The Wildwood Tarot

Deck by Authors Mark Ryan and John Matthews; Illustrated by Will Worthington
© 2011 Published by Sterling

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The Hooded
                Man in The Wildwood TarotSix of Vessels in The
                Wildwood TarotAce of Bows
                in The Wildwood Tarot
                Woodward in The Wildwood TarotNine of Arrows in The
                Wildwood TarotPage of
                Stones in The Wildwood Tarot

              Wildwood TarotEven in just the brief time I've had so far to get acquainted with the Wildwood Tarot, I am quickly learning what an amazing and powerful deck this is.  I had heard about other people having favorable experiences with this deck's predecessor, The Greenwood Tarot, and now also successful reading experiences with the Wildwood Tarot.  The art for this deck is illustrated by Will Worthington while the art of the Greenwood Tarot was done by Chesca Potter

I just received this deck last week (October 2011), so I haven't had a lot of time to fully connect with the Wildwood Tarot, but what I've encountered so far has been so spot on with the wisdom and the information regarding a current situation.

In doing a reading for this situation of significant concern, the Wildwood cards clearly and explicitly told me that I have a lot of needless worry and inner struggles going on.  I was very encouraged by the information I received from the cards.  They not only described the current situation with clarity and accuracy, but they also showed me where things are leading and why they are heading in the direction I was pointed to.

Despite that this is a brand new tarot deck for me in October 2011, the responses I received from the cards were very clear and rich in meaning.  This was the first actual reading I did with the Wildwood Tarot, and it won't be the last!  I don't always feel such a strong connection with a brand new set of Tarot cards, especially when they are not traditional.

I don't have the Greenwood Tarot deck which was published in 1996.  It has been out of print for a long time.  I do remember sitting on the fence about possibly getting that deck in the late 90's, but I never did buy it.  Nowadays, because it's still in high demand but is hard to find, it commands a very high price for those who are lucky enough to find someone who has this deck for sale.  I have seen the asking price of used copies of the Greenwood Tarot at $500!

But for now, you don't have to pay such a high fee to get the Wildwood Tarot deck.  Although if it ultimately goes out of print, as most decks do at some point, the price at that time can start rising significantly.

Thus, I cannot compare the Wildwood Tarot to the writer's previous work that became so popular with repeated requests for a reprint.  This review will focus solely on the Wildwood Tarot which was a two-year project between the team of Mark Ryan, John Matthews, and illustrator Will Worthington.  Instead of doing a reprint of that original deck, these creators decided to create something even better . . . and with their combined talents and wisdom, the Wildwood Tarot deck was born.

You won't find a Rider-Waite-Smith in this set of cards.  All of the 22 Major Arcana cards have been renamed for the Wildwood Tarot 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)

In this deck, the suit names are also different than tradition, and are named to represent this deck's theme and are associated with the seasons and elements.  The traditional suit name is noted in parenthesis:

Arrows - Air - Spring (Swords)
Bows - Fire - Summer (Wands)
Vessels - Water - Autumn (Cups)
Stones - Earth - Winter (Pentacles)

The cards of this deck maintain traditional titles as Page, Knight, Queen, and King.

The cards measure 3" x 4-3/4" with a white border on the face of the cards.  The cards are made on a quality cardstock that should last for years to come.  They are done with a matte finish rather than having any gloss coating.  In the bottom of each border is the name of the card.  The court cards also feature an animal association for that card, and the remainder of the Minor Arcana present a keyword with the name and number of the card.  For the Majors, just the number and title of the card are presented in the bottom border.

The backs of the cards are done in a plain dark green color with a thin white inner border and contain a small leaf design in each corner of that bordering line.  On each side of the card back is also the copyright notation for Will Worthington who is the artist for this deck.  The backs are reversible.

              Wildwood Tarot Wherein Wisdom ResidesThe accompanying guidebook is called "The Wildwood Tarot:  Wherein wisdom resides."  This softcover book is 160 pages and is filled with information.  As with all decks that vary from tradition and may be different than what you are used to in a tarot deck, I strongly recommend that you read this companion book.  You will get so much more out of a deck when you take the time to explore the book, and that certainly holds true for this book and deck set, too.

On the first page of Part One:  Into The Green (An Introduction by Mark Ryan), we are immediately told, "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 like that advice, because it truly is valid advice for this deck and any other deck for which we're lucky enough to get a guidebook.

Instead of the pages of this book being done in black and white, they are written in dark green and white.  Even the pictures of the cards are done in green hues and white.  I thought that was kind of neat, since this is a deck that also honors nature around us.  The color green is what I think of for nature.

