of the ancient Druids; accounts of the practices of later herbalists; the clues left to us in the old Irish and Welsh legends and in folklore; and the findings of botanical pharmacology.
In other words, if we found that a plant had been growing in the territory of the ancient Druids, and if its healing powers had been discussed in one of the old herbals that were written by their contemporaries (such as Dioscorides) we deduced that it was highly likely that the Druids would have used it. If, in addition, the plant was mentioned in one of the old legends and if it appeared in folklore then it was clearly entrenched in tradition and was even more likely to have been used by the ancient Druids. The other sources of information were sometimes able to help us too with supporting evidence.
By researching in this way we identified over 40 plants that we reckon were almost certainly used in those far-off times. Now, of course, it is perfectly possible to argue that Druidry is a living tradition and that if – for example – a Druid wishes to use or recommend the taking of Gingko Bilboa then the fact that the ancient Druids would not have used this is irrelevant. Even so, while fully accepting that Druid herblore today can be as eclectic and universal as it likes, the fact that we can identify those plants they are likely to have used inspires us, and we took that inspiration one stage further. We realised that each plant had a set of traditional associations, meanings or stories surrounding it. Just as there was a discernible body of sacred animal lore so too there was a similar body of lore around plants.
When we read the old stories about plants or animals we couldn’t help asking the questions “What do these stories mean? What are they trying to tell us?” ‘They’ are both the stories themselves and the Ancestors, who collectively have created this ‘lore’ over the centuries. By putting the stories, the images, the associations into the cauldron and stirring it a little we have been able to come up with oracular interpretations for a number of plants, just as we did earlier for the animals, and Will Worthington has managed to create beautiful pictures of them to accompany our interpretations.
As we began creating the oracle together we realised that we could ask the publisher to make the cards the identical size to The Druid Animal Oracle so that the two decks could be shuffled together, so that guidance could be received from both the plant and the animal realms.
The result? Will seems to be able evoke an enchanted world in his paintings – the images are on the one hand very realistic and yet something shines through them and invites us into them. The images are filled with resonances – moonlight glinting on arrow-heads, standing stones in the distance. We think they’re wonderful. As for the accompanying book it would be immodest to wax lyrical about that wouldn’t it?
Excellent! Looking forward to it.
Would love to hear more about the book though, modesty is highly overrated you know.
And remember, you promised I could get it in Glastonbury late December!
Super! Je voulais justement te demander (hier) où en était ce projet et où en étaitent tes essais avec tes flacons dans la salle de bain!!
Où peut-on se le procurer ? (en attendant la version française!!!)
Fascinating. And all the more so as my good friend Stephanie has a part in this – would love to see the books. (And Steph)
Thanks for the lovely winter image.
Excellent blog. Thank you for the time to write it. 🙂
I’m soon to start the OBOD Ovate grade and so recently more of my thoughts have centred on the use of divination/contemplation cards.
A question, if I may, is what would be the difference be between the insights gained from the Animal oracle and Plant?
Glad you like the blog! Most of my time is spent in rather ‘serious’ pursuits, so this is a place to stretch a little and have some fun!
I think I’m probably too close to both oracles to be able to tell you objectively. They have both been created so they are complimentary, and in fact so they work together. So you can shuffle both packs together and work with a set of 75 cards (or less the 6 blanks, 69) and receive inspiration from both the plant and animal realms.
Perhaps if you ask somewhere on the http://www.druidry.org message board someone might have an opinion?
Thanks for the quick response, I will follow your suggestion and turn the question over the board at large. 🙂
Hi Philip, I love the Druid Animal Oracle, I am thinking now of getting the plant oracle, and love the idea that it can be intermingled with the animal cards. I have a question, although not directly concerned with you, yourself as the author, but do you know if the green-man tree oracle cards, also illustrated by Will, are the same size?
Also do you recommend using the actual plants for healing, divination and meditation (I do not mean to consume them, but to use in ceremonies, dried and burnt for instance)?
Hello TawnyHare – The GMTO is not the same size as the Druid Animal and Druid Plant Oracles. However, it IS the same size as the Druid Craft Tarot if that helps you at all.
Wouldn’t it have been brilliant if they had all been the same size, allowing a Reader to combine various decks as suited their whim. And it would have been a totally unique selling point for the ‘series’.
So – to recap, size-wise:
Druid Craft Tarot = GMTO
Druid Animal = Druid Plant
Happy divining 😉
Hi Alison, do you use any of these decks? If so, I am intersted to hear how you use them.
I have never really been able to do a ‘spread’ with the Druid Animal deck for myself, but I meditate on each of the card’s symbols/meanings. Throughout the day I may suddenly see one of the animals (mentally or physically) and I work with their energy to get to the bottom of any current issues that arise.
Alternatively, if I have trouble doing anything like housework for instance, I invoke a card such as the bee, and take on the form of that animal to help me get through the task, or slip into a certain mood. The crane helps me meditate.
