- Voyager Tarot, The Universal Deck
- by James Wanless, PhD (Symbolist) & Ken Knutson (Artist), ISBN 0-9615079-0-X Voyager Tarot, Way of the Great Oracle (book), by James Wanless
PhD; ISBN 0-9615079-3-4
- After having just reviewed the Zain deck I had Science Fiction on my mind. On the back
of this book you have a picture of Wanless and he looks...could it be?...Jean-Luc Picard!
Or Patrick Stewart, the actor who played the Enterprise's captain on Star Trek. And the
latest TV series is Voyager, and the first Star Trek film had Voyager as the mystery.
- But seriously, folks...the art here is first-rate. Aesthetically among the best in my
opinion, up there with Dali, Thoth and Rohrig. I see no coherent system of correspondence
here, yet one cannot say this deck is not well thought out.
- The cards are large and each one is a collage using vibrantly colored images. More
post-modernist in flavor than the so-called POMO deck. If A.E. Waite's goal had merely
been to create a "universal" deck, then he's been usurped here. There are key
differences among some similarities between those decks generally considered
"traditional" (i.e. Waite). We still have the Empress, Emperor, and Hermit, but
the 15th card is Devil's Play and 20th is Time-Space (a revision of Crowley's
"Aeon" I think). Wanless' independence from generally assumed tarot
"traditions" may seem like heresy to those who take for granted the provenance
of an inherited "mystery" (or Voyager gets summarily dismissed as 'not
serious'), but I find it a strength, for the most part.
- Wanless' approach is psychological, of course. His deck is strongest on that ground. The
cards represent, at its most potent, the myriad emotions and aspects of the personality. Devil's Play is Dionysian inspired madness. The Fool-Child is
potential, vitality and innocence. The interpretations are simple even if the images
presented are complex. In fact the images are so complex that one wonders what sort of
mess we'd have if the symbolism here was intended as anything more than suggestive.
- Troublesome to me are two other things: its penchant for the PC (for lack of a better
term), and its pretensions to correspondence to occult "oracles".
- Wanless has transferred the usual suit of Swords to Crystals, the implication being
Swords represent violence, therefore evil. Crystals here takes on the ideas of mind,
intelligence and consciousness. That's fine on its own level, and the suit's description
through symbolism is to a certain extent eloquent and instructive. But besides wondering
if Wanless fully came to grips with the symbolism of swords in other tarot milieus (or put
another way how much a dilettante Wanless was when he created this deck; at least its not
as bad as the French medieval/modern historian I read the other day who cites Papus as an
unimpeachable authority on Tarot), one wonders how Crystals respond to Air. Crystals are
of Earth more than Air, doesn't it seem? Yet, saying Swords represent the Element of Air
has always been arbitrary to me.
- Also unsatisfying are Wanless' recommendations to "encompass" the wisdom of
"other oracles" in using his deck. These include astrology, alchemy and
geomancy. Now, I have no problem with this approach per se, but Wanless' descriptions of
these oracles and suggestions on how to use them are presented in the vaguest possible
terms, and, even worse, fraught with cliches! Perhaps my review should in turn include
admonitions to my audience such as (using a neo-Vaudeville voice?) "This is the
feel-good tarot deck of the millennia!"
- Copyright 1996, George Leake All rights reserved
This page is Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson