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THE HOODED MAN
The Guardian of the Sacred Oak
Introduction to the book, "The Greenwood Tarot"
"We need wilderness and extravagance.
Don't be afraid. There is no magic in the Tarot. Only the still, quiet voice of truth.
The Tarot is something that lives within us all on a very primal level and speaks to each of us in an individual way. It is not the aim of this book to go over its historic and many varied philosophical aspects. Rather, it is to give a backdrop to the Wheel of the Year which was the basis of pre-Christian mythology, medieval Christian theology and the classicism from which the Tarot developed in the early part of the Italian Renaissance.
But before delving into the mythos of the Greenwood and the Wheel of the Year, I thought it useful to give a brief explanation of the research and philosophy that led to the creation of the Greenwood Tarot.
Both Chesca and I have a deep love of the forest and the peace and quiet that can be found there. Whether it is the vast tracts of the Cascade Mountains in the American Northwest or the cool green pines of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, the forest offers a place of reflection and sanctuary from the psychological stress and emotional strains of modern living. In fact I have had some of my best nights' sleep under the trees by a waterfall in the Beacons! And yet the forest is full of life, even at night, and it follows a natural cycle that turns slowly but inevitably with the seasons.
The forest is both a metaphor for life and for the unknown and sometimes shadowy aspects of it. Its sanctity and mystery are as old as man, its symbolism used in every religion and philosophy from the Cistercian monks to the Brothers Grimm and their fairy tales. Within the forest mythos every human trait and condition is stored and cherished for future explorers to wander along the path, absorb, study and meditate upon as they choose. What better basis for a Tarot pack than this?
There have been many fine books about the Tarot and there are now many different packs available for the interested amateur or the experienced professional reader. The aim of this book is not to go over the same ideological and mystical areas that have been extensively covered elsewhere, but to add a few personal reflections on the nature of esoteric experience and the search for meaning.
I believe the Tarot represents an accurate and complete map of the human psyche that can be manipulated to absorb new cultural and ideological archetypes (it has indeed done so in the past). The Greenwood Tarot seeks to strip back the archetypes to their basic pure form and remove the political and sexual attributes that were added in later years.
It also attempts to demystify some of the esoteric code by utilizing the Wheel of the Year as a basis. This is a nature-based cycle of prehistoric origin and follows the seasons and landmarks of the human spirit as much as the natural flow of winter, spring, summer and autumn. The Greenwood Tarot is a journey, not a hierarchy, and to this end we have, where fitting, made most of the human aspects in the Major Arcana androgynous so as not to deny anyone access to these archetypes. As we know there are men with feminine qualities and women with masculine ones, and it seemed unwise to narrow down these parameters by trying to fit them into our modern concept of gender. Where the primal `frequency' of the archetype is conceptually masculine or feminine, we have worked with them as they rested most comfortably with us. For example, after much meditation on the basic archetypes, the general use of the female aspects of The Moon and the broad feminine principle of lunar esoteric lore, we settled on the principle feminine concept of The Moon. Of course this does not mean there are no lunar men or primal sun women - the archetypes just fitted with this system and the natural flow of male/female as the journey progresses around the Wheel of the Year.
I make no apology for spreading the net of references as wide as possible in an attempt to make contact points for the reader. Theories and ideas are but ever-shifting attempts to know more about the universe, and while some attempt to measure, in basic mechanistic terms, the ways in which the universe functions, some fail to take account of the one factor that affects all our human perceptions: the human condition itself.
That is, we see things in such a way because that is the only way we can see them. I don't believe this was always so. I believe our ancestors saw things in a different way - or at least they perceived the world in a different context. They believed we are guests of the Earth, dependent on her and interwoven with her fabric. Now we are her masters; she - and all the rest of living creation - is here for our use. But is this the reality or just the way we perceive it in the late twentieth century? Has the vision of our collective human ego been literally `blinded by science'?
We now know that the bridge between matter and energy is ever-shifting. Particles of light fluctuate between one state of being and another billions of times per second. The very act of measuring a particle changes it. Reality is a sea of ever-moving atoms with `probability' being the only measuring post. The motto of the ancient cult of the Assassins, whose name is derived from the word Hashishimn and their use of drugs to see visions of heaven before battle, was: `Nothing is real. All is permissible.' Has science brought us full circle?
