‘How to Breathe’ is a solid guide on breathing and the Alexander Technique

‘How to Breathe’ is a solid guide on breathing and the Alexander Technique

Review by Emily Faulkner for AmSAT.

Richard Brennan’s new book, How to Breathe, Improve Your Breathing for Health, Happiness and Well-Being is a solid guide on breathing and the Alexander Technique. It is well organized, clearly written, and comprehensive. The wealth of information is balanced by philosophical considerations and gentle reminders that the purpose is to find balance and ease. The book covers the following (and more):

  • Anatomical explanations of the breathing mechanism
  • Basic principles of the Alexander Technique
  • Common misconceptions related to our breathing
  • How the Alexander Technique can help us improve our breathing mechanism
  • How the Alexander Technique helps us better use our voices
  • And all this is accompanied by a panoply of exercises.

The anatomy of the respiratory and vocal systems will certainly come in handy for me. Brennan includes enough anatomical information to make it accurate, but not so much as to get lost in the details. I was happy to be reminded of some basics, like the fact that the air we breathe in enters the nasal cavity horizontally as opposed to upwards vertically. The sections on anatomy included some experiential exercises like thinking of the diaphragm as a parachute, billowing in the wind.

As someone who has suffered in the past from both hoarseness and asthma, I quite appreciated many of the exercises. In particular, I found it useful to observe the movement of my abdomen, ribs, and upper chest while lying down, sitting, and standing.

These experiences gathered from three positions yielded more observations than had I assumed just one of those positions because I had so much more to compare.

The book is filled with these sorts of wonderful, basic observational exercises, many designed to help us see how our thinking affects our breathing. For instance, what happens when we hold our breath? What happens when we think of our breathing mechanism in a more or less anatomically accurate way? When do we unconsciously hold our breath and what happens when we bring consciousness to that situation?

Brennan also includes the whispered “ah,” some vocal exercises, and some simple standing and sitting movements.

Throughout, Brennan emphasizes the non-doing of breathing. Every section is couched in reminders that healthy breathing is effortless, and this sort of effortless breathing brings calm to every aspect of our lives, emotionally and physically.

If you are well versed in the Alexander Technique, as a teacher or an advanced student, this book is a useful resource, both as a factual reference and as a source of good exercises. If you are less steeped in the Alexander Technique, it’s a well-written and practical guide to the basic principles of breathing and the Alexander Technique, but some of the exercises towards the second half of the book may be a bit dif cult to follow. However, if you’ve got an Alexander Technique teacher to consult, you’ll probably find them quite instructive.

Emily Faulkner (American Center for the Alexander Technique [ACAT], 1999) is a dancer and Alexander Technique teacher in the New York City area. She is a member of the AmSAT Journal team.

How to Breathe

Richard Brennan

Breath is essential for life, but did you know that the way you breathe can be detrimental to your well-being? Poor posture, stress, muscular tension … all can make the ‘effortless’ act of breathing hard work without us realizing. And breathing isn’t just a physical activity; it influences our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, too.

 

HOW TO BREATHE shows you how to relearn your natural rhythm of breathing to beneficially alter the way you think, feel and act. Packed with breathing techniques to use at home, and featuring groundbreaking methods developed
by the founder of the Alexander Technique, it will help you rediscover how to breathe naturally to improve every aspect of your life. By applying consciousness to the action of breathing, you can become aware of harmful habits – and alleviate common breathing problems in the process.

We breathe more than 20,000 times a day – so why not make sure you do it as efficiently and effectively as possible? This is a book you can’t afford to be without.

Price: £12.99 RRP
ISBN:
978-1-85906-397-2

Richard Brennan is the director of the Alexander Teacher Training College in Galway, Ireland. He lectures extensively throughout Europe and the USA, and has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years. His previous titles include, among others, The Alexander Technique Manual (listen to the podcast!), Change Your Posture – Change Your Life, and Stress: The Alternative Solution.

Shamanism Today by Caitlin Matthews

Shamanism Today by Caitlin Matthews

If you are losing your way in today’s materialistic world and searching for meaning and purpose in your life, this book is essential reading. 

Shamanic teacher Caitlín Matthews reveals how following the way of the shaman can help you make sense of your daily life, discover much about your innate abilities, and help you feel more alive and at peace with the world.

“He who desires the Soul, who plays with the Soul, who makes love with the Soul, who attains ecstasy in the Soul, becomes his own master and wanders at will through the worlds. But they who know otherwise are dependent. They dwell in perishable worlds and cannot wander at will.”

Chandogya Upanishad

Shamans & Shamanism

Shamanism has existed since the beginning of time. A shaman is a person – man or woman – who can enter alternate states of consciousness at will to travel in spirit between this world and the otherworlds in order to find healing, knowledge, guidance and help for others. A shaman works with power and energy, calling upon the help of many spirits. She works closely with a full repertoire of spiritual helpers, who choose to help her. The shaman’s continually expanding experience sets up pathways of trust and alliance between spiritual helpers, facilitating a trust that links different realities. She is able to mediate between the everyday world and the unseen realms, becoming a bridge of living Spirit.

Shamanism is distinct from other magical and visionary techniques because it is part of the shaman’s soul that makes a spiritual journey, flight or voyage between the worlds. Methods of divination, mediumship or healing may have shamanistic elements, but they are not technically shamanism unless such a spirit journey takes place and the knowledge, healing or help brought back is implemented in our world. Shamanism is used by indigenous peoples the world over. Many retain ancient techniques, and others have adapted ancestral skills for new situations.

World Shamanism

In most people’s minds shamanism is now associated solely with North American nations or Siberian peoples. But it exists in many other places as well. Circumpolar peoples from China to Alaska continue to practise it, despite the overlay of Christianity or Marxism, while Central Asian shamanism from the Middle to the Far East continues underneath the teachings of Islam and Buddhism. Areas of India, Africa and South America retain many shamanic practices as part of their mainstream spirituality.

