The Wild Unknown

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Many are the decks which as soon as I receive and open them I want to review, immediately analyse and describe. Sometimes I cannot contain myself. I want to put into words what I feel emanating from a deck, what mood it conveys to me, its quirks and vision. But this deck was different. I have spent weeks working with it and feeling no urge to write about it or shout from the rooftoops. Only now, after quite a while has lapsed since I actually received it, do I want to write about my experiences. I remember seeing scans a long time ago and thinking it looked interesting but it was one of those decks to be ordered from somewhere obscure and so often I lose interest when faced with this hurdle (very bad of me I know as I think more and more decks in the future are not going to be available from amazon or the big sellers and I know I should applaud the fact). Then there are all the unknown quantities, cardstock, image and print quality, quite apart from the fact that it might not actually arrive. You know how it is. But I sensed a groundswell of favourable responses to this deck and quite a long time after its release I found a stockist nearer home and took the plunge.

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I am so glad I did as this is one of the most sensitive, poignant and unique decks I have seen in recent years. It really is understated beauty at its best. I know where the deck came from but I know very little about the creators and – to be honest – nothing whatsoever about the artist, Kim Krans, whose name doesn’t even appear on the box. I just know that this deck has a voice like no other and everything I ever disliked in supposed nature-based decks is absent in this deck. Disney has done untold damage to what we think of as our relationship with the animal kingdom and I see this quite naturally filtering through into tarot decks, supposedly pagan-based or supposedly wiccan-based but which to me seem comical and simplistic. This doesn’t proclaim to be either wiccan or pagan or shamanic, it is simply a deck which bears images of the quiet dignity of the animal kingdom. Nothing more, nothing less. And it doesn’t impose sentimentality on it for us, it doesn’t push for cuteness or try to push the agenda that somehow we have an inner stag or stork inside of us that apparently we can draw upon when 21st Century life gets us down. It feels like nature pared down without any agenda whatsoever. I love how this deck has been put out there -no rallying of votes or support -and been left to silently garner its own accolades simply by its own merit. The creators seem so silent. I love this. It is as if it is a deck without ego. Who are these people who (as far as I know) don’t have any experience of tarot deck designing and yet whose 78 images seem eerily spot on in so many ways? It is a wonderful decks to work with. As soon as I received it, I was struck by the minimalism of it. How the cross hatching, shading, angles, tiny simple details and the arrangments of suit symbols cause a tension and nuance which make so much sense in a reading.  Sulis has said that as a reading decks it has much in common with Marseilles decks and I think there is a great deal of truth in that comment. By the same token, I find that if I go through it card by card I can detect standard RWS meanings in the images, but when I have cards next to one another in a spread I always reach wildly differing conclusions. For example, a few weeks ago I had a meeting with my boss which I was worried about. I am occupying a new position and wondered how my performance was going down. After the meeting I felt vague as to how things stood. I went home, had lunch and did a three-card spread with the Wild Unknown Tarot and got the following cards.

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The anchor card, the first card dealt, was The Sun. Either side, the flanking, secondary cards were the Son of Pentacles and the Three of Wands. The Sun card seemed like an explosion of relief. I’d never thought of The Sun as relief but it screamed relief for me, ecstatic alleviation. A single flash and the anxiety was gone. Then looking at the Son of Pentacles, I see the young stag bowing down out of the darkness, looking to the light. I remembered a saying, “heavy is the head of he who wears the crown”  and this picture seemed to sum things up well, with the pentacle hovering over the young stag’s head. Then the Three of Wands seems to say that with perameters firmly tied the inner content will take care of itself. It seems to say that if I do my best and keep things firm, define my limits, the ensuing success, the ensuing colour, will take care of itself within the limits established. One of the wonderful things about this deck is the sparing use of colour that gives flashes of meanings to certain (not all) cards. The contrast in itself enhances meaning. Like everything else in this deck, meanings are subtle, understated, gentle and meditative. I reflected on how pushy some decks can be and that I had never noticed this before. I reach for this deck more and more and although there is a guidebook which can be purchased seperately I don’t feel that I need one as the cards speak so vividly.

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The deck comes in a two-part box with a black ribbon used to facilitate the lifting out of the cards and it comes with a fold out sheet of meanings which I read but  – really – the deck reads so effortlesly for me, I don’t consult it much now. This is a case of a deck truly standing on its own, needing nothing much beyond its imagery. And the cardstock is heavenly. It is thick but not too thick, feels like it has plastic in the cards for added resilience, but the cards do not feel plastic at all, just strong. No gloss, no lamination, just firm, durable and comfortingly chunky when shuffling. The back design is simple and geometric, a repetitive black and white rhombus pattern, one inside the other (see top photograph).  The imagery is haunting and is what makes this deck truly memorable. It soothes without deluding. I find that I identify with its animal melancholy and want to absorb the silence. It has already been compared to the Greenwood and the Ironwing and although I can see what may lead people to these conclusions because it is nature-based, it doesn’t mean that fans of these decks will find much in common with it. However, I think it has a rare and mystical quality – that much is evident – something potentially mythical in tarot publishing. It’s too early to say of course but I think any comparisons with these decks don’t help in allowing us to take this deck on its own terms. Yet its remote poetry and the fact that it feels like it holds so many secrets makes it one of the most memorable tarot publications of recent times for me. I hate this need to have polls, the need to list decks in order of “bestness”. There have been so many memorable decks published of late and we should be relishing the diversity not setting them against each other. It is enough for me to know that this one has a disarmingly distinct voice whose whispers I want to hear.

