Interview with Mark Ryan
Steve Nobel interviews Mark Ryan, co-author of Wild Magic.
They talk Wildwood tarot, an amazing tarot reading and discuss the human psyche.
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.
Want more Wildwood? Hear from Wild Magic’s Co-author John Matthews here in this secret video ->
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Prefer to read? See the transcript below!
Steve Nobel: Hello and welcome. My name’s Steve Nobel, and today I’m speaking with Mark Ryan on his book Wild Magic. Mark is an English actor, author, action director and voice actor. He’s performed in several major musicals in London’s West End, including Andrew Lloyd Weber smash hit Evita. He’s also toured the US with Monty Python member Eric Idle, performing at the Carnegie Hall and Hollywood Bowl. He’s really appeared in dozens of films and TV series’ both in America [00:00:30] and Britain. He’s well known for his role as Nasir in the British TV series, Robin of Sherwood. He’s also launched a musical adaptation of Wuthering Heights, originally written by Emily Bronte, where he composed, sang and produced some of the tracks.
He’s a sword coach, fight director. He worked on the film First Knight with Richard Gere, and then King Arthur with Keira Knightley and Clive Owen. There’s much that I’m missing out here ’cause he’s got a vast career, but more recently he’s worked on Transformer films, and [00:01:00] he’s filming lately Peterloo, the British massacre in … I think it was Victorian times, I think.
Mark is an accomplished author. He’s written for DC Comics and he created The Greenwood Tarot. Building on that success, he co-authored The Wildwood Tarot, published in 2011, with John Matthews and illustrator Will Worthington. His latest offering is this book, Wild Magic, which I’ve got in my hand, which is designed to be a kind of Wildwood Tarot workbook, but it might be much more than that. If anybody is interested in The Wildwood Tarot, the book, thewildwoodtarot.com is the website. Hi, Mark.
Mark Ryan: Hi there, Steve. How are you?
Steve Nobel: I’m good. I’m very privileged to have a copy of this book. I understand it doesn’t read as a kind of dry or academic book. It’s full of stories, rich imagery. Why did you feel the need to write this book?
Mark Ryan: First of all we wanted to delve more into the background to the whole Wildwood mythos, which seems to have resonated with a worldwide audience on a very deep level. We wanted to delve more into that and explain more of the background to that, but also I’ve always been fascinated by the actual mechanics of how Tarot works. I’ve said many times, the Tarot cards are a map of the human psyche. The 22 major archetypes are types of personality trait that all human beings have, and live through at various times in our lives. We don’t have to be all the hangman all the time, or the fool all the time, but we have those archetypes and those aspects and facets to human personalities. And they tend to come in and out, and we call on them when we need them and put them into certain situations. That was the first thing about this.
The second thing was the act of synchronicity of asking a question and getting an answer. And this again was something mechanically I wanted to waffle on about and explain why it seems to work for me, and the concept of creating your own fate. I don’t believe that anything is written in stone, I don’t believe in fate. I believe that we make decisions on a second by second basis.
The decisions and the directions that we take our lives sets off a set of circumstances, which open up these doors of possibility and probability. Sometimes they’re good, and everything works out nicely. Sometimes we make mistakes, and it doesn’t work out quite so well, but that is part of life. And so those were the three elements that I thought we really needed to go into in more depth, and particularly the way that the human consciousness works with the universe when you start asking these questions, and how we take the information that we get when we get an answer from the Tarot, how we move that forward and change the map and can change the way or the outcome of the questions that we ask.
Steve Nobel: Brilliant. Do you think coming … For me, one of the beauties of these kind of decks is that, as you say, it’s a map of the psyche, but we’re not always in touch with all these energies. We may be in touch with some parts and completely not others, like Jung talked about the shadow. Do you think we can get kind of cards coming up that remind of us of energies that we’ve kind of pushed away or have got very [00:04:30] little connection with?
Mark Ryan: Yes, and during readings and workshops that we’ve done, I’ve had literally people respond. Sometimes when we talk about the journey, I’ll see what appear to be some of the sterner cards, the guardian, you look at the cards and people have gone, “I don’t want to go into that cave, I don’t want to go into that,” you know, the tombs to ask the questions of the ancestors. This appears to be in our, [00:05:00] the back of our human minds there is this concept, you know, the darkest or scary and there’s big nasty things out there, and as I keep saying the whole point of going into the cave, and into the tomb, to shed light on this stuff is once you shed light on it you see the issues or the problems as bare bones, and you see that they are just bare bones.
And like bare bones of any dark and scary things, they can be resolved and solved and fixed. But if you don’t confront them and [00:05:30] shed light on stuff, they’ll just hang around like poltergeists in the human psyche, constantly knocking on the window, going, “I’m part of you, and you need me, and you need to bring me in and embrace me. This will make you a fuller, richer, stronger, more positive person.”
