Deck Review: Out of the woods with the Wooden Tarot

Last year, I tipped one of my friends off to a couple of tarot shops in the States because she was there on vacation for a couple of months. She doesn't read herself but was always one of my most willing guinea pigs when it came to testing out new decks, spreads, or ways of reading. When she came home in time for Christmas, I was super surprised to receive this deck from her as a gift!

The Wooden Tarot has been on and off my Etsy shopping cart since it was created. Back in architecture school, I worked a lot with balsa wood for model making and for presentations—this deck always appealed to me because of the unique wood grains that reminded me of the careful crafting we did back in college. I love the look of natural wood—its unique grains, colors, and its texture.

What stopped me from purchasing the deck on my own was the slightly sardonic, gleefully grotesque animal figures. I'm not much of an animal lover myself, and when you add to that creepy eyeballs and skulls and bones, I get a little weirded out.

The Wooden Tarot universe to me is part Indiana Jones, part Sherlock Holmes, part Twilight Zone.

The Wooden Tarot universe to me is part Indiana Jones, part Sherlock Holmes, part Twilight Zone.

So I'm thankful I was gifted the deck because now, I can get over my heebie-jeebies and just enjoy the artful universe created by Skullgarden (and now, the completist in me has put the Seeker's Lenormand and the Earthbound Oracle on wishlist watch). This deck goes through some switcheroos—the aces are renamed as Gods (do those giant eyeballs freak you out?), the Wands are renamed Stones, Blooms are Cups, Plumes are Swords, and Bones are Pentacles. The deck doesn't come with a little white book and I had to do a bit of research to figure this out because the suits' switch-up didn't come to me intuitively (thank you, Benebell Wen). 

The card includes a Happy Squirrel, which is a cute little spinoff from a Simpsons' episode. Not gonna lie, the third eye on that squirrel does look a little bothersome… but at least I know he or she's happy!

I love the 3 of Plumes in this deck! It looks like something out of biology class.

I love the 3 of Plumes in this deck! It looks like something out of biology class.

This deck is gorgeous. I am a typeface nerd and love the sinewy lines of the font Skullgarden used on all the copy. This deck reminds me of childhood visits to the Natural History Museum, looking at dinosaur bones, giant crystals, and evolutionary timelines.

While you may probably be able to match some of the minor arcana cards with the Rider Waite Smith, for the most part, the Wooden Tarot offers Marseille-type pips that can be a stretch for those used to more scenic images. I'm not heavily into numerology and I've never tried studying Marseille, but I'm able to draw meaning from these cards with the basic knowledge of tarot I already have. It takes a little longer for me to figure things out than I would with my other decks, but that's okay.

If you're looking for a way to challenge your intuitive reading skills, then this one's for you. There are no right or wrong answers, after all—only your confidence in your abilities!

Animal lovers, rejoice—you'll have a lot of inspiration to go by with the Major Arcana.

Animal lovers, rejoice—you'll have a lot of inspiration to go by with the Major Arcana.

I find that the majors are easier to decipher with this deck, and to study with it or slowly sneak it into my rotation of frequently used decks for clients, I would work with just the majors first. Every card has an animal… a fun tarot exercise in associations and matchmaking would be figuring out why these pairings make sense, or why they don't. For those who are more inclined to consult books rather than go off on intuition, it may be a useful exercise to pull up The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit's companion guidebook to gain a little more insight. It's nice to know that you can compare and contrast this with other animal-centric decks just to see what resonates with you.

It'll be a challenge for me to read effortlessly with The Wooden Tarot, especially because it pulls me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one (visually, and meanings-wise with the pips). That said, it is an absolute joy to handle. The tuck box, as mentioned by Benebell Wen in her review, has that additional crease that makes it easy to pull the cards out. And the cards have that matte but slippery texture that I really, really love.

I can imagine getting a reading from someone who uses this deck and being instantly impressed, just because the visuals are so striking and it looks like it takes a lot of knowhow to make sense of the organized chaos presented by the Wooden Tarot. I can't wait to see how this one reads with the rest of Skullgarden's decks. I do plan on purchasing the next two once I know I've got a firmer handle on this one!