Some of the following shamanic names, drawn from worldwide cultures, indicate the extent of shamanism around the globe:

bhopa – Hindu – shaman

hatali – Navajo – medicine person

awenydd – Welsh – inspired one

mudang – Korean – female shaman

noaide – Saami (Lapp) – shaman

gongsai/jinpo – Zhuang (Chinese) – male/female shaman

angaqoq – Inuit – shaman

sangoma – Zulu – shamanic healer

dhami – Nepalese – shaman

curandero/a – Central American – male/female shamanic healer

llapo – Tibetan – oracular shaman

The ancestors of Western peoples also used shamanism, but the shaman’s role became fragmented, subsequently devolving upon a multitude of people, including priests, storytellers, healers, judges, diviners. In most cases, the essential shamanic component was lost, although individuals and scattered families have retained intrinsic shamanic practices in their hereditary skills of healing, mediumship and divination; some social pockets have also retained certain skills and still guard certain shamanic doorways in collective folk-customs. A close study of European folk-customs and archaic spiritual practices reveals that shamanism is well rooted in many European countries, although this evidence is frequently overlooked or discounted as a manifestation of atavistic superstition or witchcraft.

Shamanic traditions around the world developed according to the kind of societies in which they were found: nomadic, pastoral, hunting. The movement of animals or the behaviour of the elements were critical factors in existence and different needs affected the kinds of shamanism which developed. Environmental factors and ways of life shaped the spiritualities of early people.

Ake Hultkrantz believes that it is natural ‘to regard shamanism as one of the strongest powers behind the historical formation of religions’. Although it can manifest as a spirituality, it is rarely manifest as a religion in the Western sense. It most often appears today as a healing practice within a religion. In parts of Central and South America, for example, curanderas (shamanic healers) call upon both Catholic saints and indigenous gods, while in Tibetan Buddhism the ancient, pre-Buddhist deities are invoked to enable oracles and healing. In some places shamans provide certain ritual and healing functions for their society which are not met by the predominant spirituality of that people or region. Shamanism is the servant of all traditions.

The Calling

This book doesn’t attempt to be a historical or anthropological survey of shamanism, but it is important that the vocation and work of shamans is properly contextualized here. Shamans are always chosen for their role by the spirits of the universe, for shamanism is not a self-elected vocation: so the one who determines to become a shaman as an ego-enhancing exercise will not succeed. Shamanism may run in the family or one shaman may become a teacher to one or more spiritually elected candidates.

When someone is called to be a shaman, he may attempt to avoid the calling for the very good reason that shamanism is one of the most demanding of vocations, the shaman being available simultaneously to the spirits as well as to future clientele. This avoidance may also spring from a fear of dealing with spirits and the otherworlds they inhabit. The creative basis for shamanism shows itself clearly in such situations for, like the repression of creativity, the avoidance of a shamanic calling usually results in a massive loss of power or soul, frequently leading to life-threatening illness. This ‘shamanic illness’ is generally cured by a full acceptance of the spirit- dictated vocation.

The training of shamans is usually undertaken by both spirits and human teachers who are themselves shamans. The apprentice learns by assisting the qualified shaman and so integrates her own growing shamanic knowledge with practical implementations of techniques and the reactions of clients to specific treatments. The acceptance of trainee shamans by their community is critical, for they cannot practise without people.

Why Do People Consult Shamans?

People need shamans’ help for health, work and relationship problems, as well as for making ritual sense of changes in life-patterns from birth to death. They may also have difficulties that have mysterious origin, perhaps arising from their ancestral inheritance or from a curse. In response to these needs, shamans seek out solutions, cures, rituals and information from the spirits in the otherworlds.

Contemporary manifestations of shamanism reflect the changing needs of society. Many of our present needs are similar to those of ancient and indigenous societies – health, work and relationship problems and making sense of life patterns – but we may also add the needs produced by Western urban life: the need to address the soul-loss which manifests as incompletion, meaninglessness, alienation, addiction, self-mutilation, lack of self- esteem and loss of vision. Modern medicine has found solutions to many physical illnesses, while modern psychology attempts to heal what it sees as mental illnesses, but the subtle illnesses and imbalances are largely ignored or marginalized, nor are their needs addressed by the major religions who do have the apparatus to discern spiritual cause and effect. It is left to shamanism and a host of complementary therapeutic disciplines to address the soul.

Modern shamanism addresses contemporary problems and helps us reforge our primal belonging to the earth by providing rituals and healing practices. The creation of rituals by shamanic means re-empowers those disempowered by religious ceremonies which alienate rather than reconnect. The immediacy of walking between the worlds and of implementing what is discovered there re-authenticates each individual’s spirituality.

Misconceptions About Shamanism

Shamanism is a primal spiritual practice that has somehow survived into our time. This survival has been ensured by the usefulness of shamanic skills. If ancient techniques are lost it is because they are not so useful. People simply do not consult ineffective shamans and they soon have no clients, no income and no status in society. Chandra, a Nepalese dhami (shaman), speaks humbly about this:

‘… a man can learn many things from his failures, but failures can create uncontrollable needs and weaken his soul. For that reason, a dhami must always bring satisfaction and success to the people around him, even small successes, for only then will the souls gain strength to take a next step.’3

This philosophy of small, incremental successes is central to shamanism which, since it deals in spirit, is very much concerned with ‘keeping the spirits up’. While shamanism can produce dramatic and immediate results, the subtle and gradual organic changes that it brings are more enduring and more comfortable when we ourselves have changed. Human nature is a creature of habit and old habits die hard, as we all know.

This leads us to a clarification of certain misconceptions about shamans. One of these concerns the alleged charlatanism of shamanism. All shamans work in the context of their society, wherein their practices are performed publicly. Like any showman, the traditional shaman will accordingly ‘play to the gallery’, utilizing illusions and sleight of hand to enhance the healing or séance. Many people have assumed that the use of such tricks must significantly devalue whatever shamanic work is done or mask a complete inability to heal.

