A few months ago, I surveyed members of the Learn Tarot With Me community to see what tarot decks people were using or were curious about. The Wild Unknown Tarot was by far the most popular deck, which surprised me since it is relatively new and isn’t published by one of the “big” tarot deck companies.
I’ve been using this deck personally for quite awhile, and am a huge fan. But this deck is NOT for everyone, so I wanted to do a thorough review so you could make sure if it is the right fit for you.
The Wild Unknown Tarot Review
This is a gorgeous, high-quality tarot deck for smart & clever people who already know how to read tarot cards.
I use, love, and HIGHLY recommend this deck, with one caveat.
If you are a tarot beginner, this deck will be extremely difficult to learn. Not impossible – but be warned that you will be making it harder than it needs to be if you try to learn the tarot using this deck alone.
HISTORY OF THE WILD UNKNOWN TAROT DECK
The story of The Wild Unknown begins in New York City, with an artist creating the 78 tarot card illustrations at her drafting table using ink and watercolor.
For five years, the deck grew in popularity as Kim Krans published and sold her tarot deck directly to her fans. Thousands of decks later, dozens of people now have Wild Unknown tattoos, and the artist has become a muse for others.
Kim Krans is still designing, illustrating, writing, and creating. The Wild Unknown deck is now published through HarperElixer (the spirituality division of HarperCollins) with world-wide distribution, which allows her to focus on what she loves best – combining creativity with radical transformation.
There is now a Wild Unknown brick & mortar store and arts collective in Portland, Oregon, selling all wonders of tarot decks, magical supplies, and creative resources.
I don’t know her personally, but I have become a bit of a fan-girl after doing the research for this review. Kim Krans is more than an artist, writer, creator, and designer. She’s an activist for creativity and for the radical change that is possible (for individuals and for society) through the process of creating and sharing new ideas and works of art. She doesn’t just talk about change – she lives it and her spirituality is directly tied to her creative practice.
This means there is more to The Wild Unknown than “just a tarot deck.” The Wild Unknown is an open door to greater things and Kim Krans invites and coaxes you to walk through it.
THE PACKAGE & CONTENTS
This is the most beautiful tarot deck I own. I’m not even talking about the illustrations of the cards or the snakeskin-simplicity of the card backs (both of which I love).
I love the style of images (which is a very subjective thing). There is something that feels very modern and balanced about them. The artist used hand-drawn black ink linework with a full rainbow of watercolor washes on the cards. The cards are mostly black and white, with touches of the rainbow colors.
But it’s not just the illustrations that make this deck so special. It’s the quality of the cards & the packaging itself that really sets it apart.
The quality of the cards – the matte finish and extremely heavy cardstock – is amazing. The cards feel heavy and strong in your hand. There is even a small box included for carrying the cards around without damaging them.
The companion book has just enough information to be interesting without being overwhelming. The packaging and presentation is perfect and what I would call “gift-quality.” Even tiny details like the weight of the ribbons and the interior printing of the box have been thought through and perfected.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the quality of the package, contents, and presentation. This is a “lifetime” tarot deck. The weight of the cardstock will allow for years of use and abuse before you’ll begin to see wear on the cards.
READING TAROT WITH THE WILD UNKNOWN DECK
The Wild Unknown Tarot is RW-based, but there are some significant differences. There are no people at all on these cards – only animals and images from the natural world.
In the Major Arcana, the 8 (Strength) and the 11 (Justice) cards are switched so that Justice comes first (as the 8) and Strength follows later as the 11 card. This is a common and more traditional way to number the cards, but some people will find it confusing.
The court cards use Daughter-Son-Mother-Father as the names instead of the more common Page-Knight-Queen-King pattern. This feels more modern and it is nice to have them “paired” as Daughter-Son and Mother-Father. This highlights their “feminine”/”masculine” energies and there is less of a men-ruling-the-women hierarchy between the four court cards.
There are no significant differences between the Wild Unknown Tarot and the traditional RW-based meanings in any of the other cards, and if you are comfortable with reading a RW-based deck, you will be able to interpret and understand The Wild Unknown cards fairly easily.
However, the illustrations are abstractions of the traditional meanings. You will have to do some mental puzzle-fitting to connect the two.
I particularly enjoyed this mental puzzle-fitting process as it forced me to really study each card and relate it to what I already know about the traditional card meanings. Some of the cards are obviously witty & clever, and others just feel “right” with their illustrations. The deck is challenging but not confronting – it feels like a comfortable friend who is teaching you something new.
However, this is not an easy-breezy deck to use, even if you have some tarot experience. You will have to do some work to associate each card’s image with its meaning as you first start to play with the deck. It’s a fun process (and a joy to do with these cards), but be warned you will have to put in the work.
