Review of the Wild Unknown Tarot

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If you’re plugged in to the online tarot community in any way, even minimally, then you’ve been hearing buzz about this deck. It’s self-published and I’ve got to say, recently the self-published decks have been beating the traditional publishers. Hey traditional publishers: what are you people doing? Get with the program.

Even non-tarot people (many from the fashion world) have been getting into the Wild Unknown tarot deck. Imagery from the cards are just freakin’ everywhere. I remember first seeing an Instagram photo of someone’s tattoo and thinking, “That kind of looks like a tarot card” only to realize it was. What is going on?!

But the few glimpses of cards I saw here and there made me think that this deck would be one of those “its own unique system” decks where I’d have to do a lot of learning before I did any reading. And I’m getting to that age (sadly) where I don’t know if I want to learn any more “new tarot traditions.” So at first I thought I was going to pass.

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And then the imagery. The card’s artwork kept drawing me in, beckoning. “You want me.” No I don’t! Go away. “You want me.”

Then a few weeks ago I set a goal for myself (unrelated to this deck, and totally unrelated to tarot) and said if I met that goal, I’d reward myself with the Wild Unknown tarot deck. I met the goal and the first chance I could, bolted for the computer and placed my order.

And wow. WOW. Best decision ever. The Wild Unknown is easily one of my favorite tarot decks now.

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This is one of the highest quality decks I have come across in a long time in terms of the cardstock, the matte finish, and the box packaging. Kim Krans renders the images in hand-drawn black ink illustrations, with just a touch of color here and there so beautifully and intuitively done that they are sure to activate chakras while you read with this deck.

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Wild Unknown, Suit of Wands, Ace to Ten

I’d categorize the Wild Unknown as a Marseille-based tarot deck. After all, Key 8 in the Wild Unknown is Justice and Key 11 is Strength (as opposed to the standard RWS, which is 8/Strength, 11/Justice). However, going through The Wild Unknown Tarot Guidebook that Krans graciously included when I purchased this deck, I see a lot of card interpretation crossover from both the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth. In that sense, the Wild Unknown would work very well as a beginner’s deck, though such a beginner would have some work to do if she were to later try to learn the traditional Tarot de Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, or Thoth. So in that sense, the tarot practitioners who are calling this deck its own interpretive system have a point.

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Wild Unknown, Suit of Cups, Ace to Ten

The cards are 2.75″ x 4.75″, a pretty customary size for tarot decks, but because of the quality of cardstock, it’s thicker than most decks and for my hands at least, took a bit of getting used to for shuffling. I love the card backs–the design reminds me of the rings of an old oak tree, and convey a quality of time and wisdom. And because of it’s elegant matte finish, I love the sound of the cards as you shuffle. No, really. This deck makes a different sound when you shuffle it, and it’s pretty distinct from the commercial-publisher-grade-laminated decks.

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Yes, the pips are inspired after the Marseille, but are not entirely abstract. There’s a blue butterfly on the Six of Wands, for example, horse on the Five of Cups, fox on the Seven of Swords (giving you the side eye), and a mountain on the Three of Pentacles. The pip illustrations do convey the cards’ essential meanings, so it’s not like you’d have to rely entirely on numerology or elemental dignities and affinities.

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Wild Unknown, Suit of Swords, Ace to Ten

The artwork is stark and will evoke raw emotions out of you. I think because of that, some people are going to embrace this deck and some are going to run the other way. Like, I don’t see “Oh, I don’t work with the Death, Devil, or Tower cards” archangel oracle readers being that into this deck. Shrug. Just sayin’. Who knows maybe I’m wrong on that. There’s no sugarcoating the natural world and metaphysical phenomena with this deck. I love this tarot deck and run to it for personal readings, but before pulling it out for a professional reading, I would most definitely gauge the client’s comfort level before proceeding.

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Wild Unknown, Suit of Pentacles, Ace to Ten

Among the courts, the page/knave is the daughter, the knight is the son, the queen is the mother, and the king is the father.

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The court of Wands are illustrated by snakes, the court of Cups by swans, the court of Swords by owls (love that!), and the court of Pentacles by deer. And I find myself preferring Krans’s animal correspondences over the more traditional ones (i.e., lion or salamander for Wands, fish for Cups, eagle or owl for Swords, and bull for Pentacles).