I am looking forward to using the plant deck in a more physical way too, that’s why I asked the question about using the actual plants in ceremony. Trees give me a sense of longer, deeper, slower issues in life, perhaps more for divining – this is what the ogham was originally used for (?) and the Druid Craft Oracle – I know nothing about, is it the equivalent to the major arcana tarot deck, with druidy changes??? (I can’t imagine the devil is in it)
Anyway, I am sure they are all gorgeous, the plant oracle looks ravishing, I love the way many of the cards I have seen, link animals into the picture and on the animal deck, plants figure prominently too. It all makes sense.
Shame they are not all the same size though, great that the plant and animal ones are 😉 !!
yes to the second question (I see Alison has very ably answered the first!).
Sorry to be brief, but big workload at moment!
Every good wish,
Tawny – I’m first and foremost a Tarotist, so it is mainly the DruidCraft Tarot that I use. It is an excellent tool and I am able to provide very thorough readings using it.
I use the Oracles in two ways – when a single card reading is appropriate – ie when you could benefit from harnessing the energies of a particular animal/plant/tree to improve your situation.
Also – in a Tarot reading, the addition of an oracle card here and there can really add depth to your interpretation of the situation, adding light and shade to a broad brush stroke portrait.
For example – the Q of Cups can represent a loving and nurturing type of nature, but if ‘ill dignified’ this can tip over into clinginess and playing the martyr. By drawing another card, you can show which direction the QoC is currently looking….and thereby help your querent by providing a more fine-tuned reading.
It’s not easy and sometimes I inwardly wail and wonder just how on earth the two cards can reconcile into a ‘real’ personality. But the truth is all the cards are in all of us, all the time.
My advice is to push out of your comfort zone with your readings and try adding in something new. Experiment!
Let me know how you get on 🙂
hi Alison, I am all very new to this, although I have had the animal cards for 2 years and I used to dip into them now and again, I recently have had a huge push forward into divination (in the real world) by a tarot reader who visits my blog regularly. She has been amazing in helping me along this path.
I find the tarot overwhelming – lots to learn, lots to ‘remember’ – I guess it is a life-long study!!! Messages from nature seem to come to me one by one and are easier to handle and interpret. However, I am really itching to become more familiar with a deck – and the Animal Oracle feels right, however I cannot seem to weave a story out of multiple cards and just get confused. Instead, as you say, I use the power of one or two cards to guide me and add insight into the things I have already experienced in the real world of nature.
This is why I feel I perhaps need to expand to the plant oracle to make the readings say a little more to me each time.
I’ll keep trying something new, out of my comfort zone and see how I get on – sounds fun!
BTW Philip – I am working through the DruidCast podcasts one by one, trying to catch up to the current one – they are fabulous and have really opened my eyes up to the different and open approaches to Druidry. Thank you.
Th p- Glad you like the podcasts! Re multiple cards – the DAO and DPO are good with 1,2,3 card readings but if you want to do multiples it takes a while to work out how to use them like this, which is why looking at the sample readings at the back of the books can help.
The Tarot, however, is easier to use with multiple card readings, which is why I think there is a place for it even within Druidry, where the plants and animals seem more obviously Druidic, and the tarot can seem too cultured/Renaissance in tone. With the Druidcraft Tarot we tried to merge the nature-based approach of Druidry with the more traditional tarot meanings…
Hi Philip, thanks for that, I find that the interpretations of the animal cards in the book are quite vague – basically broken down to a few words or ideas, I assume that this was done on purpose, giving room for the reader to extrapolate (coagulate?) the meanings themselves through meditation etc. Being new to this, I guess I am still working on finding more depth to the cards myself, beyond the initial words given by you and Stephanie.
Tarot readers spend lifetimes going deeper and deeper.
“”we tried to merge the nature-based approach of Druidry with the more traditional tarot meanings……””
I know that the DAO cards go in a specific order – may I ask how you came about this order? is it roughly based on the tarot’s order? and can the cards be roughly equated (even though there is a discrepancy in numbers) between the two?
Perhaps Alison can answer this one for me –
Tawny – I wish you much love and luck on your journey with the Tarot. There are many excellent on-line communities that can help you navigate your way through the marshy boglands of elemental dignity, astrology, reversals, kabbalah, numerology and lordy knows *what* else that you might want to incorporate into your readings 😀
Having the DAO unnumbered suggests to me that the order in which you encounter the cards is not as important as recognising the qualities and energies that the totem animal brings to your life.
That’s my own humble opinion, and Philip will, I’m sure set me straight if I am in error.
In Tarot, however, the numbering CAN be important (mind you, not all decks have numbered Major Arcana cards) – patterns of numbers may be interpreted to show patterns of behaviour. For example – a reading that shows many cards from the first half of the Major cycle could indicate someone who was at the beginning of their journey….many from the second half could be interpreted as someone who was well progressed on their spiritual adventure.
