A review of a deck that changed the tarot world,
and the one that I learned on.
Let me start by first saying that this specific deck has been out for a long time now. It is not new, and most people in the tarot world have at least heard of this deck, and many, many more have it and do readings with it, for themselves or others.
This is the deck that I learned on. I received this and another deck as presents, but this is the one that pulled on my heart and spirit. I LOVE this deck. To this day, this is my favorite deck. This is the one that I connect with the most, and this is the one that if I had to go and live on a deserted, remote island, and I could only have one tarot deck with me, it would be this one.
This deck started out as a self-published project by Kim Krans in 2012. The deck quickly grew in popularity, and it is easy to see why. The images are absolutely beautiful.
This is the kind of deck that sparks an interest in people for tarot cards and imagery where other decks haven’t done the trick. While this deck was gifted to me, I know from personal experience that the imagery of the Thoth, Rider-Waite, and Marsailles never spoke to me, or peaked my interest.
The other deck that I was gifted was illustrated in the tradition of the Rider-Waite and I quickly got rid of it, and focused all of my learning through the Wild Unknown. The imagery just pulls you in. It makes you want to sit and be still with the cards, and see what they have to say.
Specifications of the deck
Starting with some of the basic specifications of the deck before we get into all the beautiful imagery: the cards measure 2.75″ x 4.75″. The paper is a thicker stock, and the images are a matte finish. I have decks similar to this, and ones that are thinner with a gloss or laminate finish. I like both and see the pros and cons of both.
Pros of thicker paper with a matte finish:
- Durable and lasting over time. These cards feel weighted and heavy, and they have a lasted a long time for me.
- Feels more expensive, fancy, or chic than some of the very thin, laminated cards. These cards feel like pieces of art (which they are!)
- Satisfying shuffle and satisfying sound (once you get used to it)
- Matte finishes photograph exceptionally well as you don’t get the shine or glare from light.
Cons of thicker paper with a matte finish:
- I have small hands, so shuffling these bigger cards with this thicker paper was hard for me to learn, especially as my first deck (I actually only kept my other gifted deck around for a while just to have another deck to practice shuffling on).
- Thinner, laminated cards are bendy, so they can take so weird or awkward movements. These cards are more easy to bend and crease as they are thicker.
- The thicker paper and matte finish means that it will be more expensive. This deck is worth the investment, but it also makes me more wary when I use it, especially at events or with clients. Sometimes, the lesser quality cards allow you to use it hard and not feel bad if you have to replace it.
- Matte cards are not as easy to keep clean. I have a few spots of coffee on this deck that I cannot get out. I have been able to easily wipe coffee spots off a gloss-finished card with no staining.
When you receive the deck, it comes in a sturdy, paper box. The artwork on the box, true to Kim Krans art, is absolutely beautiful. I keep my cards in this box instead of bag because the box keeps them protected, and the art is a gorgeous accent to my shelf.
I also love the backing of the card image. It looks like a snake skin, which gives the cards that wild feel that we will see in the tarot images. It gives this is raw feeling of animalism, transformation, and spiritual connection that makes the deck what it is.
The guidebook comes separately. If you want the whole set, then get the guidebook as well. However, there is a lot in the guidebook that I don’t vibe with, and some things that I do. I always say take all guidebooks with a grain of salt. If you don’t want to spend the extra money, I think you will do fine without the guidebook. In my opinion, I have better guidebooks from other decks, but I do love having both together. It’s your call!
The Major Arcana
Starting with the Fool (Card 0) and moving from the Magician down to the Chariot, there is an immediate feel of the raw, unpolished, and wild vibe that only Kim Krans can give. The images are drawn in black ink, and then embellished with carefully chosen colors to emphasize a specific feel for the cards.
For instance, in the High Priestess, only the crystal ball is colored, and the colors are muted shades of blue, indigo, and violet. This speaks to the invitations of the High Priestess: going within and receiving the messages of intuition, listening and following the abstract signs of the cosmos.
Then we have the bright and vibrant rainbow sky behind the Lovers of the Canadian Geese. Kim even says in the guidebook that she picked this animal because they mate for life. While the Lovers rarely speaks to a romantic love of some kind, what is so beautiful about this image is that it shows the deep connection of the Lovers to possibility, expansion, while also indicating support and foundation-building into those sacred connections we form in life.
Moving to the second line of the Major Arcana, we can now see a recurring theme with Kim Krans’s artwork. Everything is intentional. Every line, color and animal is a direct choice to the card. Some of the images may turn some people away, like the Death card. It is the honest image of Death, as the body of the bird decays it will go into the ground and provide nourishment for future growth. This starkness may not be for everyone. I personally love it.
With the final line and last 7 cards of the Major Arcana, we see some of the beautiful visions that Kim had for this deck. This is a deck of intuition building and interconnection with the wild world, known and unknown. Cards like the World can be hard to read at first because it is so vague and different from other depictions of the World.
This is where your authentic reading of the card comes in. For me, when I pull this card, I am immediately drawn to all the layers. The segmented outer circle speaks to me of our daily lives, the regimented sections that we compartmentalize out of necessity, ego, or assumption. The layer beneath that is the infamous snake skin. Once we shed what we have outgrown, we can plant new seeds to bloom into flowers. In the intimate center (the place that is the hardest to get to) is the bright light of wholeness, interconnection, harmony, and maybe, even peace.
