Greenwood Tarot Written and Illustrated by Mark Ryan and
Review by Valerie Sim-Behi
This is part of a larger article on Tarot and the Shaman
Chesca Potter says, in her introduction to the "On Line Greenwood Tarot Handbook" found here:
"It is obvious that to an earlier hunting and gathering culture, subtle observation of seasonal change was essential for survival. The tarot is subtitled the ‘pre-Celtic Shamanism of the Mythic Forest’. This means that I have traced the origins of the archetypal figures in the tarot back to their pre-historic roots; taking what is most ancient and updating it, so that it is relevant to the contemporary world. It took me four years to research and recreate the Greenwood Tarot; I lived it day and night. I was continually struck by the importance of the tarot as a unified system, a wonderful map, combining and explaining psychological states, deities, archetypes, and the natural world. The Greenwood Tarot is a form of eco-psychology, a modern shamanism. I believe in magic, in wonder, in the extraordinary that can occur when one’s heart is open to possibilities…The Greenwood Tarot aims to give a coherent European shamanic system so that there is no need to steal imagery from other cultures."
As stated in my introduction to the individual reviews, I see quite a bit of symbolism in this deck that I regard as more specifically pagan than I do shamanic, but this is nevertheless a good deck with a real shamanic feel. It stands alone in the hundreds of tarot decks as one that accomplishes a feeling for genuine Celtic shamanism, although the author does state that it is more precisely "pre-Celtic". Some cards are in fact pre-Celtic to the point of prehistoric, as in the chiseller depicted in the Eight of Stones.
A card I really like is the Two of Wands, an illustration that is based on the chalk figure of the ‘Long One of Wilmington’, UK. In this card, the Shaman literally stands in the gateway between two worlds, though it is more indicative of a choice between old world and new than it is between the differing realities of the Upper, Middle and Lower Worlds. It symbolizes understanding and reawakening.
The Strength card reminds me of the Sekmet statues in Egypt, but the animal-headed statue on top of this woman’s spear predates the Sekmet statues by 28,000 years. This is a great card for the Shaman, as it stands for the courage, strength and balance necessary for dedication to a path that is both misunderstood and feared by many. Ms. Potter says of the card: "It is a card of fullness seeking release…ecstatic dance or trance that could become oracular…"
The Seer is depicted at twilight when legends say that the veil between the worlds is thin. Her cloak/mask are of the barn owl, which symbolizes the heart of the land.
I highly recommend this deck for self exploration to the person on the path of the Celtic (or pre-Celtic) Shaman.
You can read another review of the Greenwood Tarot by Michele Jackson here.
If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.
Greenwood Tarot by Mark Ryan and Chesca Potter
Valerie Sim-Behi is the founder and moderator of Comparative Tarot, an email list devoted to studying cards of different decks in comparison to each other. She has worked with the tarot for over 30 years. Valerie created a spread that will appear in the book accompanying the Victoria-Regina Tarot by Sarah Ovenall, and has written various articles, including one on the Comparative Tarot method that will be published in Llewellyn's Tarot Calendar 2002. You can visit Valerie at the Comparative Tarot website. Valerie wants to offer special thanks to Leah Pugh, Scanner Goddess for this series.
Review © 2001 Valerie Sim-Behi
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes
Images © 1996 Thorsons Publishing