The Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood Tarot was designed by Mark Ryan and John Matthews and illustrated by Will Worthington. The deck is a rethinking of the Greenwood Tarot (designed also by Mark Ryan), with redesigned images and a slight changing of the theme. The deck draws on natural pre-Celtic woodland symbolism to help us get in touch with our inner guide. The deck is based on the idea that as a species, humans have lost our connection with our subconscious, which in turn reflects our race becoming out-of-step with our planet. The deck encourages caring for our environment and reminds us that (at the moment), we have only one planet to live on, and we would be foolish to throw it away. Readings with this deck, then, often reflect also on one’s relationship with their surroundings, and the symbolism of the deck strongly relies on themes relating to nature and Man’s relationship with it.
The Wheel of the Year
The Minor and Major Arcana of the Wildwood Tarot are structured in such a way that while it reflects traditional Tarot structures (i.e., the Fool’s Journey and the flowing energy ofEinSof through the Sefirot), it is primarily based on the very natural idea of the passage of time and the cycle of the year. The edge of the Wheel is made up of the Minor Arcana, which divide then the wheel into four parts, or seasons: Arrows/Spring (Air), Bows/Summer (Fire), Vessels/Autumn (Water), and Stones/Winter (Earth). The Minor Arcana define the edges of the Wheel, and tell directly of the life-cycle associated with each season within the year. The Major Arcana are divided into three different wheels inside the Minors: The Outer Conscious Level, the Inner Human Level, and the Heart of the Wood. The Trumps represent the Fool’s Journey as seen in the frame of the passage of a year. The Major Arcana themselves are numbered in a way that corresponds roughly to the way they are numbered in more standard decks, but are more meaningful when looked at in terms of their position on the wheel.
Spring – The Time of Arrows
The Time of Arrows represents the start of the new year, the beginning of journeys, the potential of the future, and a time to celebrate coming out of the cold of winter. It is the season of Air, and represents the awakening of intellect, concepts, ambitions, and communication.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Arrows begins with the Breath of Life (Ace), coming from the mouth of the Uffington Horse. We start a new journey and begin to think of ideas for the coming year, putting them into practice and beginning to think about our potential. It represents renewed vitality and a knowledge of where you want to go and how to get there. It is the start of life itself.
Following the Breath, one is often disappointed when reality comes out to spar with one’s potential, and Injustice (Two) follows – for where there are clashing wills and life, there is injustice and the distortion of truth. The truth is obscured by multiple opposing views, and one must pierce through the haze to find the truth. As Spring goes on and Injustice exists, the lives of people become unbalanced, and the feeling of Jealousy (Three) comes to the fore. Emotions become tense, and fear, resentment, and disharmony begin to spread as people disagree on the truth and what to do with the new year. Negative feelings and emotions, often spurred by a loss in a time of plenty, often come in Spring.
Eventually, wounds are healed as time and people move on, and everyone reaches a state of Rest (Five). Rest is a second period of renewal, in which one puts aside their feelings of Injustice and Jealousy, emerging from a period of stress and entering one of peace. But feelings of peace, like any other feelings, are quickly shattered by Frustration (Five), as they emerge from their rest revitalized and full of energy, seeking to use their energy and put it to good use. However, an excess of energy misapplied leads to failure, disappointment, and frustration, and a squandering of resources.
Frustration, if handled properly, results in one stepping back and rethinking their actions and situation – which leads to a Transition (Six), in which one gives up the old path to try something new, whether it be to solve the frustrating problem or move away from it entirely onto a new plane of thought and personality. Drastic transitions often bring with them feelings of Insecurity (Seven), as (often unfounded) doubts and fears lead to confusion, anxiety, false impressions, and personal fragmentation. A lack of self-discipline is required in order to keep one’s identity and personality intact through their life, elsewise Insecurity will result.
One then will Struggle (Eight) with their feelings of Insecurity on their journey of Transition, and reminds us that the cold breath of winter has not yet left the year as the snows return for a brief period. One may have failed in some task or other, but the darkness will not last forever, and perseverance is needed to make your way out of the darkness of impending doom and defeat. Dedication (Nine) is also necessary to emerge from the dark days of despair, and the planting begins as summer nears, and the seeds are sown for a new harvest. The card Dedication represents focused energy, as one learns a particular skill and keeps to it, bettering both themselves and the community.
