The Vision Quest Tarot by Gayan Sylvie Winter and Jo Dose is an older deck from 1998/1999 published by AGM Müller. The pair are also the creators of The Oracle of the Goddesses, a now out of print 33-card oracle deck. I am loving the Vision Quest Tarot and find it to tap poignantly into inner realms in a way that few decks manage to do.
With powerfully clear and accessible symbolism, Vision Quest Tarot allows us to recognize archetypal images. The visionary symbols contain both the spirit of traditional tarot as well as that of tribal shamanism and the spirit of the ancient medicine wheel. Through indigenous imagery, we discover new aspects of our subconscious and learn to understand its messages. Vision Quest Tarot reveals ways of dealing with life’s challenges more creatively and with more insight.
The little white book (LWB) is surprisingly chunky. Look at the thickness there! “The Vision Quest Tarot is designed to increase our awareness of the cosmic forces and how they influence our individual paths.” reads the Introduction. The symbolism in the deck is inspired by Native American wisdom and contain the spirit of tribal shamans and the medicine wheel.
The LWB provides an Inner Message and an Outward Manifestation entry for each card. In these entries we are given a lot of cultural background for Native American culture and the symbology utilized. I’ll try to touch on some of the contents by way of examples as we go through the actual cards.
One of my favorite uses for the Vision Quest Tarot is the daily card draw. This is one of the decks that’s really perfect for using more in line with oracle decks than tarot, meaning quick readings, scanning for current prevailing energies, short-term forecasts, and tapping into overarching themes. If you’re looking for a personal working tarot deck for daily card draws, consider getting the Vision Quest Tarot.
According to that meaty LWB, for instance, the Nine of Air card’s essence is that of hurt, vengefulness, anger, suffering, and self-condemnation. The Inner Message here warns the seeker to exercise self-examination and self-awareness. The Outward Manifestation is a message of ownership and responsibility, and to not use childhood pains as an excuse for your conduct today. This is the correspondence to the traditional Nine of Swords.
I love how the four suits are expressed by the four elements, Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The keywords or key phrases in the caption for each card also works well in this deck.
Key 0, retitled The Clown here, is a reference for the Clown, a dancer in Native American ceremonial rituals who mocks others behind their backs in a sweet yet humorous manner. The Hierophant, renamed the Shaman here, per the LWB, is about listening to your elders along with your inner voice.
The cards seem to follow the Tarot de Marseille or Thoth structure, i.e., Key 8 here is Balance (Justice) while Key 11 is Life Force (I’m guessing the correspondence to Strength, noting similar symbolism; see below). Initially when working with this deck, I wondered how much depth of symbolism I was missing out on for not being familiar with the cultural iconography presented in these cards. I found this website, Native Voices, funded by the National Institutes of Health and U.S. National Library of Medicine to be wonderful, i.e., talked about the symbolism of the medicine wheel and First Nations healing modalities, which is present throughout this deck. (Check out this page specifically, on the Medicine Wheel and the Four Directions) I found that even without actual knowledge of the cultural iconography, you absolutely sense out the healing energies of the Vision Quest Tarot.
I did wonder what members of First Nations thought of the deck and cultural appropriation but did not find anything public on the subject. Without really having any scholarly or experiential basis for my opinion, I do feel these cards are done artfully.
Doh. Key IXX: The Sun? What’s that about? However, beautiful depiction of The Sun card.
Now let’s talk about the courts.
The court cards are labeled as Father, Mother, Son, and Daughter, for King, Queen, Knight, and Page respectively. Apologies for the mix-around of the court order in some of these photos. I don’t think I checked carefully before I snapped the camera.
I love how the courts depict human figures mastering their respective elements, e.g., working with sacred fire in the suit of Fire, wading through water in the suit of Water, and harvesting vegetation or weaving in the suit of Earth.
Speaking of the suits in the Minor Arcana, for Wands you’ve got Fire, for Cups you’ve got Water, Swords is Air, and Pentacles is Earth.
To represent Fire, we’ve got arrows and wands. Here you’ve got a synthesis of Tarot de Marseille and also Thoth, yes, there’s something Thoth-esque about the deck to me.
Jars and bowls represent the suit of Water. Some of the keywords intrigued me, like “Abundance” for the Four of Water (Four of Cups), or “Stagnation” for Eight of Water. Also, given the arrangement of keywords, how would the cards be read when appearing in reverse? If the card backs are any indication–and I often look to the card back designs for cues on whether to read with reversals. Here, the card backs are non-reversible.
The LWB also makes no distinctions between upright and reversed cards, only the Inner Message and Outward Manifestation.
