Friday, 20 March 2020

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Tarot Deck Thoughts: The RWS, The Wild Unknown, and Crystal Visions

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck, The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck, and Crystal Visions Tarot Deck on a terracotta background

Tarot Deck Thoughts

The RWS, The Wild Unknown, and Crystal Visions

Happy Ostara/Spring Equinox, people! Since starting on my spiritual path, I've really got into tarot. Along with witchcraft, tarot is something I've been fascinated by for so mnay years, before actually giving it a go. It always seemed so mysterious and mystical! But now I'm trying to learn, and I'm getting better week by week, slowly feeling my way into it and connecting with my intuition. I have three decks now, and through using and studying them, I'm finding some are easier than others to work with. Because of this, I thought I would share my thoughts on the decks I have, and how they work for me. I'd just like to point out these aren't tarot deck reviews, though - I don't feel I'm competent enough at reading tarot yet to give reviews. But I thought it might be interesting to discuss my varying degrees of "success" (as I'm still learning), as it turns out it's true that you should pick a deck you're drawn to.

A little bit of context first. I really struggled with tarot initially, that I didn't read very often. Everything I read suggested learning tarot through daily one card pulls, asking what I needed to know about that day, or what to expect, or something similar. This just didn't work for me at all; the question was far too vague for my lack of experience, and I wouldn't get anything back. But at the end of 2019, I found Yaritza's #TarotforGrowth prompts on Instagram, with specific questions to ask each day of the month. Since the beginning of the year, I've been doing my daily one card pulls using her prompts, and actually getting some answers (eventually, it still took a while). So for the most part (except where I state), when I talk about using these decks, I'm talking about the one card pulls with Yartiza's prompts.

The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot cards spread out, filling the whole of the square photo, with the box in the top right corner

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck (RWS)

I started off with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (traditionally just Rider-Waite, but the illustrator Pamela Coleman Smith's involvement had been erased for so long, I choose to give her the respect she deserves by including her name in the title), as everything I had read on tarot said beginners should start with it as it's the easiest to learn. However, I wish I had read Why You SHOULDN'T Start with the Smith-Waite Deck by Yaritza of Bujo Witchcraft, because, as she says, it's not really necessary, but I also struggle with this deck.

My issues are with the art. As I've mentioned, Smith should have been given the credit for her art, and she has been disrespected for far too long. However, art is subjective, and I'm just not a fan of her art. I don't really like the colour scheme, I find the illustrations to be quite harsh, some of the cards are too busy it's difficult to make out what you're actually looking at, and some parts of the cards, I find, are difficult to work out. With this deck, I leaned quite heavily on Biddy Tarot's card descriptions. I've been staying off book (and away from the internet) when it comes to the meanings of the cards for months now, trying to go with my intuition only, but with this deck, I often found certain elements of the cards were unclear to me. I feel that some of the line work is too think to make out clearly. So I would often look up the description of the card (again, not the meaning) just to make sure I wasn't confusing a lizard for a fish, or to find out what that thing in the corner is. And what I'd read I'd also find so confusing! I cannot see facial expressions on most of the characters' faces on these cards, the faces are too small to have much detail, but apparently they're there. And also line of sight is really mindboggling to me; sometimes the characters are looking at something, apparently, but, in that case, I feel the perspective is all wrong, because the subject is too far over to the left for that character to be looking at it, or similar.

Because of this, I had trouble intuiting a meaning from them, because I was never sure what was actually going on in the cards. I would get there eventually, through journalling, but it would take a while. Originally, I thought it was just me, my inexperience, and maybe not such a great connection to my intuition. But this has turned out not to necessarily be the case.