With our ever-increasing dependence on technical and engineering advances, our natural need for wholeness and balance with the world has been abandoned and forgotten. So with our spiritual life, the pomp and theory of so much of organized political religion has severed the basic link between what is most sacred and divine in individual humankind and replaced it with a human mediator. We are exiled from our own individual spiritual link with the Gods. This is especially true in the industrial Western world.
And yet there is a move toward the rebalancing of nature and mankind. Many people are returning to a more holistic view of the planet. In our short tenure here we have done such severe damage to the ecosystem that we are in danger of poisoning both it and ourselves. This fear has been strongly manifested in the upsurge of ecological research and green politics.
Put into context, the dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 160 million years and died out Go million years ago. Mankind has been here, in one form or another, a little over three million year; and had some form of discernible civilization for approximately 25,000 years, a mere blink of the world's, eye. If we vanished tomorrow in a nuclear inferno, in a million years we world be as much history as the fossils we find on the beach The Earth has plenty of time to clean up and start again. We need her. She can well do without us.
The Earth may well dispossess her inventive but troublesome offspring. Maybe this rediscovery of a holistic view of humankind and nature is her final warning cry to us. Maybe we hear it with the part of our spirit that is still inherently linked to the primal consciousness of the planet itself, not just on an individual level but on a `morphic' level, as a species.
It is a pity we live in our own `penny packets' of consciousness, never able to hear beyond the voice of our own inner fears and desires. If, for some golden moment in our evolution, we could get but a glimmer of the universal mind and its possibilities, it would change the human race forever. Perhaps once we did have a more acute awareness of our link to nature. Certainly the older religions hold nature and respect for the ebb and flow of the seasons as the corner-stone of spiritual fulfilment.
It is possible that we all in fact have the natural physical capability to reach beyond the present semi-dormant senses and be aware on a much more acute level. In my own experience the `fight or flight' reactions of the body's adrenalin system will give you speed and strength you never believed you possessed, as well as aiding vision, hearing and the sense of smell. There is nothing miraculous about this. Nature gave us these defences in a time when they would save our lives. Nowadays, when the nearest we get to hunting is to trot down to the supermarket for a packet of peas, we don't use these special adrenalin `turbo boosters'. But they are there, dormant.
We are in effect, out of practice with our survival instincts. The same could be said of our spiritual instincts. We know there is more to be connected to and aware of, but the `psychic muscles' have become weak from lack of use.
It has been discovered that human DNA contains not just our human blueprint but also a vast array of physical history shared with every other living creature that has ever walked or crawled on the Earth. We truly are a solitary universe of all creation. Within our DNA we hold common chemical elements for a dinosaur or a dormouse. The same forces that flow at the heart of the sun bind our own cells together and hold our human reality steady.
Over the last 20 years or so science and magic have become closer and closer in their overall view of the universe. Morphic resonance, Jungian psychology and holographic consciousness are but a few of the scientific theories developed to explain the reality of the human condition. This area of research, I believe, is very relative to esoteric knowledge of all kinds and I will explore these theories and their link to Tarot and other esoteric practice more fully elsewhere.
The pool of universal consciousness is rich with archetypal `frequencies'. The oldest and the most satisfying to explore, I believe, are the denizens of the forest Greenwood and we are all capable of tuning in to them. That is why the Tarot is a natural and accessible map of the human condition. The 22 cards or archetypes of the Major Arcana are psychological gateways to our own inner universe. We are Fools, Blasted Oaks and Lovers at various times of the day, let alone lifetime. It is learning how to live with our own sometimes troublesome aspects that gives most people problems in the twentieth century.
A wise man once said to me, `We always hate in others what we fear most in ourselves,' And it is my belief that if we reject our own Guardian or Greenwoman they live 'exiled' like poltergeists, rejected and troublesome outside our own Psychological Major Oak. To be truly `whole' we must accept them into ourselves, embrace them and learn from them, for they are part of us, not just as individuals but a race.
If these Major Arcana archetypes also have an objective reality all of their own outside the collective human psyche, they serve us well as guides and mediators to the 'Otherworld'. Through contact with them we can find our way into the multi-layered universe of esoteric lore and tradition. Perhaps we can but get a glimpse of what we have forgotten and abandoned. Perhaps we can reawaken relationships with them that our ancestors understood intimately and treasured beyond material worth.
If this were so, the Earth itself would be a happier, cleaner and safer place.