Starting with the Pentacles suit (earth), there is so much here to work with with many of the cards. The Ace shows us that each ring in a tree that shows the growth and lifespan of that tree throughout time had to start as a seed, and it had to form the first ring. This clearly shows that something as expansive as an oak tree begins and manifest and takes root as something so small.
One that can be harder to interpret (at least it was when I first started) was the 4 of Pentacles. There are 4 pentacles creating a rudimentary diamond shape, and there are colorful threads wrapped around the pentacles. Now, I don’t read the pentacles suit in relation to money (another topic for another time), but much of the narrative of the 4 of Pentacles revolves around a lust for control over possessions. Once I started to work with this card more, I found that I see this card as a image of the interconnective threads that contribute to ourselves in the real world, and that wealth is an interconnective thread of many different things. I have grown to really love this image, but it did take me a long time to find a way to make sense of it in a narrative that felt right for me.
We also have our 4 Court Cards, all shown as deer. I love this usage of the deer, the stag, the doe, and the fawn as our Court Cards. These animals have a palpable connection to the land, and the energies of Earth. We also a different titling here than in standard decks. Here, the daughter, son, mother, and father emulate a connection to each other, yet their energies can easily stand alone.
Again, everything is intentional and I wanted to use the daughter and the father to highlight the importance of the rainbow with this deck. Not every card has a rainbow, but rainbows can play an important role in the understanding of the card. Quick note, rainbows connect us to our inner children (Lindsay Mack talks a lot about this!). Rainbows connect us to a sense of awe that is extraordinary because rainbows are extraordinary. But, look at the daughter and father of pentacles. The daughter has the rainbow above her, near her head, and it expands beyond her, showing that the daughter has such awe, wonder, and gifts to manifest in the world, yet it isn’t formed yet. It’s all in the realm of wonder, dream, and possibility. The father has a rainbow, but his is in his enormous antlers. This shows that his awe and wonder and manifested in majesty and steadfastness. It has been narrowed over time to his specific role, place, and gifts he cultivated.
Kim Krans was not playing when she drew the suit of swords (air). While we have some beautiful moments (looking at you 4 of Swords), most of this suit portrays a raw, aggressive, violent energy. The swords ask us to use our mental capacities, however beautiful, to ends that can be hard, dark, or real. This suit is the one that asks us to get clear, and that clarity often doesn’t come easily.
Again, that is what I love about this deck. I love that Kim took this suit and made it what it is…honest. It’s raw and it’s going to evoke answers, more questions, and truth to come through. Some may shy away from this deck because of these images, but if you are willing to give it a chance, I say allow what comes through to come forward. It all will serve.
Our court cards are all owls, again beautiful. Known as a symbol of wisdom, decisiveness, independence, and observant, these cards beautifully show that you don’t have to make a lot of noise to be seen. Use your intellect, and you will always grow.
If you need only one suit to persuade you to get this deck, let it be the Cups (water) suit. Yes, the Majors and the Minors we have discussed are extremely beautiful, but this suit……I mean, just look at the images (I apologize the image got cut a little bit). This suit just makes me feel things. This suit evokes me to really feel the image, and to use that emotional connection to deepen my wisdom.
What I love about this artwork is the simplicity. The 9 of Cups is such a simple image, and yet, it’s one of my favorites. It shows how when we show up with a willing heart, the universe and the cycles of the Earth see us. We are witness and observer to the magick of the world, life, and the Divine.
Here, our Court Cards are all swans, which again is quite fitting. Swans are a sacred symbol of love, grace, and devotion, celebrates for centuries by many cultures. The significance of the Swans as our courts here, is an invitation to really love and grow and gift from the heart. They ask us to be open to our intuition, and to let things like grace, elegance, and beauty (not looks, but a state of being) be as much a mover in our lives as our drive, goals, and convictions.
Finally, we have our Wands (fire) suit. This suit has the least amount of animals in the images, making this suit more abstract and, perhaps, harder to learn. However, there is still a story, a flow, a continuation from one card to the next. This is the suit that also, at least in my case, helped me discover what my intuition thought, and not what a guidebook (even Kim’s) had to say.
This is also the suit where subtleties and symbols are helpful. Again, what I love is the simplicity, although when I was first learning this deck, I would have loved more. Now, I love these cards.
Our Court Cards are snakes. Like the Swan, the Snake is an animal symbol that, despite being loved or hated, has been in the narrative of many different cultures throughout time. Snakes at the very least represent an evolutionary power. Do you know how long it would take your evolutionary genes to lose or not form legs????? They represent an enduring, vibrational connection to spirit, energies, earth, and fire.
I have included some pictures here of card bios from inside the guidebook so you can see if it is something that you would like to purchase.
I have seen other reviews say that this is not a deck for a beginner, or would be a good deck for someone who isn’t as studious in the tarot craft. I respectfully disagree. I learned on this deck, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
It allowed me a chance to connect with tarot outside the “tarot traditions” that, while fascinating, have a gatekeeping feel to them, in my opinion at least. You can learn on this deck, if you want to. It all comes down to the kind of deck you would like to have. If you are a beginner, or have been reading tarot for years, I think this is a beautiful deck to add to your collection, and it is one that I constantly recommend to others when asked.
Buy the deck here (not an affiliate link): TWU deck purchase