The Wild Unknown tarot cards spread out, filling the whole of the square photo, with the box in the top right corner

The Wild Unknown by Kim Krans

Despite still being very new to tarot and very much a beginner, it wasn't too long before I started using The Wild Unknown deck by Kim Krans. I had seen this deck used quite often in readings on Instagram, and I just loved it. The artwork really spoke to what I orgianlly thought of tarot - mysterious and mystical - like this is what a tarot deck should look like. Despite the fact I thought it would be a long while before I'd be able to read with it, I got this deck back in December. As expected, I left it on my shelf while I tried to learn the RWS deck. But it's such a beautiful deck, with such gorgeous, intriguing imagery, it kept calling to me, and in the end I decided to give it a go. I wasn't using it as part of my one card pulls first of all. It was mainly just looking through the cards, looking at the imagery and the colours, and going with what I knew about certain cards through my use of RWS, and how that related to the imagery on these cards. Although the imagery is completely different, The Wild Unknown follows the same structure as the RWS. The imagery is really quite abstract, so I thought it would be a lot more difficult to understand than RWS, and that I was probably jumping the gun with picking it up so early in my learning.

But I found even simply looking through the cards, before reading, my mind seemed to wake up. My brain would shoot out so many different possibilities of what the cards could mean. It just felt like, because the imagery was so abstract, it was more open to interpretation than the RWS. With that deck, I always felt like there were "correct" meanings, and you had to interpret that meaning for the question you asked, and I was always struggling to find the "correct" meaning. I realised that RWS felt rigid to me, but The Wild Unknown felt a lot looser, fluid. The use of colour - How much colour? Where? Why? Why only black and white? - the artwork itself, either completely abstract - What am I looking at? What could this mean? - or the gorgeous illustrations of animals and nature, and the symbolism - Why these animals? What do they mean? It all just really drew me in, sparked something in me, and my mind ran with it.

I started doing my daily one card pulls with this deck this month, and my readings are so much easier! I'm not struggling so much to find the meaning, and sometimes there's no struggle at all and the meaning is pratcially obvious. My interpretation of the the meanings in relation to my questions is also much quicker. It's like my intuition is firing on all cylinders with this deck, and is just getting better and better. Don't get me wrong, I do still struggle, but I feel so much more confident, and trust what comes to me. It's like I understand the language of this deck, while I didn't the language of RWS.

And reading tarot is more fun. I enjoyed reading tarot before, with RWS, despite my frustration and the struggle, because it was one small way I was able to connect to my spirituality every day. Sitting there, taking some time, working on my intuition. I felt better for it. But it wasn't fun. With The Wild Unknown, it is fun. I look forward to my card pull each morning. For the most part, I've tended to stay away from full spreads, feeling I'm not yet competent enough for them, and that they'll be overwhelming, but I'm now saving spreads I find online to use for specific events - like my birthday last Sunday, and Ostara today, and even New and Full Moon spreads - and I can't tell you how excited I felt at at the prospect of reading them. They're still a struggle, but I know I'll evetually work through them, my confidence has improved that much. The Wild Unknown deck has been such a game changer, in such a small space of time.

Crystal Visions tarot cards spread out, filling the whole of the square photo, with the box in the top right corner

Crystal Visions Tarot by Jennifer Galasso

Back in February, I signed up for the Wicth Swap Package Exchange, and before I got my partner, I had the idea that it would be cool to send them a tarot or oracle deck. Obviously, I knew what I'd choose to send them would be based on their interests and their path (if they even read tarot/oracle cards), but I decided to browse through different decks beforehand, just to get more of an idea what was out there. In doing so, I ended up creating a list of decks that I wanted for myself. Crystal Visions Tarot by Jennifer Galasso was one of them, and I quickly snapped it up.

Now, I've not actually started reading with this deck. I'm currently working my way through Yaritza's Teach Yourself Tarot series (yup, I'm mentioning Yaritza again. Seriously, if you're new to tarot, I can't recommend Yaritza's blog and instagram prompts enough! They are such a massive help!) - in which she guides you through various lessons to help you connect with your intuition and work on your own meanings for the cards - and on starting, I realised it would have been better if I'd found her lessons before I started reading tarot. Because of this, I've decided to primarily work through her lessons with the Crystal Visions Tarot before I start using it to read. At the moment, I'm working through the stories of the suits with this deck, so while I'm not reading it, I am studying it.

