Wildwood Tarot

The Wildwood Tarot

Author: Mark Ryan, John Matthews
Artist: Will Worthington
Sterling Ethos
ISBN #978-1-4027-8106-3

In his preface, “Return To The Green”, Mark Ryan refers to the “Greenwood Tarot”, the predecessor to the “Wildwood Tarot”. He notes that the insights from the Greenwood “otherworld” have been nurtured and applied by thousands of people. They have come to know the esoteric archetypes that inhabit the Wildwood, and the Wheel of the Year system. Unavailable for some years now, the “Wildwood Tarot” takes its place alongside it predecessor. The focus and emphasis for the “Wildwood Tarot” is on ecology, and he older conception of forest lore from a European perspective.

Everyone that I know that has worked with either of these decks has been drawn into them, and moved beyond belief. They are not to be taken lightly. The box that the book and deck come in is heavy duty, with a lift-off top. The figure on the top of the box is that of the Ancestor (Hierophant), a very imposing figure clad in reindeer skins and evergreen leaves. This figure alone tells of the seriousness of intent in this deck. There are two compartment within the box for the cards, with finger-hole to make easy to get the cards out

I am a little bobblehead reading the companion book. (Yes, I read companion books from first word to last. I am not of the school that throws the book away and just takes the cards out to play.) The figure on the cover of the companion book is that of the Hooded Man (The Hermit). This is a favorite card for me in most decks, as it is one of my birth cards, and a card that I strongly identify with.

Note: Having said this, Mark Ryan says in “Part One – Into The Green” that the best advice he was ever given was to “Read the book, meditate with the cards, then put the book away and do your own thing.”

I am impressed with many things in the companion book. From an esoteric perspective, I love the fact that green type has been used, and that the pages that divide the sections are green, with white print. It follows the theme of the book, without making a mockery of it. The companion book is divided into three parts: Part One – Into The Green (Introduction), Part Two – The Cards And Their Meanings, and Part Three – Finding Your Way (working with the cards).

The deck is a traditional 78 card deck, with the Major Arcana renamed as follows:

0 The Wanderer (The Fool)
1 The Shaman (The Magician)
2 The Seer (The High Priestess)
3 The Green Woman (The Empress)
4 The Green Man (Emperor)
5 The Ancestor (The Hierophant)
6 The Forest Lovers (The Lovers)
7 The Archer (The Chariot)
8 The Stag (Strength)
9 The Hooded Man (The Hermit)
10 The Wheel (The Wheel of Fortune)
11 The Woodward (Justice)
12 The Mirror (The Hanged Man)
13 The Journey (Death)
14 Balance (Temperance)
15 The Guardian (The Devil)
16 The Blasted Oak (The Tower)
17 The Pole Star (The Star)
18 The Moon On Water (The Moon)
19 The Sun of Life (The Sun)
20 The Great Bear (Judgment)
21 The World Tree (The World)

The suits are Arrows (Swords/Air/Spring), Bows (Wands/Fire/Summer), Stones (Pentacles/Earth/Winter) and Vessels (Cups/Water/Autumn). The Court Cards are King, Queen, Knight and Page.

In his introduction, Mark Ryan addresses the subject of gender in the deck. First and foremost, each of us carries both male and female qualities. Where the concept of the archetype was largely masculine or feminine, that is what the creators worked with. In other instances, choices were made – such as the Moon being portrayed as feminine and the Sun as masculine. Ryan also addresses such things as asking questions (which he breaks down into the formulation of the question, the impartial layout of the cards, and the interpretation of the layout), fate and the Tarot, and the foundation for the Wheel of the Year. He takes us through the four seasons, the four corresponding suits, and each card in turn. The text is complimented with an excellent schematic of the Wheel of the Year and the four suits.

The cards are presented with a black and white scan, a short synopsis of their position on the wheel, a description of the card, a discussion of the meaning of the card, reading points, and a highlighted section called “Roots and Branches”, where the keywords are listed. Note: The Court Cards do not contain descriptions, and the Pips (numbered cards) do not contain keywords. The intro page to each suit includes a quote, the position on the wheel, the elemental association and associations (keywords/qualities applicable to each suit).