As the Time of Arrows draws to a close, the community draws together again and the elders teach the younger members what they need to know, and so begins a period of Instruction, and the passing on of life, knowledge, and wisdom to those who shall need it next. This card represents harmony and love between generations, as well as patience, tolerance, and good communication.
Major Arcana: The Wanderer‘s (0) journey begins in the Time of Arrows, as he steps forward from the realm of the known into the edge of the Wildwood, full of curiosity and an adventurous spirit. The Wanderer is the reader’s – or querent’s – significator, and represents the person themselves. He makes a leap of faith, jumping into the dark, following his heart and heeding the call that pulls him forward, his innocence allowing him to do what the more experienced cannot. They begin the journey with many questions and a desire to learn more about themselves and the Wood before them.
The Wanderer then begins to travel through space and time, along the Wheel (10) of time. The Wheel itself is placed at the Autumn Equinox, and is a reminder that Winter approaches, and that all things change, and that cycles are a part of nature. The Wheel also represents the Wheel of the Year that the Wanderer journeys through, and so holds a special place among the Trumps.
As Winter ends and Spring begins, the Wanderer steps into the Wildwood, and after a short trek inside encounters the Ancestor (5) on his inner level, representing ancestral wisdom and shared memory. She stands as the guardian of the inner secrets of the forest, and all who enter must meet her approval. She is nature’s patience and nature’s wisdom, to help others understand how they relate to themselves on their deepest level, and to the Wildwood.
As the Ancestor turns and leads the Wanderer forward, the Pole Star (17) manifests on the outer level reminds him to keep his bearings and to remember where he is. The Pole Star represents the higher will of God as seen in the creation of the heavens, and also the laws of the universe. The Pole Star will guide the Wanderer and keep him grounded, and reminds him of the natural laws of existence, and tells him of a hidden, unseen power that watches over everything.
As the height of Spring – the Equinox – approaches, the Wanderer experiences an enlightenment, the Wildwood stirring him from his unconscious state of being, and he awakens for the first time into the Archer (7). His mind blossoms and he is able to keenly perceive all that surrounds him, and knows that he has a will and can direct and focus it, like an arrow loosed from a shaft. The Wanderer learns to control his energy and will, and is able to calm himself both physically and mentally in order to do so. The Wanderer is filled with new life and purpose, and a new spring enters his stride as he follows the Ancestor onward.
On the conscious level – as the transformation into the Archer is unconscious – the Wanderer encounters also the majesty and grandeur of the Wildwood in the form of the Stag (8), king of the forest. He represents the strength of the forest, and also the laws of karma – one gets what one gives. Nature’s terrible beauty is revealed, and the unforgiving yet fair nature of the Wildwood is revealed. The Stag represents justice and continuation, and a return to balance and peace, sometimes kept through force of arms.
Court Cards: The four Lords of Arrows are birds, emerging as the Winter snows melt and Spring rears its head. The four Court Cards represent the four aspects of Spring, and the personality of the season. The Kingfisher (King) rules the spring, its dazzling plumage the admiration of all. The Kingfisher is powerful, willful, and able to judge wisely. It has no bias and sees everything clearly, and is not afraid to use its strength and maintain its freedom. He is strongest following the Imbolc.
The consort of the Kingfisher is the Swan (Queen), who is graceful, beautiful, and lonely. She is separate from everything that surrounds her, and lives often in solitude. Her beauty marks her also for destruction, and her own purity may bring her down. She has little, but she never loses her faith in her suffering, and is able to move on proudly. She is strongest before the Spring Equinox.
The Hawk (Knight) is swift, courageous, and eagle-eyed. He often acts without thinking, and is quick to anger and slow to forgiveness. He sees everything clearly, but understanding often eludes him. He brings messages, and his eyes can pierce through illusion and shadow. He is subtle and unafraid to do what he thinks must be done. He is strongest after the Spring Equinox.
Strongest before Beltane, the Wren (Page) is the guardian of mysteries, and alone holds the secrets of Winter, having lived through it, unlike many other birds. It is a studious creature, learning quickly and gaining great wisdom. It is determined to survive, and will gain all of the knowledge it can in order to do so. It works hard and reaps a bountiful harvest.
Summer – The Time of Bows
The Time of Bows represents the blooming of the Earth’s fertility, coming into its fullest, and the long, hot months of the beginning harvest and the prime of hunting. It is the season of Fire, of creativity, development, and will.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Bows begins with the Spark of Life (Ace), which adds on to the Breath of Life, and allowed for Life to come into its fullest potential. Life had begun to exist in the Time of Arrows, but now it has begun to exist with a purpose in the Time of Bows. It is no longer the tool, it is the wielder.
