In my previous post, Is the Greenwood Tarot Worth It? (Part 1), I started writing about whether the Greenwood Tarot deck, by Chesca Potter and Mark Ryan, is worth the effort and expense to obtain. In that post I gave an overview of the deck’s history and how it came to be a collector’s item. I will continue by looking at how this deck might be used.

What, exactly, is the context for “worth it?” The way I see it, this deck can be obtained for use in three contexts:

  1. As a collectible whose value is by being owned and (hopefully) admired.
  2. As a deck that will be gently used by someone who wants it for comparative study and maybe a meditation focus.
  3. As a working deck for someone who wants to use it for readings.

As a Collectible

The collector might obtain deck rarities simply for their exclusiveness, or might appreciate the artwork aesthetically. I think of this as collecting an art item, which means considering the art style of these cards. As I wrote last time:

The majors are illustrated in great detail, with what I think of as colored pencil, and look as if they are formed out of light. The court cards are all animals and similar in style. The minors, however, use a primitive style reminiscent of hand-color wood prints; but even these often evoke a feeling that they are composed of light.

I think the artwork for this deck is wonderful. I love the light-filled, detailed trumps and court cards, where new details can seemingly be found with every view. I remember the first time I noticed the chalk figure in the Greenman, for example; the curled tiger cub in Strength; and the figures in the Wheel of Fortune. Many of the court cards are executed in a way that feels like they were infused with joy at their creation. One of my favorite cards is the World Tree, where the surrounding labyrinth looks like it’s shimmering and floating around the trunk.

I love the art of the minors as well. The powerfully vibrant 2 of Stones comes to my mind, as if I had a bright light after-image of it on my retinas. The 4 of Stones is a favorite, with a faun protected among standing stones. The 7 of Arrows reminds me of an Edward Gorey print. Many of these cards look like they were capturing visions of light, and one shamanic worker has said these cards remind her of the visions that she sees in journey work.

This artwork isn’t to everyone’s taste; the occasional person around the internet has asked why these ugly cards are popular. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder; just last week I observed someone commenting how ugly they thought the Waite-Smith tarot is. But that’s another topic. The point is, the art won’t appeal to everyone. Assuming a person isn’t collecting just to own a rarity, then worth depends on whether the art style appeals.

As a Study Item

Using a tarot deck as a study item allows a person to broaden their conceptual knowledge of what tarot is or can be, research referenced figures, explore the psyche and perhaps relate that to the seasons, and inspire meditations.

The Greenwood’s system is cohesive and relates and defines all cards according to an eight-spoke wheel of the year, so all cards correlate to the seasons. While traditional astrological associations (for the trumps) are ingrained in me, this method seems less fussy, particularly for readings involving timing. It gives some insight into what tarot can be outside of the Golden Dawn (including Waite-Smith and Thoth) mold, for example. It even touches on the missing virtue of Prudence from the trumps, something that readers of Gareth Knight might recognize.

The deck includes a simple meditation based on the cards around the wheel of the year, which is a guide to using active imagination to learn the cards as well as possibly solving problems before getting to a divination. I’ve done this, and enjoyed it as a learning sequence. For some this is a further way to use the deck without handling it. Given its price and rarity, this can be an advantage compared to handling the deck in frequent readings where accidents can happen!

As a Working Deck for Readings

I think the Greenwood Tarot is a great reading deck. The colorful cards are readily identifiable and feel like they have their own energetic flow when I read with them. I’ve posted some readings which you can check out by using my “Greenwood” tag or Tarot Readings category. I’ve done some readings for others that aren’t in the blog, and the recipients found them relevant.

I think if someone likes the cards visually, they’ll be able to read with them. It will take some time to gain familiarity, as this doesn’t follow the Waite-Smith standard that is so familiar to most modern readers. However, there is enough overlap that it’s not completely foreign — although seeing the equivalent to 5 of Cups titled “Ecstasy” will throw some people, as it did me!

The downside of a working deck is that it’s exposed to possible damage. Accidents happen, even with careful handling. I’ve almost had cats walk on my cards; I held a card not realizing I had damp fingers; and I almost knelt on a few when I didn’t realize they’d slipped out of my hand after a reading. Let’s face it: paper is fragile, and cards need to be handled to be worked with. Unless you’re going to practice archival methods with cotton gloves and humidity control, your cards will get grimy, they’ll curl, and be subject to forces of nature from UV exposure to pets to children to spilled beverages.

If your deck is used daily, it’s going to show it, no matter how careful you are. For a $20-$30 deck on the market, it’s probably not painful to replace after a year. For a $300-$400 deck that’s barely available? That’s definitely painful to replace!

Internet Presence and Readability?

There isn’t much on the internet about reading with the Greenwood Tarot. Blogging didn’t exist when the deck was originally published, and most of us like to write about current things and events in our lives. Plus the Greenwood is inherently a niche item, so there may not be many of you who even want to read about it.

On the other hand, plenty of people have written about using the Wildwood Tarot, the Greenwood’s readily available and popular successor deck which has largely the same underlying structure. So that implies the Greenwood system itself is workable, whether for study or readings.

To be continued…