The Wild Unknown tarot deck — which recently became a New York Times bestseller — has created a space for those that have never previously dabbled in the occult through its inviting illustrations that are derivative of nature and animals — the real wild unknown. In fact, author and illustrator Kim Krans began illustrating it due to a lack of connection to any classic deck she had previously come across. “Some of the more popular decks, they look like a certain type of person,” explains Krans. “With creatures, we don’t really get to make those kinds of assumptions of whether it’s like us or not like us, so we become a little bit more open.”
Currently in its fifth year in print, The Wild Unknown has amassed an unprecedented following that rivals any classic deck, like the more common Rider-Waite, which has been in circulation since 1910. “It really is a project that’s so special for artists to be able to do, to be able to engage with these 78 concepts that are these really big, overarching themes in life, and to come up with imagery in the court cards [one of the minor arcana cards that usually deals with personality traits], that lead people to those themes,” she explains. “So for me as an artist, it was a gold mine of a conceptual project.”
Drawing the majority of its inspiration from the natural world, the Wild Unknown’s illustrations are created in black ink, muddled with a wave of prismatic color allowing the divine to flow in and grounding the deck with a particular feeling of sacredness. By using imagery that deals heavily with nature and the natural world, the deck that doesn’t feel as secular as others, constantly inviting a host of old and young, new and inexperienced to partake in the ritual.
“The spiritual and the psychological are very intertwined, so it’s hard to say what’s at play when we use the cards,” says Krans. “Some people like to think of it as a very spiritual practice. Some people are more skeptical, and think it’s random, but still, they might get something out of the experience. There’s such a full spectrum of ways that people come to the cards, and ways that they interpret what the cards might mean.”
Since the deck’s initial release, Krans has also published two children’s books, and an animal spirit deck with plans to release a third children’s book in the coming year. In the last five years, Krans has seen her tiny, self published deck grow into something much, much bigger than she ever expected, but the thing that’s most gratifying for her is opening up the practice to people that would otherwise never seek it out.
“Just start on your own, knowing that nobody’s watching you, there’s no right or wrong interpretation. Just start sensing what the cards conjure up in you.”