Coming with this new role in life, people must learn the art of how to make a Decision (Two). A confident course of action must be decided upon and taken, and there can be no looking back. One must strike out on their own and be unafraid. The gate is opening and the possibilities are endless. Once the decision is made, hopefully this helps one experience Fulfilment (Three). One’s goals are reaches and one’s desires satisfied, as one’s spirit rejoices in security. One knows who and what they are, having decided that, and are confident in themselves, having learn to use the bow to loose the arrow.
One then enters into a state of Celebration (Four) in order rejoice in this Fulfilment, and give thanks for good health, wealth, life, and safety and security. It is a time in which everyone is harmonious, blessing the warmth of summer, and when everyone sits back to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Honored by the community and by himself, the fulfilled individual feels a sense of Empowerment (Five), for they have succeeded in their endeavors, and are fertile and full of potential. They are ready to make more decisions and fully take charge of their own destiny.
As the Summer Solstice approaches, the community is filled with Abundance (Six), in which the first harvest is taken in, and joy can be taken in the success of one’s work. It is the best time of the year, when warmth kisses everyone’s face and the times are not hard. There is more than enough to go around, and the world is at peace.
But Autumn approaches, and soon after the Solstice clouds can be seen gathering and a chill felt in the air. The community realizes that its bountiful harvest will not last forever, and begins to put some things away, being careful not to squander resources, careful to prioritize things correctly and making decisions about the times ahead, giving the future some Clearance (Seven). As the chill seeps more and more into the air, the community gathers around the Hearthfire (Eight), enjoying one another’s company and purring inwardly with satisfaction. One knows the greatest peace with one’s close friends and family, and a sense of belonging pervades the scene and the card.
As one continues on the journey of the Year towards Winter, they will encounter obstacles again, and will have to learn to Respect (Nine) the wilds and those around him. This card is a reflection of respect given, not respect earned. The flipside of Respect is Humility, which is a virtue that must be learned so that one can truly Respect the world around him. And with great Respect comes great Responsibility (Ten), which one must learn before the Winter comes. One must learn to be stoic, determine, and develop stamina, for the tasks ahead will not be easy; everyone must be able to pull their load.
Major Arcana: As time passes and the Wanderer continues to travel his path through the Wildwood, he encounters the Forest Lovers (6) – Marian and Robin reborn. He feels the stirrings within himself as he longs to experience a union with another, joining forces with someone else to create a third force: life and a new state of being. He sees and understands how two polarized forces join together to make something new, and understands the attraction. He begins to view his relationship with the Wildwood in much the same vein, and understands the power of mutual love and respect, and sees how one must balance oneself.
And so then, on the conscious level, the Wanderer learns Balance (14), and sees how both light and dark are necessary, and how that without opposites there would be no vitality to life. Furthermore, he understands how important it is to balance his wild, natural nature with his refined, human one. It reminds him that every living thing has a connection to the planet, and that by not acknowledging this connection one will become doomed. The key to tranquility is being at one with oneself and perfectly balanced.
The Midsummer Solstice fast approaches, and the Wanderer encounters two spirits of the forest – the Green Man (4) and the Green Woman (3). They are the father and the mother of the forest, respectively. The Green Man is stern and watchful, the Dagda of the forest, and is virile and powerful. He protects his charges, the wild beasts of the forces, with great force and reminds the Wanderer that the king and kingdom are one and the same. He is stoic and ever-watching, and yet also has within him a great merriment and is exceedingly generous. Those who take advantage of him or his kingdom, however, soon find themselves wishing they hadn’t. The Green Woman is caring and nurturing, as fertile as the Green Man is virile. As the Green Man is active and filled with primal energy, the Green Woman is reserved and peaceful, guiding her charges forward. She is the challenger of the forest, and all who can meet her demands are blessed with love, warmth, and meaning.
In the sky above the Wanderer, the Sun of Life (19) reaches its fullest height, and the natural energies of the Wildwood – and of the Green Man and Woman – are at their highest height as well. The Sun brings warmth and light to the world, and allows for existence. It represents primal, raw power that fuels the world and keeps it going. It also represents clarity and moving into another, more aware state of mind and being. The Sun is also a star, and so also serves as a guide and reminds us that we are all made of the stars, and are part of the great circle of life.