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http://www.thewildunknown.com/collections/tarot/products/tarot-deck

About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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13 Responses to The Wild Unknown

  1. Carla says:

    It is a beautiful deck, but so far I have resisted it. Would I actually use it, I wonder. For me, that is a consideration. I don’t like to keep decks around that I don’t actually use. It IS lovely, though.🙂

    • Le Fanu says:

      Yes, it is lovely. I amaze myself using it as much as I do. Most weeks I sort of alternate with others but this is one I keep reaching for on a regular basis now.

      • Carla says:

        I’m still watching this deck. I’ve been selling off some of the decks I’ve got in my collection that I no longer feel I need. I may use some of the money to buy this deck. If I wait too late, so be it, eh.🙂 It really is attractive, for sure!

  2. Chiriku says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the deck (and yes, most of the interesting recent decks I’ve acquired over the past couple of years have come from slightly roundabout sources).

    For reasons I put into my posts in the first few pages of the Aeclectic Tarot thread on this deck, I detect quite a bit of ego and careful and clever marketing in this deck. But it was marketing to the largely non-tarot world, and perhaps that makes a difference for some. And ultimately, I do not begrudge deck creators their right and imperative to promote their deck to any audience they think will jump on it. I just try to forget about all that as best I can when using a deck, the same way I try to block out the insistent little copyright waving hello at me from many a deck’s cards.

    Overall, I am glad I bought the deck, and I knew what I was getting into when I bought it; I knew I wouldn’t be among those who experienced an overwhelming, magical bond with it. I like it a fair bit, and that’s all I asked for and expected to when I bought it, and that’s very well enough for me. There is liberation in not approaching a new deck with the hope that it might be something special, something magic.

    The card stock is really something special, though. At one point in my tarot life, I would consider that a total irrelevancy, but no more. I find that I increasingly care about card stock and texture, and the Wild Unknown is among the best I’ve ever touched. Creamy-matte against the fingertips, substantial without in any way approaching a credit card or brick. It’s a very well-produced and presented deck and is a no-brainer to be widely considered among the top decks of 2012.

    • Le Fanu says:

      Your comments intrigue me. And I can see the sense in what you say about not approaching a deck hoping it might be something magic. What kind of non-tarot marketing have you seen? I’m especially curious about that…

      • Chiriku says:

        Well, I’m hesitant to point out anything that might put a dent in someone’s joy in a deck. Just because I am always damnably attuned to the figurative “copyright on the card” doesn’t mean I wish it for my fellow tarotists.

        But if you are interested and have the time, if you read through the first pages of the big Wild Unknown thread on AT, you’ll see my posts that were slightly wary of the marketing of the deck to a certain trend-conscious fashion “set” in the non-tarot world. I’d be happy to provide the link and/or post numbers but I’m on my way out the door now. I can provide them for you tomorrow.

        I hope you keep enjoying all this deck has to offer, though, regardless.

  3. Chiriku says:

    Alright, it looks as though my first comments on this subject started around post #20 in the main Wild Unknown thread. The link below (post # 31, I think) is my main contribution to the subject, though the discussion does continue for several posts after that one:

    http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php?p=3319590&postcount=31

    • Le Fanu says:

      Ah yes, I remember this debate. But you know, sometimes I have felt that decks deeply steeped in tarot lore can become rather paralysing and this has a freshness that I don’t associate with that. I love all types of decks so I suppose ultimately most of our reactions to decks are not always easy to analyse. They either grab us or they don’t.

  4. winterchild says:

    I ordered this deck when I first saw the images. I had no idea what to expect and the title of the deck was certainly fulfilled in this respect. I really did not expect to love it as much as I do though. I love everything, the size, the lack of colour that makes the colour there is, so much more intense and meaningful, I love the backs and that velvet smooth cardstock… then there is the beautiful beribboned box…. mwaaaaaaaaaah!

    Glad you *get* it LeFanu…..

    • Le Fanu says:

      One of the few decks that does not need a bag! I leave it in its beribboned box to be beholden in its completeness. Such a wonderful deck. It goes on giving, its curious sparseness prompting much introspection.

  5. Pingback: Deck Review – The Wild Unknown Tarot | Rabbit Moon Tarot by Alexandra Carabine

  6. Periwinkling says:

    What stockist did you find? I believe you are in europe as well?

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