Some early anthropologists who studied shamanic cultures were of the opinion that shamans were epileptic, since they seemed to behave in hysteric and irrational ways, often falling to the ground. This view has been abandoned by most academics, although it was still popular until recently among Soviet researchers to whom any truck with spirits was evidence of fraud or mental derangement.4 In working with spirits, shamans frequently experience intense shaking and physical agitation; since it is difficult, if not impossible, to remain upright once soul-flight has begun, shamans usually sit or lie down suddenly. I cannot find any evidence for the allegation that shamans are hysteric, weak-minded or nervous individuals: on the contrary, living shamans demonstrate a balanced, well-integrated and creative personality that has to be well-grounded in order to perform shamanic healing.

I searched in the darkness, I was silent in the great silence of the dark. That is how I became a angaqoq, through visions and dreams and meetings with flying spirits … The ancient ones dedicated their lives to the work of keeping the world in balance; they dedicated it to great things, immeasurable enormous things.

– Najagneq, Eskimo shaman

Some people have acquired the notion that, because some shamans utilize cross-dressing in their spiritual work, they are homosexual or transvestite. Shamans can be of either sex and of heterosexual or homosexual orientation: sexual orientation does not determine the ability to shamanize. There are distinct shamanic traditions of a woman taking on a male spiritual persona, or a man taking on a female one and dressing accordingly: this is in accordance with the principles of non-duality, not sexuality. A male spirit may work through a female shaman, just as a female spirit may work through a male one.

Traditionally, many shamans are perceived as ‘tricky’ or ‘mischievous’. While it is true that many people are fearful of those who wield or mediate otherworldly powers, it is also true that most shamans have a sense of responsibility towards their clients. The playful or trickster behaviour of the shaman is often an attempt to lighten the serious nature of much of the work, as well as to keep open the ways between the worlds. The entry of the clown, the heyoka, upturns the normal order of things, permitting authority to be mocked and confusing the barriers between what is possible what is not. In the midst of this licensed holiday from the normal is a sacred opening that allows healing and transformative experience to take place.

Shamanic teachings are entrusted to those who love the universe and wish to be in its service, but there is always the chance that some unscrupulous student will use it for herself. Unethical shamans occur, as do corrupt judges and mercenary doctors; self-serving practitioners who offer public service are to be greatly feared, for they have no disinterested compassion to balance their skills. Most societies make distinction between shamans and sorcerers. A shaman co-operates with the spiritual worlds and their inhabitants, beseeching their appropriate help; a sorcerer manipulates the spiritual worlds and seeks to command their inhabitants without their advice. This book is concerned with shamanism, not sorcery.

Shamanic practice goes hand in hand with rituals of purification, as well as prayers for assistance and thankfulness to the spirits; these remind the shaman that he is not solely responsible for bringing about changes. Such rituals keep the shaman in a balanced awareness which sustains ethical practice. The ‘habitual intuition’ by which shamans live and work is developed by drawing upon the web of knowledge amassed by experience and perception; it is maintained by the daily practice of sacred tradition.

How To Start

How, then, can anyone who lives outside a traditional culture receive a shamanic training?

Each culture has its own roots, songs, stories and traditional wisdom in which sacred heritage lies encoded. The effect of the shamanic path is to place our footsteps in those of our ancestors, to reconnect us with the universe, to become purposefully part of it once more. Each person has ancestral guardians and spiritual teachers who stand ready to guide them: it is these who will help you if you decide that this is your path. While this book will not make you a shaman, it will set your footsteps on the shamanic pathway and help you become a walker between the worlds. When we accept the reality of other worlds and have travelled between them, our attitudes to daily life will change. As we become aware primarily of the inter-relatedness of all that we do, think, are, we will no longer be able to disregard the subtle urgings of Spirit and power within us.

Practice 1: Grounding

In ancient times, few people actively sought out a shamanic vocation; their innate caution taught them to keep both feet on the ground, not to spin off dancing with the spirits. Today, shamanism is new and exciting, and many people positively desire to propel themselves into the otherworlds and get ‘high’. Shamans may visit otherworlds to gain information, healing or advice in order to help people, but to do so they need to come home again. Finding out where home is is essential, which is why you should regard this practice as essential information (see also Part 4).

Perform grounding after all shamanic work, returning gently to yourself.

The following things will earth or ground you:

  • Breathing calmly and evenly
  • Bringing to mind mundane purposes
  • Bringing your awareness back to your body, mind and emotions
  • Eating or drinking
  • Gentle humour
  • Being outdoors and becoming aware of your surroundings Recording your experiences
  • Taking time and space to assimilate what has been experienced before rushing into the next activity

Create your own grounding sequence, based on your own needs and reactions. After any shamanic work, ensure that you are ready to perform ordinary tasks, especially driving, in a safe way.

Practice 2: Recording Practices

Essential knowledge and personal shamanic experience can dissipate like evanescent dreams unless it is recorded. After performing the practices in this book, permit yourself assimilation time.

Sit and write down your experiences, however vestigial or wacky they may seem. Enter into the experience with all your faculties: How did it make you feel? What was the most salient feature of the practice?

Do not worry if you cannot understand the experience right away; fragmentary information is often referenced again in subsequent practices. Some experiences make no sense for months or even years, and so your record becomes a very special way of assimilating understanding.

In your notebook record journeys, dreams, drawings, doodles and thoughts. If you are a pictorial person, you might prefer to draw pictures of your experiences, or if you are a verbal person, record them on tape.

Permit yourself to enjoy and learn from your experiences!

Singing the Soul Back Home

Shamanic wisdom for every day

Caitlín Matthews

If you are losing your way in today’s materialistic world and searching for meaning and purpose in your life, this book
is essential reading. Shamanic teacher Caitlín Matthews reveals how following the way of the shaman can help you make sense of your daily life, discover much about your innate abilities, and help you feel more alive and at peace with the world.

Following Caitlín’s structured series of exercises, you will be guided – at your own speed – through the complete shamanic experience. Discover your spirit voice and true destiny and become a ‘walker between the worlds’, as you embark on your own shamanic journey.

This book will help you change your life.

