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!