If you aren’t completely comfortable with the traditional RW-based meanings, then you will really struggle with this deck. This deck is not for tarot beginners (unless you particularly like making your life difficult)!
USING THE WILD UNKNOWN COMPANION BOOK
The Wild Unknown Box Set comes with a 200+ page companion book. Like the rest of the box set, the book feels like a higher quality than most tarot decks. It has a fold-over cover with beautiful end papers and a thick paper weight.
Inside the book, each card is shown with a small (handwritten) interpretation of the card and its meaning. There is much less information given about each card than in most tarot kits – and it doesn’t “describe” the card or how to read it at all.
Instead, the written interpretations place YOU inside the reading. This is extremely helpful if you read the tarot for personal development & self-discovery (like I do). I really loved this approach.
However, the card descriptions are a little too “woo-woo” for my tastes, but that is totally subjective. I know I’m very far on the “logical” side of the logical-mystical spectrum, so if you are open to more mystical topics, you will feel more comfortable with the descriptions.
Because the cards are so abstract and difficult to read for beginners, it would have been nice to have more instruction and guidance from the companion book.
Personally, I like a lot of hand-holding and step-by-step progress when learning big things (like tarot), and this book doesn’t provide that. If you’re someone who likes to be overwhelmed as you learn and you don’t need that gentle step-by-step guidance, you’ll be fine with this book. But most beginners need more guidance and this book doesn’t provide much at all – which is another reason I don’t recommend this deck for tarot beginners.
IS THE WILD UNKNOWN DECK GOOD FOR BEGINNERS?
Unfortunately, no. If you are just getting started with learning tarot, I would not recommend this deck as your first deck.
I totally recommend it as your second (or third or fourth…) deck! It’s one of my favorites, but it is very difficult to learn the card meanings using just this deck.
The more “traditional” RW-based tarot decks use symbols and images on each of the cards to tell the story of the card. These stories, symbols, and images help when you are first learning and remembering the meanings of the cards.
The Wild Unknown deck doesn’t use the same symbols or images, and the stories it uses can be quite obscure.
For example, the Eight of Pentacles (a card about hard work & learning your craft) shows a spider in a spiderweb. If you already know the meaning of the card, it makes sense and is a clever interpretation. However, if you don’t know the meaning yet, it’s difficult to associate the card’s spiderweb image with being a hardworking craftsperson.
PROS OF THE WILD UNKNOWN TAROT DECK
- The quality of the cards and packaging is extremely high.
- The illustrations are clear, consistent, and beautiful. (This is subjective, but I really do love them). They feel quiet and strong.
- The images & symbols are just different enough from the RW-images that they make my mind think in new ways. The readings I get from this deck always seem to come from outside of myself, and they challenge my “normal” way of thinking.
CONS OF THE WILD UNKNOWN TAROT DECK
- It is very difficult to learn & read the cards from this deck unless you already have some experience with the RW-based meanings.
- The matte finish & thick cardstock of the cards can make it a bit difficult to shuffle. I’m terrible at shuffling cards in general, so this may just be a personal problem. 🙂
- The deck is a smidge more expensive than other popular tarot decks.
Overall, I absolutely love and would recommend The Wild Unknown – but this deck is not for everybody.
This is a deck for modern tarot readings and I get extremely thoughtful and creative readings when I use it. This deck is just-strange-enough to trigger my brain into working in a different way. With The Wild Unknown, I always end up looking at the situation from a different perspective – something far outside my normal patterns. As someone who reads the cards exclusively for personal development, this is invaluable.
If you are an intermediate or advanced tarot reader, then you should have no problems reading this deck. It will take a bit of work to “translate” the images into the stories you use to remember the cards – but it is definitely worth it. If you use the tarot for personal development, I highly recommend this deck. If you read tarot for others, you may want to go with something “more familiar” for your clients, but keep this deck for your personal readings.
If you are just starting to learn the tarot card meanings, I would choose a different tarot deck that is easier to read and interpret. You can get this deck as inspiration or because you love the images – but it will be extremely difficult to learn how to read the cards if you use this deck alone. I don’t recommend The Wild Unknown as your first tarot deck – but it makes a fantastic second deck once you understand the card meanings & stories.
WHERE TO GET THE WILD UNKNOWN TAROT DECK
I strongly believe in supporting the work of artists, writers, and other creatives. If you are interested in purchasing The Wild Unknown, you can buy it directly from the artist at TheWildUnknown.com for about $40.
If you are interested in supporting Learn Tarot With Me (as well as saving about 25%), you can purchase through this affiliate link at Amazon. Thank you for your support and for letting me share my tarot obsession with you.