May/June 2016 Issue
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Review of the Revelations Tarot
This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on October 17, 2008
Summary: A brilliantly colored, imaginative deck that solves one of the most difficult problems of the Tarot, dealing with reversals, by making all of the illustrations two-sided, revealing the message whether the card is upright or inverted. Ideal for beginners, people seeking added insight, and for those who enjoy the quirky, illustrated novel or manga-like artwork of Zach Wong.
Name of deck: Revelations Tarot
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
Creator’s name: Zach Wong
Name of accompanying book: Revelations Tarot Companion
Number of pages of book: 216
Author of book: Zach Wong
Brief biography of author: Zach Wong (Australia) grew up in Malaysia where he studied Western and Asian mythology. He has a degree in architecture and works in illustration/graphic design. The art featured in Revelations Tarot will be exhibited in local galleries and on his website.
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes. The colorful box includes the full deck, a full-sized book, a transparent, black, organdy, drawstring bag for the deck, and a box for protecting the deck while storing or transporting it.
Reading Uses: All general purposes; a good replacement for the RWS deck.
Artistic Style: Illustrated novel/manga
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes
Does it have extra cards?: Yes, it has two cards, each with a brief version of a Tarot spread, The Horoscope Spread and The Seven Days Spread
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No
Optional comments on card’s symbolism:
Why was deck created?: "The Revelations Tarot was conceived in the midst of a journey of self-discovery…in early 2000 [I was] in the midst of a journey, which I embarked upon in trying to understand the vocabulary of the Tarot. The many images, metaphors and symbolism that could be found in the various decks available—traditional and contemporary—failed to connect with my being.
"I grew weary of my journey trying to find the one deck, which I could do my own readings with and decided to venture on a project of creating my own. Here each card would have it’s own meaning, particular to myself as well as incorporate the language of the Tarot.
"With the aid of my the Rider-Waite [-Smith] deck and text such as that from Jane Lyle and Rachel Pollack I spent many nights drawing the detailed line work which became the basis of the Tarot cards. Over the years the illustration style grew more confident and bolder. When it finally came to the coloring stage of the cards, I surprised myself with the wonders of bold colors and vibrant hues. Each artistic layer of the card added to the meaning and the evocation of my own consciousness."
The 156-Card Tarot…in a Standard Deck
One of the primary difficulties in reading Tarot cards is what to do with cards that come up reversed or inverted. Some people simply right the cards and ignore reversals. One of the great contemporary writers on Tarot, Mary K. Greer, has an entire book, The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, that is exclusively on this subject.
The problem is that when you have a card that is upside-down, the image, with all of its symbols, is also upside-down. Some people simply give the opposite meaning of the card. Of course, this requires you to memorize the meaning of the card and then reverse the meaning—you can’t simply look at the symbols. Some people have decidedly different meanings for cards that are reversed from the meaning when they are upright. My initial in-depth Tarot training stated that the meaning of the inverted card was the same as the upright card, just lessened. No matter what your solution, reversed cards are still a problem.
Zach Wong has come up with the best resolution to this problem that I’ve ever seen in his Revelations Tarot. What he simply does is have different symbolism on the bottom part of the card, so it appears upright when the card is inverted. This is such an obvious and very simple solution I’m surprised nobody came up with it before. The result is that although you have a deck that follows the RWS tradition very closely, for all practical purposes you have a deck with 156 cards!
The Major Arcana cards have two other features, beside their 2-way art, that is fascinating. First, there is a quality of stained glass in all the cards. Second, all of the characters are wearing masks. This, according to Wong, shows them to be similar to "that of the mythical gods who stand in human form amongst us to ease our comprehension of the messages they deliver." A fascinating idea, but it’s important that you understand this from reading the book because I’m not sure that the art, which has a sort of manga feel to it, really shows that this is a mask and not just an odd-looking person.
And that is my problem with this deck. The art is incredibly deep and complex, so much so, that sometimes it’s difficult to see all of the symbolism. The colors are striking, deep, and gorgeous, so much so that you could get lost in it. Therefore, it’s important to understand that although this deck is modeled after the RWS, it is not an RWS clone and necessitates a study of the cards in order to fully appreciate their depth. In this it reminds me of some aspects of the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. The imagery is very deep. However, with the Thoth deck the depth is sometimes hidden in the seeming simplicity of the images. Here, the complexity is out in the open. Studying this deck can be highly rewarding, and to really give good readings with this deck, you need to spend time studying this deck. Personally, I think it is worth it.
The Minor Arcana also have that stained glass feel. They have more action and swirling, succulent energy than the rather staid RWS deck. Although the meanings of all the Minors match the RWS, Wong adds his own twists that energize and add additional meaning to the RWS concepts. This is very valuable. The cards don’t contradict what you may know of the RWS, they add to it. The wisdom of Wong, as manifested in this deck, can then be brought back to the RWS and similar decks.
I found the book to be lacking, but as you’ll see, that’s a good thing. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but bear with me and you’ll see what I mean. The Revelations Tarot Companion book features a brief introduction about how Wong came to create the deck, brief explanations of the meanings of the cards and their symbolism, and brief explanations of three spreads. It’s all…basic.
In most instances, I’d be disappointed. But in this case, the combination of the deck and book works. The book doesn’t reveal everything, it just whets your appetite. It gives you just enough to get you started, to draw you in, to investigate the meanings and potentials of this deck. If the book had been more complete I think I would have become bored.
The Revelations Tarot is not just another Tarot deck. It is an experience. Work with it and it will advance your reading skills and spiritual development. That means this is not a deck everyone will like. The art has its own style that you’ll either love or hate. Take a look at this deck. If the art appeals to you get this deck. You may find it will become your regular reading deck, or at least a deck you’ll drift back to again and again.
Do you recall the first time you cast a solitary spell? A real spell. Do you remember the moment when you took power into your own hands, lit flickering candles, burned tendrils of incense, called to the corners, created sacred space, and invoked your intention to manifest in the universe? It was memorable, wasn't it? Like a teenager fumbling... read this article