The Wild Ones!

Published by Alison Cross on

This week my blog posts have focussed on animal court cards – the Rabbit Tarot, the Ferret Tarot and now, the daddy of them all, the Wildwood Tarot Courts – every one of them a stunningly represented animal native to Northern Europe.

The deck, created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, is a reimagining of Ryan’s earlier and (these days!) hugely sought-after Greenwood Tarot, with Chesca Potter.  In this new deck, the artwork is by Will Worthington (Druidcraft Tarot, Greenman Tree Oracle, Druid Plant Oracle, Druid Animal Oracle).

We have the standard ranks of Page, Knight, Queen and King – but the suits themselves have been renamed – Bows for Wands, Arrows for Swords, Vessels for Cups and Stones for Pentacles.  That ‘Bows’ association may stump you for a moment until you remember that bows are not just for firing arrows, but also used for making fire and turning wood.

Having your entire court comprised of animals can be wonderfully freeing – you are not limited by those old associations for physical attributes, but, on the other hand, you need to do a certain amount of anthropomorphising to help you to apply them to living, breathing people.

The entire Wildwood fits into a complex Wheel of The Year layout (which you can see in the accompanying LWB and the watermark image on the Wildwood Tarot website (  All we need to know about it here is that, unlike the Thoth family, even the little Pages have their place in the grand scheme of things.  Which is nice because they tend to miss out on all the fun, yet they’re allllll about the fun!

Lets look at the Arrows (Swords) first – each of the courts is represented by a bird – which ties in nicely with the element of Air.  But don’t go fooling yourself that all birds = Arrows.  Birds appear in other suits too.  The accompanying book attributes these cards to the season of Spring

As you can see, the Page is a tiny close-to-the-ground bird, the Hawk represents the fast-moving Knight, the regal Swan represents the Queen and the vibrant fisherman Kingfisher represents the King.

Bows, or Wands as they are traditionally known, are represented by land creatures.  This suit is associated with Summer and the element of Fire. The Page is represented by the close-to-the-ground Stoat, the wily Fox as Knight, the fertile Hare for Queen and the fast-moving adder for King.

Here we have the Vessels family and as you can see they are all associated with water – which is handy because that’s the element associated with them too!  We have the playful Otter as Page, the speedy, slippery Eel as Knight, the instinct-driven Salmon as Queen and the patient Heron as King.  The Vessels are associated with the mists and mellow fruitfulness of Autumn.

Stones, representing Pentacles, has land creatures – and is associated with Earth and these characters occupy the Wheel of the Year around Winter.  The shy Lynx is our Page, the wild Horse is our Knight, the protective Bear is our Queen and the leader of the Stones pack is the Wolf.

For some excellent information on how to work with the Court Cards of the Wildwood, please visit their Wildblog where Caitlin Matthews has created some unique exercises and insights to these fascinating, but tricky courts.

You can keep up to date with what’s happening in the Wildwood by visiting their blog or their website – .

What do you think of the Wildwood Courts – like ’em? Love ’em? Loathe ’em?!

This deck is published by Eddison Sadd (Connections publishing).  Created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, artwork by Will Worthington

** EDIT** Eddison Sadd is now known as Eddison Books 20/4/17

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Jeffred · 29th May 2012 at 10:07 pm

I've been carrying the Wildwood deck with since January. I too find the Court Cards as animals a little challenging. I'm glad to see someone covering the topic.

Although this is the least interesting element in the deck to me. The more interest thing, and the one I haven't found an article on yet is the 8/11 difference. I'm used to Strength being 8 and Justice as 11, and usually I can make the necessary adjustment, when giving a reading. But, with the Wildwood, the fact that they've given the cards different names, besides Strength and Justice you've really got to pay attention to the Majors come up.

I find the deck a bit more challenging so i use it for readings for myself, and default back to the Robin Wood tarot for clients/general public.

    alisoncross · 30th May 2012 at 11:12 am

    FRED!!!!!! Great to see you here! How about I ask the Wildwood guys to write a blog post about the 8/11 flip? I'll drop you a line on FB when it's organised?

    Ali x

Priestess Tarot · 26th May 2012 at 8:38 pm

I find that you have to add in a little bit of Shamanic research into the Courts. I need to check out CaitlΓ¬n's blog: Not done that yet, but I do love the Courts in this deck πŸ™‚

    alisoncross · 28th May 2012 at 8:59 am

    There's a good number of blog posts written by Caitlin, specifically to help people with their understanding of the Court Cards.

    I find that just sitting quietly with these courts and letting myself think of the animal and any personal associations that I might have with it is also a good starting point.


Sharon · 26th May 2012 at 12:58 pm

The Wildwood courts are one of my favourites. The animals on the cards add an extra dimension to every reading I've done with them. I often use them for questions concerning my spiritual path, or for questions about personal development. The Wildwood deck is just amazing. I'm still in awe of the interview reading I did when I first acquired them πŸ™‚

    alisoncross · 28th May 2012 at 8:57 am

    Glad to hear it! You should copy this comment of yours over to the Comments box on the wildwood's website – it's great to see that people use it and love it, Sharon πŸ™‚

Mojo · 25th May 2012 at 10:56 pm

I agree with Bonkers, love the images and your explanation, but not sure I could do a reading with them (had a few bacardi and cokes!! LOL) But I love the images and love your blog Ali!

Mojo xx

    alisoncross · 26th May 2012 at 8:55 am

    Well, what to do is forget allllll about the book. Have a think about, say, a wren. It's tiny and unobtrusive. Lives close to the ground. It's the Page of Swords – swords concern intellect. Page of Swords can often stand for new study, new mental challenges…..for Druids, Wren was symbol of wisdom. Look at wrens – how to they move? are they bright and showy? are they unobtrusive? but it has a MASSIVE voice. It often chooses not to fly, but to scurry along on the ground. Just think of how that could be a person? Does that sort of thing help? If you like the imagery of this deck, please don't be discouraged by the Court Cards!

Bonkers · 25th May 2012 at 3:57 pm

bit of a formatting issue – one of your images shows up huge/stretches out your whole page.

otherwise, i love this post. the weird animal courts is actually one of the pain reasons (though not the only) i decided to give the wildwood deck a pass…reading your explanation/take on em is lovely

    Bonkers · 25th May 2012 at 3:58 pm

    *main, not pain, lol

    alisoncross · 25th May 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Bonkers – I was blithely trying to insert the images, but they were refusing to appear – that massive one was a rogue image. Deleted it now – thanks Bonkers πŸ˜€

    Ali x

    Mojo · 25th May 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I agree Bonkers, Ali's explanation is lovely, but not sure that I would be able to do a reading with them, unless I studied really hard the deck. (Hic, had a few bacardi and cokes!), but do like the images. Like your blog Ali!!
    Mojo xx

    Steve · 9th December 2017 at 11:53 am

    I understand your apprehension with the court cards. I have had this deck since September of 2016, and the first few months did not go well. The deck and I went back and forth where we would work together for a couple of weeks and then no contact at all for a few weeks.

    In May of this year, my wife and I visited Salem, Massachusetts to partake in some of the history of the witch trials. At the very last moment, I replaced the deck I was taking on vacation with The Wildwood.

    Something magical happened on that trip because the deck and I have been inseparable ever since. It's taken hard work, but now the deck is like a comfortable pair of slippers…it just feels right. I guess I just wasn't ready back when I purchased the deck; maybe I just had to grow as a person before the deck could speak to me.

    Alison Cross · 9th December 2017 at 2:44 pm

    So glad that you have been able to make a connection with this deck – it's a beauty and excellent to work with! Happy travels with The Wildwood!

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