Romanticised Native American theme decks are fairly common, but this one has particularly beautiful artwork that is deep, soft and gorgeously coloured. It is Thoth- based rather than being rather based on the Rider-Waite.
Although I have not worked with this deck for long, it has become one of my primary decks. I find the peacefulness of the colours very pleasing; the drawings are very attractive and exude an encouragingly spiritual air. I find many of the depictions show a new or enhanced point of view on the specific card. For example, the Devil [Key 13] is entitled "Torment" and very readily brings the "What/Who is holding you back?" question to mind.
The Clown [0 - The Fool], The Medicine Man [1 - Magician], The Medicine Woman [2 - High Priestess], The Shaman [5 - The Hierophant], Life Force [11 - Strength], The Star each show the spiritual guidance and protection of the White Light of Spirtuality which adds another dimension to interpretation.
Each card of the Minor Arcana has a word of interpretation on it and many of these are quite thoughtful. The 6 of Earth [6 of Pentacles] is entitled Breakthrough. It shows a female shape with arms raised which seems to be quite misty and seems to imply that a break through starts with one's thoughts. The 8 of Fire [8 of Wands/Rods] called "Insight" is a phenomenally dynamic card as is the Ace of Fire which calls to mind the runic arrow of the Spiritual Warrior or the symbol for Sagittarius. The four suits portray their elemental meanings very clearly. The element of Earth which is Pentacles deals with security and supply. The 8, 9 and 10 of Earth are obvious in demonstrating the abundance of supply available, but the Mother of Earth [Queen of Pentacles] card beautifully shows Security in the loving embrace of the young child held in the arms and robe of the Mother. What a comforting and secure picture! In the suit of Water that demonstrates the flow of emotions, always has an element of hope somewhere.
Although the suit of Swords uses the softness of Feathers to represent the element of Air, the drama, tension and stress of Swords is still credibly shown. And Fire -- the suit of Wands or Rods -- Wow! This is, admittedly, not my favourite suit in many decks, but this one is so rich in detail and so lovely to look at that, frankly, the Ace of Fire and the 8 are the two main reasons I bought the deck.
The portrayal of the Hanged Man as the Vision Quest makes much more sense to Querents yet still upholds the sacrificial nature of the card.
The Chaos card [16 - The Tower] is particularly dynamic in showing a rearing horse almost surrounded by fire. Since my understanding is that Horse represents personal power, I find it readily relates to the concept of responsibility for the events in one's life. The cards appear fairly plain at first glance, but as you look carefully and in depth at them, there are more symbols and details to add to the levels of interpretation available. The more I work with the deck, the more comfortable and effectively it speaks to me.
This is a
particularly beautiful deck that stands up well in
interpretative richness. As a teacher of the Tarot who encourages
students to choose a deck that calls to their heart and
mind in order to develop a rapport with it, I find this
deck is very well received with students and querents
alike. It is readily understandable and easy to read or
teach. I have even used this particular deck in
developing a method of using 2 decks simultaneously in a
reading to deal with the spiritual and mundane aspects of
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.
© Bonnie Cehovet
It’s always a wonderful surprise to find a great deck by accident. The Vision Quest Tarot was one such deck. Having no strong interest in Native American culture, I have previously managed to pass up decks of that persuasion without a backwards glance. But then fate delivered an unsealed copy of the Vision Quest Tarot to my door and I realised what I had been missing.
This deck teems with life. The cards feature beautiful wild landscapes – big stripy skies and brilliant sunsets, mountains and rivers – and a whole host of birds, reptiles, animals, minerals and vegetables. There is movement in many cards, such as a radiant orange sunburst or a waterfall tumbling down over lush green hills, and this, combined with the vibrant colours and joyful illustrative style, give the deck a natural energy. You can’t help but feel happy to look at it.
Structurally speaking, the Vision Quest Tarot is traditional, but although the deck comprises the required 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana divided into four suits, the designers have taken extensive liberties in naming the cards. In the Major Arcana, it’s easier to tell you which cards haven’t been re-christianed, (The Lovers, The Hermit, The Star, The Moon and The Sun). The rest have been brought in line with the Native American theme so, for example, Trump I (aka The Magician) is called The Medicine Man, and Trump XX (typically Judgement) is renamed Spirit Guide. Despite the fact so many cards have been renamed, this is much less annoying than you’d think as the names fit well with the theme.
The suit and court card names have also been renamed. Arrows and wands represent the suit of Fire (Wands), jars and bowls represent Water (Cups), feathers and birds represent Air (Swords), and vegetables and flowers represent Earth (Pentacles). Each numbered minor also has a keyword printed on the card – the Six of Fire is “Victory” and the Eight of Water is “Stagnation”. For the Courts, instead of Page, Knight, Queen and King we have Daughter, Son, Mother and Father, so the Page of Pentacles becomes the Daughter of Earth. These changes are mild compared to some decks but they may be enough to put you off if you’re just starting your Tarot journey.
The LWB included with the deck is approximately 110 pages long (yes, and all in English!). As well as a few spreads, it includes generous card descriptions – roughly one and a half pages for the Majors, a page each for the Minors – and gives an “Inner Message” and “Outward Manifestation” along with keywords to express the essence of each card. Whilst it would have been nice (as a stranger to Native American culture) to have had a little more background information about the traditions the deck is based on, the deck was appealing enough to spur me onto my own research via the internet to fill in any blanks.
The deck is very easy to read, namely because the artist is so good at creating dynamic, telling pictures. The illustrations could be described as simple, like those in a children’s storybook, but this is what gives them their power to speak directly. There is no mistaking the message of Trump XVI (The Tower), entitled Chaos, which depicts a panicking horse among burning trees; nor that of the Ten of Water, which shows a woman bathing beneath a beautiful waterful while a rainbow arches overhead (keyword: fulfilment).
Overall, the deck has a peaceful, spiritual feel to it, which makes it calming to look at and read with. It seems to remind us that we and our perceived problems are merely small parts of a greater whole. The designers wanted to create a deck “to increase our awareness of cosmic forces and how they influence our individual paths”. With the Vision Quest Tarot, it seems they have done just that.