The strange and beautiful Wooden Tarot has been sitting on my shelf for a while. Every few months, I take the cards out and peer at them, filled with longing and curiosity, before tucking them back into the box and stepping away. Why, you ask? It's tricky. I felt very drawn to the artwork of this unique deck, but until now, something about it has made me reluctant to read with it. The images are odd, many of them unorthodox in terms of traditional tarot symbolism, and the deck comes with not even a skerrick of a little white book to guide a lost traveler on the path. The deck's unifying philosophy seemed opaque to me, at a glance at least, and I long delayed sitting down with it and putting some in serious study. I couldn't walk away altogether, though, and something about it kept nagging at me.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I wanted to work more closely with deck images, and bring a deeper level of visual interpretation to my readings. What better place to work those muscles than with a deck that offers only visual information, no text or theory for my academic brain to latch onto? This little project has been nipping at my heels for a while, and finally, the time has come. The Wooden Tarot and I are going to get familiar!
I'll be documenting my progress here on the blog, which I hope will be interesting for you, and also useful to anyone else who might be working with this deck. At this stage, I haven't developed a formal curriculum, but I imagine this work will combine tarot readings, studies of the suits, meanings of individual cards, and any other exercises I turn up along the way.
With any new deck, it's nice to start with introductions! Thus, a deck interview spread, courtesy of the delightful workings of Little Red Tarot. Here's what I came up with.
1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic? Six of Plumes
The deck leaves behind what is extraneous and goes straight for the point. In a way, I feel like this mallard duck is swimming away from me, and I'm grasping at feathers, crying, "Wait! I don't know what you mean!" At the moment, "the point" feels elusive. Maybe that is the point - this deck can be elusive, and isn't going to go slow and accommodate those of us who might not be so quick on the uptake!
Interesting that this and the following card are both sixes. I think this deck will be deeply engaged with positive transformation, it loves to bear witness to shifting situations, and work through transitions. Movement is key among its interests. I think this will be a great deck for reading on questions of change.
2. What are your strengths as a deck? Six of Stones
Its strength is providing a container for that positive transformation - the most compelling thing in this image for me is the encircling antler, which feels like a supportive, enveloping web that gathers things (people, ideas, opportunities) together and raises them up. Reading strictly from the image, my strongest connection with this card is the idea of support. This deck is able to hold a lot, and it will use its resources to encourage transition and elevation.
3. What are your limits as a deck? XIV Temperance
It is slippery, like an otter! It combines many things, plays many roles, and perhaps these disparate parts and themes don't always add up. Just when you think you're dealing with one thing, this deck becomes another, and meaning slips through your fingers.
It may be, too, that Temperance suggests that sometimes this deck sits too much on the fence, hedging its bets, unwilling to go firmly one way or the other in a reading. Could Temperance point to indecisiveness? It may be that the supportive Six of Stones means that sometimes it might pull punches, preferring to coddle rather than deliver things straight. I didn't expect to feel over-nurtured by this deck, but maybe that will be the case!
4. What are you here to teach me? King of Bones
My first thought upon looking at the image is about the age of this venerable, ancient mammoth skull, covered in leaves, lichen, and one stray mushroom. The King of Bones represents the wisdom of lifetimes, won not through study but through practical engagement with the world. There is old wisdom here, deeply rooted. This deck will teach me to dig it up!
5. How can I best learn from and collaborate with you? Eight of Blooms
By peering into the looking glass! This card seems like a mirror, but not one that shows your reflection as you expect to see it. There are chasms to be ventured into here, journeys to make into unknown realms. The best way to engage with this deck is to allow it to transport you. Peer into the mirror and be open to what you see, even if it is alarming, confusing or mysterious. This is an invitation to adventure, possibly down a strange rabbit hole!
6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship? Queen of Stones
Passion? Self discovery? I feel as though this image doesn't give much away, but they are the associations that roll off the tongue when I look at it. The crystals are bursting out of the skin of the doe's neck, but she seems unbothered. Working with this deck will us both to blossom - possibly in a weird way! - and grow. It feels very... embodied, bodily, physical. It may be uncomfortable at times, but this working relationship will be dynamic and flexible enough to allow for mutation and expansion.
I presume the moon is intended to signify feminine or yin energy for the Queen, which in turn makes me think of the plumbing of subconscious depths. Perhaps through working with this deck, hidden worlds will be revealed. The subconscious and subterranean seem particularly important, things bursting out of dark places. My feeling is that this card is about shining a light on what is hidden, letting it come out of you and into the open. A wonderful outcome for work with a tarot deck!
It was my intention when approaching this reading to stay close to the images, and to make associations without trying to justify or systematise everything that popped into my head. It doesn't feel wholly coherent now, but over time, I hope this way of working will give rise to an organic and personal system of interpretation for this deck. Let's see, anyway!
Interested in joining me on this weird and wonderful journey? Pick up your own copy of The Wooden Tarot here (this is not an ad or an affiliated link, just a nudge in the direction of an artist whose work I genuinely love!).
Working with The Wooden Tarot already? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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