Review by: Stella Dunn
Deck Name: Voyager Tarot
Author: James Wanless, Ph.D
Illustrator: Ken Knutson
Publisher & Year: Merrill-West Publishing, 1986 & Fair Winds Press, 2017 Availability: https://james-wanless.com
In 1977, Voyager Spacecraft 1 and 2 were launched into the cosmos. On their way to interstellar space they paused to examine the outermost planetary systems within our sun’s influence. They peered at Saturn’s splendid rings and scanned the fierce volcanoes on Jupiter’s fiery moon Io. For extra nerdy fun, look into the golden record each Spacecraft carries in case a space-faring civilization happens to intercept one of them. In the meantime, as the Voyager Spacecraft drift ever farther from the Earth, they continue their mission to explore the outer most reaches. Similarly, the Voyager Tarot serves as the means to explore the equally mysterious interior world of human consciousness. As explained by author and co-creator James Wanless, PhD. in the guidebook that comes with this deck, above all, Voyager Tarot is a tool of insight and self-discovery.
Voyager Tarot is a collage-based deck of visual wonders. The images on each card are lush with vibrant color, alluring shapes, and thoughtful symbolism. Compositionally, the cards are carefully constructed with background, midground and foreground layers. They are designed to lure the eye along looping threads of layered imagery to distinct focal points in the cards. The attentive care taken in the creation of these cards reflects the principle function of the deck. Voyager Tarot assumes there is purposefulness to our existence and this deck was developed to explore that purpose to its deepest depth.
The cards are large, fairly thick and rounded at the corners. They are semi-glossy, shiny, but not wildly reflective. Each card has either a number, in the case of the major arcana, or a title, in the case of the minor arcana. In addition, each card has a single keyword. These cards also have borders, some really imposing borders. I know this can be an issue for some readers. They can change the entire feel of a deck and some can be extremely distracting. Voyager’s borders, although impossible to ignore, do their best to be neutral. The image on the backs of the cards is a composite photograph of cross-sections of human DNA that make a striking flowerlike image. Science and beauty!
Visually, the cards are chaotic at first. I found the best way to ease into the imagery was to find a focal point, one part of the image I could lock onto to help me connect with the card. In the Strength card, for example, the face of the lion drew me in but the butterfly wings caught my imagination. In the Eight of Worlds, it was the corners of the image that sparked my notice, each representing a season of the year. Whatever part of the image I was drawn to gave me a foothold from which I could climb in and further explore.
The Voyager Tarot aims to bridge the archetypal wisdom of the medieval tarot system with a more modern, scientific and multicultural structure that better reflects contemporary life. Needless to say, there are some distinct differences from the Rider Waite Smith paradigm we all know and love. In the Voyager Tarot, the Suit of Worlds replaces the Suit of Pentacles and the Suit of Crystals replaces the Suit of Swords. Also, the sixteen court cards are replaced here by the “inner family,” meaning distinct parts of the self. Instead of Page, Knight, Queen and King we have Man, Woman, Child and Sage.
First Card Drawn
The initial time I picked up the Voyager Tarot deck, the first card I drew was the same card that had been stalking me for months. It struck me as rather marvelous actually. If you ever wondered if a card could stalk you through multiple decks and various systems of meaning, the answer is yes, it can. Whatever wisdom you believe the tarot taps into, and I know this may vary widely from person to person, this deck drinks from that same wellspring. The first card I drew from the Voyager Tarot deck was Art, Card XIV of the major arcana (aka Temperance in the RWS deck). Why exactly that card was stalking me for so long is another tale entirely.
Some of My Favorites
Card VIII of the major arcana is called Balance in Voyager Tarot. Traditionally known as Justice, this incarnation is more akin to the Adjustment card of the Thoth deck. I have a visceral response to the delicacy of the equilibrium depicted in this card. There is something mythic, almost tragic, about this moment of perfect balance. Death, card XIII of the major arcana, is one of those cards I always look at when exploring a possible deck purchase and this is one of my all time favorite Death cards. This image creates a sense of dread, mystery, wonder, and hope, everything all at once. It appears as a still and silent image, with the looming spirit mask and the moon shining high in the corner. However, that stillness belies a coiled energy, ready to spring loose.
Voyager Tarot was first created in 1985 and there is a reason it has captured the imagination of tarot readers for nearly 35 years. It is a beguiling and multifaceted deck that can be many different things to many different people. For me, Voyager is an illuminating tool of creativity. When I asked this deck to introduce itself via a spread, it told a tale. When I asked this deck to help me through a difficult day, it shared some admirable advice. When I asked this deck to help me develop a creative idea, it exploded into life. In my world, this is how Voyager Tarot has been most valuable. For somebody else, it may be different. Therein lies Voyager’s real strength; this deck is extremely flexible and highly attuned. If you are willing to dive in, there’s no telling how far Voyager will take you.
Voyager Tarot is the star at the center of an ever-revolving system of adjunct tools, seminars, workshops, retreats and downloadable content, including Voyager coaching, teaching, and mastery certification programs. To learn more, check out the website for James Wanless, PhD at https://james-wanless.com/. Voyager Tarot is available for purchase from Amazon.com as well.