Princess Mononoke’s Forest Spirit and the Stag of the Wildwood Tarot

Sharing the spring equinox with The Archer is The Stag.

As card eight in the major arcana, this replaces the traditional ‘Justice’ card.

Reading the Wildwood Tarot guidebook, I am instantly struck by The Stag’s resemblance to the Forest Spirit in Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

Like the Forest Spirit, The Stag is ‘forest king and guardian, half human and half animal…[looking] out from the card with a steady and calm gaze.’


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The Stag Wildwood Tarot

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Forest Spirit Princess Mononoke The Stag Wildwood Tarot



In Princess Mononoke, the Forest Spirit reminds us that the earth and all of its resources are precious and powerful, and that nature is stronger than human will.

Humans do, however, have the power to temporarily harm and destroy these resources. In the film, the greed, fear and hatered of a human community threaten the forest and all of the life it supports. So determined is the queen of this community to expand ‘Iron Town’ into land occupied by trees that she determines to cut off the head of the Forest Spirit – this, she reasons, will weaken the forest and its inhabitants, making it easier for her to deforest the land. When she finally does, a terrible, oozing death threatens to engulf the entire world. But The Forest Spirit’s head is returned and within moments, Iron Town and the surrounding area are overgrown with greenness and life. Princess Mononoke‘s message is about respect (or lack of) for the ecosystem and the ability of nature to adjust to the damage humans do, and, having removed us from the system entirely, renew itself and continue without us.

The Stag Wildwood Tarot
The Stag, from The Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews and Will Worthington

Likewise, as Mark Ryan and John Matthews explain in The Wildwood Tarot, The Stag’s antlers are ‘a reminder of our cosmic connection to the universe and its manifestation in all organic life.‘ His axe reminds us of ‘the human will to change the environment – and not always for the better’. His shield ‘reminds us that we must preserve and protect our natural resources.’

The link with the traditional Justice card is clear.

Those themes of cause and effect are in full force. What we do to the environment will eventually be served back to us. Like all creatures we are guests of nature on this planet. If we harm the ecosystem, we will eventually find that we are removed from it. If we continue to destroy forests, pollute oceans and pump carbon into the atmosphere, we will end up with nothing to eat or breathe.

As a card for the spring equinox and thus related to the element of air, The Stag is about wisdom and foresight. We must choose our actions wisely and understand the effects of what we do.

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