And so this whole thing of gathering this clan of your own archetypes and bringing them all in so that you can function more fully, [00:06:00] and sometimes that is to do with protection, you need to protect yourself. A lot of people don’t simply know how to stand up for themselves, protect themselves and express themselves. And within these cards there are cards that are those archetypes that say, “You need, not only to protect yourself, but you need to protect your environment.” And there’s not point in being placid about that. Sometimes you have to step up and go, “No. This is [00:06:30] my red line in the sand, don’t step over that.” And you have to be stern enough to stand there and go, “No. I have a value system, this is it, don’t take advantage of me.”
And so this has come up in a lot of readings over the last, you know, 20, 30 years of me talking about The Greenwood with Tarot and Wildwood Tarot.
Steve Nobel: Brilliant. Now connecting to this map of the psyche we were talking about, it seems to me that symbols, and this deck is rich in symbols, is the language of the unconscious mind, and of course symbols are always talking [00:07:00] to us in dreams. But, you know, the Tarot can speak to us, the unconsciousness can speak to us through these symbols. For example, I’ve got one card here, the three of bows, where it looks like a kind of Druid archer with two entwined caduceus-like snakes coming up the front.
I mean, it’s rich. Every card seems rich with symbology. Do you see that this is the way the Tarot speaks to us, through symbols?
Mark Ryan: Yeah. And I also believe, like a lot of major religious faiths, you know what I mean? It’s culturally, [00:07:30] we see it through the way that we grow up and absorb information. And these symbols, that mean something to, I guess, the Western mystical scores, may not mean anything else to anybody else around the world.
But I’ve found, for instance, we talk a little bit about it in Wild Magic, in talking to tribal members, Native American-Indian tribal members, I’ve found that there’s a lot of similarities between [00:08:00] European wheel of the year and totem animals, and the concept of the North American Medicine Wheel. There’s no direct correlation but in the sense that the symbolism of the totem animals, and the energy that they represent during the cycle of the year, and the four quarters and the four winds and all that kind of stuff. It’s very similar in archetypal aspects.
So there’s a lot of … it resonates whether you’re in [00:08:30] Japan or in China or in Australia or in Africa, there’s a lot of similar frequencies of energy. And obviously Wildwood represents a European British flavor of this type of energy and representation.
Steve Nobel: Brilliant. As you mentioned, Mark. We are the creators of our own fate and some people have the misconception that the cards are actually telling them the future, which is a bit fixed. [00:09:00] But this deck is really about possibility and probability. And I guess, even if somebody sees a reading, that can change that possibility, can’t it?
Mark Ryan: Absolutely. And I make that clear when I read for people, I say, “When you do a reading,” and I’ll give you an example of this ’cause it is in the Wildwood book but I won’t say the person’s name. I was explaining this, I was saying it to an old friend of mine, Robin and Dwina Gibb, Robin, as you know, sadly passed away. [00:09:30] But they were very generous to me over the years, and when I was actually writing Wildwood I actually stayed in their house in Kensington. ‘Cause the last bit of the book was the most difficult to write and I really needed to be isolated and quiet and still to do this. And they had a friend that was passing through, and so I stayed there for about three weeks.
But I had a friend that was visiting from the United States, and she’d saw them on the table one day, and she sat down, she said, “What are you doing?” I explained what I was doing. She said, “Would you do me a reading?” And I said, “Sure, yeah, no problem.” So I did this reading and I [00:10:00] explained to her about the question, that being very clear about the question, really took everything out of it that is just static and cluttered, get to the heart of the meaning of the question you’re asking.
So we did this, and I showed her the spread that we got, and I explained: this is a snapshot of the question that you’re asking right now. The very fact that you’ve seen it mean it’s going to change, ’cause the act of observing the particle changes the particle. Now you see this, and I explain it to you, means it’s [00:10:30] gonna change, so plead one way or the other, you have the power to make that change positive for yourself, or negative, or whatever. You have the power to do that, this is a snapshot of the situation.
Said, “Can we do it again?” So we did it again, and I am very very … I like to break the deck up so there’s absolutely no chance that the same cards will appear in the next reading. So we did that, went through all that thing again. Well, about five of the cards that had been in the first [00:11:00] layout turned up in the second reading. So I went through it all again and explained all of these different images and what they meant, and basically it was the same answer to whatever the question was. ‘Cause I don’t want to know what the question is, it’s cleaner for me if I don’t actually know what the question is that that person is asking.
So, I think we went back through all that, and she was like, “Oh, that’s very interesting.” I said, “Okay, can we do it again?” So we did it three times, and I think this [00:11:30] time there was four of the same cards came, after even going through the mathematical way of really scrambling the deck, about four cards cam out into this reading again. I think of or two of them were even in the same positions, it was very strange.
