At this time of the year – I associate it with the light as it slants late afternoon – I always seem to reach for The Greenwood Tarot. I think maybe I identify this deck more with the change of seasons, changes in perspective, than with the seasons themselves. It is as if something pulsates in me; I want to go through this deck, card by card, and lose myself in that slightly unhinged shimmer which it has, the showers of light, the dissipating energies, exchanging impressions from last year to this.

It comforts me to have it on my reading table and to choose an image to look at before I go to sleep, thinking it may provoke intense dreaming and journeying. Work drains me but I look at this deck and feel revived. It is odd how the last few days I keep drawing the same card – the King of Cups.


I often draw this card (this and the King of Wands) in other decks. They must be opposite ends of my spectrum. The real me must lie somewhere in between. But this King of Cups is not like the King of Cups in other decks. It isn’t merely an emotional, sensitive man on a throne with a cup. We have two Reindeer about to kiss through smoke that curls up from the roof of a prehistoric shelter. I drew it repeatedly earlier this week and was rather bemused. I would shuffle well and out it would pop again. From Chesca’s own notes (which have now been sadly removed from the internet) she describes the reindeer as the animal which stands on the cusp where the elements and earth meet, thus “water becomes ice”. Is it a coldness I feel, myself solidifying? Becoming removed from myself, my element transforming?

“[Reindeer] inhabited Europe in the Ice Ages, and were considered guides, pathfinders – as the tribes followed the migrating herds, creating tracks through the landscapes. These gentle reindeer stand before a prehistoric tent made of woolly mammoth bones, tusks and fur. At this time of year reindeer eat the fly agaric mushrooms, whole herds keeling over “drunk”. These mushrooms are toxic to humans.”

I remembered this last night drinking vodkas and pondered briefly for a moment. But it’s the feeling of migrating that comes through now. I am also drawn to another card in the deck. Can’t stop looking at it. I don’t draw it but it is the card I want to “seal” the deck with when I put it away (by that I mean the card I want to leave uppermost), The Ancestor; perhaps my favourite card in the Greenwood Tarot. This is the image that Chesca says was her very first vision from many years ago. It shows a reindeer figure. More human than the ones in the King of Cups. She holds a frame drum and is beating the heart of the frozen land alive. I love the silver birch gateway, the fire in the heart, the cascade of light and, in the distance, the forest into which she beckons us (judging by the hoofprints leading the way).

This summer we stayed in a beach house which backed onto a forest and the relationship between this forest and the composition of the card reminds me of the relationship between our house and the forest which led towards the sea. The view is not dissimilar with the expanse of sky and the same distance from the brow. I would wander there at night listening to the sounds and looking up at the stars thinking “I shall remember this place when in the depths of winter”. And I already remember it, rather wistfully (not yet in the depths of winter). Because this card also speaks of migrating. Because I think that’s where I am now, work oppresses, pins me down, but the heart yearns, the spirit wants to migrate. Somewhere. Into the dark forest, following something strange and shrill which calls to us to the sound of a steady beat. And I saw some photographs taken by a friend of a distant place I know well, love and miss.

The Greenwood, when you look below the surface always seems more in tune with where the heart wants to be than other decks. It may be my imagination. It seems to pinpoint my yearnings. There are cards I draw at random and there are cards I feel I need to contemplate. The Ancestor is one such card. It is like the pied piper of the deck. “The first trackways were made by the repeated travelling of tribes along the migratory routes of the reindeer who followed the same paths for thousands of years.” Where does the heart want to migrate to? Maybe it isn’t a place at all, maybe it is a state of mind. Venus rises, the guiding star.  It is odd how our bodies can tune into the migrating urge, something we perhaps thought we had lost. Then to feel the pulsations and to feel that life – with its commitments, expectations, pettiness – forces us to ignore it. At our peril.


About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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11 Responses to Migrating

  1. milliecrow says:

    I like that: “Where does the heart want to migrate to? Maybe it isn’t a place at all, maybe it is a state of mind.” 🙂

  2. Bappho says:

    Do you know where to find Chesca’s notes for the cards now? I did file down them a long, long time ago, when I first bought the deck, but that old computer is dead and gone forever and with it the files.

  3. velvetinabat says:

    I love the Greenwood Tarot, and although I haven’t had it long (only a couple of years!) I seemed to internalise it very quickly. However, I always turn to Chesca’s words (cleverly, I’d copied the text -word for word, into a notebook 🙂 ) as it is a little like having a friend reading her deck for me, & I can just listen………at the risk of sounding all B-movie, I was diagnosed with cancer earlier this summer, & as I proceed through the treatments, it is the Greenwood deck that I want by my side, in part because I long to be in an actual wood & that’s not always an option; in part because of that Chesca Potter interpretation…..I choose random cards and I follow the wheel of the year assignations (my diagnosis coincided with ‘The Blasted Oak’! )….it’s the King of Cups at the moment, and I won’t bore you with my own journeyings (is that a word?) so reading about your current take on the image is most interesting to me; thank you, as always! Corrina/velvetina x

    • Le Fanu says:

      Thank you for your thoughts. I know the Greenwood will bring you peace and valuable introspection because it’s like that. And that feeling of being perched to go a-wandering into the greenwood is going to be so precious for you in the forthcoming month, I’m sure. Those clusters of trees on the horizon, those hoofprints in the snow. Don’t you find that once you start speculating on these cards the imagery just spirals and you can go on for ever? Stuff was happening today as an extension of the migrating theme I touched upon here. It almost predictive!

  4. Never let these out of your sight, they are so rare now. I miss Chesca – she was my friend and then she vanished.

    • Le Fanu says:

      Caitlín, I picked up some greeting cards/notelets the other day which were made of cards from the Greenwood Tarot and probably produced in small numbers to be sold at local esoteric shops. They had Chesca’s name and address printed on the back (Oxfordshire) and email, now outdated of course. What a privilege to have known her.

  5. auntvalerie says:

    Love the post! And thanks so much Velvetina for the link! Unfortunately, it looks like the page of the Fives are lost. Does anyone have that text who might be able to share it with me?

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