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Krans associated the snake with Fire (rather than Earth, which many Western esoteric traditions attribute) and I thought, wow, that’s kind of Asian. In Chinese astrology and feng shui, Fire governs the snake. On that note, there’s something inexplicably Taoist about the Wild Unknown deck. It’s probably the animals and nature theme that triggers the association, but it’s also the daughter, son, mother, and father attribution (kind of Confucius) instead of the ordinary court titles. It’s that profound balance between simplicity and complexity that is what truly distinguishes the Wild Unknown tarot deck. Is it a simple deck? Or is it complex? I’m really not sure at all.

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The deck and guidebook are purchased separately. For the seasoned tarot practitioner, I would not recommend ordering the guidebook. You don’t really need it. However, the deck and guidebook as a set would be an incredible gift for a beginner.

I love this note: "If you are hoping to become a gifted tarot reader, have your cards read regularly."
I love this note: “If you are hoping to become a gifted tarot reader, have your cards read regularly.”

The guidebook presumes no previous knowledge of tarot and does a great job building the foundation, keyed specifically to the Wild Unknown deck. I love the font (or is the whole thing handwritten?). Even the book itself is artistically rendered.

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Instead of a little white booklet, the deck comes with a foldout sheet, which is quite nice to have included with the deck. I love the creative approach.

Much of the metaphor and imagery deviates from traditional decks and I love that. Kim Krans has contributed her own interpretive approach to tarot, based primarily on associations from nature and animal symbolism.

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The Fool is a young bird ready to take flight.
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The Magician is the wildcat–full of speed, grace, and abilities.

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The High Priestess is a white tiger, which is often associated with the shadow self, sexuality, and hidden realms. For those who work with animal totems, this deck is going to resonate with you.

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Wild Unknown, Majors, Keys III to X.
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Wild Unknown, Majors, Keys XI to XVIII.

Immediately you’ll note that humans (and heck, human shaped forms) are missing from this deck. For me, one result of that is the overarching theme of messages I receive from my intuition. Readings with the Wild Unknown deck become more self-reflective, introspective, and delve into the spiritual aspects of the self, and the self in the context of the natural world.

Wild Unknown, Majors, Keys XIX, XX and XXI.
Wild Unknown, Majors, Keys XIX, XX and XXI.

I did a three-card reading with the deck and got the following:

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The Sun, accompanied on both sides by passive Fours. Interesting. And it also kind of reminds me of the I Ching trigram for Water (yin, yang, and yin).

As a deck and guidebook set, the beginner will have no trouble at all reading with the Wild Unknown. The seasoned practitioner will see from the below guidebook references that the card interpretations stay true to traditional meanings but are more grounded in spiritual exploration and finding an affinity with nature.

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Traditionally, for example, The Sun indicates glory, success, accomplishment, perhaps a marriage, what was lost will be found, and liberation. Here in the Wild Unknown guidebook, those keywords still resonate, but beyond them, the Wild Unknown version of The Sun is also about health. The part of the page that got cut off in the above paragraph notes going outdoors and enjoying the vitality of the natural life force.

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The Four of Pentacles here follows common Tarot de Marseille attributions for the card. The guidebook designation approaches material gains and possessions spiritually, ending with the note, “Wealth is a concept.”

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The Four of Cups depicts a rat, and I don’t know what the common Western symbolic attributions of the rat might be that would facilitate interpretation, but per the Chinese, the rat perfectly symbolizes the meaning of the Four of Cups that Krans has ascribed in the guidebook. The rat is often associated with appearing gregarious and having it all, but deep down, being quite the introvert and feeling great discontent or issues of insecurity.

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Artist Kim Krans has contributed something remarkable to tarot. Her art pedigree hails from Cooper Union. Dang! She’s legit. For the artsy, that’s one of the hardest schools to get into.

