Saturday, 14 December 2013

Looking at the Wild Unknown Tarot

The last couple of days I've been looking at the Wild Unknown Tarot. Last night I laid the whole deck out in the floor in order and sat and looked at it for a long time. Then I put the deck back together and examined each card, trying to find the meaning in the images. I haven't been that enamoured of this deck, to be honest, so I've been trying to find the appeal of it. Obviously it is very striking, all that black and white with the splashes of colour here and there. But I see little value in a pretty deck if you can't read with it, and I haven't done much in the way of trying to read with the Wild Unknown.

The first thing I did was look really closely at the majors. With each card, I stared at the image, trying to make the connections, until I felt a click of understanding of how this particular image evokes the card's meaning. When I understood a card, I put it on the 'understand' pile. When I never quite could get the connection, I put it on the 'don't understand' pile. These are cards where I can't quite see why the animal or image chosen represents the card meaning to the deck creator. This pile for the majors consists of: Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, Hierophant, Wheel of Fortune and Temperance. I just wonder why big cats were chosen for Magician and High Priestess--why a leopard for Magician, tiger for High Priestess? What is that globe the High Priestess has? Is it the earth? Why are the Empress and Emperor trees? I can kind of see why the Emperor is black and white, but why is the Empress white on black with red tinges? Why is the Hierophant a crow clutching a key? Why a crow? The Wheel of Fortune I kind of get, but why is Temperance a heron? Is it a heron? I'm not sure. Is there some symbolic significance to the heron? No answers -- yet.

Then I looked at the courts, and at first, these were all on the 'don't understand' pile. Why were these particular animals chosen for the courts? Then I got a bit of a click. The Cups court family is made up of geese, famous for their lifelong loyalty to their mates. There is a pair of geese on the Lovers card as well. The Swords courts are owls, which makes sense because we associate owls with wisdom, and Swords with the mind. It took me a while to twig why the Wands courts are snakes -- but if snakes are about transformation, and Wands are about the fires of creation/transformation, that makes sense. And finally, the Pentacles courts are deer, which seem to be quite in tune with their surroundings and deeply connected to earth and the signals of the physical. So all the courts went into the 'understand' pile.

A few of the puzzling cards from Wild Unknown Tarot

Finally, the pip cards, which are 'semi-illustrated.' I sorted them again and again into the 'understand' and 'don't understand' piles. I examined the piles and put them in numerical and suit order. Funnily enough, I understood nearly all of the Sword cards, and almost none of the remaining cards. The ones I don't get are:

Swords - 4
Cups - 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Wands - 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10
Pentacles - 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9

Why is there a calf with a glowing forehead on 4 of Swords? Why is there a rat on 4 of Cups? Why are there colourful tree roots on 6 of Cups? What the heck is the deal with the upside down cups and the indentation of lines in 7 of Cups? Why are all the cups broken in 8 of Cups? Why are the cups arranged in a huge circle in 9 of Cups and what is that crescent moon there for? Why are rainbow rays connecting the cups in 10 of Cups? I don't know.

What does 2 of Wands have to do with anything? Why does the 4 of Wands look like an eye? Why is there another moth on 6 of Wands? What does a light shining in darkness have to do with 7 of Wands? Why does the 9 of Wands look like a stairway to the moon? How is a pattern of dropped sticks a burden in 10 of Wands? I don't know.

Why is there yet another moth on 2 of Pentacles? What is the deal with moths?? What does a mountain have to do with the 3 of Pentacles? What is miserly about the pattern on the 4 of Pentacles? Is the 6 of Pentacles a nod to the flowers in the RWS? What does the right angle mean in 7 of Pentacles, and why do the coins make a diagonal division across the card? Why are there feathers on the 9 of Pents when I thought it was a 'deer' suit? I don't know!

I do not have the companion book, but it doesn't look terribly heavy on text and I don't want to waste my money on a book that doesn't give me answers. I will continue to try to come up with something myself, but if I can't --well, then I can't use this deck. I'll keep looking at it.


  1. This was for me the main reason not to buy this deck although the artwork is amazing. I've had this kind of experience with the Tarot of the Hidden Realm and therefor I'e vsend it back to the store. Perhaps it is best to find you own meaning or to use this deck as some kind of oracle. That's what I am planning to do with the Hidden Realm one day :)

    1. Oh, I thought you ordered those again and decided to keep them.

    2. No not yet,I´m still thinking it over. And the buying urge isn´t that strong at the moment. Rather peaceful I must say. :D

    3. Not geese - swans.

    4. Geese - swans. I was close. Apparently the calf is a lamb. Looks like a calf to me. :)

  2. I love the deck, ti worked really well for me out of the box... you definitely don't need the book, The Wild Unknown and Deviant Moon are my top two reading decks. Great post, really enjoyed your thoughts here. I have blogged about it and done a few readings on AT where some of the cards you mention have come up. There is a great thread there too in deck Studies.

    1. It is an interesting deck, very stylish and certainly has a mood all its own. :)

  3. Kudos for the riff on the suits --just wonderful.

    I'm as stumped as you are by the minors I'm seeing here. What is a rat doing on the 4 of Cups --literally on the cups? The animal in the 4 of Swords is definitely a lamb, though, and the Sacrificial Lamb, I guess, a Christ symbol... but why there? The circle of cups in the 9 and the rainbow in the 10 of cups, however, are traditional RWS symbols.

  4. I've loved looking at the images online for the last few week but I'm so reassured by your descriptions of the court cards. I was (and still am) a little unnerved by the snakes. How are you finding them now? I'm glad I'm not the only one who focuses on the cards they don't understand. Have they clicked now?


Share your wisdom, please! Comments welcome.