And I said, “Look, whatever the question is, and I don’t need to know what it is, you can see that this answer is, whatever the turmoil is that’s going through your mind reacting to this, this is the snapshot of the situation, you [00:12:00] can see from this that you need to make a decision and step this way or that way.” And I folded up the cards and I went into the kitchen and she said, “Can I ask you a question?” I said, “Sure.” She said, “You know what the question is, don’t you?” I said, “Well, I’ve got a good idea now, from looking at the cards,” I said, “But what is more importantly, you already knew what the answer was before we did the reading. That’s why you got the same cards.” “Yes, I’ve already made the decision, I want to know [00:12:30] if that’s the right decision.”
And I said, “Well, you’re stepping on the rainbow bridge, you have to go down. Here’s the snapshot of it, you now have to go make the most of the decision that you’ve made.” So she’s already made the decision, and the cards reflected that in the answer she was getting.
Steve Nobel: Brilliant. Now, I know this books goes a lot into the kind of, human and universal consciousness field, quantum theory. Can you just say something about that, ’cause it’s a vast field, isn’t it? That the Tarot opens [00:13:00] up.
Mark Ryan: It’s fascinating to me, because I think it opens up all kinds of areas that human beings are gonna be confronted with over the next few years, whether it’s to do with artificial intelligence and what that means, and the nature of biological life. Whether we deal with it on our own planet, or whether you know, we discover that there is life out there somewhere in the universe.
I believe that the science [00:13:30] now, of trying to understand how human consciousness interacts with a universal conscious mind is gonna be a huge subject over the next, over the next few decades. And there are brilliant people coming up with at least a framework of theories, like Max Tegmark, who’s an MIT physicist, talking about the way that our brains absorb. We absorb massive amounts of information, but we actually [00:14:00] filter it down so that we can deal with it on a human level. We know that our brains, you know, absorb imagery and light and color from all kinds of different bandwidths. We just filter it down on our daily journey through life. Because otherwise we’d just overload with information.
We now know that there probably is dark matter, we not know that there are vibrational fields if you follow super string [00:14:30] theory. We now know that there’s anti matter. And all of these things interact with our conscious minds, and the way that we project that, not only projects those … affects those around us, but it obviously interacts with us as well.
So to me, this whole new field of human consciousness and how that affects the reality around us, this to me is fascinating. And the Tarot is the perfect [00:15:00] tool in my estimation, for trying to make sense of how we talk to that great big conscious mind.
Steve Nobel: Yeah. Do you think this is an explanation for the concept of synchronicity?
Mark Ryan: Yes, to a certain degree. I think Jung was onto something, but obviously he didn’t have the advantage we now have, things like, you know, the Large Hadron Collider, where we can actually create these magical particles that nobody thought existed. [00:15:30] Or the Hubble Space Telescope, which can look out into the vastness of the universe, where we thought there was absolutely nothing, we now know that the universe is much bigger, and is teaming, not with planets, it’s teaming with galaxies that are teaming with planets.
So we know that the universe is much richer, much older, much bigger than we ever thought it was. And some of these concepts, of we’re observing [00:16:00] this, and where do we come from, and are our physical bodies are literally made up of the waste matter of possibly black holes and galaxies colliding with each other, you know, across vast reaches of space? That appears to be true, I mean we are literally made up of the stuff of stars. And somehow in our brains we’ve … as a part of the human [00:16:30] condition, we’ve managed to narrow down that field of view so that we can deal with the reality we’re facing on a daily basis. But that’s not the only way I believe that the human mind functions. I believe we can affect reality, and project new waveforms and new possibilities and probabilities into that field.
Steve Nobel: Gorgeous. Now I know, one thing I really noticed about this book, Mark, [00:17:00] is how much of your own personal life you share. Particularly in all the archetypal cards. For example, in the emperor card, the green man card, you talk about walking with Sir Anthony Hopkins, who has a quality of the emperor at the height of his career. And it was a great privilege, of course, to meet this person. Can this archetype of the emperor be found in every walk of life?
Mark Ryan: Yes, and not only that, we can be the emperor. I mean, we as human beings have elements of [00:17:30] that generous, kindly, brilliant personality, within us all. They reside within all human beings, we just sometimes have to let them have their heads. I mean, the reason I used Anthony Hopkins, Sir Anthony Hopkins, because he was personally so kind to me many years ago. And as I talk about it … and actually, I reminded him as well, on the set, was that … back in probably 1981, I stopped him in Wardor [00:18:00] Street in Soho, and just said to him, “I just want to let you know, I study what you do. Lion in Winter, Bridge Too Far, you know, Elephant Man. These to me, watching you on screen was absolute education.”