I would say this is a great beginner’s deck to work with, so long as you get it with the Guidebook. However, there is a caveat with that. It’s a good beginner’s deck for the person who probably won’t devote further study to tarot, especially an artist friend or maybe a brooding teen with angst issues to work out. If it’s something you’re going to dabble with once every Jupiter retrograde or read casually for friends, then this deck would be a great one, especially if the artwork resonates with that person. (Some folks are better suited for pastel watercolors, the Easter bunny, and smiling puppies, in which case this deck might not be so suitable.) But for the beginner serious about tarot, I would still opt for starting with one of the three main traditions (*cough* RWS *cough*). At the other end of the spectrum, it’s a great deck for any tarot aficionado who is into collecting.

According to the website (as of today, 12/21), you can still order it express and have it shipped in time for Christmas. This would make a stunning gift that the recipient will remember and cherish for a lifetime and the best holiday gift I could have possibly gotten for myself. So happy.

Ordering Information

30 thoughts on “Review of the Wild Unknown Tarot

  1. I got a copy a year ago or so, when I was suffering a kind of disorder called iwantallthedecksintheworld. The cardstock is incredibly as well as the art. Is a wonderful deck. But for me is also grey, sad and depressing and I do not find much tarot in ( coff, on terms of rws,coff )
    So I’m sticked to a golden univerdal with a poor cardstock and bad quality of the golden treatment…. but t speaks to me ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I’m currently suffering a really, really bad case of iwantallthedecksintheworld.

      Yes it’s funny, that Golden Universal. Desconstructed, I don’t like the quality of the deck, I don’t like the gold leaf treatment rendered on it, I don’t like a lot of the imagery, I don’t like how patriarchal it feels, and yet the deck totally speaks to me too and I get great, great readings with it. So I keep using it as my go-to professional reading deck. It’s inexplicable.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with you on the gray, sad and depressing vibe, which completely contradicts the aesthetics of the artwork! I was very surprised. I had to pass.

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  2. Oh, I believe I may well be infected with that same strain of iwantallthedecksintheworld disorder as well! 🙂
    Your excellent amazing Tarot deck reviews are so exciting and provide the necessary insight in order for me to click “buy” and enjoy getting to know tarot better!

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    1. Oh man, I don’t know if these deck reviews are good karma or bad karma!! =) Yes, and the slew of deck reviews on here is– I’m sure you can guess it– because I’m going through a really awful phase of buy-every-deck-I-see. No, wait, that’s not true. There’s been a lot of decks that came out this year that I passed on. =P

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  3. Everybody’s talking about TWU. I just used an acronym so it must be true. I’m thinking about my second deck and am obsessing over the Shadowscape Tarot currently. I’d love to have this one too as the artistry is amazing.

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    1. Ha ha. Totally true. I know everyone is talking about the TWU. This is going to sound so snobby of me, but one of the reasons it took me so long to get this deck is because everybody was talking about it. I didn’t want to be part of that hype. But, I totally understand it, and now I am such a fan girl. I love the artwork in the stack so much. I’m thinking of getting one of the artists original prints.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Apologies for. Typo graphical errors. And weird. And spacing as I’m looking down at this. I am walking and talking to my phone dictating at the same time using voice command.

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    2. Oops I also meant to talk about the shadow scapes tarot deck. The artwork is very fantasy, which makes sense given that artist’s background in fantasy art. Law, I believe. I am a huge fan of Law’s artwork, but I have not used her tarot deck with much frequency for some reason. What are you looking for exactly in your second tarot deck?

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  4. Corvi, then you’ll definitely want to find a deck with artwork that resonates personally for you. Shadowscapes will do that if your intuitive plane sees in fantasy imagery. If you’re talking about intuitive tarot, there’s two types– the first is essentially scrying (folks often use the Marseille for this) and the second is reading narratives out of the card imagery and applying those narratives as metaphors. If you’re working with the second, and assuming you’re learning the Rider-Waite-Smith system, I like the Golden Tarot (for Renaissance collage art) or the Robin Wood Tarot (by artist Robin Wood, with strong pagan undertones). You can see a head to head comparison here: https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/golden-tarot-top-and-robin-wood-bottom.jpg (Six of Wands, The Devil, Five of Swords, Two of Swords, and Death). But again, it’s hard for me to offer suggestions without knowing what style of art speaks the most to you intuitively. With Shadowscapes, the artwork is just so breathtaking that I completely forget the tarot reading part and simply get lost in the art! That’s a great testament to the artist’s talent, but if I’m trying to do a tarot reading… not so great! =)