Price: £12.99

ISBN: 978-1-85906-103-9

Caitlín Matthews is a world-renowned author and teacher in the Celtic and ancestral traditions, tarot and divination, and the author of over 70 books, including Singing the Soul Back Home, Celtic Visions and The Complete Arthurian Tarot (with John Matthews). She runs her own shamanic practice in Oxford, UK, where she also hosts masterclasses in the healing arts.

Visit her website at:   www.hallowquest.org.uk

Q&A with Mark Ryan on Wild Magic and the Wildwood Tarot (Podcast)

Q&A with Mark Ryan on Wild Magic and the Wildwood Tarot (Podcast)

Mark addresses comments and concerns about Wild Magic: The Wildwood Tarot Workbook

You sent in your questions, and Mark Ryan answered. Steve Nobel grills Mark with your questions, he makes Mark think hard and fast!
  • What made you write “Wild Magic” in the format it’s in?
  • Why are some of the core cards switched around in the Wildwood from their original placements in the Greenwood?
  • Why is there no information about reversals in the Wildwood Tarot accompanying book?
  • Why is the 5 of Vessels interpretation so different from what we normally see in the 5 of Cups?
  • What advice do you have for people who are in the southern hemisphere trying to apply the festivals of the Wheel of the Year to their own seasons?

Plus the possibility of a Greenwood tarot REPRINT!

Watch here!

Take a good look at the Wildwood cards, see some card spread ideas and excerpts from the book while Mark is talking.

Want more Wildwood? Hear from Wild Magic’s Co-author John Matthews here in this secret video ->

Download to listen on the go.

Subscribe so you never miss an episode!

We publish a new podcast every 2 weeks on interesting Mind, Body, Soul and Health topics

Prefer to Read?

See the Transcript below!

Steve:                       Hello. Welcome. My name’s Steve Nobel. Today I’m speaking with Mark Ryan on his work. Many of you know that Mark is an English actor, author, action director, and voice actor. He’s performed in several major musicals in London’s West End. He’s appeared in dozens of films, best known, perhaps, for his role as Nasir in the British t.v. series, “Robin of Sherwood,” and recently working on a number of films, such as the Transformer films, and more recently, “Peterloo.” He’s a sword coach fight director and an accomplished author and has written the “Greenwood Tarot” and the “Wildwood Tarot.” His latest offering is “Wild Magic,” which is designed to be a “Wild Tarot” workbook. All of this published by Eddison Books. His website is thewildwoodtarot.com.  Hi, Mark.

Mark Ryan:           Hi, Steve. How are you, mate?

Steve:                       I’m all right. Now, before we get into the world of tarot and magic, can I just ask you about your acting life? What’s been happening, generally, for you in the acting world?

Mark Ryan:           Oh, it’s been quite a rich potpourri and tapestry of various adventures. I just played Peter Pan. I was in “Peter Pan,” playing Captain Hook in San Diego. Fantastic cast and produced by the Lythgoe Family Panto organisation, directed by Bonnie Lythgoe. It was great fun, I have to say. It’s one of those characters that if you are asked to play Captain Hook, you don’t even say “When? How? Where?” You go, “Yes, please. Thank you.”

I immediately jumped on that, and we had a great time. I hadn’t done Panto … Panto was my first real stage experience in 1970, in Manchester, at the Opera House in “Cinderella.” I was one of the chorus lads. In fact, I did explain this to Bonnie, I was actually the backend of the pantomime horse at one point carrying Hugh Lloyd. Do you remember Hugh Lloyd from “The Gnomes of Dulwich” and various other comedy shows. I had Hugh Lloyd on my back for a while being the rear end of the pantomime horse.

The idea of going back and doing Panto was both curious and a bit of a challenge, but I felt it was something, A, I’d enjoy and, B, would be great fun to do with a fun cast. We had a great cast. It was a great laugh. We did great business. It’s San Diego. Of all places. San Diego.

Steve:                       Was there a chance to do some sword fighting in that role?

Mark Ryan:           We did, indeed, do a sword fight. I fought Peter Pan around the stage. I actually choreographed a little bit of a fight because … Well, it’s one of those things. Some actors are just … They’re natural with this stuff, and it’s easier to pick up a fight, and be safe, and all that kind of stuff, and some people aren’t. Luckily, everybody who was involved with this was very open-minded, and we actually had a little fun with the sword fight. It was very simple, very safe. It was easy to remember. That was the reason I did it because we were doing dialogue in the middle of it. It was one of those things where, if you’re actually trying to remember a sword fight and do dialogue at the same time, it’s one of those things where you really have to have your head together because it can go horribly wrong, so you have to-

Riley Costello was playing Peter Pan. It was brilliant. We both chatted to each other because when you look at people in the eyes on stage, and I’ve done this during fights and other things, sometimes you look at each other, and you go, “You have no idea what’s coming next.” I’m sure the people looked at me during the course of the show and went, “He’s no idea what’s going next,” because, obviously, it’s Hook. You’re allowed to ad lib a lot with the audience, so I ad–libbed a lot with the audience. Then, you’re trying to fight your way back into the dialogue and bring the show back to where it’s supposed to be.

Riley Costello was Peter Pan. We did a little sword fight together, but it was also Ashley Argota. She was brilliant. Clarice Ordaz was in it. David F M. Vaughn, I’ll call him by his full name. David Vaughn was in it, as well. He plays Smee. We had a lot of fun. Audrey Whitby was in it. She played Wendy. She’s fantastic. Cast was great. We had a lot of fun. As I say, those moments with Riley were great because when you’re trying to actually do dialogue and a sword fight at the same time, unless you have a lot of time to rehearse it, it can be quite challenging. Riley handled it very, very well, as well as flying. All that. They flew him all over the place into the scenery there. We had a couple of mishaps, but it was a great show, great fun to do. That’s what I did in December.

Steve:                       Wonderful. Now, we’ve already spoken before in other interviews about your journey, as well, with tarot. Just in general, where are you at now? You’ve been at it a long time, diving into the world of tarot and magic. Where are you at now with all of this?

