Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong
Review by Joan Cole

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

The art on this deck made an instant connection. I show the Four of Cups as the first card, because I must have been getting jaded. I’m a systems junkie, so it was a surprise to me, that I would be so pleased with a deck as conservative as this in its systemic underpinnings (conservative to 1910, that is).  While ultimately quite unique, it reminds me of a number of other decks.  
 

The bright coloring and detailed, almost psychedelic linework reminds me of the Sacred Rose Tarot, Tarot of the Trance, and Tarot of the Moon Garden (don’t worry – there are no ballerinas or unicorns here).  The stained glass inspiration reminds me of Tarot of the Cloisters (but Revelations Tarot offers stained glass with a tie-dye vibe).  The subtle ironic humor throughout the deck reminds me intensely of Tarot of the Sephiroth.  Revelations Tarot is also similar to that deck in that it is so suitable as an intermediate level study deck – in this case, for learning reversed meanings.  Each card shows one image if it is upright, and a different image if it is reversed.  This is an immensely readable deck, one that will help people grow in the existing Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) garden, rather than trying to break entirely new ground.  I personally prefer the deck’s original title, Adflatus (Latin for breath or inspiration) to Llewellyn’s renaming to Revelations, as I feel the new title is going to confuse people into expecting apocalyptic themes in the deck.

 

Each image shows upright and reversed images, with a thematic central motif in the Major Arcana cards.  Zach has done a tremendous job of making the images flow together without jarring the viewer.  Frequently, the imagery is a simplified variation of RWS, yet there are plenty of examples like the Death card in which images that capture the modern divinatory sense better are depicted.  In this case, Kali, the Black Mother reverses to an infant, with skull and scythe imagery appearing in the central hub of the card.

 

Cards like Death are just strikingly different between their positive and negative poles, but more often the variations are far more subtle.  For instance, observe the Hanged Man.  Above and below, the sideways hourglass hub (depicting the stillness of time) are hanging men. While the facial expressions, coloring, and the type of halo are different, much of the symbolism appears in the linework of the background.  In this card, some of these symbols are offering hands (depicting sacrifice), people blown about (by the winds of change), and coins falling from pockets.  This visually subtle use of symbolism has the effect of RWS’s very ambiguous scenes – your eye need not be drawn to a detail unless it is relevant to the reading.
 

Structurally, this deck is conventional to the Anglo-American Tarot tradition (as exemplified by the many books about the RWS deck). 

Minor Arcana Suits

Traditional

Element

Characters

Embody

Wands

Fire

Magicians and sages

Use of magic in daily life

Cups

Water

Merpeople

Freedom of movement and freedom from the restraint of life on land; the luxury of living life for the pleasure it presents

Swords

Air

Warriors

Logic and sensibility that can only be found in those who remove themselves from the burdens of emotion

Pentacles

Earth

Metallic humanoids

Fruits of the earth, metals, the built environment, material possessions, and the ingenuity of creation

 

The Major Arcana use RWS titles and ordering (Strength is eight, Justice 11), the Minor Arcana use RWS suit names and elemental correspondences, and the court cards are named in RWS fashion: page, knight, queen, king.  Discussion in the text reveals that the Golden Dawn astrological correspondences are used throughout.

 

I like the book.  It reminds me of the booklet that accompanies the Melissa Townsend tarot.  It is short and sweet and covers the essentials that I want to know from the creator of a deck: what symbolism did you choose and what does it mean to you ( in other words, why did you choose to show this symbol on this card)?  It’s not radical – there’s no new system being applied to tarot here; rather this is a solid summary of divinatory meanings as they seem to have coalesced within the community.  There is no ideological axe to grind and no esoteric system being presented.  Rather, it simply proceeds card by card, with an explanation of the four spreads that conclude the book.

 

Each card’s discussion is in three parts: the upright meaning, the reversed meaning, and images and symbolism.  The two meaning sections lead off with a short summary statement.  In general, I found these statements to be perceptive and useful in the context of readings.  For instance, here are the sentences for the King of Swords:

 

Upright
“He is intellectually keen and clear.  His piercing gaze shows a depth of knowledge and understanding that cuts through all who stand before him.  He is firm in his decision as well as wise in his movements.”

Reversed
”He is blinded by his own brilliance; he abuses his power as he wields the sword for his own gain.  He cuts down those before him in his path and manipulates others.”
 

Note how the illustration directly shows “blinded by his own brilliance.”  The deck is full of these clever touches. 

 

This deck references the RWS, but I find that it is more of an improvisation than a straight variation.  Using the measurement metric I describe on my site, Revelations scores 21 out of 65 in closeness to RWS, which puts it in the category of fusions, art twists, and improvisations.  This continues the present trend of decks that are more and more creative in playing with the RWS storyline. 

To sum up, this deck will automatically be on the wish list of those who want to read more with reversals, but have no self-confidence in remembering both upright and reversed meanings for a card, just as Tarot of the Sephiroth was immediately on the wish list of those who wanted to learn something about Qabalah.  This deck will also appeal to those who do readings in public and need decks without illustrations that offend prudery, those who like minimalist decks, and those who appreciate finding subtle elements hidden in outwardly simple images.

 

The Revelations Tarot set was published in May 2005, and comes complete with book, deck, and organza storage bag.

You can view all the card images here.

Click here for Zach's gallery at deviantART.

 

Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN#: 0-738706078

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Joan Cole is a stay-at-home mom and former geek.   She has been studying Tarot off and on since the early 1980's. You can see her deck collection and other Tarot writings here


Images © 2005 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review © 2005 Joan Cole
Page © 2005 Diane Wilkes