The Wildwood Tarot is unlike most other decks I've seen in both its energy and its artwork. Traditional card explanations often fail to resonate with the rich imagery of the cards. And after reading with the deck for a year and a half, I find that often the explanation given in the companion book is equally inadequate to answer my questions.
But it doesn't matter. Moreso than any other deck I've encountered, The Wildwood Tarot gives me answers by taking me on a journey through the scenes depicted on the cards. And the figures in those scenes often have messages the deck's companion book doesn't contain. Sometimes the message is only for me. Sometimes it is meant to be shared. This is, I think, such a time. A few days ago I drew these cards.
This is what they showed me.
If you step onto the witch's path, at some point on your journey you might come to a fork in the road, a dividing of the path. And you might see at that moment how one path opens ahead over level ground, through bright sunlight, while the other descends into uneven ground and shadows under looming trees.
At this crossroads a guardian might wait, beckoning you to step forward, and to choose.
And you will know, somehow, that if you follow the bright path, you will have fellow-travelers on your journey, and the way will remain reasonably smooth. If you ask the guardian, "Will I be happy on the bright path?" he or she will answer "You will be content."
You will also know that if you follow the path through the shadows, you'll keep company with gods and spirits and wild magic, but you'll have fewer human companions on your journey. Your companions might ask uncomfortable questions, and receive even more uncomfortable answers. You will either have a lot of explaining to do, or leave a lot of questions unanswered--or, most likely, both. And often you will be lonely, the inevitable side-effect of walking between worlds. And if you ask the guardian, "Will I be happy on the shadowed path?" she or he will answer "You will be fulfilled."
Personally, I can accept a path with few fellow travelers, but I can't live without knowing what lies along the darker, deeper way. And I'm blessed to have a few souls who love me enough to give me the space I need to walk my path, and to accept there will sometimes be things I can't explain, questions I can't answer. Yes, I am sometimes lonely, but I am not alone. It makes the choice an easy one.
Mind you, not every witch has to choose between companionship and fulfillment. But if you do, know there's no wrong choice. You won't be punished for your choice, whatever it is, and there's not shame in preferring a life you can share with the people around you. There is only the question of what you need most; human companionship, or the mystery under the trees and the wondrous, uneasy company of the unseen.
When gathering roots for spells or medicine, there are wise ways to do the digging. It will take some time—all worthwhile things do. But a root properly freed from the soil makes potent magic.
Don’t hurry with shovels and sweat and strain, trampling the ground you dig them from.
Love the plants whose lives you take.
Know their names.
Know the way the light shines through their leaves as the sun rises or sets. Know them beaded with dew or rain.
Know the smell, taste and texture of the flowers when they bloom.
Greet them with affection, and ask if they will give themselves to you.
Leave an offering in exchange for their sacrifice: Clean water for their brothers and sisters, perhaps, or a poem in their honor. Or better yet, plant new seeds and bless them.
Only then should you part the earth with your trowel, and push the soil away from the roots with care.
Keep your thoughts on gratitude for the way the roots will help you as you wrap your hand around the root to pull it from the earth. Send down into the the soil the green energy that pulses all around you, the shining of the moon, the warmth of the sun, the tenderness of the rain.
Pull patiently, and feel the root release from the soil, sliding free into your waiting hand.
When you have finished, linger a moment in green company. Fill the holes from your digging as best you can, blessing the ground and the ones who remain.
As witches, we learn to work with the energies of nature's cycles: the waxing and waning of the moon, the changes of the seasons. As the moon wanes, we let things go, give things away, in all areas of our lives.
During the last waning moon I was shredding junk mail, and as I opened the security envelopes I was captivated by the lovely patterns on the insides. Some of them were so pretty I couldn't bring myself to throw them in the recycle bin, so I started setting them aside. When I had amassed a good sized pile of them, I remembered the punch I bought last year to make tags for favors at my wedding. As soon as I finished shredding and recycling, I hurried into my studio to play. The little tags turned out just as I hoped they would, so I thought I'd share the process with you. Admittedly, this is such a simple project it hardly requires a tutorial, but just in case you need it, I give you:
You will need:
A pair of scissors
A tag-shaped stencil, die-cut, or other template.
Junk mail envelopes with interior patterns
A hole punch (unless your die has a hole already).
Step 1: Carefully open the envelope along the seams by tearing or cutting.
Step 2: If you are using a punch, insert the envelope. If you want to be careful about how the pattern lines up with the tag, flip the punch upside down so you can see where it will cut, and line your envelope up. You may find it's easier to cut the envelope into pieces so you have more flat edges before you start punching out tags.
Step 3: Punch out your tag, or if you are using a stencil, trace and cut.
Step 4: Punch a hole in the appropriate place.
I use my tags to label my jars of potions and elixirs, but they would also make beautiful gift tags.
This solstice morning I went into the garden. I lit candles for the four directions, and one for the summer sun at its height. I burned a smudge stick of red cedar and rosemary, offering sacred smoke to the spirits. I poured out old infused oils in the corners of the garden, returning to the earth with gratitude what she loaned me for a time.
And to the blooming vervain I offered a strong infusion of nettles for her nourishment, because the time has come to harvest her leaves and flowers for magic.
I sat beside the vervain with a mug of tea, crushed a leaf of vervain in my hands and drew a pentacle on my forehead with its juice. Seconds after this simple act, my body was flooded with a tingling awareness of otherness, and at the same time, a deep stillness and groundedness. Prior to this forehead anointing my thoughts were scattered, and I was struggling to focus on my purpose. After, I felt completely present and tuned in--both fully in my body and fully aware of the unseen. For a time I just closed my eyes and listened: to the birds singing and the breeze moving the leaves of the cherry tree. And, eventually, to the whispers of vervain herself, who told me of her ability to help the magical practitioner live comfortably in two worlds at once, and to travel more deeply into both realities. I felt wrapped in the calm, deep magic of this plant.
After a time, I knew our moment of communion was finished. I cut a handful of vervain, and another of mugwort.
I offered water to the thirsty garden. Then I brought the candles indoors to finish burning safely.
Later I will make an elixir for clearer visions and deeper journeys. For now, it's enough to bask in the high point of summer's light.