Mark Ryan:           Well, it’s been a long and interesting journey, and I don’t think in the classic sense it’s an end to the journey. I think it’s an evolution. One of the things I wanted to do with “Wild Magic” was to talk about that evolution, and where to go with it, and where magic and science has gone with it. For me, this whole thing started probably 1989, ’79, 1979 in Los Angeles. There was a store there called the Bodhi Tree, which is much lost and lamented store in Los Angels on Melrose Ave. I actually lectured there a couple of times about the Greenwood Tarot, funny enough.

The Bodhi Tree was this big esoteric bookstore, which had the most amazing atmosphere. I bought, probably, my first tarot deck there. It’s bizarre because the name of the actual deck has completely gone out of my head, but I remember looking at it, and looking at the pictures. It was recommended to me by one of the people in there. I remember taking it back and looking at it and going, “This does not speak to me at all. I don’t understand what this is trying to say.” The pictures were very chaotic and very, almost like curtains stamped on to the cards in the sense that it looked like a collage. The imagery didn’t speak to me. That was the first inclination I got. Although I was fascinated by the concept of tarot, it was also a very personal thing.

I think shortly after that, at somebody else’s advice, I did buy a Rider-Waite deck, which I found most accessible, certainly, and the imagery more accessible, and the system more accessible. Yet, it still, in a way, didn’t come naturally. I had to struggle with the framework, which is why it partly … We developed the Year system for Greenwood Tarot. The Kabbalistic system, again, just wasn’t easy for me. I did try to work on it, and get my head around it, and get it into feeling like a natural system. The Kabbalistic system just did not work for me. That, again, was part of the motivation. It wasn’t just the imagery. It was the system that the imagery was based in that just did not feel a natural fit. That’s when I realised that tarot cards are extremely personal. Your access with them, to them, can be as personal as talking to a little personality.

That was how that all started. It took 20-odd years for me to work that part of it out and go, “Okay. Maybe you should actually seriously look at the concept of designing, building a system that works for you.” Obviously, on the part of that journey was … Along came a show called Robin of Sherwood. My exposure to that part of the esoteric back story in Europe, and particularly Britain, which that, immediately, was accessible to me. I grew up with that. I understood that. That was part of that evolution of building a system that was more accessible for me personally, but I obviously hoped that it would be more accessible to people who are interested in that part of the Wildwood esoteric side of it and to Europe. That’s how it started.

Steve:                       Okay. Brilliant. Your fans have been sending in all kinds of questions, so I’m just going to send them to you and see what you’re going to say to them. Is the Wildwood Tarot suitable for a brand new tarot reader?

Mark Ryan:           I think it is. I think it really depends on where you want with the imagery. A lot of criticisms or comments that I’ve read online from people that have been using the deck, what they say is, “This is a completely different system to most of the systems that are out there.” It’s based on the Wheel of the Year system. Don’t go into it thinking that the way that the cards … As in the Rider-Waite or the imagery in the Rider-Waite, and even the elements in the Rider-Waite, they’re not the same. It’s different. We did it purposefully like that because that’s how instinctively it felt. John and I, and Chesca and I, both felt the same thing, that instinctively and intuitively the way that we looked at the animals, and the seasons, and the Wheel of the Year was a much more natural flow of energy, if you like, of these archetypes.

A lot of first-time readers that go into tarot will look at this. If it speaks to them, then, probably, they’ll stick with it because that’s the system that talks to them. For readers that have probably started out with a different esoteric system, one based on Kabbalah, say … Again, I’ve nothing against Kabbalah. It’s just not a natural fit for me. They may find Wildwood or Greenwood a little bit different. Well, just see it, try it, work with it, and see if it speaks to you. A lot of the stuff I read online around the imagery, particularly Will Worthington’s artwork, which is absolutely brilliant, is that the imagery speaks profoundly and clearly to people. Do they get an immediate hit of the imagery? The imagery’s been described as just brilliant, which it is.

Steve:                       Okay. Brilliant. Your fans have been sending in all kinds of questions, so I’m just going to send them to you and see what you’re going to say to them. Is the Wildwood Tarot suitable for a brand new tarot reader?

Mark Ryan:           I think it is. I think it really depends on where you want with the imagery. A lot of criticisms or comments that I’ve read online from people that have been using the deck, what they say is, “This is a completely different system to most of the systems that are out there.” It’s based on the Wheel of the Year system. Don’t go into it thinking that the way that the cards … As in the Rider-Waite or the imagery in the Rider-Waite, and even the elements in the Rider-Waite, they’re not the same. It’s different. We did it purposefully like that because that’s how instinctively it felt. John and I, and Chesca and I, both felt the same thing, that instinctively and intuitively the way that we looked at the animals, and the seasons, and the Wheel of the Year was a much more natural flow of energy, if you like, of these archetypes.

A lot of first-time readers that go into tarot will look at this. If it speaks to them, then, probably, they’ll stick with it because that’s the system that talks to them. For readers that have probably started out with a different esoteric system, one based on Kabbalah, say … Again, I’ve nothing against Kabbalah. It’s just not a natural fit for me. They may find Wildwood or Greenwood a little bit different. Well, just see it, try it, work with it, and see if it speaks to you. A lot of the stuff I read online around the imagery, particularly Will Worthington’s artwork, which is absolutely brilliant, is that the imagery speaks profoundly and clearly to people. Do they get an immediate hit of the imagery? The imagery’s been described as just brilliant, which it is.

To me, if you’re starting out, start out with this deck. See if it speaks to you. It may not, or it may be the deck that you go, ” All right, I don’t want to try anything else. This one talks to me. I’m going to stick with it,” but for people who’ve read other decks first and tried other systems first, they might at first look at this and go, “I don’t quite get how this works.” Once it clicks into their consciousness, I’m sure they’re going to go, “Okay. This works.” That seems to be the results that most people online that I’ve looked at, who have said very nice things and thank you, all, for saying so many nice things, and people who have spent literally hours doing YouTube dissertations on even unwrapping the box. I’ve seen a couple about people talking about unwrapping the box. Just those alone, people have been extremely kind. It’s extremely humbling to have people talk about this in the way that they do.

