Voyager Tarot, The Universal Deck
by James Wanless, PhD (Symbolist) & Ken Knutson (Artist), ISBN 0-9615079-0-Xvoyage4.jpg (24117 bytes) 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. voyage5.jpg (22250 bytes)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