Everyone struggles with learning how to read reversed tarot cards. It really shouldn’t be that difficult – or at least no more difficult than learning the upright meanings.
But it is. We all struggle with it, myself included.
Which is why I was thrilled when someone introduced me to the Revelations Tarot. This deck is the ONLY deck you need to help you learn how to read reversals.
The way these cards is designed is genius. One half of the card shows the “regular” RW-based meaning of the card. When you flip the card 180 degrees, the other half of the card shows the reversed meaning. So smart!
However, this means there are two different “stories” on each card, which makes them a bit busy, cluttered, and difficult to read for beginners.
I purchased the Revelations Tarot deck from Amazon in mid-2017 for about $28. This is my honest review of the deck, for both tarot beginners and for people just starting to learn and use reversed tarot cards…
The Revelations Tarot Deck Review
If you are learning how to read reversed (upside-down) tarot cards, you need this deck.
It’s too complicated for beginners just starting out. But if you already understand the traditional RW-based cards, this deck will be an invaluable (and beautiful) tool for your tarot journey.
HISTORY OF THE REVELATIONS TAROT DECK
The story of the Revelations deck begins in 2000 as a personal project for Zach Wong, who was fairly young when he created the deck. Unfortunately, Zach is no longer active online as an illustrator, so I imagine he’s moved on to a different career. (His illustration website is at ZackWong.com but it hasn’t been updated in years).
It took three years for Zach to create the cards. If you’re interested in how this deck was created and published (I find this stuff fascinating!), there’s a timeline at Zach’s website.
The style of the illustrations is a cross between colorful stained glass and early Manga. Each card is extremely detailed. The figures are humanoid, but not necessarily human. The Cups are represented by mermen and mermaids and the Pentacles are cyborg robots. It sounds strange, but it works.
THE PACKAGE & CONTENTS
The Revelations Tarot deck is published by Llewellyn, which has a standard way for presenting their decks. This deck comes with a large outer box that opens on the side with a magnetic flap. Inside the package is the companion book and the cards.
The cards themselves are a little “slippery” and light-weight. I actually prefer this, because it makes them easier to shuffle (and I’m a terrible shuffler so this is important to me). This deck will take a bit of abuse, but don’t expect it to last forever if you are regularly using the cards.
The back of the card shows an abstract swirly design on an electric dark blue background. It doesn’t completely match the style of the artwork on the cards and there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about the card backs.
READING TAROT WITH THE REVELATIONS DECK
The Revelations Tarot is unusual. Each card is divided roughly in half with the upright side telling the “story” of the upright meaning, and the opposite side showing the reversed meaning. This means many of the cards will have two people doing totally separate but related things.
In general, the illustrations follow the RW-based traditional meanings. Because there is just So Much Going On with each card, this sometimes means that only one interpretation of the RW-based meaning is illustrated.
For example, the Three of Pentacles shows a man alone, carving a pentacle in front of a downtown skyline. This definitely has the interpretation of “hard work,” but because it is missing the other RW-based elements of this card, it is missing the interpretation of “teamwork.”
If you already know the RW-based interpretations, this won’t be a problem. Your brain will fill in the gaps. But if you are still learning the meanings, it will be difficult to match what you know to what you see on each card.
I find the court cards easy to identify and remember with this deck. Each one is distinctive and their facial expressions help to identify their meaning.
In fact, for every card, there are many small details to help you remember the story and emotion. The illustrations are so detailed and subtle that I keep finding things I’ve missed before. That makes each new tarot reading fun and gives depth to the readings I do with this deck.
USING THE REVELATIONS COMPANION BOOK
The companion book to the Revelations Tarot was written by the illustrator, which I appreciate. He knows these cards better than anyone else.
On one hand, this is your standard companion guide. It goes through each of the cards, one by one, and gives a few paragraphs about the card’s meaning. There are a few sample tarot spreads in the back, too.
Many companion guides are just terrible. The bar is set pretty low, so I’m always surprised when I find a good one.
The Revelations Tarot companion guide is not a great book for learning to read tarot cards, but it is a great guide for learning to read this particular deck. The book includes full meanings for each of the reversed tarot cards (not just keywords) and also describes the illustrations and symbolism for both the upright and reversed meanings.
I found it fascinating to hear how the illustrator thought of each card, from his own words. The descriptions about the illustrations and symbols of each card were also extremely helpful in pointing out details I otherwise would have missed.
IS THE REVELATIONS DECK GOOD FOR BEGINNERS?
No. This deck isn’t meant for beginners.
It seems unfair to hold it to my usual standard, since it was designed to do one thing (help with reading reversed cards) and it does that extremely well.
I don’t recommend this deck as your first tarot deck. The cards are busy to the point of feeling cluttered and the “stories” shown in the illustrations are sometimes unclear. It will be extremely difficult to learn the tarot card meanings if you are using only this deck.
PROS OF THE REVELATIONS DECK
- This is THE deck if you want to learn how to read reversed tarot cards.
- The illustration style is unique. I love it (so it’s a pro for me).
- The companion book is really useful in understanding each card’s illustrations and symbols.
CONS OF THE REVELATIONS DECK
- Because each card tells two stories (upright & reversed), the images feel crowded and cluttered.
- The “stories” on some of the cards only show one interpretation of the RW-based meanings. You’ll need a solid understanding of the RW-deck to read these cards.
- The cards are slick and thin. (I like this, but I know some people think they feel “cheap.”)
I could go on and on about how this deck helped me (finally!!!) feel confident reading reversed tarot cards. Or how I *love* the stained-glass-modern-masks illustration style. Or how much fun I have playing around with these cards.
But I’ll just wrap up this review with the only statement that matters. When you are ready to read reversed tarot cards, get this deck.
And when you are ready to begin learning the reversals, you can get the Revelations Tarot directly from the publisher for about $29 or from Amazon at a slight discount. It’s well worth the investment.