Court Cards: The Lords of Bows are the masters of Summer, watchful and vigilant in their time of plenty, to ensure that what they have is not taken from them. The Adder (King) is strongest after Beltane, and despite the warmth of the weather, does not lose any of its seriousness. It is constantly competing for survival, and is extremely mature and intelligent. It is unerringly honest and has the greatest integrity, for it has nothing to hide its true nature. It is determined, wise, and strong, and will not give up its claims. The adder also, despite its venom, heals and helps bring balance and magic into the world.
The Hare (Queen) is the eternal partner and prey of the Adder, constantly engaged in a natural dance with it. She is extremely fertile and represents the potential of Spring carrying on into the Summer. She is kind and makes a marvelous companion, and brings with her success, courtesy, and a willingness to help. She is generous and understanding, but also is ever-vigilant, for she knows that many will take advantage of her and she is constantly hunted. The Hare is strongest before Midsummer.
Another predator, the Fox (Knight) rules in Summer during the Time of Bows as well.The Fox is cunning, able to move stealthily and silently to find its prey. He is both playful and wise, like a child mature beyond his or her years. He is constantly adapting and changing, and serves as a reminder that while change can be good, it often has a cost attached to it. He sees into the future and anticipates his opponents’ moves, and constantly moves himself, never remaining in one place for too long. He is strongest during Midsummer.
The Stoat (Page) rules after Midsummer and before Lammas. He is a fierce hunter and ferocious and flexible. He is associated strongly with the land, and will not move from it so long as he can. The Stoat is an ambassador and possesses regal splendor, and yet is mysterious and full of secrets. He is a prodigy and a very free spirit, unwilling to ever bow its head. He is a stranger to most, and rules the realm of dreams and vision.
Autumn – The Time of Vessels
The Time of Vessels represents the chill creeping back into the Earth, and the drawing together of the community and the preparations for Winter. It is a time of high emotion, great instinct, compassion, forgiveness, and romance and love. It the season of Water.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Vessels begin with the Waters of Life (Ace) filling the vessels of the suit and season, reawakening wisdom and the all-encompassing memory of the universal soul, ready to inspire the people to begin their quest anew, for rough times lie ahead. As the community begins to work together again, emotions of intimacy and Attraction (Two) are kindled in the people, and opposites begin to attract as opposing polarities draw together in friendship and love. Attraction is the spark that begins all relationships, and is tempered, refined, and strengthened by the need to work together to prepare for the coming Winter.
As two people attracted to each other work together, they experience Joy (Three) at their intimacy, and also at the unity of the community and the family. It represents rejoicing at the safe and successful return of a group of people, and welcoming them back into the community, with the promise of new lives and bounty. As the community continues to work hard, some begin to suffer from Boredom (Four) and a lethargy of the soul, unable to bring themselves to do anything, and missing the point of the labor. The individual begins to waste resources and energy, and becomes trapped in a cycle of inaction and squandering. They have lost their momentum, and it must be regained.
And when it is, they experience a sense of Ecstasy (Five) at the return of purpose, and are renewed and revitalized when the drums of the universe sound, calling them back to their duty. Others in the group hear the drums as well and take a short break, letting themselves surrender to the dance of Life for a short while, reveling in their existence. The lethargic soul then experiences a Reunion (Six) with the active souls, and the two soon-to-be lovers of before are reunited, and the secrets of reincarnation is taught, in which the lovers learn that they were meant to be and had united over past lifetimes and aeons. Ancestral memory from the Waters of Life returns also, reuniting the community with the world and universe.
The summer has, by this time, largely left the world, and Winter now looms over the forest and its inhabitants. The time has come for Mourning (Seven), to bid farewell to summer and let it go. It is a time to mourn all that is lost, and to also put the past behind and move onward with life at peace with what has passed. With this Mourning comes then also Rebirth (Eight), in which one learns from one’s mistakes and gains new insights and wisdom. The lessons of the past inform the future, and we move forward in our lives, putting our new knowledge to good use and connecting all times: past, present, and future.
One of the lessons learned from the past is that of Generosity (Nine) – both in terms of giving and receiving. One reaps what one sows, and if one is compassionate, respectful, and generous to others and to nature, they will receive the same in kind. When one gives, one also gains, and as one gives and gains, they experience Happiness (Ten). One receives the benefits of one’s kindness, and their heart’s desire is fulfilled. They become pure and clean, and understand the true meaning of life and what to best gain from it, and so are able to ignore the dark shadow of Winter that looms overhead.
