This is my review of the book A Year in the Wildwood by Alison Cross, and this won’t be a review of the Wildwood Tarot deck, though of course I’ll make reference to the deck while I comment on the book. Cross has published a thoughtful, explorative, and detailed guide to the Wildwood Tarot deck, a favorite and popular deck among tarotists today, especially those with a pagan persuasion. The e-book came out on Amazon Kindle earlier this year, 2016, and I am lucky enough to receive a copy for review.
Throughout this post, please feel free to click on the screenshot images of the e-book for an enlarged view.
The deck comes as a set, with a companion book, which is a basic operational manual for the Wildwood Tarot. In contrast, Cross’s book, A Year in the Wildwood, is the instructions for a spiritual journey with the Wildwood Tarot that takes you through the wheel of the year. It’s intended that you work with the deck for spiritual and religious exploration, following a pagan-based path.
If you identify as pagan or are interested in delving into a pagan-based path and have the Wildwood Tarot, then I encourage you to get Cross’s book. Devote a year of spiritual study with the deck and book. Or recruit a group of like-minded pagan folk and friends to work together, with deck and book, and share your insights collaboratively. To start, join Alison’s Wildwood Tarot Facebook page. There you’ll find an entire supportive community dedicated to working with the Wildwood Tarot.
The Wildwood Tarot taps into the bedrock of pagan wisdom– deep into the forest to delve deep into the subconscious. It is a deck keyed for connecting the human spirit with nature spirits and through that connection, by understanding and embodying the four seasons, four directions, and the four elements, higher spiritual and metaphysical attunement emerges. To get there, we have Alison Cross’s A Year in the Wildwood to guide us, card by card, day by day, navigating us toward understanding and embodiment of the four seasons, four directions, and the four elements through the Wheel of the Year.
Let’s take Key I from the Majors, The Shaman, for instance. The deck itself comes with a guidebook written by Mark Ryan and John Matthews. Throughout this post I’ll refer to that guidebook as “the guidebook.” Whereas this review is for A Year in the Wildwood, a companion book that teaches you how to navigate through the deck with spiritual practice and observations. I’ll be referring to that book as Cross’s Year in the Wildwood.
In the guidebook, for The Shaman, we get a two-page spread that describes the imagery and art on the card, the card meaning, some pointers on how to interpret the card when it appears in a reading, and a shaded textbox section called “Roots and Branches.” The textbox offers insights on how the shaman manifests, e.g., “the wild man of the woods,” or “Merlin as teacher and adept,” or “walker between worlds.”
So the guidebook functions operationally. Now, Cross’s Year in the Wildwood becomes an advanced text that compels you to work with The Shaman as an integrative spiritual practice, mindful of the pagan-based faiths. I’m working with the Kindle version of Year in the Wildwood, so see below for screen shots of the entry for The Shaman from Cross’s Year in the Wildwood.
If you’ve been seeking a comprehensive pagan-centered or nature-centered developmental course that will help you advance on your spiritual path, then Cross’s Year in the Wildwood is waiting for you. Journal your way through the book and deck. Work with the card assigned to each period of time in the year and card by card, journal entry by entry, deepen your connection to the metaphysical plane of the natural world. In the process, you’ll also deepen your psychic connection to your cards, which will undoubtedly produce more accurate divinatory results when you work with the deck.
Let’s examine a few more cards for context. Above are Keys 3 and 4, The Green Woman and the Green Man respectively, or in traditional tarot, the Empress and the Emperor.
Again, the guidebook serves as an operation manual, giving you a description of the card, the card meaning, and basic points on how to read the card in the context of a tarot reading. It’s focused mainly on divination.
Compare it to Cross’s Year in the Wildwood entry for the Green Man and the Green Woman, which appears together. See below for screenshots. Here, Cross is guiding you as you journey into the card. “Even though we are shaded by great trees… we feel the heat of the summer sun… We arrive in a clearing… We turn to The Green Woman.” The language evokes pathworking and guides your own vision quest through the landscape of each card, following the course set by the Wheel of the Year.
The Knight of Bows, for instance, here manifested as a fox, corresponds with the period between June 16 and July 8, so during this period of the year, you would devote your work and spiritual practices to the Knight of Bows. Follow the narrated guide in Cross’s book and then journal your responses to the prompts that she provides. You can also refer back to the guidebook to round out your connection with the symbolism embedded into the card.
The Three of Arrows, for instance, corresponds with February 19 through 26. You might date your journal accordingly and again, use the card for pathworking, journaling, spiritual rumination, and use the deep forest imagery of the cards to connect with the metaphysical plane of nature. This is especially helpful for urban dwellers who don’t have physical access to nature.
Cross’s Year in the Wildwood is rich with pagan-based correspondences, references, and her own wisdom and insights from decades of dedicated spiritual practice. Any beginner or intermediate practitioner in a pagan spiritual path will benefit from dedicating a year of work with Cross’s book and the Wildwood Tarot.
For those exploring pagan- or forest-based paths who are looking for guided spiritual development, Cross’s Year in the Wildwood is worth considering, especially if you’ve been working with the Wildwood Tarot and resonate with it. The Year in the Wildwood uses the Wildwood deck as a tool to guide your connection to the spirit of nature and, by extension, break open new pathways to intuitive connections that will heighten your spiritual connection and awaken your latent psychic ability as a pagan practitioner.
Although I didn’t work with Cross’s Year in the Wildwood for an entire year, I did work with the corresponding card entries for the past few months and found the experience deeply enriching. I even did so while camping out in a forest! I found the entire experience to be emotionally and psychically rewarding. A camping trip deep in the heart of a forest, alone, hundreds of miles away from society, disconnected from the Internet, with just you, the forest around you, the Wildwood Tarot deck, and Alison Cross as your mentor and guide via Year in the Wildwood, you are bound to attain revelatory insights that will shift your spiritual perspectives. I highly recommend such an excursion.
Alison Cross is a deep mine of wisdom and to work with this book is like working with a personable, knowledgeable, extraordinarily experienced mentor. It’s like having a guide help you navigate a deep forest spiritual path and no matter what hue of pagan faith you’ve dedicated yourself to, you’ll find Cross’s mentorship through Year in the Wildwood to help strengthen your attunement with the spirit of nature and how to call upon that spirit of nature in your craft.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the Kindle e-book version of A Year in the Wildwood from the author Alison Cross for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the book.