The Wild Unknown

Like everyone and their cat in the tarot world, I now have a copy of the Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans. The card images I saw online made a lot of sense to me intuitively. And as I’m drawn to decks with simpler artwork (particularly those where the emphasis is on line rather than color or shading) I figured it would be a good fit. I’ve been working with this deck almost exclusively since I got it in order to get an understanding of its workings.

Soon after I got the Wild Unknown, I did a deck interview with it, which has helped guide my work with it since.

WU InterviewHere is the deck interview spread. Reading from left to right, the cards are numbered 1-6.

1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?

Judgment. On the face of it, it would seem as though this meant the deck is good for helping one make decisions. But actually, Judgment is more about inner awakening than actually judging things. We can see this in Krans’ card, as the birds fly out of the darkness toward the light. Judgment–number 20–is my other birth card alongside the High Priestess–number 2.

2. What are your strengths as a deck?

The Three of Cups. At first, I thought this meant that this would be a deck that’s useful for sharing with friends and reading with other people, although once I finished looking at the spread, I actually saw it the other way around. This deck’s strength is that it will be a good friend to me–and that it will be a crucial part in the trinity of my self, my situation, and the cards that I’m consulting.

3. What are your limits as a deck?

Ah. The Three of Pentacles. This guy has been coming up a lot lately in readings with my Universal Waite or Smith-Waite deck. It seems like a pretty cool card–about working well with others and receiving recognition for hard work. But the thing is, it either comes up reversed in spread positions that would indicate something positive or neutral (“what can I learn from this?”) or it comes up upright in positions that indicate something negative (“what should I let go of?”) And here it is again in a negative position–the limits. This card tells me that, despite what the Three of Cups might have said, this is not a deck that will play well with others. I should probably use it for personal readings only, at least until I become really comfortable with it.

4. What are you here to teach me?

Three of Wands. When I opened the deck, I noticed that there were two Three of Wands cards (although I pulled the extra out before doing any readings.) The design is simple but effective: the three wands provide a focus, a place through which to see. The RWS card has a figure looking out into the distance, and this card simply makes us into the figure looking into the distance. This deck is here to lead me insight and creativity (the specialty of the Wands suit); it is a focal point for guidance.

5. How can I best learn and collaborate with you?

Six of Cups. This is an interesting one, and one of my favorite card designs in the deck. It shows the vitality of rootedness, and the necessity of connecting with one’s roots. While most people think of this card as being about memory or nostalgia, for me Krans’s design goes a little beyond that. Working with this deck asks me to draw upon my past experiences, but to also consider my rootedness in the now. After all, I am here in this present moment because of my past. The card also suggests that I bring a kind of innocence into working with the deck–that I loosen up on my book learning and allow my mind to open as I interpret the cards.

6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Four of Swords. In general, the Four of Swords is one of my favorites. It’s a card of meditation, retreat, and reflection. From this place of retreat, wisdom can be gained for going forward–something indicated by the presence of the opened third eye on the lamb’s head. This suggests that this outcome of working with this deck will be wisdom, but of a quiet and inward kind.

So what do I take from this spread in general? That the Wild Unknown is probably not a deck that I want to use to read for other people. It’s also probably not a deck that I want to use for more practical matters like questions about work or study. Rather, for me it’s best as a personal meditation deck–a friend in which I confide about emotional, creative, or spiritual issues. It will help lead me to the inner awakening suggested by Judgment. This fits well with the overall impression I get from the deck’s symbolism. The deck is symbolic, but not densely so, nor do the symbols necessarily correlate to specific things. Rather, the symbols are more evocative than precise and lend themselves to intuitive reading and the formation of personal symbolism.

And three threes, huh?? In the Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A. E. Waite says that three threes appearing in a spread signify serenity. But in Holistic Tarot Benebell Wen says that three threes signify deceit.* Obviously, I’d like to think that this deck isn’t lying to me! Even though my birth number is two (more on my birth number/card in a future post), I’ve always liked three. When I was little, my grandparents had a pool table in their basement and my ball of choice was always 3–a red solid. Getting three threes doesn’t seem like a bad omen. Notice that the worst three–the three of swords–was left out.

However, I do like that Wen put the notion of deceit into my mind. If I will be using this deck for personal meditation, then I have to be wary of deluding myself or reading my own desires into the cards. This may mean that the true meaning of a card may take days or weeks after a reading to reveal itself to me and I just have to be patient.

Additionally, I’ve decided, at least for the present, not to read with reversals in this deck. Part of it is that I’m not totally comfortable with the meanings yet, but part of it is that because the symbolism is so simple and requires, at least for me, a greater amount of intuition, reversals will be more or less opaque. That may change in the future, but I’ll stick with this for now.

Working with this deck also presented me with the unexpected challenge of figuring out a new method for drawing cards. Usually, when I do a reading I shuffle the cards and them fan them all out in a line and choose which cards seem to jump out at me. But with the Wild Unknown, I quickly realized that this method would not work because the deck backs don’t have borders and it’s difficult to tell at a glance where one card ends and the other begins. So after a little experimentation, I decided to shuffle the deck, cut it randomly into however many piles I need (three piles for a three card reading, etc.), shuffle each pile individually, and then draw a card from the top of each. This method seems to work well and also seems to produce synchronous coincidences just as often as the other method.

Overall, the Wild Unknown is taking more getting used to than I anticipated. Sometimes I look at a card and just draw a total mental blank, something that doesn’t usually happen with RWS decks anymore. There are also a very few cards that I don’t like that much, and so I find myself thinking back to what the RWS looks like as I try to interpret them. But I think that’s all just part of the learning curve, which of course will be steeper since this deck does away with a lot of the RWS imagery and apparently also draws a little bit from the Marseilles and Thoth decks. But I do think this deck is worth taking the time to learn and I’ve already found that when I ask it a sincere question, it gives good advice.


* I am learning a buttload from Holistic Tarot. It’s providing a great balance to the more intuitive/inwardly focused lessons I’m getting from the Alternative Tarot Course. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I know enough to do a review of this book, but it’s definitely becoming my go-to reference.

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