The 78-card tarot deck is divided into two parts: the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana.
Using the Cards
Best of luck on your journey. May you always be on the inner quest.
"With the Death card, the idea is re-birth. In order to make space for something new — even if you think about it mathematically or scientifically — something has to let go so that newness can emerge. So the idea is: what are you willing to soften, or loosen, so that you can make more space? You can make your interpretation subtle, you can make it as intense as you want, but the idea is, what can you do to make space?"
Watch Kim Krans discuss the Death card, delve into her history with the tarot, share strategies for incorporating the cards into a daily practice and much more on KATU's AM Northwest and Afternoon Live.
Anyone can learn to read the cards — all it takes is a little time, practice, and focus. Each card possesses an infinite number of interpretations depending on the question posed, how it's framed, and the quality of attention applied by the seeker.
Here's an easy practice to develop your intuitive capacity to engage the cards.
- Place your deck in front of you and get centeredYou can focus on counting your in-breaths and out-breaths, repeating a sacred mantra, or drawing your awareness to the center of the forehead.
- When you're ready, let the question arise in your mindKeep your focus fixed on it for a moment, letting the question flow through you.
- Keep the question repeating in your mind as you shuffle and cut the deckContinue until the you feel a subtle sensation of readiness.
- Center your mind...then pull and turn over a cardDon't attempt to immediately arrive at the intended meaning, or turn to the guidebook in hopes of finding a simple explanation. Let the card's deeper message for you unfold slowly under your persistent gaze — you can turn to the guidebook for additional insight in a few minutes.
- What does the image evoke in you?What story do the colors tell? How about the patterns? If there's a figure or animal featured in the image, what feeling do they evoke in you? Do the symbols resonate? What memories and emotions does the imagery bring up? It may help to write some notes on your perceptions as they come, with no judgement or immediate analysis.
- After spending 15-20 minutes letting the card float in your awareness, put the card down and review your impressionsYou may be surprised to find yourself face-to-face with a clear, nuanced response to your inquiry.
Repeating this practice regularly will help you become comfortable with the idea that each and every meaning you perceive during your sessions with the cards is valid and worthy information. Stick with it – the reward is a powerful relationship with your deck that will last a lifetime.
This spread is perfect for the situations that leave you feeling stagnated, roadblocked, or thwarted in your quest for progress and momentum.
Sometimes the frustrations that interrupt our flow are also invitations calling out for our attention. As one of my favorite teachers, Michael Meade, writes: "Truth lies closer to the earth, down in the mud where creation begins again, down where everyone finds the deep imagination within their own soul."
Valuable treasures hide in the depths — but we must say yes to the descent before finding the answers and solutions we seek. This spread will help you find your way out by diving in, and using what you discover to set yourself free.
This is a reading that rewards prolonged contemplation. Don't try it when you're attempting to rush your way to a solution. Spend time turning these messages over in your mind, giving yourself plenty of room to consider the questions they provoke.
- The matter at handTake particular notice if this card approaches the issue from a different angle than you'd observed — this may be a key piece of the puzzle.
- The blockHere's what's standing in your way, or preventing forward motion.
- The hidden jewelThis card shows the hidden truth underlying the stagnation or frustration.
- A shift in awarenessThis card represents the shift in perspective necessary to break through what's blocking you.
- The way outThe ultimate path to liberation.
Whenever I find myself stuck in my head, I turn to this simple four-card spread for insight, reflection, and grounding in the body.
All too frequently we base our decision-making on the logical, rational workings of the mind. The Awareness Spread can be helpful for discovering how an activity or course of action impacts the various centers of self: use it to check-in with the body on creative, emotional, and mental levels, or to investigate the underlying dynamics of a confusing situation. The fourth card offers vital insight from the higher self regarding the path ahead.
As we learn to gather insight rooted deep in the wisdom of the body, we get closer to a more fully integrated way of being in the world. Add this spread to your repertoire and enjoy the expansive awareness it brings.