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  5. Thanks for the great review. I had of course seen the tarot online a few times but never really drew my attention that much.
    Love the insight you gave about the similarities with I-Ching and Chinese Astrology (which I’m a hudge fan of)
    So now… It’s on my wishlist I’m afraid. 😄
    Love your blog by the way 😉

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  6. OMG … my Wild Unknown Tarot Deck arrived today and I LOVE it … wish I had the accompanying book, but that will have to wait. The deck is filled with amazing energy right out of its lovely box. There is something about this amazing deck … so glad I ordered it. Thanks so much for your review and showing it to me. 🙂

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  7. I love the words shared inside the box lid.
    Welcome to the wild unknown tarot.you”ll find no wrongs or rights inside this box, only mirrors for reflection.open your mind,draw a card & have fun on your journey.
    I loved the words, such a nice welcome

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  8. I find my reactions to this deck to be mixed. I bought it a few months back in suburban NJ because it was the only tarot deck I had seen for sale in an actual store (a clothing store, of all things) in way too long, so I got it to support tarot and the sale of decks, and to investigate it for myself. I want to like it more than I do, but I don’t. *shrug* There is a lot of interest to me in some of the cards and the book is interesting to me in the slight variances from how I might perceive a card, but it is the only deck I ever got a papercut from, today, when The Devil card bit me for no reason that I could see except maybe to stop me from being critical online about it!!!

    It’s great that some folks love it and find value in it, and I look at it now and again. Thanks for the review of it.

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    1. *gasp* Sacrilege! No, I kid, I kid! Funny enough, I haven’t been using this deck at all. It utterly captivated me when I first got it and had so much fun. Overall it is such a well done deck and I’m so glad it’s in existence. If there’s one thing tarot teaches us all, it’s that there are many paths leading to the same destination in our intuition, and we each find the path that resonates the most with us, and which that is will differ from reader to reader. 🙂

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      1. I’m glad it exists too, and find that preferences change within my own life too, as opposed to merely person to person: sometimes I LOVE a certain deck, or resonate well with it, and then I notice I haven’t used it in months or even years. To me, the decks resonate with who I am at this or that point, and some time periods can be very gothy, or very depersonalised and objective, or very crunchy-granola and bare-essentials-earth-air-fire-water-space, or very mainstream and computer-generated-feeling…and now thanks to you, I figured out that sometimes trimming a deck makes all the difference in me relating to it. Sometimes the reason i tend towards or away from a deck is COMPLETELY influenced by what there is enough of, or too much or too little of, in my own life, so a time period consumed by being with very mainstream folks might make me desire more fantasy-based, etc., or even very dark, to balance it out…

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  9. Have ever read Jack Parson’s, “We are the Witchcraft”? It was the first thing that came to my mind when I opened the box. I was like you. I didn’t think I wanted the deck. I was on vacation, and there it was in a small little Occult shop. I bet I picked it up and put it down a dozen time. It came home with me anyway.

    Among all things I may or may not be, I can say I’m an Animist. This deck feels perfectly tuned to an Animist Witch or anyone similar. It truly feels like swimming in the Well of Wyrd, the depths of the subconscious, and touching the sentience within all. I don’t do many professional readings with this deck unless it is a spiritual issue at hand or a person I know is a Pagan / Witch / Occultist of some sort.

    Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great review! I was looking to change decks this fall, and I’ve chosen The Wild Unknown. Your thorough review was very helpful.

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  11. Thank you for the review! 🙂 I’ve been looking at tarot decks on and off for about a week now, unable to decide on one (most seem so boring and/or ugly for some reason..). But after stumbling across TWU here, I just had to get it. Funnily enough, I’m usually the type who loves rainbows, fairies and fluffy bunnies but this deck really spoke to me. Conveniently, there is a pre-order for the keepsake box (with the book and the deck) going on at the moment so I grabbed it as a little present for myself (and it should arrive just in time for my birthday!). So excited! I’m pretty new to tarot and planning on sticking to one deck for a while so I think this will be a good fit.

    Liked by 1 person

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