Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong
Review by Kim Huggens
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Ever had problems with reversed cards in a reading? Ever had trouble seeing a different side to that uber-happy, fluffy Star card? Ever wished you could see the images on the cards properly when they were upside-down? Well, the Revelations Tarot is here to help that.
This beautiful new deck from Llewellyn, created by Zach Wong and formerly called the Adflatus Tarot, not only has the upright images on the cards, but the reversed images as well – each image fitting in with the upright and reversed interpretations of the cards.
The fantastical, stained-glass style artwork lends itself well to the theme of this deck, where the two images on each card tend to blend into one another and create an enchanted, mystical feel to the deck. The cards are filled with elemental creatures such as fairies, gnomes, mermaids, and dragons, so that the deck reminds me of the Tarot of the Moon Garden or Sacred Rose Tarot. Amazingly, the two different images in each deck coincide and blend so well that at first you barely realize there are two – but sure enough, when you turn each card upside down the image becomes clear. The faces of the figures in the Major Arcana are quite disturbing: angular, made up of many different parts. Wong says in the book that this is because they are wearing masks, and I am impressed by this idea – that there is something more universal behind the masks of what the Major Arcana represent and their ‘human’ form. It makes one realize that the ideas expressed by the Major Arcana are very macrocosmic and ‘big’, and they are only illustrated by human figures in the cards to make them more accessible to us human readers.
The Revelations Tarot takes its cues from the Rider Waite tradition, and sticks fairly rigidly to it in everything but card image. There are the traditional 22 Major Arcana, with the Fool being 0, Strength being Eight, and Justice 11, four suits of Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles, and the traditional Court Cards. The card interpretations are fairly standard as well.
But one thing makes this deck stand out from all the other Rider-Waite inspired decks: it has an inventive and original view of the cards which comes across in the images. Wong’s Court Cards are particularly ingenious, and convey the meanings of these usually difficult-to-read cards effectively. For instance, with the King and Queen of Wands upright, they are welcoming, social, smiling, with sunny and fiery dispositions. But reversed, we see them as manipulative, power hungry, over-bearing, and attention-seeking. The images convey this perfectly, and you know instantly by looking at them what they are like. (And, yet again, I find myself irresistibly drawn to the King of Wands… he’s a sexy reversal!) Because of cards like this, the Revelations Tarot would be a perfect deck for any beginner, or somebody who is just starting out using reversed cards in their readings.
One thing that struck me while using this deck and reading the accompanying 216 page book is that Wong seems to have an extremely negative view of any lust and passion that is devoid of love, and this unfortunately shines through in cards such as the Lovers and Devil. Now, my generation of 20-somethings will be able to give lengthy speeches on the joys of sex without the added complication of love (or is that just the crowd I hang around with?) Either way, this struck me as Wong’s own personal issues clouding the deck and applying value judgements to what are essentially neutral images until they are laid down in a spread. Who is to say that lust and loveless passion is always a bad thing? I’ve done plenty of readings where such things are exactly what the querent needs – but I am afraid that if I had done those readings with this deck, the value judgements placed upon lust and passion would have given a prejudiced reading.
The companion book is very boring, unoriginal, and disappointing. It tells you what the card images show and what they mean – which is always a good thing – but it often oversimplifies things and does not have any tarot spreads created specifically for the deck. Instead, we are given traditional spreads that you can find in any number of other tarot books. I was hoping that the book would have something to offer a more experienced reader, such as a spread that utilizes the deck’s theme of ‘reversals’, but no such luck. The book struck me as completely incongruous to the deck, where the Major Arcana seem to contain many very deep concepts, but where the book trivializes them into simple, everyday matters. While this may be useful for those who want to use the Tarot for divination and everyday fortune-telling (and sometimes I do), it doesn’t lend itself well to the more spiritual matters. For readings like this though, it should be easy enough to use the deck without the book’s limiting and trivial interpretations that de-spiritualize so many of the very spiritual cards (such as the Hanged Man, at top)
Some more experienced readers may also find it difficult to accept the reversed interpretations that Wong has illustrated, as he focuses on only one tradition of reversals: ‘good’ cards become negative, whilst ‘bad’ cards often become worse (though a few of them show a ray of hope instead.) Readers who see reversals instead as blockages or delays of a card’s energy, for instance, will not like this deck very much. This approach disappointed me with cards such as the Devil, since Wong has not shown any positive side to this card whatsoever (many Crowley fans will know that he equates the Devil with ambition and an ability to scale the heights effortlessly.)
Personally, I don’t use reversals in readings because I see each card as neutral until it is placed in a spread and surrounded by others cards or a question. However, I still found the Revelations Tarot a very easy, useful deck to read with – purely because it shows both the positive and negative sides to the cards (well, most of them.) The card doesn’t need to be upside down for you to be reminded that there are two sides to every coin, and to utilize the different side of the card in a reading. Having said this, some people have commented that this makes the Revelations Tarot a very pessimistic deck to use, since there is always another side to the coin.
Personally, I think the entire system of using reversals can be a pessimistic way of reading tarot – depending on how it’s done, and the same is true of the Revelations Tarot. Just because there is a negative side to the Star card, for instance, doesn’t mean you need to see that side in a reading. The view that the deck is pessimistic is also based in the faulty assumption that if you can’t physically see the negative side of the card, it doesn’t exist. Rubbish. Any good reader will, when laying down the cards, have in their mind many different aspects for the Star card, and they use whichever aspect is most appropriate in that reading – sometimes regardless of whether the cards are upright or reversed. Is this being a pessimistic reader? I don’t think so. I think it is being a reader that sees all possibilities – and this is what the Revelations Tarot aims to do. (Though it is questionable as to whether it achieves this with certain cards, such as the Devil. Who I quite fancy in this deck!)
The Revelations Tarot is available as a book/deck set, and comes complete with plain white storage box and black organdy Tarot bag.
All in all, this is a great beginner’s deck that would be an excellent alternative to a Rider Waite deck. It would also appeal to more experienced readers who want to play around with this style of reversals, and to tarot deck collectors, since decks of this kind are few and far between, and it represents a further step in the evolution of tarot: decks that are inspired by the Rider Waite deck, but add some originality and flair into their own designs. One warning though: if you’re like me – an over-analyzing, philosophically minded, Queen of Swords from hell – don’t focus too much on the companion book!
To see the cards of the Revelations Tarot, go to Zach Wong’s website.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
If you would like to see a sample reading with this deck, click here.
Kim Huggens is a 19 year-old Pagan Tarot reader, reading Philosophy at Cardiff University. She has been studying tarot since the age of nine, and runs talks and workshops on different aspects of the tarot. She is President of the Cardiff University Pagan Society, and runs an online tarot course at www.witchschool.com. She lives with her boyfriend in Cardiff, and currently has a tarot deck collection of over 150 decks.
Images © 2005 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review © 2005 Kim Huggens
Page © 2005 Diane Wilkes