Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: the Wildwood Tarot

The Wildwood Tarot
Created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews
Illustrated by Will Worthington

The Wildwood Tarot is a reworking of a previous deck, called The Greenwood Tarot. It is structured in a similar manner to the standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. There are twenty-two cards in the major arcana, and fifty-six cards in the minor arcana, which is broken up into four suits. However, the Wildwood tarot differs in the names of all the cards, and in the symbolism of a few of them.

For example, the first card is The Wanderer, rather than The Fool. The imagery and symbolism of the two cards are otherwise similar. However, in the Wildwood tarot The Ancestor takes the place of the Hierophant, and comes with a fairly different image and meaning.

Additionally, the four suits of the minor arcana are not the standard ones. Instead of cups, wands, pentacles and swords, we are greeted with vessels, arrows, stones and bows. The Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages are all shown as animals, rather than humans as typically seen.

The minor arcana cards depict detailed scenes, rather than just having a pattern of four wands, or seven swords, as some Tarot decks do. For example, The Wildwood's Eight of Stones, compared to Dean's Golden Tarot's Eight of Pentacles. Additionally, each minor arcana card also has a keyword written on it. Some enjoy the guidance of the keyword, others may find it limiting. If you like the deck, but dislike the keywords, you may want to consider cutting the frames away from the cards, so you're just left with the artwork.

The packaging, with book to the left.
The deck also comes with a fairly detailed guide book. The guide begins by explaining how the Wildwood tarot came to be, and what the creators were hoping to achieve with this deck. "We believe that the Tarot represents an accurate map of the human psyche that can be manipulated to absorb new cultural and ideological archetypes (it has indeed done so in the past). The Wildwood Tarot seeks to strip back these archetypes to their basic form, and remove some of the many attributes prompted by political and sexual principles through the ages. It also attempts to demystify some of the esoteric code of the Tarot by utilizing the Wheel of the Year."

To begin with their first point, they say that, when fitting they tried to make the human figures in the major arcana androgynous "so as not to deny anyone access to these archetypes." To this end, only four of the cards seem truly androgynous to me. Five show men, five show women. The Forest Lovers, where I was really hoping for a more open picture, pretty clearly shows a man and a woman. The rest of the major arcana cards do not show a human at all. While I wish they'd taken the concept a bit farther, it does better than the standard Tarot in this respect.

A fair portion of the book deals with the use the cards, explaining how to formulate proper questions or topics for the deck, mainly though learning to ask deeper questions. Questions that focus more on introspection, rather than fortune-telling. For example, questions like "will I get the job" are discouraged by the authors, as they feel the deck can not answer that type of question.

Another use is in meditating on the aspects of each card of the major arcana as they relate to the Wheel of the Year (which in this case does not focus on the Wiccan mythos). It encourages the person to look at the many layers within the Wheel, and within humanity, and within themselves. Much as the standard Tarot is the fool's journey through life, the Wildwood Tarot follows The Wanderer through the primal wood, within and without. The book gives a lengthy explanation of this cycle, and how the cards fit in to it.

The book also includes descriptions of each card, and suggested meanings. The major arcana is explained in two pages per card, the minor arcana one page per card (sometimes just a paragraph or two). It also gives some ideas for spreads fitting to the deck, including 'the bow', and 'the world tree.'

Physically the deck is 3 inches by 4.75 inches. The backs of the cards are a simple green background, with a thin white border. Some feel the cards are too thin, but they feel about the same as my other tarot decks to me. I don't expect them to wear down quicker than normal.

As far as the artwork is concerned, I find it stunning to look at, as well as being well thought out and detailed. I enjoy many of the little touches, such as seeing The Wanderer again later in the deck, being guided by The Pole Star. Since opinions on artwork are, of course, quite personal, and the artwork can make or break the ability for one to connect with a deck, I've included several samples at the end of the review.

If you like the idea of the Tarot, but have found yourself wishing for something a little more primal, something that seeks to go back further into our own history, something that taps more into the wild of the deep woods, then this deck is definitely worth a look.

The major arcana of the Wildwood Tarot, vs. the major arcana of the Rider-Waite Tarot.
The Wanderer -- The Fool
The Shaman -- The Magician
The Seer -- The High Priestess
The Green Woman -- The Empress
The Green Man -- The Emperor
The Ancestor -- The Hierophant
The Forest Lovers -- The Lovers
The Archer -- The Chariot
The Stag --Justice
The Hooded Man -- The Hermit
The Wheel -- Wheel of Fortune
The Woodward -- Strength
The Mirror -- The Hanged Man
The Journey -- Death
Balance -- Temperance
The Guardian -- The Devil
The Blasted Oak -- The Tower
The Pole Star -- The Star
The Moon on Water -- The Moon
The Sun of Life -- The Sun
The Great Bear -- Judgment
The World Tree -- The World

Queen of Stones * Bear
Eight of Stones * Skill
Six of Arrows * Transition
Nine of Arrows * Dedication
Three of Bows * Fulfillment
Eight of Bows * Hearthfire
Two of Vessels * Attraction
Seven of Vessels * Mourning

1 comment:

  1. I've tried tarot cards before just for fun. The pictures were just basic ones. Those cards that you have are very nice and look cool.