Major Arcana: The Wanderer’s journey continues, and fall approaches. Energy begins to recede from the Earth, and he must rely on his own inner stores in order to survive. As Lammas arrives, a drastic change takes place in the Wanderer’s life as he encounters the Blasted Oak (16), and he is reminded that nature destroys as well as creates, and that things can come out of the blue. He is awakened suddenly from a state of half-slumber by the brilliance of the bolt, and breaks away from the traditional path in his shock. The Blasted Oak demonstrates the primal power of nature, and a clean break from the old and into the new. But just as the oak burns and his destroyed, new plants will feed on its ashes, and it will rise up again in the form of its successors
As he moves on onto a new path, the Wanderer encounters next the Woodward (11). The Woodward is strong and wise, filled with a practical knowledge that allows him to survive in the wilderness. He is the cat of the forest, and knows precisely where he is going. He is both the hunter and the protector of the forest, acting as a warden and guard. He points the way for the Wanderer, and accompanies him for a time, lending him strength. He is mature and understands the balance of nature, and teaches the Wanderer what he knows. He is fierce and in control of his emotions, and is also merciful in those times when the Stag is not. The Wanderer consciously learns from the dweller of the forest.
The Wanderer then comes face to face with himself, and he looks at his life and self through the lens of the Mirror (12). He sees the approach of Winter and looks deeply at himself to understand what he can do to prepare. He rests after the shock and trauma of the Blasted Oak, using the guidance of the Woodward to reflect and think on what has happened. He begins to grow inside, developing his spirit and mind, and heals his wounds. He begins to truly understand the nature of the Wildwood by looking at himself, and understands that he is merely a microcosm of the world and universe. He sees clearly the influences of fate in his life, and begins to regain his virility and vitality. He is also reminded by the mirror of the passage of time and the Wheel (10) on a more conscious level, and he reminds himself that all things change and so he will move on with the seasons.
Court Cards: The Lords of Vessels are the master of Autumn, wise and frugal, preparing for the long Winter that lies ahead. The Heron (King) rules the Autumn, and is the first to wake and greet the changes coming into his life. He is the guardian of esoteric knowledge, and serves as the guardian of the gates of life and death. He speaks on behalf of the deceased as they journey to the afterlife, and welcomes them upon their reincarnation. He is fair, honest, and responsible, having great hidden power. He always considers others and is often affectionate. The Heron is strongest after Lammas.
His prey, the Salmon (Queen), is also a master of the Time of Vessels. The Salmon is virtuous, devoted, and single-minded. She sees things simply, understanding that complexity sometimes is meaningless, and understands the heart of the matter. The Salmon is a symbol of recovery and security, and is caring and loving, devoted to and pampering of her charges, whom she cherishes. The Salmon is strongest before the Autumnal Equinox.
The Eel (Knight), another fish, is wise and is happy to spread its wisdom. It is welcoming and seductive with its sinuous curves, and represents the attraction found in life. It represents union and induction as well, and is very agreeable and a broker of peace. The Eel is also strong and is able to conquer that which it wishes. It is strongest during the Autumnal Equinox.
The Otter (Page) is the ultimate hunter of fish, and is also unerringly loyal and devoted. She is perceptive and happy to help and serve others; the perfect vassal. She is a great thinker and dreamer, able to see things that others don’t. She studies and learns, and is more than happy to cooperate with others. The Otter possesses also the ability to move between worlds without effort, gaining insight from this movement. She is strongest before Samhain.
Winter – The Time of Stones
The Time of Stones is one of using what was one has stored, practicality, frugality, and a material focus in a time of hardship. It is the end of the journey, and also the start of a new cycle, as it leads directly into spring. It is a season of gain, possession, achievement, and physical and worldly ambitions. It is the season of Earth.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Stones begins with the Foundation of Life (Ace), in which the existence, drive, and wisdom of the previous three seasons are put into practice and become something tangible and real; for what use are ideas if they cannot help improve existence? Inevitably, when one brings something new into the lives of the community, there will be a Challenge (Two) from someone else that will have to be met head-on. One’s position will be challenged and they will have to fight for their selves and the sake of the community. Competition breeds success in moderation, and one must learn how to compete and fight for dominance without becoming emotionally involved.