- Creative CenterThis card shows the potential for a situation, person, environment or course of action to feed, nurture, or block you creatively. This card can also reflect where you are in your creative process.
- Heart CenterWhat is your heart trying to tell you? Does this card signal nourishment, or point to disappointment?
- Lower MindConsumed by our everyday worries and logistical thinking, the Lower Mind receives of a disproportionate amount of our conscious attention. This card reveals a particular mental pattern or rut we've fallen into.
- The Higher SelfWithout the intruding interpretations of the lower mind, the insight offered here is clear and poignant. Surprises may lurk here, particularly if you've spent a long time caught in the rational mind: listen closely to what it has to say. What message is the higher self imparting?
There’s only one way to break in any new deck — and that’s by spending time with it! It’s worth it to take a day or two in the beginning to really get to know the cards on an intuitive level before diving deeper into the guidebook or others’ interpretations. Give yourself time to get acquainted with the imagery, how the cards resonate with you, and what they evoke and provoke in you.
Here’s how to get started:
- Break the deck into three pieces and re-stack them into one. Hold on to the intention of getting to know your new cards as you repeat the process as many times as feels right.
- Spread out all the cards face-up on a clear space. This gives you a sense of the deck as a whole, and enables you to begin to see what cards stand out to you. Make a mess and go wild.
- Make piles of cards you love and ones you don’t understand. Favorites. Ones that freak you out. From a logistical standpoint, this step also breaks up the cards and helps the deck become more integrated. Organize them into little stacks in any way you see fit.
- Go through your piles and reflect on the imagery. Use a journal to write some reflections down. What does the card make you think? What about it do you like? What don’t you understand? Does it remind you of someone? Then look to the guidebook for insight.
- Add each card back to a single pile, and repeat the process as necessary.
We can’t invite a meaningful dialogue with a new deck without getting involved and invested in the process. Develop a good rapport with the cards. Journey beyond mere surface interpretation to allow deeper insight to unravel. Find the reservoirs of intuition that will give sustenance to your readings for years to come.
"The tarot is not an end; it's a means. People get confused...And I just don't believe that any tool is the end. The end is so vast, and mysterious, and powerful — beyond our wildest dreams. All these tools that we use to get there are just the boat we use to get off the shore we typically stay on — ignorance is a strong word, but it's Avidya, which in Sanskrit is a kind of not-knowing. When we use the tarot, we get in the boat, launch off the shore, and remember we have a deeper self and a deeper purpose for being here...It's all kind of a mystery."
Kim Krans chats about her evolution as an artist, the purpose of the tarot, why artists need to keep going, the importance of trusting your gut, and so much more on The Secret Library and Progressive Spirit podcasts.
The Year Ahead Spread is an annual ritual at The Wild Unknown. Every December, as the year winds down, we return again to this classic reading for month-by-month insight into the themes and opportunities of the upcoming year.
Each card represents one month of the year to come, while the card in the center points to the overall theme. You can shuffle the deck and lay down the cards consecutively one by one, or shuffle the cards in between each pull — just follow your intuition and do what feels right.
Don't be afraid if you pull a card that, at first glance, appears unfavorable. Two years ago, I pulled the Death card as my overall theme of the year: I made it through all the challenges alive and well, and with my world transformed for the better.
This spread is just as well suited for New Year's Eve readings as it is for birthdays (just substitute your birth month in the first position). Don't forget to take a picture to refer back to over the upcoming year!
The Mirror Mirror Spread is a fabulous and thorough way to understand the dynamics of a relationship. Use this spread to see how you and another person reflect off of each other, and where the magic or messiness resides. Pay special attention to the direction the images on the cards are facing. Do they face each other or turn away from each other? Do the images have a sense of harmony and cooperation? Or tension and disconnect?
- Your self imageThe part of yourself you project to the world, usually shaped through a combination of appearance, behavior, social status, or social media. This reflection is never the complete story.
- Their self imageThe part of them they project to the world, usually shaped through a combination of appearance, behavior, social status, or social media. This reflection is never the complete story.