Yeah. I would say, “Yes. Go for it.” If it’s your first time, reading, it, go for it.

Steve:                       Another question here is, why are, then, is there no information about reversals in the Wildwood Tarot accompanying book?

Mark Ryan:           We did address that in “Wild Magic.” In fact, it got into the whole thing about reading reversals. It’s one of those issues that sometimes you have to put your own perceptions aside and go, “Well, people do read …” I’ll answer the question this way, I don’t personally read reversals. I prefer to read the imagery as it was meant to be seen. Within the reading that you do, or the layout that you do, there will always be a reversal, if you like, of the imagery to show you what may be standing in the way, or what may be … The challenges, or what you need to deal with to move forward.

I always feel within the layout that you do, there’s always a reversal within the pattern that you’re getting. The idea to me that you would read a card upside down never really worked for me, but even as one of the authors of this system, I understand that people who have learned to read reversals want to read reversals. However, it’s to something that I can honestly say I look at and go, “Yeah. That, again, that’s a natural flow.” Caitlin addressed this in “Wild Magic.” She did an entire section about reading reversals in the book because she was much more adept than I at doing that. She talks about that in “Wild Magic.”

Steve:                       Why are some of the core cards switched around in the Wildwood from their original placements in the Greenwood?

Mark Ryan:           Well, recently when I wrote the “Greenwood” I know this sounds a little, maybe, even too esoteric, but, again, it just felt natural at the time that I did it. There’s a lot of mythos about the West. I wanted to talk about the sunrise rising in the East, and setting in the West, and how the West was always seen … When people head west, they, basically, head out and over what we now understand is the Atlantic Ocean, whether it’s towards Atlantis, whether it’s to America, or wherever people are heading, that concept of heading where the sun rises and the sun sets, to chase the sun, and follow the sun that way.

I naturally put a lot of the elements that I associated with the West on the left side of the circle itself. When I sat down with John, and we talked about it … I understood there was a traditional meaning why some of these actually should be on the other side of the cycle. We kept North and South, of course, and the Winter and Summer. We just kind of reversed it around to see how what that did to the system. To be honest, to me, again, it didn’t really affect the energy flow. It just simply placed some of those elements into a more traditional map of tarot. John and I talked about it a lot, but I decided, with him, that that was probably less … We’re doing so many untraditional things to the system that having a slightly more traditional flow like that with the core cards and stuff might help people access the system who are used to a more traditional system.

That’s why we did that. To me, it didn’t harm the natural flow of the energy. I was, “Okay. Let’s try it and see what happens.” We’re soon going to know. If it messes up the system, we’re going to get emails and letters, but everybody seems to like it, so it’s stayed that way. Again, in the original deck it was simply because of my perception of East and West and mythos related to the sun travelling through the sky. That’s why we did it that way originally. It’s worked just as well now. We’ve put it back into a more traditional framework.

Steve:                       Now, what made you write the “Wild Magic” in the format it’s in?

Mark Ryan:           Well, there’s been some … One or two of the notes that I’ve seen from folks … Again, of course in the emails … I’m not going to name names, but I hope this addresses some of the questions, is that there seems to be a lot of complaints about the size of the actual font, which I think is a 10, which is a pretty standard … I’m looking at the book right now. Maybe it’s just me, I can read this quite clearly. It doesn’t seem cramped to me. There’s plenty of white or clear space in the book and in the actual breaking down of the major arcana. It doesn’t seem cramped. It’s perfectly legible. I’m sure that if there are questions about that, I don’t know, in the future, maybe, we can do a bigger book and lay this all out with bigger pictures, full size pictures, and larger print.

Obviously, it was a decision by the publisher, both Eddison Books and Sterling in New York. The book fits rather nicely right into the box that the Greenwood Tarot comes in. It’s exactly the same size book, as the accompanying book, in “Wildwood Tarot.” That may be just the standard way that they do it. We tried to pack in as much information, I thought about that as well, as we could be ranging all over the map is … Again, that’s kind of got a few people criticising the book, which we can talk about later on if you like. It really was a decision by the publishers, but looking at it right now, even as I’m looking at it where pages are full, it doesn’t seem cramped, and I can read it quite clearly. I don’t really know how to address that one.

Steve:                       Will the U.V. finish be extended to the U.S. printed of the “Wildwood Tarot?”

Mark Ryan:           Now, that’s an interesting question. I know that both Nick and Stephane at Eddison … This is a decision that they made following … Just to show that we do actually listen to people out there … People, if you have a criticism, or you have something, we do listen to it and look at it. If we can do something about it, we will. There’s a couple of people … I don’t know how much use of the decks that they’d had. I suppose if you used the deck every day, if you’re a professional reader, as well, you’re going to battle some of the cards a little bit.

There’s some complaints about the thickness of the actual card stock itself, which I have, obviously, an original Greenwood, which I’ve had, I don’t know, 20 years or so, more than 20 years, 30 years, and it still works quite well. The Wildwood one, one of the original ones I’ve had, it seems to have held up pretty well under the constant, regular use, so I’ve had no problems personally with the card stock.

It was something that Stephane and Nick wanted to address, so they did this batch of this U.V. laminated finish to the deck, which I have to say, is absolutely beautiful. My understanding is that for a big run of thousands of decks, which is what usually goes onto the market from publishers like Sterling, it does add a bit more of a cost to each deck. I think Sterling was happy with what the pricing of the deck was. By the way, they’ve been tremendously supportive, so they’ve been fantastic. They opted to stay with the standard finish that was working, apparently, quite well and not go with the extra thickening, laminated finish, which has sort of been an experiment here in Europe. I think it’s been very, very well received.

I don’t know what the future plans are for future larger batches of the book to be produced. I think the laminate is a nice idea. It certainly helps the thickness of the cards, but I understand it does at cost when you’re doing a big run.

Steve:                       Yeah. Why is there a flexi-bound version of “Wild Magic” showing on Amazon when the book is printed as a paperback?