Again, Crystal Visions Tarot follows the same structure as the RWS, and a lot, though not all, of the imagery is pretty similar. Now the artwork itself is what first caught my eye. It's absolutelty gorgeous! It's soft and soothing. It's dreamy, ethereal, and looks like something right out of a fantasy novel or a fairy tale. It's so me! It really speaks to my dreamt, imaginative side. One of my words for the year is whimsy, symbolising my desire for a whimsical feeling this year. I've got it in some of the books I've been reading, but it's also in this deck. I look at this deck, and I instantly feel like I'm floating on a cloud or something. My heart is light, and I'm instantly calm and soothed, and I'm excited and full, all at the same time.

I also think this is probably a great deck for beginners, because the elements that are associated with the suits are present, in some way, in every Minor Arcana card, so it's great to pick up the specific element of each suit. There is a lake in the cups suit, showing water, with strong pink, purple and indigo shades, looking like twilight, with the Moon is pictured in every card, implying the intuitive side of cups. The swords suit, the suit of air, is full of flying animals (birds, butterflies), some characters with wings, clouds, and a snowy landscape (of all the forms of precipitation, snow falls the slowest and softest through the air. To me, that's why there's a snowy landscape, if snow isn't actually falling). The darker colour palette evokes deep night, and the clouds tend to be a dark purple, looking like storm clouds, which I feel speaks to the darker side of the suit. The earth suit, the pentacles, are set within a forest, with woodland creatures, and crystals and gemstone on the floor. The colour palette features green and brown quite strongly, obviously, but also pinks and yellows, showing day. Finally, the wands, the suit of fire, is set for the most part in the rocky, mountainous setting, with deep reds, yellows and oranges, with the sky often looking like it's on fire, evoking sunset or sunrise. Sometimes the wands look like wands, with a crystals on the end, but other times they're torches, either lit with fire or without. There are crystal balls and bubbles, which speak to me of clarity/seeing clearly, which is better with light, and throughout their are dragons (who breath fire), lions (symbol of strength, which also speaks to fire), and horses and unicorns (symbols of movement - in the eight of wands, the unicorns' horns are the wands). In the same way, colours and symbolism play a huge part in the Major Arcana cards, which also makes them easier for me to understand.

Although the imagery tends to be fairyly similar to the RWS deck, it's a lot clearer. I know what's happening in these cards, and what I'm looking at. There's no confusion. The art is dainty, detailed, and clear, and with the symbols and colours mentioned above, they're just so much easier to read. There is also more to see as well, with these extra details that catch your eye and make such a difference; there's more going on, so more information, which for me helps aid intuiting a meaning quicker. For me, this deck just makes more sense, and goes into more depth, than the RWS deck does. It just really speaks to me. And so it's actually a much better deck for me to figure out the suits stories - I tried originally with RWS, and like with everything else, I found it difficult.

One thing that is quite evident about this deck though, is the fact that, like with the RWS deck, all the people are white. And not only are they white, but they are beautiful, conforming to traditional ideas of gendered beauty. The women are tall, slim, slender and willowy, the men handsome, broad and strong. That's one thing about the RWS deck, despite not getting on with it as well - there's no emphasis on beauty or lack of it, or bodies and their shape. It's not something that ever entered my head, but with Crystal Visions, it really struck me how beautiful they all were, and how they fit into society's impossible beauty standards. It's actually really disappointing, because otherwise, the deck is just so gorgeous and so helpful to me personally, but it seems there's definitely a bias - unconcious or otherwise - of what human beauty means, what it looks like, to Galasso.

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Over to you graphic

So those are the decks I've worked with/studied so far. I'm still learning, and enjoying learning so much more, but I'm also really eager to add other decks to my collection and learn from them, too. I've read about certain decks having different energies, or a different feel to them, which I didn't understand at first, but I can definitely see it now, and I really want to explore this with other decks, too. I'm just really enjoying learning and exploring tarot!

What tarot decks do you use? Which have you found easier to work with? Which didn't work for you at all? I'd love to hear about your own experience with tarot!

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