by Beth Allen
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At first blush, the Green Witch Tarot, a 78-card deck created by Ann Moura with artwork by Kiri Ostergaard Leonard, appears to be a little stroll through a picturesque village in times gone by. But don’t be misled, dear readers, while walking along these charming country roads or into a misty forest, you will discover a serious study in pagan beliefs and lore that tracks consistently throughout every card in the deck and in the guidebook.
The deck originally was published in 2015 by Llewellyn Publications and this year it’s in its fifth printing. The deck loosely follows the Rider-Waite-Smith system, however because its foundation is rooted in paganism and Green Witchcraft, there are quite a few differences in the meanings of the cards, especially in the cards of the Major Arcana.
As the author of more than 10 books, including “Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore, & Herb Craft,” “Green Magic: The Sacred Connection to Nature,” and “Grimoire for the Green Witch,” Moura has the background and experience to bring her knowledge of Green Witchcraft to tarot. Her vision enfolds beautifully to create a comprehensive pagan and Earth-based deck with art that invites the reader to step into the world of the Goddess and God through all their seasonal incarnations and Moon cycles. Although the deck is called the Green Witch, and it’s infused with Moura’s decades of practice, I wouldn’t describe this deck to be as full-on witchy as are, for example, the Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan (artwork by Mark Evans) or the Everyday Witch by Deborah Blake (artwork by Elisabeth Alba).
This is a deck I’ve been working with exclusively for some time now and I’ve grown to love it. At first because the cards are so different from what I’m used to, I was unsure about it. I knew I needed to work with it using the guidebook but I also thought that it didn’t seem I would be able to read it intuitively. But over time, after using the book and familiarizing myself with the cards, we are more comfortable together and I can read the cards without going to the guidebook. The messages are clear and, in keeping with the subject of the deck, they come through as lessons and events that are inevitable, as karmic, as a part of the Wheel. This helps me make a stronger spiritual connection to the natural world, and that’s a nice feeling, a secure feeling.
The cards are absolutely beautiful. The artwork conveys an enchanting and atmospheric feeling, and when using them you feel as though you’ve entered into a fascinating village, full of rituals and rites, where the people, animals, and plants are all connected to Spirit and its mysteries.
The card stock is typical Llewellyn, not very thick, which is good if you’re a riffle shuffler, and the cards are slightly smaller and thinner than the standard-sized tarot card. They are glossy and without borders, which works wonderfully with the art. In recent years Llewellyn has vastly improved the quality of their boxes and the box is a sturdy one that will store the deck safely and will last. The box is larger than average with a magnetic closure and the deck nestles snuggly inside it with a ribbon that allows you to remove the cards easily, accompanied by a thorough 264-page book on top. With the larger guidebook, another greatly appreciated feature that comes with Llewellyn decks, both the novice and the practicing pagan are presented with a concise and understandable summary of the cycle of the Wheel, the seasons, and the myths and folklore surrounding them. The book has full-page pictures of the Major Arcana cards, along with a page and a half of description and explanation. The Minor Arcana cards are displayed on three-quarters of a page and have an approximately full page of description. Every card in both the Major and Minor Arcana has a plant and an animal on it that correspond to the meaning of the card, and their association to the Wheel is explained in the guidebook. The book also comes with several good spreads.
As I stated previously, most of the Major Arcana cards are different from a traditional RWS deck, for example, there’s The Greenman instead of The Fool; The Witch instead of The Magician; The Earth Mother instead of The Empress; The Crone instead of Strength; The Holly King is The Hermit; The Lord of Shadows instead of Death; Nature instead of the Devil card (as in, separation from Nature is a form of enslavement or being trapped); Harvest instead of Judgment (as in, you reap what you sow), and so on. The Minor Arcana is divided into Pentacles, Athames (Swords), Wands, and Chalices (Cups). The backs of these cards are simply splendid, probably my favorite backs of any deck.
With The Holly King, you can smell the crisp winter air, the fir and balsam trees, and you hear the crunch of the icy snow under his feet. You see a man, who unlike the traditional Hermit, is not looking down or away, but looking right out at you. The book describes “the Sage who at Yule turns over his hourglass of wisdom to the newborn Oak King.” He carries a sack over his shoulder, not filled with toys but containing knowledge and experience to be passed on. He is accompanied by a reindeer, symbolizing knowledge and guidance, and there is a small fir tree symbolizing life and spiritual development.
The cards in the Minor Arcana generally follow the RWS meanings but here too there are exceptions, for example, the Two of Swords. Whereas traditional decks usually depict a woman, blindfolded, holding two swords crossed in front of her, symbolizing shutting oneself off from the world, this deck shows two men in the process of negotiating, finding compromise. Another example is the Five of Swords, traditionally a card of conflict or at the very least tension, the lesson being winning at any cost isn’t really winning at all. In the Green Witch deck, the Five of Athames depicts a craftsman showing his wares, in this case five athames, to a merchant. You can place yourself in the position of the craftsman or the merchant but either way it depicts a struggle over issues involving self-confidence, self-esteem, overcoming negativity, etc.
The Court cards are some of my favorites. They have so much personality. All the Kings, with the exception of the King of Athames, are quite jolly (in contrast, the King of Athames is studying letters and manuscripts), and with all the Kings and Queens you get older, wiser rulers, not youthful sprouts running kingdoms, as is so often the case with other decks. I also really appreciate that none of the Court cards look warlike. In fact, the entire deck depicts a peaceful coexistence between all people, animals, and plants. When people are shown armed, such as The Horned God (The Emperor) or the man coming home with game in the Seven of Athames, it is killing as hunting and hunting as food.
You can read with this deck without putting study into it and it will hold up, but if you want a tutorial in the Craft and in paganism, this is a fabulous deck to work with and I definitely would recommend this deck to anyone wanting to learn more about paganism, the Wheel of the Year, and/or anyone who wants to work traditionally with plant and animal energy. To me the deck has a fall/wintry feel and I am looking forward to working with it throughout the coming months. The Wheel continues to turn and its powerful stories are told and retold through cards that convey Nature’s messages and mysteries to us. With this deck, Moura and Leonard create an enduring world for us to walk through and to learn from.