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1. The Shaman


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1. The Shaman




There's a very interesting take on the Greenwood Shaman in ilweran[/member] 's Greenwood journal (https://www.thetarotforum.com/journals/ilweran's-greenwood-tarot-journal/30/) which is useful to compare with. However, the Wildwood shaman is a very different character, both in appearance and in meaning...


First, the description. The Shaman is an old man, barefoot, with long white hair and beard, tattooed and dressed in a mixture of ragged robes, bearskin, and an ornamented tabard. The tabard shows images of animal spirits, in the style of some cave paintings. He crouches outside his dwelling beneath the tangled branches of a massive tree, holding an ornate staff, and moving his other hand as he watches it intently. Before him are the ubiquitous tools of his trade, representing the elements: an antler-tine cup (water), a deerskull rattle (air), a stone knife (earth) and smouldering bunch of twigs (fire). A bird skull dangles from a branch near the entrance to his home.


My first impressions of this card are complex. This is not the showman Magician of the traditional Tarot, nor the transcendental calm of the Greenwood Shaman. Here we have a figure who has joined the Wildwood, and become a part of it through his own studies; some of the wildness has rubbed off. He is living in the deepest forest, but there is a fierceness in his gaze that makes me think he has no cause to be anxious here. He's as much a part of the wilderness as the trees around him.


What does he represent? Some of the connotations from RW decks are missing here: there is no trickery or deceit, no sleight-of-hand. Instead, I'm seeing a scientist gone feral: a man who has devoted himself to understanding the natural forces around him, through force of will and a willingness to become the forest. There is symbolism everywhere, but I think it's for us, the readers: I don't feel as though he would have a neat array of symbolic tools most of the time—only when a specific ritual calls for it.


The only ornamentation that seems right are his tattoos: swirling spirals and arcs that serve to guide him on spirit journeys, and focus his will. They are there to remind him, and to help him to be who he wants to be, to draw him out of his mundane human self and into the transcendental. He is not a spirit of nature, but has worked his way into this role by diligence and year after year of undisturbed practice. He's driven, and powerful, and not used to human company; the deeper mysteries are what he's chasing. Although he is very much a part of his tribe, he is comfortable in his own presence, for there other worlds that he explores...


And so, this is not a natural teacher, or gentle guide. This is a Shaman that the tribe would approach with trepidation, asking his help only when needed. But ask they would, for he a potent figure, and a keeper of vast knowledge. He is someone who has learned how to understand the workings of humans minds, and the interface between the individual and the wild. He has mapped the paths of the Otherworld, and can send people safely on their own journeys of discovery. The bearskin represents the melding of intuition, generosity and power, and this is what his tribe would see.


As an aspect of the querent, the Shaman represents spiritual strength: the strength to influence the world through force of will, determination, and mature, balanced understanding. He has the power of deep knowledge borne of a lifetime of careful observation, and can see patterns in the unfolding of the world. As a tribe's connection to the wilds, he is always on the edge of civilization, needing to be partly human and partly an aspect of the Wildwood. He represents the journey of the mind and spirit into other places, and the knowledge of how to create positive transformations in the mundane world. His blessing welcomes a new journey into the unknown, a new dedication to uncovering spiritual truth and a quest of discovery. Following in his footsteps is not a thing to take lightly... but its potential is limitless.

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I've not done this before. It's probably a daft idea. But I started to feel close to the Shaman when I was trying to get to know him, and he became a real person. So real, in fact, that I thought I could ask the cards about him directly. So I just did.


Strengths: The Archer

Weaknesses: The Journey

What can he teach us? The Kingfisher (King of Arrows)


I had no idea whether this would work, but with those cards..? I'd say it did. And it was very interesting.


The Archer is about the transformation of will into action. The arrow is a thought released towards a target, a clear intent cutting through the world to create an outcome. This is exactly what the Shaman represents in the Wildwood mythology: a figure with power that binds the spiritual and physical worlds together, who can walk the paths of the Otherworld, and create changes in the mundane through his own will. This immediately told me that the reading was on track.

The Journey is Death, though, and this is where it gets really interesting. I'm not clear on this meaning, so would welcome other input. My impression is that it is signifying mortality, and all the limitations that this imposes on us. His weakness is that he is a mortal man: although he has devoted his life to his studies, he is always learning, and will never reach total understanding, because he has but one lifetime. This makes sense of his being drawn as old, unlike almost every other deck that I've seen. The expression in this card, focused and intent, could also contain a hint of desperation, of a need to learn more while he still can.