- Your hidden selfA side of you that remains unseen, yet contributes to the relationship.
- Their hidden selfA side of them that remains unseen, yet contributes to the relationship.
- Your higher or true selfA deep and unfiltered view into your spirit.
- Their higher or true selfA deep and unfiltered view into their spirit.
When you’re looking for insight into a relationship, The Lovers Spread cuts to the heart of the matter. Though you may be hesitant to ask the cards so bluntly, “what does our relationship look like?” the answer will be well worth it. If shadowy cards come up, don’t assume it means the relationship isn’t worth the effort. It could simply means there’s a disconnection or misunderstanding at play that needs some attention. Remember, all meaningful relationships eventually venture through rough terrain, and that’s what makes them strong. But if the cards come up roses… enjoy!
- YouHow you show up in the relationship.
- ThemHow they show up in the relationship.
- The relationshipThe current collaborative energy the two of you create.
What is a staff, by the way? What does the image conjure up in you? If you had a staff to carry on your journey, what would it be made of, what would it look like? Staffs, rods, and staves are used throughout mythological stories and they often contain potent magic used for protection and to reveal wisdom or light. They may also be used to bring about the impossible. Whatever the staff may be, the character who wields it has the power to bring about change. Think of this staff of cards in a similar light. It reveals, it strengthens and then it moves us forward.
While we saw that cards 1-6 help us understand both the situation at hand and our psyche, cards 7-10 are a call to action. It’s all about moving forward. Where will you go on our epic journey? Do you wish you could follow another’s path? Card 7 shows us our state as we face the darkness of the forest. As we progress towards card 10 we pass by our influences, and our hopes and fears, hidden in the forest. They may try and stop us, thwart us, or trick us from forging ahead. If I’m sounding ridiculously mythic here, that’s not an accident. We are all on a journey. When we forget that, our lives become listless.
Card 10 is the big whammy of the Celtic Cross. No matter what is going on in the rest of the spread, its energy presides over them all. It is a call to our deepest soul about the path that we are on and where it may lead. Some readers place two cards in position 10 to get a more complex picture of the story. I like just using one.
Pay close attention to major arcanas that come up in the reading, especially in the staff. They point to very strong, very deeply rooted part of yourself. Remember we cannot walk another’s path. It must be uniquely ours!
- The Heart of the Matter(read our previous post for an in-depth look at cards 1-2)
- The Complication
- The Foundation(read our previous post for an in-depth look at cards 3-6)
- The Past
- What Resides Above
- Future Visions
- YouThis card represents a kind of “naked” or “unarmored” look at the protagonist of the reading as they step forward on their journey.
- External InfluencesA very important card to understand, the External Influences can block us from moving forward. This card indicates what is most heavily influencing us, and gives us the power to make changes if necessary. At every moment, something is influencing us, and the more we understand that, the better.
- Hopes & FearsLike the card in position 7, this also shows a tender and intimate side of the story. It may indicate a love interest, a heartbreak, or a fissure in the confidence of the querent. Treat this card gently as it may end up coming in handy along the path, turning into a secret weapon when you initially thought it was a weakness.
- The Final OutcomeThis card can also be thought of as the calling. It is the strong desire pulling you forward all the way through the ten cards of the Celtic Cross. It reigns over all the rest. We thought card 6 was the future, yet card 10 is the real heavyweight, the truer, deeper calling making its voice heard. Thanks for taking the time to listen.
Show us your full celtic cross! We want to see! #twuspreads
We asked resident astrologer MOON + QUARTZ to tap into the astrology that powers The Wild Unknown Tarot, and take a peek at the cosmic underpinnings of the deck’s upcoming transition.
9:00 am, October 8, 2012 in New York, NY
The Wild Unknown Tarot is a Libra sun with a Cancer moon and Scorpio rising, which gives the deck a quiet, transformative strength borne of tremendous emotional depth. As cardinal signs, Libra and Cancer are two of the four leaders of the zodiac, possessing an initiatory energy and the fortitude to serve as an example for others.
