New Worlds Spring/Summer 2013 Issue
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The Well Worn Path Review
This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on January 11, 2009
Summary: A deck that is specifically directed toward Pagans, Witches and Wiccans. Not a Tarot, the forty cards represent foundational Pagan concepts. While not for Rider-Waite-Smith purists, this deck is well-suited to the many tens of thousands of Pagans who would like a divination deck that is not tied to Kabalistic concepts.
Name of deck: The Well Worn Path
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
Creatorsí names: Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor
Artistís name: Mickie Mueller
Brief biography of artist: Mickie Mueller is an artist, a practitioner of earth religion spirituality, and a Reiki healing master/teacher in the Usui Shiki Royoho tradition since 2001. Mickieís artwork has appeared in a variety of publications including cover art for Witchcraft and Wicca magazine in the United Kingdom, Oracle 2000, Spirit Seeker and Ravenís Call magazines.
Name of accompanying book: The Travelerís Guide to The Well Worn Path
Number of pages of book: 216
Authorís of book/booklet: Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor
Brief biography of authors: Raven Grimassi is an award-winning author of numerous books on Wicca and Witchcraft, and has been a practitioner and teacher in these fields for over thirty-five years. Trained in both northern and southern European tradition, Raven brings a broad vision to the myths, legends and symbolism of the Craft. Many of his writings have been seminal and foundational in the construction of various Craft traditions.
Stephanie Taylor has been a Witch at heart all of her life, and a Tarot reader and spiritual counselor for over fifteen years. Currently she is co-director and teacher at the College of the Crossroads, a Mystery School dedicated to preserving and passing on the old ways. The College was founded in 2003 with author Raven Grimassi. Stephanie also operates Ravenís Loft webstore and the Witchís Cottage shop at the College of the Crossroads.
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes
If yes, are there extras in the kit?: Yes, there is a black organdy bag to hold the deck and a separate box that can be used to store the deck and protect it.
Magical Uses: A wide variety of "simple" solitary rites.
Reading Uses: All general readings
Artistic Style: Modern graphic
Theme: Paganism, Witchcraft and Wicca
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Divination Deck and more
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: no
If Divination Deck, what is the structure? The deck consists of forty cards. Rather than being divided into multiple sections, such as Major and Minor Arcana, these cards form a unique and continuous tale of personal unfoldment within a Pagan paradigm.
Why was deck created?: According to the authors, "The Well Worn Path is not a Tarot deck. It is a unique divination system designed specifically for the needs of modern Pagans, Witches, and Wiccans who seek something more rooted in Nature-based spirituality. The idea for this deck arose from a recognized need for a system that speaks to the Pagan culture of our European ancestors.
The word "paradigm," according to my dictionary, means "a generally accepted model of how ideas relate to one another." Thus, if a paradigm is accurate, it can represent the universe and our position within the universe. The Tarot serves as such a paradigm, as does Newtonian physics, quantum physics, astrology, the Kabalah, etc.
The authors recognized that there needed to be a Pagan-oriented version of this. At the beginning of the book that accompanies this deck they err in claiming that the Tarot "originated from ancient Hebrew mysticism," but this can certainly be forgiven as the paradigm of the Kabalah and the Tarot have, over the past few hundred years, been completely interwoven to the extent that they are part and parcel of each other. When I first started to study the Tarot on my own, I repeatedly found the concept that if you "really" want to know the Tarot, you have to study the Kabalah. I could just as easily say that if you "really" want to know the Tarot, you have to study Einsteinís Relativity theory. Be that as it may, due to the modern interlinking of the Tarot and the Kabalah, if someone wanted a divination system totally free from the Kabalistic linkages, it would have to be totally different. And thatís exactly what "The Well Worn Path is.
It is important to point out that this deck is most definitely not a Tarot deck. It is true that many Pagans work with Tarot decks, but it is also true that many Pagans have struggled to adopt some of the Kabalistic concept that are foreign to their beliefs, or have tried to strip the Kabalistic linkages that have developed from their interpretation. Unfortunately, the success has been limited at best. Itís like trying to listen to the trumpets at the finale of Gioachino Rossiniís overture to his opera, "William Tell," and not think of The Lone Ranger.
The concept of using a deck of cards for a divination tool is incredibly attractive. Itís compact, visual, easy to carry, and inexpensive. However, coming up with an entire system that is internally coherent and logicalóone that is not simply a variation of the Tarot or a series of unconnected conceptsóis not easy at all. The fact that "The Well Worn Path is able to transcend predetermined limitations and have internal usable logic is amazing. It also transcends the old Tarot paradigm by including four directions simultaneously. A person could use any of the four, but I imagine that most users of this deck will call on it when any of the four aspects is needed.
First aspect: "Alignment." For each card there is a short story that runs through the entire deck. Although similar in concept to the famous "Foolís Journey" aspect of the Tarot, the alignments follows the entire set of cards as opposed to the Foolís Journey that only works with the Major Arcana of the Tarot. By turning every card into part of a story, it makes the meaning of the cardówith symbolism and imagery that is obviously congruent with the cardís meaningóeasy to learn. This congruency, which is often missing in some visions of the Tarot, is much easier to manifest with a completely new deck, and that is what has happened here.
Second aspect: "Teaching." Paganism has a long and rich history filled with symbolic myth. The teachings for each card reveal the symbolism and meaning of each card in its fullness. This includes the religious significance of each card, providing forty "flash cards" with foundational concepts appropriate for every Pagan, Witch, or Wiccan.
Third aspect: "Meaning." For each card there is a divination meaning. Some may wish to use this deck just for this purpose, although thatís like using an automobile to store gasoline. Sure, you can use it for that, but it can do so much more.
Fourth aspect: "Ritual." The deck was designed so the cards could be used to perform solitary rituals. All of your tools are in a small spaceóthe deckóand because they are so compact, you need little space to perform the rituals. In some ways this is similar to Donald Tysonís, Portable Magic, but Tysonís book is focused more toward ceremonial magic and the use of the Tarot.
Thatís a lot of stuff for one small deck, so to get its full use I strongly recommend that when you get this deck you should only get it in the set that includes the book, A Travelerís Guide to The Well Worn Path. Besides giving the meaning, teaching, and alignment for each card, it also gives explanations of how to do Pagan rituals with the deck. Included are two sample rituals. The spreads described in the book are also Pagan oriented, and are focused around the images of a cauldron, a crossroads, and a pentagram.
The art by Mickie Mueller is soft and pastel-like, and very appropriate for this deck. Some of the images may surprise you. For example, the card "Initiation" features the image of a "priestess and priest who wait to lead an initiate to his or her rite of initiation. You may find it curious that the image does not show a scene of initiation or of a person being initiated, but rather of the initiators. It becomes more appropriate when you realize that although it is not described in the book, the figures on the card are that of the authors, Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor. The implication being that working with this deck and book is similar to being initiated. Indeed, they have been willing to give their knowledge and training for decades, making this deck and book a continuation of their work.
Part of this deck is the story the images tell. As any novelist will tell you, a good story needs conflict, and most need some form of passion. Unlike the Tarot, there is no Tower, no Devil, no Hanged Man, no Lovers. This is not so much of a lack, as it is an opening. You may want to look for the authorís second deck, The Hidden Path, which can stand on its own or be used in conjunction with this deck. A unique, expandable system for Pagans, Witches, and Wiccans.