The chapter on working with the deck includes a three-card spread (The Pathway), a seven card spread (The Bow), and an eight card spread (The World Tree). After the spreads the authors have included a visualization (The Hermit’s Cave). At the end of the book are blank pages for making notes.

I was especially pleased to see a visualization presented, and presented so well. The reason given for including this was that answers do not come easily in any divination system, or in a form that is easily understandable. The visualization is meant to help the Seeker focus on their question, and to get to know the archetypes and what they represent.

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The cards themselves are 3” by 4 ¾”. The backs are black, with a fine white border ¼” in. At each corner is a white flower. Along the border on the right and left hand sides is a copyright notice. The backs are reversible. The card faces have a ¼” white border. The titles are across the bottom, in black mettering: the Major Arcana show the card number and title, the Pips show the card number and suit, in text, with the keyword for the card. The Court Cards show the card title and suit, in text, along with the keyword for the card.

The artwork is color intense, with a sense of fantasy, along with a strong acknowledgement of the natural world, and stands consistent from card to card. The artwork, by Will Worthington, is very different from that of the “Greenwood Tarot”, which was illustrated by Chesca Potter. Both decks stand on their own as far as the artwork goes. There is an intensity of both color and form in these cards – they carry great power, to the point that at times one does have to step back and regroup.

With the sense of earthiness and care for the planet at the foundation of this deck, it would appeal to all forms of nature (green) spirituality, as well as to those that follow other religious orientations. The stories flow in this deck – it would be easy to read from for and level of Tarot reader/student, and is applicable for all ages and all backgrounds.

© June 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

10 comments on “Wildwood Tarot

  1. I love Will Worthington’s art – he really captures the magic of nature. Even though I’m not “in” to oracle decks I got his Druid Animal Oracle because I couldn’t resist the images. It looks like he’s done another star turn with this deck.

  2. Kirsten –

    Wil has done an outstanding job here! 🙂


  3. woley says:

    It’s funny Bonnie, this whole comparison issue with the Greenwood passes my radar. I take things as they come, and this is today and the Wildwood.

    I too love Will’s artwork and own three of his previous decks, but I also like the illustrative flavour of these cards. Several of them remind me of old-timey illustrators from the early 20th century.I like the linework, I like the colouring, and I like the animals and birds.

    It has been shipped and I should get it soon–looking forward to it. I like nothing better than to sit down with a hot cup of tea and read a new book and browse through the cards.

  4. Woley –

    The comparison with the Greenwood deck has been brought up by the creators themselves. 😉

    I know that you will enjoy this deck. 🙂


  5. woley says:

    the “issue” I am speaking of with regard to the Greenwood comparison is that of negative commentary comparing the Wildwood to the Greenwood which I have seen on the Internet here and there.

    Mark Ryan and John Matthews do not speak of the Wildwood negatively. Marks refers to the “evolving contribution” of the Greenwood. Both authors use the word “contribution” rather than comparison and quite obviously don’t compare the two decks

    • Woley –

      I have not seen a great deal of negative commentary comparing the Wildwood to the Greenwood. While I don’t agree with it, I do thiink there is room in this world for more than one opinion.


  6. Pip says:

    I keep coming across posts by one particular person who loves this deck, and it keeps growing on me. One they that was mentioned is that the book was actually written for the Greenwood and not changed for the Wildwood so some things may not make sense. Still, the pictures…loving it!

  7. Pip –

    I don’t have the Greenwood Tarot, but the book did make sense to me for the Wildwood. 😉 I need to get this deck back out – the cards are gorgeous!


  8. Just saw this blog for the first time. I wanted to let all you know (and your followers) that a friend of mine is hosting Mark Ryan and John Matthews in person for a weekend seminar, just north of Atlanta, GA in November. I’m sure they will address the differences in the Greenwood and Wildwood – since it seems to always come up in discussion.

    The info about the workshop is on there site: http://thewildwoodtarot.com/#/wild-events/4553919898

    I think they might be doing a second one in Seattle but I’m not sure.

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