And this was before, obviously, Silence of the Lambs and all that kind of stuff. And this man stood in a wet Soho street and talked to me for about 15, 20 minutes, about the difference between stage acting and screen acting. And I was just about to leave Evita, I’d done [00:18:30] almost four years in Evita, and we were about to go into filming a film called Who Dares Wins. And what he told be absolutely effected what I tried to do on screen.
That generosity of spirit, the spirit of sharing, the spirit of imparting knowledge, even if you think, you know, you’ve said something but you don’t know if the person took it in, I was living proof with him, that when I worked with him last year, I was able to go up to him and say, ” [00:19:00] I want to tell you this story.” And I explained to him what had happened. He looked at me and he said, “I knew we’d met before.” He said, “Let me ask you a question.” He said, “1981,” he said, “Was it in the Strand? Or in Soho?” And I went, “It was in Soho.” He said, “Was it Wardour Street, or was it Frith Street?” And I said, “I’ve always said it was Wardour Street,” but I said, “It could have been Frith Street, ’cause my favorite record store was there, and I used to go into this … you know, they did film themes, and musicals and stuff, [00:19:30] and I used to go and buy these albums there. So it could have been Frith Street, but it think it was Wardour Street.” He said, “I never forget a face, and I never forget a place, and I knew we’d met before.”
And so, that generosity of spirit, and he would stand there and have his picture taken with hundreds, literally hundreds of people that turned up, just to watch us filming in Oxford and in Bamburgh Castle, and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. An absolute gentleman, an absolute. He radiates [00:20:00] that spirit and the energy of somebody who is actually at the height of their power, they know it, and yet they have still got the time and energy and generosity to go to give everybody that 60 seconds, where they will never forget that interaction.
Steve Nobel: Now, I know, just one other example of this, in the empress card, the green woman, you talk about meeting a lot of people who inspired you in other ways, like your English teacher, and your singing [00:20:30] teacher. Again, we can become the inspirer, can’t we? Working with this energy, we can inspire others, in all kinds of walks.
Mark Ryan: Absolutely. And we have a responsibility to do it. I talk about, sometimes, about the responsibility of Robin of Sherwood, because people say to me, “Why have you sort of, you’ve spent a lot of time during your career, you still rave on about Robin of Sherwood and your friendships with Ray Winstone, and Clive Mantle, and Jason Connery, Michael Praed, all these guys. And I said, ” [00:21:00] Because that was one of the formative experiences of my life, where we all knew that as a group,” again, we were very loyal to each other, we all supported each other, we were all in the same situation together, and we all knew we were creating something that was absolutely unique, and was probably gonna outlive all of us.
And we were adding things into this, you know, thousand year plus legend that was deeply ingrained in the British psyche, and yet we were involved in the retelling of this story, [00:21:30] and bringing it to a new audience and adding things to it. To me, obviously, adding the character of Nasir, the Saracen, the lost, you know, the stranger in the strange land. To me, was the greatest opportunity probably of my career at that time, other than playing Che in Evita.
The reason, again, you asked me previously in a different section about how did I get into this kind of thing? I found that I would go to Robin of Sherwood conventions, [00:22:00] or get invited to these celebrations of pagan type stuff, and they’d ask me questions, and I had the answers based on my experienced as a boy in Doncaster, and the education I got from the Sue Herbets, from the Phil [Navassas 00:22:16], my English teacher, my music teacher.
And so, we have a responsibility to pass that knowledge. And I mean this in the most positive way. The [00:22:30] courage to say to kids, “Don’t be afraid to imagine. Don’t be afraid to think that you can step forward. Don’t be afraid to think that you can not be important and affect people’s lives. Because you can.” And you know, that is one of the things that holds people back, a lot, is fear and self doubt. They are the greatest enemy. They are the greatest enemy. It’s empowering the kids of the next generation, to go, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking you [00:23:00] can’t.”
I’m a boy from Doncaster that left school when I was 15 years old. And yet, you’ll be able to send out these ripples through the psyche, human psyche and affect people’s lives in a way that probably, will outlive me, whether it’s Robin of Sherwood or Wildwood Tarot, it’s gonna outlive me and hopefully will be useful and positive for people long after I shuffled off this mortal coil. So we need to [inaudible 00:23:27] our kids with the same [00:23:30] sense of dedication and freedom to create and to think and to make positive decisions.
Steve Nobel: Brilliant Mark, thank you. So Wild Magic, coauthored by Mark Ryan and John Matthews. You can find out more details on thewildwoodtarot.com. Mark, once again, thank you so much, for your time and generosity.
Mark Ryan: Yeah, bless you. Thank you so much, thank you for letting me, again, roam all over the psychological map here.
Steve Nobel: Thanks, Mark.
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Interviewer Steve Nobel is a book mentor, coach, an author of five books, and an online publisher.
Eddison Books is a book packager and publisher based in London. Their specialist topics are books in Mind, Body, Spirit; Personal Development; Health; and Parenting.
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