    The Shaman is a powerful figure, the first of the Major Arcana... and yet so far away from the World Tree. Among the other majors are demigods and eternal forces of Nature, with whom he cannot compete... because he is racing against time, before he must ultimately pass on the baton to the next generation. I found this strangely moving and enlightening; I  feel as though I would desperately like to meet him, talk to him, and if possible help him. 


Finally, what can he teach us? Not a major, but the next best thing: the Kingfisher. His thoughts are arrows, sent to their targets by the Archer of his will. The Kingfisher is the King of the Arrows, the mature culmination of the suit of thought and intellect. A flash of silver and blue, he transcends the aerial world to dip into the fluidity of the water, catching his target with an arrow-like beak, and bringing it back into the world to serve a specific purpose. He is about clarity, quicksilver will, and swift action. As the epitome of clear thinking, he represents also justice, fair-mindedness, and deep, accurate knowledge. He is a figure of incisive research and impartiality.

    This is the gift that the Shaman can teach us, if we go to him with humility and patience: clarity of thought, removing the scourge of the ego ('little mind') that plagues us. This can be learned by long training in skills of observation, meditation, and logic, and in the ability to apply what we know in a clear-sighted way. In short, he can teach us his own craft: the science of the Wildwood, so that we can see and understand the reality of the worlds more clearly. What he can't teach us, perhaps, is the power to influence the world through his journeys in the Otherworld; that is what separates him from the King, and is something that we must learn for ourselves.



OK, I'm not sure what I was expecting here. I consider it an experiment, and I think it was the Shaman's own influence as I contemplated him that led to me thinking of trying it. If that's the case, then it's only fair that it worked.

    Have I learned anything? Yes, I think so: if nothing else, that edge of frantic determination (carefully controlled) that comes from the knowledge of his own mortality. This may explain the stark difference from the Greenwood's Shaman, who exudes calm and transcendental wisdom; I feel as though their studies have followed different paths. Our Shaman is gloriously human, and has attained his skill through determination, and dedication to the natural sciences, whereas the Greenwood counterpart reminds me of a mystic who has mastered the skills of meditation and has half-left this world already, drifting between here and Nirvana.


  Any thoughts or comments on this are very welcome. Is it even a good idea to ask the cards about the subject of a card (why haven't I seen it done before..?), or can that lead to the entire deck disappearing in a puff of self-referential logic..?  ;)


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I've been considering the two Shamans, and I do see a similarity. I think they're both willing to teach and in both cases you need to approach them, and neither will teach directly - they both won't say much. Show not tell is the feeling I get!


The difference I'm getting now is the WW shaman you'd have to actively seek in the Wildwood. The Greenwood Shaman you're more likely pass by without noticing. I don't think you could fail to notice the WW Shaman  :D


That's my current feelings on the two, having been using the WW a bit now.

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Hi ilweran[/member] . Yes, I think they probably are similar in that way: a bit like the old zen masters, you'd have to prove your worth before they give you much of their attention!


I'm definitely getting an impression that there's a difference in what they know, though, or at least in how they approach it. While they're investigating the same area, I feel as though the WW Shaman's approach is more chaotic and earthy, filled with facets of nature that don't necessarily fit easily together. The GW Shaman is more into meditative trances and spiritual coherence (really struggling to put this into words!). I rather suspect that the Seer in the WW is going to end up in some ways rather more like the GW Shaman... but I've not really got to know her yet! Next target...  :)

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Yes, I'm wondering when I'm going to come across the Seer, rather looking forward to it and it's I've of the cards I love pretty much equally in both decks. On Death at the moment though and I suspect The Guardian will be next. Who knows though?!

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The Shaman here - wearing Bear - bearing tattoos - guarding a cave - all the elements at his feet to create his world; so rich with messages. 


Bears in some cultures are known as Great Healers - they symbolize the awakening of the subconscious - a spiritual awakening.   Interestingly enough - they walk the same paths generation after generation - they are the 'speaker' of all animals - Their great claws can rip through anything - even the negative and old energies that lie within us - Bear Shamans are known to be great healers of very deep wounds - and restore harmony and balance.  Bear is keeper of the dream - they guard the dream until one wakes to the dream.


Tattoos are often very personal symbols that one has experienced in life - love, loss, heart-ache - most often the meaning of that tattoo has been well integrated into the wearer's life.


Guarding the cave - this Bear Shaman - is here to remind us that all the tools we need to create are at our feet - we must take some time to heal from our past experience and integrate those lessons into our life for our next journey.  The Shaman is guarding the path to ensure we are indeed ready for the experience and the result - because of course the Universe knows what's in store for us - it is the Shaman that needs to ensure we are ready for what is to come too.

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