The guidebook book is divided into three parts:

  • Part One – Into The Green:  An Introduction by Mark Ryan
  • Part Two – The Path Through the Forest:  The Cards And Their Meanings
  • Part Three – Finding Your Way:  Working with the Cards

In the section on working with the cards (Part Three), three useful spreads are presented that fit this deck well:  The Pathway Spread, the Bow Spread, and the World Tree Spread.  The latter was the one I tried as my first reading with this deck, and the results were amazing!

Two pages are dedicated to each of the major arcana cards, and the following sections are provided for each of the major cards:

  • Position on the Wheel (refers to the season and Pagan Sabbath)
  • Description
  • Meaning
  • Reading Points
  • Roots and Branches (keywords)

The pip cards (Ace through Ten) are presented similarly, but have a single page dedicated to those cards.  The pip cards include a keyword, a description, meaning, and reading points.

The court cards are the briefest presentation with one page for each and include an animal association, position on the wheel, meaning, reading points, and a small keyword section called "Tracks and Pathways."  I was wishing the court cards had more information, but overall, I really have no complaints.  The book is very well written and informative for using this set of tarot cards.

The meanings of the cards go beyond traditional systems of Tarot.  For example, in the first reading I did with this deck, a card that came up was the Ten of Arrows.  In traditional tarot, that would be the 10 of Swords -- not a card anyone enjoys seeing.  But the keyword for the Ten of Arrows is "instruction."  After reading the meaning in the book, it all came together intuitively, along with the rest of the cards I drew for the reading.  I used the "World Tree Spread" from the book that begins on page 147.

The art of this deck gives us a sense of fantasy and nature.  The coloring overall is not bright or vivid, but has a more earthy coloring.  The cards are beautifully detailed, taking you into forests, caves, and across land and water in all the seasons.

The cards and the book come packaged in a sturdy box with a lid that lifts off the box.  Inside you will first find the book, and underneath the book are two wells which each hold half the deck.  I am not fond of storing my cards in this manner, so I opted to use a tarot bag that I had made for these cards.  On the front of the box the Ancestor card (Hierophant) is featured, and on the book cover, we find the Hooded Man (The Hermit in traditional tarot).

There were only two cards within this deck that I saw which suggested nudity -- but the way the cards were done, everything is actually covered with nothing exposed.  Thus, this shouldn't be a deck to offend anyone in terms of nudity.  However, this deck is Pagan in nature, and it won't be for everyone.

Many scenes are lovely nature scenes, but for those who aren't accustomed to Pagan symbology, this deck might not call to those individuals or be the best deck for them, either as reader or as seeker.  I am not a Pagan, however, I still like this deck very much!  It's one of those rare treasures that spoke to me on such a meaningful level.  Having had this deck a mere week, I look forward to doing many more readings with this deck, for myself as well as others.

From the back of the box:

"The Wildwood Tarot will take you on a mystical journey for answers . . .

Look to the heart of a primeval forest where deep ancestral wisdom lies to help make sense of your world today.  A beautifully illustrated card deck, The Wildwood Tarot is fun to use as a meditation system, a divinatory oracle, or a source of profound knowledge.  The cards draw inspiration from pre-Celtic mythology and a belief system steeped in shamanic mysteries.  It's easy to quickly access the magical lore of the Wildwood through descriptions of each card revealing its historical and mythological background as well as is divinatory meaning.  From the Green Man and Woman to the Hooded Man and Blasted Oak, authors Mark Ryan and John Matthews introduce forest archetypes based in the seasonal rhythms and festivals of the ancient year. Step back in time to better understand where your life's path may lead."

I wanted to include the above description from the box because some box's descriptions can tend to "overrate" the cards and make them sound more appealing than what they end up being.  But the description above is quite accurate for The Wildwood Tarot and is not overrated by any means!

This deck also has a website, and you can visit it at:

Other decks by artist Will Worthington:

Deck Details - The Wildwood Tarot

Number of Cards in Deck: 78

Size of Cards:  3" x 4-3/4"

Included with deck:  160-page companion book

Major Arcana:  The Wanderer, The Shaman, The Seer, The Green Woman, The Green Man, The Ancestor,
The Forest Lovers, The Archer, The Stag, The Hooded Man, The Wheel, The Woodward, The Mirror
The Journey, Balance, The Guardian, The Blasted Oak, The Pole Star, The Moon On Water, The Sun of Life
The Great Bear, The World Tree

Suit Names: 
Arrows (Swords), Bows (Wands), Vessels (Cups), Stones (Pentacles)

Court Cards:  Page, Knight, Queen, King

Back Design of Cards:  The Wildwood
            Tarot Card Back

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