The Robin Wood Tarot (Llewellyn, 1991) has been in print continuously for nearly twenty five years now, a testament to its enduring charms. It was an early pagan-themed tarot deck, removing much of the Christian symbolism found in the Rider Waite Smith, and replacing it with more nature-based imagery. It is quite “caucasian”, and rather “young, slim and pretty” for the most part, especially for the women. Still, there is much to recommend it.
The World shows this swapping of pagan elements for Christian symbols. Instead of the four gospels being represented at the corners, these have been replaced by the elements: fire, water, earth and air. We still have a woman dancing in a vesica piscis, yet this is flower-filled, rather than just green. She dances among the stars, the element of spirit at the centre of it all – lovely!
The Court cards in this deck are really great, too. Each suit has a basic colour scheme, but within that the Courts all have different clothes, variations on a theme. Thus, the Page of Pentacles starts out in a brown shift, while by the time we reach the Queen her dress is a verdant green, with purple lining at the cuffs, and a brown apron over the top. The King is more purely green and purple. The Queen of Pentacles still has the traditional rabbit/s at her side, symbol of abundance and fertility, and a beautiful, fruity bower over her, as well as flowers and fruits to her side. For me, she certainly epitomises the nurturing care I associate with this archetype, as well as that sense of a woman who can hold her own and create what she needs.
The Ace of Swords once again has done away with the crown symbolism in favour of spiralling of two branches, one with white roses, leading up to a victor’s wreath. The blue scarab and wings in the hilt speak of enlightenment, with an Egyptian feel to them. There is also a wheel-type symbol at the base of the hilt: the Wheel of the Year, perhaps?
The Nine of Swords has a female figure in bed, holding her head in her hands. I like the bright blue bedpane with the astrological symbols on it, alongside stars, and what looks like a moon. While rather RWS cloney, it certainly gets the message across. These are thoughts that keep us up at night, though finding an overarching wisdom and understanding may help us conquer these whirring worries.
All told, this is a gentle, easy to handle, pagan deck. It does have some nudity, for example in the Lovers, where there are full frontal male and female bodies shown. Other than that, it is a deck that is attractive, richly symbolic, and beautifully colourful.