8 Tips for Reading The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck
Hello my tarot lovelies! As you well know by this point, tarot decks are complex. They are full of symbolism both obvious and occult, mundane and esoteric. Learning to read them is the work of a lifetime. Every draw of a card brings with it a new realization, message, or meaning.
While there are set and standard meanings to each card, tarot cards and the way you interpret them evolve with you. Of course, that evolution must be grounded in something helpful first.
So to that effect, here are several tips for reading one of my favorite decks! The Wild Unknown is a beautiful, less traditional deck drawn by Kim Krans. It’s a New York Times bestseller, so I know there are many of you out there who have this deck on your coffee table, your altar, or hidden away somewhere private.
But the deck’s guidebook is pretty thin, and thus the initial base you have to grow from is low. Here are eight things I’ve learned and used to interpret this deck for the past two and a half years of using it.
Pay attention to the colors
Color theory and interpretation plays a big role in this deck. Some cards, for example are completely devoid of color. Others are a riot of them. And some have one dominant color represented. A card that is black and white is likely more about logic, rationale, or something/someone that lacks emotion. A card that is full of warm colors is likely about energy, passion, or romance.
Note the direction and orientation of the body and gaze
This is true of most decks, but a good reminder for new tarot readers! In general, here are what the directions mean; the left of the card symbolizes the past; the right the future. Up means rising up, down means subterranean fears/hopes/feelings, and outward toward the reader means the present. For example, if the subject of the card is in profile to the right, this card may have some interpretation around focusing on the future. If the card is facing outward, body and gaze locked on the reader, this card is about the present moment and being alive and aware of the quality of it. Sometimes the body is facing one way, and the gaze another, which could mean conflicting desires.
Spot the symbolism of stars
Stars in this deck are common and have a sweet meaning to them: your community or your “constellation” if you will. If you see many stars on a card, it’s a reminder that you’re not alone and have a large network of champions there to help you and cheer you on.
Pay attention to the lines
There are many line-based patterns in this deck. It’s important to pay attention to the symmetry of them, the density of them, and the direction of them. (See tip 2 for more on the meaning of directions). You may see a card that has very orderly, almost ruler-drawn lines. This can mean a very orderly, organized, rational vibe. You may see lines that for a chevron pointing upward, which could symbolize focused growth and upward trajectories. You could see jagged, overlapping lines that have a very dense feeling to them. This could mean anxiety, confusion, or despair.
Note the darkness/lightness of the card
This is related to the above, but some cards that don’t have lines may have a bright or dark background. This could reflect a level of intensity, or the opposite, ease, that the card is trying to communicate to you.
Connect to the animals
Many cards feature an animal of some kind, like a swan, a deer, a snake, or an owl. What do these animals mean to you? What myths do they remind you of? For example, for centuries snakes were a symbol of healing and transformation, and owls are Athena’s favored bird and thus a symbol of wisdom. Give your reading extra depth by layering on the meaning of the animal, the quality of the lines and colors, and the orientation of the animal and you’ll get somewhere magical with your interpretation.
Evaluate the frame
For some of the cards, there are also clues in the frame of the drawing. For example, a card that is all black and white, except for little red corners, could hint at some hidden and driving passion. A frame could be rainbow-colored, cluing you into a meaning centered around creativity and vibrancy.
Identify the “elements” represented
While each suit of the tarot itself corresponds to an element (wands = fire, swords = air, pentacles = earth, cups = water), you’ll also see more literal representation of the elements. You may see rain, which likely means an inundation of emotions. You’ll definitely see a lot of lightning, which represents sudden change. You may see fire, which is your passion and inner energy and vitality. Or you may see a mountain, which is a massive goal or challenge you’ll need to (or want to) climb.
I hope this helps, and is more tactical than the more standard numerology and suit-focused advice! Tarot doesn’t have to be about memorization. But it DOES need to be about paying attention and seeing every little detail of each card and how it connects to the question and situation at hand.
Good luck with your own interpretations, and let me know if there were any other tips I missed!