Wildwood Tarot

This was waiting for me when I got home last night. I’ve barely had time to look at it, but I am so over the moon about the artwork I wanted to share a bit of it.

I’ve seen scans online of some of the first deck by Mark Ryan, The Greenwood Tarot, which is now a much sought-after deck by collectors, and I have to say I think this one blows it away. The Wildwood Tarot
is all about our European pagan ancestors, pre-Druid by the look of it. This is ancient magic, when the Earth still spoke to the people and the people listened. Mark Ryan grew up in the area of a great oak in Sherwood Forest, and has a deep reverence for the land and the environment. This deck seems to be his attempt to acquaint people with the Old Ways, and reintroduce some balance and respect for nature. You can read about his career as an actor, singer, swordmaster and more here. He has a few more of the cards posted on his blog here.


The box is a snug-fitting lift off lid design, and the cards themselves fit into two wells in the plastic tray inside. Not my favorite method of storing decks, makes it tough to carry them around if you want. The cardstock is quite sturdy, noticeably heavier than most. The backs are a plain, deep forest green, with a thin white line about 1/4” in from the edge all around, and each corner marked with a small white leaf.

The artwork is stunning, really fine. There has been a rash of ugly decks on the market over the last few years so I’m delighted to see one with such fantastic artwork. This is a deck for the pagans, or anyone feeling the need to connect with the land. This deck will serve well for meditations and pathworking, you could get lost in these images. Megalithic Britain never looked so good. Birds are well represented here, from crows and hawks to sweet little wrens, elegant swans, along with all manner of other creatures: hares, foxes, bears, horses, deer, lynx and more.

This deck is like the matured child of the Greenwood Tarot, with seventeen years between them. Mark Ryan has this time collaborated with John Mathews, the noted Celtic scholar, for the text and Will Worthington has transformed the vision and manifested it in the cards with his art. Here are some samples of the cards.

Hooded Man-9 & Moon on Water-18 Mirror-12 and Journey-13 Sun of Life-19 & Page of Arrows -Wren

You can click each pair to enlargify. I admit I was hoping the book would go more into the symbolism on the cards, why certain elements were included, and there is some of that, but much is not mentioned. For instance on the Sun of Life card, we see the Uffington White Horse, a 3000-year-old chalk carving on a hillside in Oxfordshire, England, but there is no mention of it in the book. However, the Five of Bows shows the Cerne Abbas Giant, which is mentioned.

The system is based on the Wheel of the Year, with each suit assigned to one season/quadrant of the year. The four suits are renamed Time of Arrows – Air (Swords) which rules Imbolc (February 1) to Beltane (May 1), Time of Bows – Fire (Wands) covering Beltane to Lammas (August 1), Time of Vessels – Water (Cups) from Lammas to Samhain (November 1), and Time of  Stones – Earth (Pentacles) from Samhain to Imbolc. The equinoxes and cross-quarter days are assigned to various majors.

All the Majors have been renamed:

  • 0 – The Wanderer
  • 1- The Shaman
  • 2 – The Seer
  • 3 – The Green Woman
  • 4 – The Green Man
  • 5 – The Ancestor
  • 6 – The Forest Lovers
  • 7 – The Archer
  • 8 – The Stag
  • 9 – The Hooded Man
  • 10 – The Wheel
  • 11 – The Woodward
  • 12 – The Mirror
  • 13 – The Journey
  • 14 – Balance
  • 15 – The Guardian
  • 16 – The Blasted Oak
  • 17 – The Pole Star
  • 18 – The Moon on Water
  • 19 – The Sun of Life
  • 20 – The Great Bear
  • 21 – The World Tree

The cards for Strength and Justice are reversed, with The Stag (Justice) as 8, and The Woodward (Strength) as 11. The images are quite different from the Waite-Smith, but the concepts behind them seem quite similar.

So is it a ‘working’ deck for readings? I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I suspect it will work just fine. I’m really looking forward to spending some serious time with this deck in the coming weeks.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. maryjblog says:

    oh the pagan angle is right up your alley! This is going to wind up as one of your “go-to” decks, I’ll bet.

  2. Digital Dame says:

    Boy howdy, is it ever! I’m on familiar ground with this one, instead of struggling with Qabalah and astrology and everything else that Crowley incorporated into his deck.

  3. OOh! I love the concept of this.

    I like the retitled names, especailly the Green Woman, Green Man, Forest Lovers, and Ancestors. This seems like it would indeed be a great deck for meditation and journeying.

    I hear you about the Qabalah. In the past I’ve looked into the Kabbalah, and while aspects of it are fascinating, all in all, it gives me a headache. I prefer my spirituality more down to earth and simplistic, for lack of a better word.

  4. Digital Dame says:

    Mark Ryan even says in the book that it’s a shame some people only use Tarot for divination. He’s intended this deck to be so much more, and encourages everyone to start the pathworking/meditations with The Wanderer.

    As far as Kabbalah/Qabalah/however you want to spell it, it’s definitely not something you pick up on a whim. I resisted for years, I always felt the Tarot was a complete, cohesive enough system on its own without trying to shoehorn other systems into it. After reading DuQuette’s book, though, I am more interested and can see it can add new dimensions to it. But with this deck, it’s a different mindset, and I would like to work with this deck on its own level without adding any of that to it.

  5. This is such a nice and magical deck. I once talked to them on the Wildwood Tarot Deck signing event. They are so friendly and interesting people.

    I have also done a 4-part review of this Wildwood Tarot set on my blog; though, not originaly in English, images would be fine.

  6. Digital Dame says:

    Hello Dr Zei,

    Thank you for visiting my site! Yes, it’s a lovely deck, and how wonderful that you were able to meet the creators. I took a look at your site, unfortunately I don’t know Thai although I love the look of the letters!

    Best wishes to you.

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