For years my default reading deck was the Druidcraft Tarot in part because of the artwork of Will Worthington. I learned a few months ago that he was the artist for the Wildwood Tarot, Mark Ryan’s reworking of his previous deck The Greenwood Tarot which is now out of print and way out of my price range. I was thrilled. Mr. Ryan, with input from John Matthews has created a potent and beautiful deck that captures the primal energy of the wild wood coupled with the Wheel of the Year.
While the deck does keep with the basic tarot structure of twenty-two Major and fifty-four Minor Arcana totalling seventy-eight cards, there are some changes from the traditional cards and their meanings. The suits are Stones, Arrows, Bows and Vessels instead of Pentacles, Swords, Wands and Cups respectively. Each suit keeps the standard elements we’ve come to know and love but with an added seasonal energy. In the book Mr. Ryan provides a graph describing the Wheel of the Year and each card’s placement therein. To better understand this for myself I recreated this graph with the actual cards on my bed.
Should you buy this deck I suggest you give this a try. It puts the cards in perspective and their relationships to each other and the seasons become much more clear. The center of the wheel is made up of the Major Arcana. Around the outside of the wheel I laid out the minor cards from Ace to King in a clockwise direction because that is the way the dates work out. It seemed wrong at first because it reads right to left instead of the default left to right I’m so used to. Mr. Ryan suggests this as a meditation exercise to get acquainted with the archetypes found in the quarter and cross-quarter days. “Often the most vivid and clear insights come from following the natural current of the Wheel in this way.” (page 27 The WildWood Tarot)
There are many differences between the images in this deck and the RWS that has become a sort of standard. Some of them are subtle and some seem at first to be a large departure. For example let’s look at the Hanged Man. The Wildwood Tarot has separated the meanings of this card and spread it over two cards. The Mirror which is about the surrender of will and the insights gleaned from meditation and dreams
and The Blasted Oak which combines the unexpected destruction of the Tower with the sacrifice and discomfort of the Hanged Man.
The artwork is stunning and in many of the cards it is quite powerful. All the cards are fully illustrated and the backs, as you can see from the top photo, are solid forest green with a thin white border line. The Court Cards are all animals and relate to the element of their suit, ie: birds for air. Each Minor Arcana card, from Ace to Ten has a keyword next to the title. The Court Cards have the name of the depicted animal next to the title of the card.
The accompanying book is interesting. There is a foreward from each of the authors and a twenty page introduction to the deck written by Mark Ryan which includes the above Wheel of the Year exercise. Each Major Arcana card receives a two page explanation. Each Minor Arcana card receives one page with the exception of the court cards which each have their own page but only a few sentences explaining them and a few more defining them in a reading. The cards are all depicted in black and white on their own pages.
On the title page of part one of the book, Mark Ryan writes “The best advice I ever got about Tarot was: ‘Read the book, meditate with the cards, then put the book away and do your own thing!’ ” I think that is excellent advice.