The Wildwood Tarot card places a heavy emphasis on the traditional reversed meaning of imbalance which has led ultimately to exploitation, the card's key word. An elderly man and young woman stand with bowls thrust outward to us in silent begging. They are surrounded by a desolate landscape. Empty, partially destroyed bee hives sit upon 6 stone pedestals. The honey has been reaped but the bees were not nurtured and hence the hives collapsed. Nothing grows in the dry, dusty earth, tools lay broken on the ground, and in the distance a fire rages, burning away the dead grasses. The Wildwood places a special focus on environmentalism, encouraging us to be mindful of the way we use resources. In recent decades humankind has pushed the earth's capacity to support us to the brink of failure by using too much, wasting a lot, and not giving back to the cycle of life.
When I see this card in a spread I usually use the more traditional meaning, because while I understand and agree with the Wildwood message, I think that there is a positive significance in there which shouldn't be lost. But I appreciate the gentle reminder - even when using the positive meaning - that there is a fine line between reciprocity and exploitation, and maintaining that balance requires acknowledgement and mindfulness.
(Wildwood Tarot, Mark Ryan, John Matthews, Will Worthington. Sterling Ethos, 2011)