This deck arrived a while ago, in a box that boldly stated in capital letters, “CONTAINS MAGIC”. While I had seen images of the cards online and thought they were powerful and substantial, I did feel at the time this was a big claim to make.
Little did I know that as I came to work with this deck over the months that followed, I found these cards to indeed hold an enchanting and connecting magical energy. It is difficult for me to place my finger exactly on, and define the timeless pulse that flows through these cards, yet for me personally, the readings I have conducted with this deck have been nothing short of magical. I would go as far as adding “shamanic” to the overall feel of this deck, though I’ll let the card pictures tell a thousand words of their own.
The deck is the creation of artist, writer and seeker Kim Krans. If you like what you see, I would encourage you to check out The Wild Unknown website for the deck and other work available for purchase.
I would describe the imagery and scenes in the cards as minimal, yet the carefully chosen use of colour and symbolism allow for a rich visual interpretation. You have to sit with the cards, and allow time to uncover layers of meaning.
I think the departure from descriptive pictorial scenes in the minor arcana is excellent for those of us who feel the need to exercise the intuitive faculty – no reliance on textbook meanings here! And while the deck does have an accompanying book, I would set this aside when reading the cards first, to allow my own intuition to work and bring forth messages – and only later check what the book has to say (this is, of course, a guiding principle in all tarot work, however I think it is even more important with minimalist decks where the lack of descriptive “action scenes” may tempt one to refer to a book first, rather than, you know, exercise that intuitive muscle).
The suit of Swords: 7, 8 and daughter (Page)
The deck keeps with the four classic suit names, Swords, Cups, Pentacles and Wands. Throughout the deck you will find all sorts of appearances from the animal or plant kingdom depicted in rather beautiful and perceptive ways. Take for example the 8 of Swords above, showing a butterfly cocoon surrounded by 8 swords. Now this is a classic card of bondage, restrictions, inability to be free – and this can be due to the surrounding environment, or in the querent’s own mind. I love the way this card is portrayed in this deck: it shows the attributes of restriction, yet the symbolism makes it clear this is only for a limited time. Eventually the caterpillar, safe in that cocoon, will transform. And what will emerge – often from rather painful life experiences – will be a beautiful butterfly. Who among us knows this to be an all too familiar story in life’s journey? How many times have we felt so utterly hopeless, or in despair, by our circumstances – and yet, as we move through this, as time flows, and we are able to transform, we understand the power of perseverance, of not giving up.
Take a look at the Fool, a card known for foolishness, as the name suggests, but also to listening to our hearts, to taking that leap of faith, regardless of what others say: our little duckling must take that plunge and learn to fly. It’s scary, isn’t it, but learning to fly is both freeing and a necessary skill of survival.
There is a departure in the naming of the court cards, so that instead of Page, Knight, Queen and King we have daughter, son, mother and father. Each suit has its own animal representative in the court cards: Swords – owl, Wands – snake, Cups – swan, and Pentacles – deer.
The guide book accompanying this deck is written by the artist, and offers brief, succinct and insightful descriptions for the cards. I would certainly recommend getting the guide book, for it is always interesting to read the artist’s perception and insights into each card – though as I’ve noted above, allow your own mind and intuition to make a connection and bring forth the messages before reading the book.
To summarise, personally I do love this deck and have found it brilliant for my own readings. I have found that at times, the masterful use of colour is, by itself, a way to interpret a reading. In some cards it is scarce, in others abundant. When you lay 3 or 4 or 5 cards next to each other, sometimes the colour transition across cards tells a message by itself.
Finally, I must add a few words on the card stock – let me begin by saying it is excellent quality – at least in the 2016 edition I own (I think there may be later editions but I’m not entirely sure). Dear independent tarot creators and publishers, please please please do not overlook the quality of your cards. I have been disappointed one too many times by cards that are flimsy, or smell like a toxic chemical factory, or are too plasticky, and so on. I understand this may be a personal opinion, however the tarot is a tangible, tactile tool. One must shuffle the cards to use them, and the sensory experience is as important as the art, in my humble opinion.
The Wild Unknown deck does not disappoint in this regard – the cards have a nice solid feel to them, and are a pleasure to shuffle. No plastic coating – at least not that I can tell anyway.
I look forward to deepening my relationship with this deck in the years and decades to come. It is a great guide, and I think it will become even more so as I start to explore and practice natural magic, plant spirit work, and other such delectable pursuits.