But the biggest stand-out I see in the chart for the Tarot? A harmonious trine between Saturn and Neptune. Let’s break it down.
Saturn is a planet of boundaries and form, rules and authority; Neptune, in contrast, rules the mystical realm: spirit, inspiration, the unconscious, the collective, dreams and psychic insight. Neptune is intangible, slippery as the sea; Saturn (as anyone who’s been through their Saturn Return can tell you) is as real and concrete as an 18-wheeler semi-truck. When these two energies engage inharmoniously, we see widespread disillusionment, the dissolution of borders and boundaries, and a breakdown in the collective status quo. (If this sounds familiar, it's because an inharmonious Saturn-Neptune aspect has been active since late 2015 for everyone on the planet!) We are confronted by the realities (Saturn) our collective unconscious darkness (Neptune).
But when these energies engage harmoniously, as they do in the chart for the Tarot, the two planets serve each other. Saturn creates a form for the mystical, and the psychic insight Neptune exudes is given a concrete means of delivery. Neptune and Saturn move slowly through the zodiac, so any engagement between these two planets waxes and wanes over a 12-15 month period. That The Wild Unknown Tarot has this aspect exact to the degree in its chart (Saturn and Neptune are located at 0 degrees Scorpio and Pisces, respectively) is exceedingly rare, giving the cards the ability to channel enormous psychic and intuitive power.
A few other important notes:
Venus in Virgo speaks to the intricate artistry and line-work of the cards as well as the deck’s orientation toward service. Mercury trine Chiron gives the cards an uncanny ability to show us our growth-points, or where we’re in need of healing; a Venus-Pluto trine only magnifies the deck’s transformative power.
Mars square Neptune enables the deck to actively reach past the limits of ordinary reality to connect with psychic and otherworldly sources of knowledge. This aspect also speaks to the magnetism of the cards, and the potential for deep, personal connection to the insight they offer.
Jupiter in Gemini gives the cards the ability to guide and teach; the planet’s residence in the eighth house of transformation gives the deck the power to deliver deep revelation and healing through our surrender to the wisdom of the unknown, something we do each and every time we turn to the Tarot for insight.
As I write this, a tense square from transiting Pluto (the planet of death and re-birth) to the The Wild Unknown Tarot’s Sun (the place of self and identity) is at its peak. Astrologically, square aspects present a challenge: when two planets form a 90-degree angle, energy doesn’t flow easily between them. They are at odds with each other, and something has to give — which means action must be taken to resolve the tension.
Given the few days that remain before the end of the artist-printed Wild Unknown Tarot, it comes as no surprise that the Sun-Pluto square is an identity (Sun) transforming (Pluto) aspect.
The ultimate message here is one of surrender. Transformation comes through yielding to forces larger than our conceptions of our own personal identity. We find empowerment not from clinging to what we know or fighting the current, but by embracing and entering the unknown.
We might even turn to the Death card, to which Pluto bears the closest similarities. The Wild Unknown Tarot Guidebook advises: “A positive transformation begins after the initial forms of suffering have passed.”
The astrology and the cards are in agreement: once we surrender to the ego death that Pluto brings, what we gain in re-birth is evolution of the most powerful kind.
In a recent post we took a look at cards 1 and 2 of the Celtic Cross Spread. These first cards make up what is also known as “The Heart”. Now we’ll go deeper and take into account the surrounding cards 3-6 that make up what is commonly referred to as “The Cross”. If I were to have my way, I would rename the entire group of cards 1-6 “The House”: it makes understanding the cards intuitive and interesting, the concept of a house giving the heart a place to reside.
So let’s run with the idea for a moment. Think of the way a child draws a house, and envision overlaying that drawing on top of the six cards. Card 3 is below the ground, hidden in the earth, where the basement or foundation might be. Cards 4, 1, 2, and 6 reside in the living or common areas of the house. Card 5 is in the attic, or perhaps hovers above the house like a residing force or blessing. Stay with me… its helpful to break out of the norm and look at the cards through a metaphorical lens.