Competition breeds also Creativity (Three), as the artist, the inventor, and the leader listen to the whisperings of the forest and let themselves be inspired. This is the card of Afflatus Divine, of listening to one’s inner self and finding in there new ideas and creativity.
As Winter approaches its height, it becomes necessary to seek Protection (Four) from its wild ravages, seeking shelter from the snows and cold. The vulnerable are protected and allowed to grow, while the hope of warmth and the sun remains to keep us going. In order to make it through the end, though, we need to learn Endurance (Five), and take strength from our inner self. Both physical and emotional resilience will be necessary of one is is to endure.
Exploitation (Six) speaks of the dangers of squandering resources and energy, and reduces people to beggars, left with nothing but the ability to wither away to nothing and die. When one overuses the Earth, or takes without giving back, they lose all they have and so have nothing in the harsh months of Winter. In order to survive, one must not be selfish or inconsiderate. When one realizes the error of their ways, Healing (Seven) can begin as a period of rejuvenation, inner calm, and rest, with the purpose of making oneself whole and healthy again. This card reminds us that emotional and physical wounds will heal, and that the healing of the spirit is the only way to truly become whole once again and recover completely.
As one lives in the harsh snows and temperatures of Winter, one gains much Skill (Eight) and experience in the ways of Life, and has learned skills that allow one to survive: practical tasks and labor necessary for the continuation of both life and love. The passing on of skills from generation to generation lead to the establishment and carrying on of Tradition (Nine), and a respect for the past and the sacrifices one’s ancestors made to gain wisdom and knowledge. This card also represents the passing on of said knowledge and wisdom, and the connection between all peoples of all times.
Throughout the long months of winter, one thing remains constant: Home (Ten). Home is not just a physical place, but an emotional one as well, representing the supportive community that surrounds the individual, supporting them and rising them up above the masses. Home is where the heart is, and it is the home that allows one to endure and see the blossoms of Spring.
Major Arcana: Winter has come, and the Wanderer is cold. The night of Samhain approaches, and as the chill suffuses the air, the Guardian (15) greets the Wanderer, posing riddles and taunting him, laughing and mocking they who try to carry on through the cold months. Appearing as the skeleton of a cave bear, the Guardian stalks forth from the cave holding the secrets of ancestral memory, and forces the Wanderer to realize his own inner darkness with harsh words and terrible insights. He causes the Wanderer to fear himself and everything around him, even when there might be no reason for fear at all. He challenges the Wanderer before he can enter the cave of ancestral memory, and grows stronger on the Wanderer’s fear and paranoia. The Wanderer cannot pass until he has conquered his own paranoia, fears, and suspicions, for otherwise the Guardian will be too strong. The Guardian represents all that is dark within us, and also symbolizes the wild wilderness within us all, that which we fear to let come to the surface: until we realize the dark secrets of the Guardian, we are lost to ourselves.
Encountering the Guardian prepared the way for the Wanderer’s new Journey (13), as the Wanderer’s world is turned once more upside-down. The Wanderer is reminded of the inevitability of death, change, and transitions, but also comes to accept that there is nothing he can do to alter it, and that these transformations are a vital and necessary part of life. The Journey is a reminder that there are paths that all things take through time, and that the cycle goes on and on, as things die and are reborn. The Wanderer again takes a step out into the darkness, trusting that he will arrive where he needs to go, and that he will be purified by it.
As the Midwinter Solstice approaches, the cold sets in long and hard, and the Wanderer retreats into himself and a hiding place to wait out the snows, becoming the Hooded Man (9). The Wanderer reflects on himself without any other around, and realizes many things about his own existence. Knowledge becomes illuminated and he begins to truly understand himself and the world around him, and his place in it. He becomes calm and tranquil, suspending himself from the wild and waiting calmly for the Winter to end, while life goes by without.
As the Wanderer reflects in the form of the Hooded Man, he sees a vision of the Great Bear (20) appear before him, come to judge him and give him what he deserves. The Great Bear stands before the gates to the realm of the dead and spirits, that realm which the Wanderer ultimately has realized that he seeks to understand. The Great Bear judges our lives through the eyes of nature, and its eyes are unclouded by morals and divinity. It thinks merely of balance and practicality, and rewards you with what you have done with your life, whether it be good or bad, helpful or harmful. The Great Bear represents nature’s final judgment of oneself, and none can escape that final truth of cosmic law. The Bear also represents renewal and reincarnation, as well as a passage into the realms of the mystical.