Mark Ryan:           Hahaha!I have no idea. Maybe I should consult the cards. I don’t know. I think it was a simple misunderstanding at the beginning. The whole concept of the workbook was an idea of a flexi spiral-bound at the back of the book. It’s a great idea, by the way, but it was never what this book was intended to be. That was always my understanding that it wasn’t going to be spiral-bound. I don’t know where the idea came from. It was, obviously, a miscommunication between Amazon and the publishers.

What I’ve seen, which I thought was absolutely marvellous, was that, I think somebody … There’s a picture of it online. You can walk into any one of these big printing stores and actually have the book spiral-bound for about five bucks. If you actually want to have a spiral-bound version, you can walk into one of these … I’m trying to think of the names now of these big companies that do printing, and office supplies, and all that. They’ll do it for you for about three bucks or so, three fifty. They’ll put a spiral into it for you.

I know a couple of people who have done that, and I have to say, it looked rather impressive. I understand why they want that because they want to be able to open the book out, make notes, or have it open without having to have a bookmark or something. I think that’s a great idea. It may be something the publishers will consider in the future. It was simply, I believe, I know John has tried to address this online, as well, on the Wildwood Facebook page run by Alison, Thank you so much. She’s a dedicated girl. Ali fields all these questions, and sends them to me, and says, “I think this one’s for you here. I don’t know what this one’s about.” Alison Cross has been brilliant running the Wildwood Facebook page. Any our site, by the way. John responded to that and said exactly what I’ve just said because neither of us ever expected it to be a spiral-bound book.

– Note from Eddison Books: The Flexi-bound option is a mistake from Amazon! The book is only currently available as a paperback. 08/03/2018 –

Homemade DIY of a flexibound Wild Magic. Made by Alison Cross.

Click on the picture to read her review of Wild Magic.

Steve:                       Now, this one sounds a bit random. I’ve seen a blog post that says I can freely make myself a Greenwood Tarot. Is that right?

Mark Ryan:           The answer is, “No.” I’ll deal with this one because I’ve sort of a semi-announcement to make about that because it’s been something that’s been … I’ve been approached about this over the years about, can we do a reprint of the Greenwood? I am actually, right now … I know this is going to cause all kinds of rummagings online, but I am actually exploring doing a limited print run of the Greenwood Tarot, self-publishing it myself. I believe I have all the permissions needed to do that. I know there is a website that is selling “Greenwood Tarot” and various books from Chesca. I’ve written to that lady. She has not responded to me. I’ve written to her saying, “Who gave you permission to do this?” She’s not responded. I’m not going to say who her name is, and if you want to go and find it-

She’s doing this completely without my permission. As of right now, I am the sole arbiter because I own the rights. Chesca, wherever you are, and if you’re listening, please contact me because if you do hear this, I’d love to hear from you, A, but as I am the only functioning owner of the rights to “Greenwood Tarot,” I am going to publish a self-published small run of an exclusive version because there’s been a lot of versions online, which have been counterfeited. We believe THAT there’s been various publishing, what we say, counterfeiters out there reproducing and selling these decks for a lot of money. I believe that as being a criminal enterprise, let’s put it that way. Anybody that has an original Greenwood by Harper Collins, hang on to it because it will do nothing but go up in value.

What we decided, what I decided to do, anyway, is to put it back into a very limited circulation with a special edition of “Greenwood.” We’re working on the best way to do that right now, so anybody that’s got any issues regarding that, please contact me directly. If you don’t, that’s what I’m planning to do. No, you can’t just print them off line and do that because it’s a contravention of my right, in both intellectual rights of the artwork, and I do have intellectual rights to the artwork because, as I’ve explained to various people, there were several times with Chesca actually, when we discussed the cards, couldn’t draw the cards. She did, basically, was struggling to come up with some of the imageries.

I, actually, on multiple occasion … We sat down, and I drew what I believed the card should be, and that was what she based her artwork on, so my imagery regarding some of the cards, particularly some of the more esoteric cards, which we based some of the work in Wildwood, directly came from me. The imagery of the lady coming out of the water, the soul in the boat, and all that kind of stuff was directly out of my experiences when researching this, soul journeying, whatever you want to say it. All that artwork was based on a lot of my experiences, and our experiences together. Chesca and I did go to the White Horse of Uffington, and [inaudible 00:25:20], a lot of those places. We experienced that stuff together.

As far as I’m concerned, I had a lot of input, intellectual input, into the actual physical manifestation of the cards. I believe I have the rights. We do that artwork and re-present it as it was originally. We’ll do it on a limited basis and see how it goes. That’s the plan at the moment. Anybody’s to say. Anybody that’s got any objections, please contact me directly.

Steve:                       Okay. Now, the question is, why is the 5 of Vessels interpretation so different from what we normally see in the 5 of Cups?

Mark Ryan:           Crikey. A lot of these cards, don’t forget, came not out of the traditional system. Well, I know exactly why this card came about, but it differs from the traditional card, I honestly couldn’t tell you. Anybody out there that’s got a definition of what that traditional card was, please, again, log into wildwoodtarot.com or write into the Facebook one. I couldn’t tell you what the reading was. Obviously, 5 of Vessels: Ecstasy, it means to do with the balancing of an enjoyment of life as opposed to not enjoying life, that drumbeat of the souls, for a time to join in the dance. Energy when you’re bathing in the cosmic life roots of exultation and sincere ectasy.

Now, I don’t know if the 5 of Vessels in the traditional deck was a negative reading, but I mean, for me, obviously, 5 being a mystical number where this was, was all about, “Don’t forget to stand still sometimes, smell the roses, and enjoy life,” because we live in a very pressurised life. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in a peaceful, sane, or semi-sane, environment. Be thankful for and to enjoy the blessings that we have.

Steve:                       Well, I’ve got a final question for you, Mark. What advice do you have for people who are in the southern hemisphere trying to apply the festivals of the Wheel of the Year to their own seasons?

