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.
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.