The Ancestor. Wow.
She’s every bit as scary as her traditional equivalent – The Hierophant – and yet there’s something spellbinding – something which draws you in to her open arms.
The Ancestor, from the Wildwood Tarot, illustrated by Will Worthington
Many cards in the Wildwood Tarot are drastically different than the traditional cards that hold the same position in the deck, and some are not such drastic reinventions as wonderful reimaginings.
The Ancestor is of the latter type. Where I read The Heirophant dishing out dogma and tradition – this is the way it’s always been and these are the rules that govern us, follow them for your own good – the Ancestor represents a different type of tradition. She shows us our roots, out history. She reminds us where we have come from – collectively – and urges us to learn from the mistakes of the past and to forge a strong future. As 21st century readers and querents, she reminds us that the ancient wisdom of the forest is still deep within all of us – that we are wild, proud creatures beneath our clothes and make-up, that we possess knowledge and instincts we often forget.
This feels like such a key message for the Wildwood Tarot, and reminds me of another Wildwood card which stands out for it’s difference from the ‘original’ – the Ten of Arrows (where the Ten of Swords would be). In this card where we once had a figure floored by ten swords representing martyrdom and a sort of ‘rock bottom’ mentality, the Wildwood image is completely different. It shows an archery lesson – an elder passing on ancient skills to the next generation. This deck continually emphasises the importance of holding on to, or rediscovering, our roots – the knowledge and skills we all hold inside, but lose, generation by generation, in a world which becomes more and more commercialised, more concrete, more tamed (or so we think) by human ‘progress’.
The Ancestor represents also the change that occurs when we get back in touch with these deep roots – whether we realise this has happened or not.
When she appears in a reading (and she hasn’t yet, for me), I imagine a sense of wonder and bewilderment – a tugging, a magnetism, drawing me towards something inexplicable – Moon-like in her mystery, her mask and drum held high. The silver crescent falls behind her as a red dawn breaks – this is a safer place than the realm of the Moon.
The Ancestor beats her drum and I hear it in my chest.
Though I don’t know where I’m headed, she reassures me that she will stay with me as I journey, and that I am equipped with everything I need.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.