Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Plumes Ace to Five

by Marianne in


This post is part of a series in which I am exploring The Wooden Tarot. You can find other posts in this series here. For me, the joy of this deck is how much it challenges you to connect to your intuition, to make personal and meaningful connections with the card images according to your own instincts. That's the benefit and the challenge of going without a little white book! So, consider this to be, not an exhaustive or definitive almanac of card meanings, but rather, a catalogue of my impressions of these cards. I hope that they act as points of inspiration for you to make your own connections with the cards of The Wooden Tarot! 

Let's begin at the beginning of the suit of Plumes, with the God, or Ace of Plumes. (The Gods are one of my most favourite things about this deck, and I've spent a little time on them specifically in this post). The God of Plumes gives us clues about its suit - a feather, the alchemical symbol for air, and puffs of cloud for the background. We are entering the realm of Air, the realm of communication, information, perspective, reasoning, and intellect. Just a note on the artwork - until this very moment, I hadn't noticed that the God's hands and feather are shadowed onto its cloak. Isn't that such a beautiful touch, a little addition of depth and drama to the painting! 

From the Two of Plumes, it becomes clear that the God's feather is not the only plume in this suit, and the elemental connection with Air (and thus, the traditional suit of Swords) is reinforced by card by card, as we encounter more feathered and flying creatures. These wings, and the lemniscate that hovers above them, symbolise the sacred balance that underpins all the twos in the tarot.

What makes this card interesting for me is the waxing moon in the centre. It could almost be mistaken for a yin yang symbol, until you realise that the light is, like a waxing moon, coming to dominate the sphere. This suggests that the divine balance of the Two of Plumes is dynamic, in motion. When faced with this card in a reading, it calls us to ask whether we tip the balance towards the light or away from it. Are we waxing or waning in our energy, or the situation? Twos demand decisive action, and the Two of Plumes asks unequivocally which path we intend to choose - light, or dark?

The Three of Plumes is one of the most traditional, Rider-Waite inspired cards in the deck. The visual parallel between this card and the Three of Swords is obvious. Of course, the Wooden Tarot errs on the side of naturalistic (even when it is fantastical), and so we have an anatomical heart, rather than the symbolic heart we find in the Rider-Waite. This pierced organ reminds of the traditional meaning of this card - heartbreak, pain, emotional wounding, betrayal. 

It's in the Three of Plumes that we first encounter the second type of symbol in the suit of Plumes. Here, feathers have become flights for arrows, which reminds us of the double nature of the airy suit of Swords. I think I'm not the only reader to feel that this suit has always walked a fragile line between extreme clarity and cleverness, and the wielding of weapons. Just as feathers carry beautiful birds aloft in the cool, clear air, so too do they make arrows fly towards their targets. Arrows, too, are objects of both beauty and danger. They represent clarity, direction, momentum, and also injury, intention to harm, even death. In this way, the Wooden Tarot manages to stick to its own aesthetic guns (or arrows, as the case may be!), while still retaining the traditional tensions and double-edged nature of this suit. 

Put aside your arrows for a moment, and let's return to birds. The Four of Plumes shows a sweet little pigeon - or is it a dove? - in repose. She's lost some plumage (perhaps from those three arrows in the previous card!), and needs to take some time to recover. Again, we find quite a traditional message, if not a traditional image. The Four of Plumes invites us to recognise our limitations, to see where we're tired and worn out and over it, and to see the value of taking time out to rest and recover. Being a prolific taker of afternoon naps, I'm quite a fan of the Four of Swords, and this version of it seems extra comforting (perhaps I just identify more with pigeons than paladins?). 

The Five of Plumes sees a return to an image that was recurrent in the suit of Blooms, the visible third eye. This suggests to me that, when we find ourselves in a Five of Plumes situation, it's time to draw on our inner wisdom and intuition to navigate it. Here, a blue jay has returned to her nest to find three of her eggs broken (can I take this moment to admit that almost all I know about North American birds comes from being a baseball fan on the other side of the world?!). An attack has taken place, something irreplaceable has been lost. What can we do? The Five of Swords always challenges us to answer that question - do we need to surrender, do we fight back, do we try to make peace and mitigate our losses? The Five of Plumes shows a real moment of sorrow, the cost of conflict. We're asked, like this grieving Blue Jay, to open our third eyes to ease our suffering and find a solution.

As in all the suits, the Six offers some consolation and healing from the challenges of the Five. We'll look at the suit of Plumes, Six to Ten, in the next instalment of this series. 

What do you make of these cards? I'd love to hear your impressions and input in the comments!

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