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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Greenwood Tarot - Knight of Arrows

Greenwood Tarot, Ryan and Potter, 1996
I'm so happy to say I have now got a copy of the Greenwood Tarot by Mark Ryan and Chesca Potter, Thorsons 1996. I don't really know why the deck has reached cult, almost mythic, status. But I can't deny the images are powerful, much more so to me than the deck's offshoot, Wildwood Tarot (Ryan, Matthews and Worthington, 2011). I will draw from Greenwood this week.

The card seen today is Knight of Arrows, or Knight of Swords, represented by the Hawk. Each court card in Greenwood Tarot is represented by an animal instead of a human being. I would say that the companion book is of little use to interpreting the cards, particularly courts and minors. Clearly we are meant to find our own meaning in these images. The book merely says, ''Quick, graceful and master of the element of air, the hawk is a symbol of vision and power. The ability to fly and nest at high altitude and see prey and hunt from a great height brings a special reverence to this majestic and fearless and creature.' Actually, that bit of information is enough to set you off on all sorts of free association.

It is a beautiful image of the bird in flight against a spangle of sun, with the shape of an arrow and some accompanying spirals to remind us of the air aspect of the suit of arrows.
Wildwood Tarot

The Knight of Swords is air of air, 'Lord of the Winds and Breezes'. The hawk is such an apt choice for this Golden Dawn title. The hawk, like all birds of prey, has the enviable ability to spread its wings and ride the air, hovering and wheeling for long periods with barely a flap of its wings. It soars and wheels with great agility and speed. Certainly to our eyes, anchored to the surface of the earth as we are, it looks fearless! We also admire the hawk's amazing visual acuity, ability to spot tiny objects from long distances. The hawk's perspective on things is brought out more sharply in the Wildwood Tarot, while its freewheeling flight in the sun is emphasized in Greenwood. I like both images (I am a fan of Worthington's style, though some have commented and I tend to agree, that the art in Wildwood is a bit more 'cartoony' or 'comic bookish' than some of his other work.) Still, we can see the hawk's intense focus in Potter's Greenwood card, and I think overall, it speaks to me more of air and flight than does the Wildwood, which hints only at potential flight. As I meditate upon the Greenwood Knight of Arrows, I begin to visualise for myself the landscape below the hawk, and its wheeling, turning angles as the hawk soars over it.

The Knight of Arrows today, then, tells me to take the long perspective on things. Today is a day to view things both dispassionately and intensely --  from a distance, but with keen attention to detail. More than that, the image reminds me to spread my wings and enjoy the feel of the sun.


  1. Although I find the people in the Wildwood a bit cartoony, compared to Will's other work, there aren't all that many of them :D
    I like the freedom of Chesca's hawk, while I find Will's more fitted to the cold, sharpness of the Knight of Arrows... Still, I hope you do enjoy the sunshine :)

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