The Moon on Water (18) is its highest at the Midwinter Solstice, and the primal power of nature as seen on Earth rears its head and roars. It is at this point that the Wanderer’s consciousness is at its height, and the path to illumination, knowledge, and wisdom becomes clear, as the rest of the world goes still, quivering with potential power. The world around the Wanderer is reborn as Winter begins to end, new life arising from death, fertility coming from decay. Potential is hidden within the moon, the light waiting to come out of darkness, the egg from the womb, and with this realization of the constant nature of the circle of rebirth, the Wanderer walks the path of the Moon, and enters the Heart of the Wildwood.
Court Cards: The Lords of Stones are masters of Winter, untroubled the cold and snows. The ruler of Winter and the Time of Stones is the Wolf (King), whose communal spirit and ruthless hunting and tracking skills allow him to survive in the dead of winter. He guards the dead as they pass on to the underworld and a new life. He is logical and reasoning, loyal and determined. He is healthy and practical, able to compute, calculate, and appraise. He is also a very good and fair barterer. He is most powerful after Samhain.
The Cave Bear (Queen) sleeps during the winter, and so survives through inactivity, as the King survives through activity. The Bear is generous and has more than enough, and has no fear of the Winter that lies ahead. She is honest and always keeps her promises, filled with power. She is also protective, and trusts in the land to protect her as she protects the land. She is successful and reassuring, and her power waxes before Midwinter.
The stubborn and indomitable Horse (Knight) also reigns over the Winter, persevering through the cold months through sheer force of will. The Horse is healthy and strong, able to quickly understand what is needed, and able to get a lot out of a little. The Horse is kind and helpful, and makes a good friend and ally, who brings profit to those around it. The strength of the Horse is strongest during Midwinter.
Master of cats, the Lynx (Page) sits at the top of the food chain, ever watching, ever hidden. She is a great teacher, and teaches and learns by example. She is careful and cautious, reflecting on everything around her and watching others to learn about them and herself. She represents learning and apprentices, and reminds us that we are always learning and always teaching. She survives through the winter because of her ability to learn from those around her, studying the forest. She is strongest after Midwinter and before Imbolc, at which point her power waves and passes on to the Kingfisher (King of Arrows).
The Heart of the Wildwood
Major Arcana: In the Heart of the Wildwood, there are no seasons ad time passes differently, as the memory of all living things merges into one at the foot of Yggdrasill. The Wanderer first encounters the Shaman (1), who reaches out to embrace and protect the Wanderer as he enters the Wildwood’s Heart. He is the master of the elements, able to manipulate them to his will, and he teaches the Wanderer to do the same. He represents the different levels of consciousness and energy within the Wanderer, and helps him come to terms fully with his entire being. He represents the knowledge gained by the Wanderer after his time spend with the Woodsman. The Shaman teaches the Wanderer also empathy and the ability to communicate with all life, and is at one with the living universe. He is magical and a master of intellect and knowledge, knowing all there is to know about the Wildwood. He is the wild man of the woods, and the primal knowledge within us all. He is Air.
The Seer stands before Wanderer next, ruling the realm of intuition and emotion, as the Shaman rules intellect and reason. She is as mysterious as the Shaman is open, and represents the “dark” side of his “light.” She sees into the future as the shaman learns from the past. She is wise and patient, and advises the Wanderer in the realms of instinct. She represents the wisdom gained from the Wanderer’s period of solitude as the Hooded Man. She represents inner knowledge and wisdom, and coming into oneself, as the Shaman represents coming into one’s surroundings. She is in control of her emotions and is perfectly balanced. She is Water.
The Wanderer (0) then is finally at peace with himself and the universe, and he becomes Earth. Having known well and understood the lessons of the Shaman and the Seer, the Wanderer finds the last obstacles before him falling away, and steps forward through the labyrinth to embrace the World Tree (21). The Wanderer must make use of the skills he has learned to traverse the labyrinth before the World Tree and enter its open door. He becomes complete and blends in with the world, and sees the divinity and sacredness within all life and all existence, understanding fully the complexity and simplicity of the universe. He understands his place within existence, and so becomes one with everything. The World Tree represents both the end of the Wanderer’s Journey and the beginning of something greater, passing into the realm of the other and understanding it all.