Exploring Lucia Mattioli’s Tarot of the Secret Forest

Last year, I blogged about my first impressions towards “Tarot of the Secret Forest” by Lucia Mattioli. Since then, I have moved on to work with other decks and set it aside. Yesterday, I decided to return and re-enter the Secret Forest that once deeply fascinated me. Needlessly to say I feel in love with it again.

There are two very different worlds in this deck: you have the world of the secret forest: lush and wild with green, populated by the tiny creatures and spirits in the microscopic world where beetles and butterflies dwell in the depth that is normally imperceptible unless you pay close attention. It’s a fantastical world that exists in silence and ambiance. (I mean, we normally don’t really think about the bugs that are crawling quietly in the grass, right?)

If you flip the cards over, you have a very different world: a stark, monochrome version of the secret forest world. It is a much simpler, harsher, and darker reimagining of the green forest world. The brushstrokes are impressionistic, coarse, minimalist and powerful.

From “You Had Me at Hello: Tarot of the Secret Forest”, the first impressions blog post I wrote last year

To recap, not only is this tarot deck reversible, it is also double sided. Yes, double sided! How exciting is that? Normally, the back cover augments a sense of mystery to the process of interpretation. As you flip over the cards one by one, you watch as your story is being unveiled. With Secret Forest, the experience is utterly different and totally unique. There is no “back cover”, which means that when you are shuffling, you are able to see and identify the cards in the deck. There is no “big reveal” when you finish laying down the cards. Instead, it is replaced by a gradual sense of awakening, as you lay down the cards one by one (or however way you choose to do it), it’s like you are slowly opening your eyes.

Major Arcana-Hermit

I am only beginning to explore the different ways of interpreting the monochrome world. Of course, you should always listen to your intuition, define it within the context of other cards that are present, and frame it under the question you are asking. But here are some of the ways I look at the “other side” of the card:

  • A misconstrued persona, a projection of ego, or a deliberate construction of identity to serve a purpose. This can be either negative or positive. For example, you can be trying to one-up somebody by magnifying qualities that typify the High Priestess, but in reality it is toxic comparison that drives you to over-deliver the supposed “positive” qualities of an archetype. On the other hand, it could be that you are upholding a persona for the particular career you are involved, which requires you to consider your personal branding and put forward your best professional self that is an extension of who you are and your authentic voice–although it does not necessarily encompass all of you
  • Moment of shock, sudden change or transition
  • Distortion, perversion, or destruction of the archetype
  • Awakening, transcendence

The possibilities are endless. Having two distinctly different colour schemes or art styles to work with within the same tarot “world” really adds “dimension” to your interpretation. Given the context of a question, what does it mean to be in colour? What does it mean when things are black and white?

Furthermore, the monochrome world isn’t always the same as its coloured twin. More often than not, there are subtle differences that either change how the elements interact on the card or render it slightly more sinister. It’s like the dark wonderland always lurks one step behind the beautiful forest–a secret within a secret. I am head over toes for this deck. *swoon* For instance, you may see a pretty little faerie sitting on an tree arch on the ground in the coloured version, but when you flip it over, she is sitting on a centipede or grotesque looking caterpillar that is arching its back. I feel that this perhaps plays with the idea of appearance vs reality and how perspectives can reveal the intricate layers of an already microscopic world.

Pentacles-8 of

There are so, so many things to discover in this deck. Here are some of the things I noticed, such as recurring images, symbolism, worldbuilding details and more:

  • animals & insects: mostly fish, birds, beetles, butterflies, and some other small woodland animals. (8 of Pentacles depicts a deer, but I think that’s as big as the animals go)
  • forest, shrubberies, branches, flowers blossoming, scenes of water such as ponds or rivers
  • some images of civilization or human presence but fairly minimal (the cards that contain these images seem to carry a sentiment or longing towards the human world)
  • some of these images of civilizations include: staircases, stairs, mansion and manors (there is a beauty, the kind that lingers around abandoned things hinting of the past or half-awaken memories)

I am absolutely in love with this deck. I mentioned this in my first blog post that Secret Forest is a microscopic world rich in the smaller mysteries–small but with an entire universe gestating and glistening on the tip of a butterfly wing. It’s a different kind of magical. It is a deck that invites you to open your eyes and soften your gaze: look closer, but don’t look too hard–let things come to you. Let spirits and tiny creatures of wisdom reveal themselves to you, as you patiently await your answer with curiosity and wonder.

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