Mark Ryan:           Yes. This is an interesting question, and it’s one I was asked when I was in Australia because I did a tarot chat down in Australia when I was down there doing the fan convention. It was one of the things that, funny enough, we had sort of addressed in our own minds, but we didn’t put it into the book. I have actually suggested doing a … Not a redrawing, but adjusting the actual seasons and the animals, funny enough, to a more southern hemisphere-orientated version. That was a chapter in the book. We did talk about putting into this book, or a separate book, or a separate worksheet.

I’ve been thinking about the different animals down there, as well, which represent the same sort of turning of the seasons that would align with the European, northern hemisphere animals. For that, I was reading a lot of the traditional outback, Aboriginal concepts with animals because, as you know, the Aborigines have a very intimate relationship with nature and with animals. It’s something I have explored, and it’s something that we have discussed either doing as a chapter in the book, or even as a separate book. I would love to get into that more. In fact, I did a little bit of research on that already.

Again, if there’s any publishers out there that’s interested in doing a southern hemisphere version of the tarot deck based on the original southern hemisphere animals and even the stars in the sky, of course, are different. I’d be very happy to talk to them. This is something we have thought about and addressed. I would love to do something, maybe a chapter, an additional chapter in “Wild Magic” should we ever get to do another version of that or a bigger book of the “Wild Magic,” with bigger pictures of the artwork.

You don’t really appreciate this artwork until you see it full size. When John and I did the tour in America, we went to various places in Seattle, and one of the people that was actually attending brought with him his iPad. We actually projected the cards. They’re like six feet by four feet. They may have even been bigger at one point, like nine feet by six feet. It’s not until you actually see those images at that size. You could almost walk into the card. It was so impressive that you start seeing details that Will put in that it’s difficult to spot just on a card.

When you see them six feet by four feet, or nine feet by five feet, whatever, you suddenly go, “Wow! The detail. The intricate detail that Will put in there!” I’m not being funny. You could almost … You feel like you could stand up and walk into the imagery itself. Maybe one day, we’ll talk about doing a 3-D version of it, or something, that you could do that with projecting it. We’ll initially be sitting down looking at it, mentally stepping into the image. That would be fantastic.

Steve:                       That sounds like an amazing project that has potential there. You know, I thank all of the fans who’ve wrote all this kind of great variety of questions. I’m sure your answers will generate more questions, actually, Mark.

Mark Ryan:           I’ll just address this one quickly if you’ve got two minutes. One of the criticisms I did read was about my personal ramblings about the archetypes, which to me is an important part of this. One of the criticisms was, “Well, it’s not a workbook.” Well, it may not be the standard type of workbook, but what I wanted to do was introduce people to the concept of putting yourself into the place of the archetypes. When people talked about a couple of things about name-dropping, I said, and I’ll repeat it here. Talking about Anthony Hopkins, Sir Anthony Hopkins, is not name-dropping. He genuinely represents the emperor, to me. To meet somebody who resonated with that energy, the generosity, the skill, the charm, a man that knew … He knows exactly where he is in life. He’s got his kingdom there in front of him. He has power, but he rules it with such grace. That it is epitome of that. He’s one of those people that, I think, around the world, people instantly recognise.

I was asking people, “When have you been these archetypes?” These are personal stories that I put into the book. They’re not about ego trips. It’s not about name-droppings. I was trying to explain, these are the times that I’ve realised the archetypes have worked through my own life. This is, to me, is part of the work of this book, is to look at yourself and go, “When have I done this? When have I been positive, negative, when I’ve been supported, when I’ve been destructive? When have I done this?” That, to me, is part of the roadwork of the book because it is real work. It takes work to do that.

That was one of the other questions that came up. I understand it’s not your traditional workbook, but if you read the book and understand what I’m trying to get you … Challenging the individual to do, there’s plenty of work there, trust me, to be done for a person to look at themselves, inspect what they’ve done, and go, “Did I act in the appropriate manner in that situation?” There’s plenty of times that we’ve all made mistakes, and we’ve all done, probably, things that we go … We regret, and go, “We should have done that differently.”

That was part of the work that is in this workbook, is dealing, confronting sometimes, those aspects of yourself. That, to me, is real work.

Steve:                       Thanks once again, Mark. Just to remind people, your website is thewildwoodtarot.com. No doubt we’ll be chatting again, Mark, on this very subjects.

Mark Ryan:           I hope so because that hour has absolutely just rocketed past. You always have the most challenging questions, Steve. I’m sitting here scrambling in the back of my brain. Anyways, thank you so much. That was great fun. I love chatting with you. It’s really nice.

Steve:                       Likewise, Mark. You take care.

Mark Ryan:           Take care, mate. Yes. God bless.

Wild Magic: The Wildwood Tarot Workbook

Mark Ryan & Steve Nobel

Invoke the power of the Wildwood, of the Green Man and Green Woman, and of the living archetypes of the forest such as Robin-in-the-Hood, with this new companion to the bestselling Wildwood Tarot.

Authors Mark Ryan and John Matthews take us across time, to the pre-Celtic world of the forest that once cloaked much of the world, where primal forces roamed free and opened doorways into the otherworld of the Ancestors. With chapters on the Lore of the Wildwood, shamanic methods of exploring the inner reaches, and meditations designed to enable powerful, personal encounters with Wildwood archetypes,

as well as the authors’ own insights on ways to read the cards plus an intriguing glimpse into what science can tell us about the tarot, the book takes a new and informed look at a set of ancient traditions applied to our lives today.

The Wildwood Tarot

John Matthews & Mark Ryan

To walk among the age-old trees of the wildwood is to journey back in time, to a place of great simplicity and deep understanding. In this re-awakening of the original Greenwood Tarot, Mark Ryan and John Matthews introduce us to the classic forest archetypes of the Green Man and Woman, the Archer, the Hooded Man and the Blasted Oak. Will Worthington’s rich and vivid images bring this ancient world to life and make it possible to feel the magic and power of the wildwood.

THE WILDWOOD TAROT draws inspiration from pre-Celtic mythology and a belief system steeped in shamanic wisdom and forest lore. Based on the seasonal rhythm and festivals of the ancient year, it connects us with a long-lost world – one that can help us to make sense of our own.

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Wild Magic: The Wildwood Tarot Workbook