So we have one room to the left that is occupied by the past, and one room to the right that is occupied by visions of the future. The heart, as always, resides at the center, in the present. Sound familiar? The strength of the entire structure depends on the foundation, and like any basement… we don’t tend to spend much time there. We don’t spend much time in the attic either, or thinking about the grace or blessings that fall onto us from above.
Experiment with this version of the Celtic Cross. Let the concept of the house be a metaphor for the self, or perhaps for your actual home. Run with it. I have found this understanding opens up the spread to reveal many mysteries of the psyche or self that would otherwise remain hidden. Pay special attention to cards 3 and 5… It’s easy to overlook these subtle forces that impact the quality of our lives.
- The Heart of the Matter (read our previous post for an in-depth look)
- The Complication (read our previous post for an in-depth look)
- The Foundation Think of this card as the basement, or what underlies the situation or person. The foundation must be strong and clear to support growth. Usually we turn away from or brush over this card, just as we do the junk in our dimly lit basements. Be brave… go down there. It’s well worth taking a long while to understand this card and its implications.
- The Past A past situation or event that remains in the field of consciousness and affects the well being of your day to day life. In a sense, it still “lives” with you. Depending on what card appears you will know immediately what situation it refers to. Do not overthink it. What can you do to lessen the impact it has on the present?
- What Resides Above This card represents the attic, the sky, the heavens, or anything that resides above us. It can also be thought of as a blessing, grace or presiding force. Another way of thinking about this card is an overarching thought or sentiment that reigns. Just like an attic, we may not even know there’s a ghost hiding up there with a message for us. Find out exactly what this entity has to say.
- Future Visions This card represents our visions of the future, or perhaps the future itself. In general we’d like this card to be positive and uplifting, and in a sense to control it. We may spend too much time in this room of our house, doting on the way we want things to be. Notice the Celtic Cross Spread does not end with this card… it continues to card 10, referred to as “the final outcome”. Perplexing, right? We’ll get to that next time…
Keep us posted with your progress #twuspreads and stay tuned for Celtic Cross Part III “The Staff” coming soon!
The first two cards in the Celtic Cross Spread represent the “heart of the matter”. You can also refer to them as “the heart” which is symbolic and helpful in ways we’ll discuss in a moment. The relationship between these two cards is what the entire Celtic Cross hinges on, so it’s well worth our time to focus in and try to understand it.
Let’s take a look at the cards visually for a moment. Card 2 covers so much of card 1 that unless you are quite familiar with the deck, you may not even recognize what lies beneath! There’s a clue in this so take the analogy and run with it… card 2 is getting in the way. It’s thwarting the situation, it’s causing trouble, or at least blocking the flow.
Not to mention card 2 is sideways. The card isn’t in a classic reverse position (upside down) which is slightly easier to interpret. Instead, it’s on its side, in limbo, neither up nor down. Think of this as the card’s power being unmanifest, unresolved: its energy is running sideways. This takes some contemplation and some subtle work as a reader to grasp fully. What does the Chariot signify when it runs sideways? What happens when the Six of Pentacles is unmanifest? Seasoned card readers, get out your journals and get to work. Your card reading will elevate from “by the books” to nuanced, personal, and deep.
To some degree, card 1 simply waits there for us to do the work. This is when the cards start to mimic the heart. Whether the heart is in pain or in love, whether burdened or light, it waits patiently for us to connect to it. Card 1 needs you to work through card 2 before it can truly reveal itself. All the while its there… steady and supporting you.
A helpful question might be, “What can I do to turn card 2 right side up, so I can see both cards clearly and move forward?”
- The Heart of the Matter This card represents the most central issue in your life. It’s the heart of all hearts and it wants your attention.
- The Complication This card has many names, but most simply it represents a thwarted desire, an unmanifest dream, or a dynamic that is getting in the way. It’s usually tied to Card 1 in one sneaky way or another.
Keep us posted with your progress #twuspreads and stay tuned for Celtic Cross Parts 2 and 3 coming soon!