In the suit of Air, you’ve got feathers and birds… I think maybe even more specifically, birds of prey. I love that. I wondered a bit about the depiction of a dreamcatcher on the Six of Air (Six of Swords) alongside the keyword “Clarity.” Again, I recognize I simply don’t know enough to assess one way or the other, but based on rudimentary research, it did leave me perplexed.
Finally, for the suit of Earth, we’ve got vegetables and flowers. I love the suit of Earth here. There’s something so comforting about the imagery in this suit for the Vision Quest Tarot.
I found the cards to read well and when reading with the deck, I couldn’t help but integrate the keywords into my interpretations. I also let go of a lot of my own preconceived cycled card meanings to adopt the universe of card meanings the creators of Vision Quest Tarot have presented. So I really appreciate the chunkier LWB and being able to follow the inspirations of the deck creators.
As I touched on earlier, there is a strong healing energy that comes through in the Vision Quest Tarot, which would render this deck an optimal one if you tend to do healing work through the tarot. This deck would be highly effective for life purpose readings, healing soul fragmentation, or trying to find ways to release difficult internal tensions. The art is beautiful, curative in a manner of speaking, and the keywords are great for triggering intuitive creativity. All in all, I love having this deck in my collection. Given the deck’s year of publication, I’d get it before it goes out of print or the price shoots through the roof!
13 thoughts on “The Vision Quest Tarot”
I am part Native American, shamanic by nature, that my great grandfather saw in me and mentored. I love this deck. I do not use it that much but every time I pull it out I get very good reading from it. It is an alive deck. I love some of the human imagery on this deck. I love that it is not religious oriented at all. I hate the influence of religion on my family, I find it a very easy deck to read intuitively esp. with the one words at the bottom. so I am so happy that there are decks like this that stay away from the Abrahamic religions, stay away from religion all together. It is wonderful deck for people who similar to me do not like the Christian overtones on most tarot decks.
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Thank you for your comment. Interesting observations..!
I’ve been using the Wildwood Tarot for a month or so and it’s based on European pre-Christian concepts. I found it a little hard to relate to because I’m not familiar with pre-Christian Europe.
I might try the Vision Quest deck next… As much as I love the RWS deck – you’re right, it’s too religious at times. But my main issue is how it lacks female representation – which is a huge issue since a majority of tarot card readers and querents are women…
Lack of female representation bothers me too. I love the wildwood tarot imagery but find it a hard deck to read with. I use the cards more for inner journeying. Hidden Realm Tarot deck has full range of wonderful feminine and male imagery in earthy ways. It is one of my key decks. I find it super easy to read and work with in all sorts of ways.
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I just googled it! Beautiful deck 🙂 what about Goddess tarot? Have you tried that? I’m thinking of getting that next…
I like more earthy images, but this is what is so beautiful about Tarot, now, there are so many great choice now, beyond the classic english style RWS. I find it really important to work with decks where the art speaks to me. So if that one speaks to you, go for it.. It is such a joy when you find the deck that truly resonates with you. I love all my decks, I have around 10 and each one is a friend to me. I have about 3 that are my main decks I pull out regularly. the others are for sharing with others, or for special uses. I’ve found watching youtube reviews of decks I am interested in has helped me a lot in finding the decks that I resonate with the most. I am not a collector. I buy deck to add to my medicine bag of healing arts.
Such a wonderful deck! When I got this I had no knowledge whatsoever of Native Americans (I mean, of course the basic stuff, but being European it was never a priority in school). I feel like this deck and LWB taught me quite a bit about the culture and spirituality tied to Native American tribes, and made me interested in a new way. And the artwork and colors are just so gorgeous. Definitely a healing deck! 🙂
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I bought this deck maybe 15 years ago. That that “IXX” typo in the Sun card hasn’t been fixed yet?! [laughing]
It’s going to be end of mine day, but before ending I am reading this great piece of writing to increase my know-how.
I used these when I was 16, this is one of my first sets of cards I owned and had wrapped in a black velvet cloth at all times, no one i mean no one was allowed to touch them I believe I gifted them to someone of spiritual understanding and put my interest in tarot to rest for 10 years where I am taking it back up as a career option myself. How lovely to see such layouts again! bravo
Just got it out again! Going to give it a try for dailies. Thanks so much for the encouragement bc I was worried about the cultural appropriation, and looking through it I feel better that it is respectful even though tarot is not part of Native American traditions, I feel this may serve….
I love the cards, but I have lost the book. You have any idea where I could purchase a copy?
Okay, (deep breath) I am not “part” Native American I am a citizen of the Comanche Nation. This deck seems more based on European/White stereotypes about Natives than reflective of any real tradition. While it might resonate with non-Natives that is because it is by people from a European tradition and made for people from a European tradition. There are 573+ federally recognized Native Nations and each one is wildly different. When they are treated as a single culture with a single symbology that is a sign you are not dealing with anything authentic.
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