The accompanying book for the DOA states that the order of the cards reflects the journey to the Otherworld and back to the real world. Similarly, in Tarot, the journey found in the Major Arcana (The Fool’s Journey) reflects a simliar journey – the soul’s journey through the trials of life until ‘enlightenment’ in the form of XXI The World…and then the cycle kicks off again with 0 The Fool.
I can’t honestly say – ah, the Salmon equates to Tarot’s The World. The two are different tools, but complementary. Like two spanners that fit different nuts 😀
My, oh my, my old English Teacher will be spinning in her grave!
Tawney – Tarot can be as complicated as you want it to be LOL! Don’t get ensnared in the boggy ground – learn the basic traditional meanings and then set about incorporating, for example, reversals. You’ll love it 😀
thanks Alison and Philip, you have given me lots of insight, I love these cards, they have truly become a deep part of my life. I will go on to buy the plant oracle soon, and look into the more complicated spreads.
Alison, do you have a website/blog?, I would love to stay in touch –
Tawny – Please keep in touch, that would be very nice. You can find me on the Readers section of the Tarot Association of The British Isles website which is http://www.tabi.org.uk . Panic ye not, I’m *not* soliciting for a reading, but am just not sure of the netiquette of leaving an e-mail address on someone else’s blog!
I do own a domain name, but not yet got the time to actually do anything with it at the moment. It will be a Tarot website….eventually 😀
I haven’t got enough interesting things to share on a blog, so not ventured down that road yet!
Alison, I just found the tabi site through the Will Worthington website here – he has a link to it. Then I read your comment. Yes!
okay will look up your name on there and keep you posted on how I get on. I usually write about all of my ‘nature spirituality’ thoughts and musings on my blog anyway if you’d like a read: http://constantstateofflux.wordpress.com
Hey you have loads of interesting things to share!! But you know, blogging is very VERY time consuming 😉 !!!!
Philip – have just been compiling the Top 20 of Amazon.co.uk’s Tarot goodies for the e-zine that I edit and just wanted to let you know that The Druid Craft Tarot is the 18th best selling Tarot item 🙂
Given that Doreen Virtue has 37% of the Top 20 with her various Oracle decks/books, the DC is doing very well. Congratulations!
Thank you Alison – that’s good to know!
Hi there! I really loved this oracle. I saw it for the first time in a thread in tarotforum.com and I immediately went out looking for it!
I’ve always loved working with herbs -green witchcraft as they say- and this deck is so beautifully painted I just gotta get it! Unfortunately here in Argentina, where I live, is quite difficult for me to get my hands on foreign decks or books.
Anyway, I have seen the druidcraft deck and it’s being very successful here, a lot of people I know love it. Do you have any idea if this will be edited in a spanish publisher or maybe brought to Argentina some way?
Have a wonderful day =) and keep up the amazing work.
The tarot is published in Spanish but not the plant or animal oracles. I’ve just sent your suggestion to them to say why not try these too!
Thank you for this idea!
Really glad you like the decks. Lots of blessings and greetings from across the oceans!
Hi Philip and friends!
Through a friend in England I just received the Druid Plant Oracle and want to thank you for this wonderful work! I also own the Druid Animal Oracle and the DruidCraft Tarot and enjoy them a lot!
However, I think your work is not done yet!
I can envision the series to continue and also include a
Druid’s Grove Oracle featuring trees and tree lore and the Sacred Sites Oracle which features sites from the neolithic all the way to the middle ages…..
I would love you to get inspired by these thoughts….
Thank you Mi-Shell how nice of you to say that and what a lovely idea!
I have ordered this new plant oracle through my bookclub here in Oz, as an adjunct to the study and use of the DruidCraft Tarot, which is my favorite deck to read with.
I already have the Druid Animal and Green Man oracles and have found that they give me greater depth of knowledge and understanding in being able to interpret the symbolism within each of the images of the DC Tarot deck.
Love the mistletoe image you’ve given a peek of above, but now I’m wondering about the bird in the image.
It looks very much to me like what we call a Song Thrush here in Oz. There are a pair who visit my garden in the finer seasons, I’m not sure if they migrate elsewhere during the cooler months, and they tidy up all the snails for me, quite brutally I have to say…whack, whack with them on the bricks and concrete of edgings and paths, all that remains are empty shells, sometimes their grip isn’t quite firm on the snail’s flesh and I find the bodies floating in the fishpond.
But now I’m going to have to go and check my DAO to see if this lovely bird makes an appearance there.
If not, perhaps some more cards need to be added to the DAO!!
In response to your Plant Oracle article, I saw you mentioned detailed work in recognizing native plants that were possibly used in acient times. could you provide a starting list of books for me to use in identifying herbs for medicinal and ritual used in ancient Wales/UK.