The Wanderer’s Tarot, published this summer by Casey Zabala, is a deck that gives little away. Monochromatic, with oversized black cards and scratched-out, folky illustrations, this tarot is witchy and weird, and teasingly obscure.
A companion book that explores the ideas within this deck is due to be published in the next couple of months, but for now, it’s just me and these beautiful cards.
It’s a deck that is filled with contradictions, a deck that plays with you, puts on a mask, jumps out from behind the woodshed, then grabs your hand and leads you into the woods. It’s soft, and it’s edgy. It’s fierce, yet it’s kind. It’s dark, but it’s very very bright.
These cards draw you in like nobody’s business. It’s as though this deck does a very quiet, very subtle spell on you. It draws a veil across your eyes, then unravels it, thread by thread. As I carried out the short interview reading shared below, obscurity became the key word, as the deck played with my ideas of what might be hidden and what might be revealed.
Could you resist this Wander of Moons? This Goddess of Stones? This Prophet of Knives?
What it doesn’t have is the tired duality of ‘masculine and feminine’. Instead, the deck is populated by human-ish figures who, despite their little breasts, feel to me quite genderless. There’s no ‘king and queen’ here, no ‘masculine archetype’. Though the Wanderer’s Tarot plays with contradiction, and though it does explore themes of goddess energy and feminine power, it’s not dualistic, it’s not binary.
Working through the cards this evening with my housemate Marylou, I wondered what on earth a beginner would make of the cards. It was one of those times when you realise that having ‘lots of knowledge and experience’ around tarot can really inhibit you from interacting with a card on an intuitive level. Where I grappled for ideas to read the Six of Stones, from the sparse keywords provided with the deck Marylou spun a funny and helpful tale about why this card was telling her to go to bed. It really made me think – there’s no such thing as a deck that’s suitable for beginners, or one that’s unsuitable. You pick up the cards and you work with what they show you.
Suits are renamed feathers, moons, knives and stones. These symbols are drawn with sparse but satisfying detail. I love the shifting light on the speckled moons (replacing cups), the angular crystal formations of the stones (pentacles), the simple, tough-looking knives (swords) and the varied and beautiful feathers. The number cards are mostly pips (meaning that they tend to show X number of symbols, rather than an actual picture), but they’re wonderful pips.
The court, too, are renamed, and I love the approach Casey has taken here. The Page is now the Wanderer, ‘ready to risk all’. The Knight is the Prophet, ‘one with knowledge to inform their future through will + action’. The Queen is a Goddess, and the King is a Philosopher – like the Collective Tarot, these courts reference life stages or approaches to their suit, rather than hierarchical status, a feature I really love.
Here are some more favourite cards!
Physically speaking: the Wanderer’s Tarot comes in a simple white tuck-box. The oversized cards – just okay for my hands to shuffle, though you’d struggle if you had smaller hands – are thick and glossy, and feel sturdy in your hands. You could take this deck camping or on long walks, it’s made to withstand the elements of your outdoor magic. And I love the simple design on the back, rays of light beaming out from…from what? An abyss, I think.
In place of a little white book are four additional cards, which list keywords for each of the major cards, then interpretive clues for each suit and number/name of the minor cards. I really like this! I’ve never been a fan of those faffy little pamphlets, these cards feel like a neat way to convey more or less the same information.
Interviewing the Wanderers Tarot
I used the interview spread to speak with this deck and find out a little more about where it’s coming from. In a style that is apparently typical of its contradictory nature, I found it to be shy…in a confident way.
Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
The Hanged Man
Pause and reflection, slow like honey, dripping, a different view. Like waiting on an bright winter’s morning for the cold mist to burn away and the day’s weather to be revealed. Expect the unexpected, is what I hear. And expect it to come slowly.
What are your strengths as a deck?
Nine of Moons
These cards are concerned more with what is yet to be understood than what is known, what has been articulated. It dwells in the place where the obscure is gradually becoming clear, but asks you to meet it half way.
What are your limits as a deck?
Two of Stones
Not a tarot for multi-tasking, not one for your juggling or your buzzing. Not your binary, not your simplistic duality. Its magic is a different kind.
What are you here to teach me?
A light in the dark, glittering and showing the way. Maybe I need to get away from the smog to really see this guidance. Maybe I need to learn the language of the stars first. Maybe I already know that language, and this tarot is about remembering. There is always hope. That light is always there. The obscure becoming clearer, a journey towards.
How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
Two of Moons
Be vulnerable. Be open. Be ready to talk. This deck will beckon, and meet me half way. The sharing will be mutual, the offerings equal.
What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?
Ace of Stones
“What is harvested and sown in the earth”
This angular rock, the kind you might spy on the beach and pop into your pocket, suspecting magic, is a talisman on its own, the star of twigs around it the beginnings of a ritual.
Casey describes this as a deck for the ‘natural witch’, that these cards speak to our magical tools and talismans, that the deck ‘holds true to the process of magic, and encourages others to engage in the art of manifesting and the journey towards self-knowledge.’ Despite its veils and its playful game of hide-and-seek, I feel like this is one for my earthy magic.