Review by Bonnie Cehovet
I am definitely impressed with this deck. The symbols of the Native American peoples have been treated with dignity and respect, and come across with strength and clarity. (I can get on my soap box about things that call themselves "Native American" but are not!) In their introduction in the LWB (Little White Book), Winter and Dose note that the Vision Quest Tarot contains not only the spirit of the traditional Tarot, but the spirit of the Native American culture - as in such representations as shamans and the medicine wheel. This deck speaks of wisdom brought through the daily living of Native American life - through the Elders, through their words, and through their sense of compassion.
Winter and Dose further note that they view the Tarot as a guide to daily life, to help understand opportunities that present themselves through the heart, and well as through the mind. The Tarot points out our challenges, and how we can best face these challenges - what the lesson is for us, what we are to learn.
In describing the symbolism of the suits, the following associations are used: the suit of Fire is represented by Arrows and Wands, and equates with energy; the suit of Water is represented by Jars and Bowls, and equates with emotions; The suit of Air is represented by Feathers and Birds, and equates with spirituality and intellect; the suit of Earth is represented by Vegetables and Flowers, and equates with the physical in life.
One of the primary things that I noted about this deck is that it lends itself well to visualization and meditation, and that the imagery is of a more esoteric quality than many decks. It acts as an excellent, and very gentle, tool for working with shamanic visions/dreams. The esoteric nature of the deck is also evidenced in the spreads that are presented: The Little Medicine Wheel (a five card spread); The Present (a three card spread); The Path of Wisdom (a seven card spread); and The Partnership Spread (which can be done as a six or a twelve card spread).
Each of the cards is presented in the LWB with the following categories: In essence (the primary keyword that is on the card, followed by other keywords); Inner message (the Seeker's internal relationship with the card); and Outward manifestation (how the Seeker is effected by the environment around them, as well as how they can manifest the energy of the card through their own words and actions).
The cards themselves are 2 3/4" by 4 3/4" - a nice size for smaller hands. The card stock is good quality and glossy, giving the deck a good chance of surviving through heavy usage. The backs show a 1/4" white border surrounding an insert of a bird in flight through a night sky (with shadows over it in shades of lavender, blue and green). The symbolism of the bird as a messenger is strong here. The only issue that I might have is that it would be evident if the cards were drawn in the upright or the reversed position.
The card face also shows a 1/4" white border, surrounding the illustration. The artwork is strong, making use of rich, vibrant colors. The Major Arcana show the number and title across the bottom of the card in black lettering. The Pips (numbered cards) show the number and suit, followed by a keyword, across the bottom of the card in black lettering. The Court Cards show the title and suit in black lettering across the bottom of the card.
I am going to talk about several more cards than I normally would, because the imagery/symbolism resonates so highly with me. The Fool has become the Clown - a dancer with his wisdom bag in his left hand, and what may be his medicine bag around his neck. He stands on a precipice, as does the traditional Fool, ready to take the plunge. In the background we see what could be a dog or a coyote, howling at the sky. My vote goes for the trickster coyote, as he is the one that mocks us and makes us look at ourselves in a humorous manner. Rising from the Clown in a "ghost" manner is Bear, who carries with him the power of introspection.
The High Priestess has evolved into Medicine Woman. We see her seated in what appears to be a desert, with a bowl of burning incense in her left hand, and a feather in her right hand. Literally seen "through" her is a winding stream of water, with a setting sun at its end. In the night sky behind Medicine Woman we see a crescent moon, while behind her head we see a bird with its wings extended. Done in shades of blue and lavender, this is a very strong, evocative card, with a serious sense of timeline (past/present/future).
Grandmother is the Vision Quest evolution of the Empress. Here we see such symbology as a large spiral on the bowl in front of the Grandmother, the child seated on her lap, representing family, and the large turtle standing upright behind her, representing our connection to Mother Earth.
The Hermit, which is a birth card for me, shows a figure, wrapped in a blanket, standing in front of a fire. The smoke of the fire is rising into the night sky, acting as a conduit for wisdom between the spiritual world and the physical one. Behind the Hermit we see brother Bear, the introspective keeper of wisdom.
The Small Medicine Wheel (evolved from the Wheel of Fortune) shows a medicine wheel, with a Great White Eagle, with his wings spread, in the center of the wheel. To the East is Brother Eagle, to the South Brother Coyote, to the West Brother Bear, to the North Brother Buffalo. The cycle is complete.
The evolution of Death into Transformation is stunning! Against a night sky we see a tier, with a bundle on top of it, and the skull of an animal on top of that. Beneath the tier we see the full skeleton of an animal laid out. To the right of the picture, appearing to rise from the skeleton, we see the form of an Owl, in ghostly splendor. The Owl is associated with clairvoyance, and with magic. The wisdom of the Owl will help us to let go of our baggage.
A certain show stopper is Chaos, the evolution of the energy of the Tower. Here we see a coal black stallion, rearing back on his hind legs, surrounded by orange-red fire on all sides. Streaks of white lightening show int he background. How many of us have fought against life, with the same power that this stallion is fighting against the fire around him?
The Two and the Tree (Three) of Air are both sunning in their simplicity. The Two of Air shows two hands holding up two feathers, one across the other, against a calm night sky. the Tree of Air shows two crossed feathers, with a bent feather beneath them. Against an angry, stormy sky we see the silhouettes of three birds flying. Peace in one card, doubt in the other.
The Six of Air (titled Clarity) shows six brown tipped white feathers hanging from a dream catcher. Filter out the bad dreams, and allow the good ones to show us how to see clearly.
The Eight of Earth, sub-titled Inner Order, is a definite favorite of mine. Against the green of a field we see eight orange pumpkins lined up, two by two. There is a definite peace in this sense of order.
The Vision Quest Tarot is a deck that lends itself to being used anywhere, any time. Its message is clear, and the cards are easy for anyone to work with.
© February 2006
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.