The Box Set
There is a title sleeve that slides off to reveal the main box with a magnetic closure which houses the book and deck (which is itself housed in another circular box). A lot of deck/book sets fail in this area, but kudos to Harper One for attention to detail here. You have a book and deck that fit snugly in a sturdy box together, and then you have a sturdy inner box, should you wish to separate the deck and take it with you. Each of the boxes have a ribbon for easy removal of the contents. In fact, the main box's ribbon wraps under the deck box and then again under the book, so both of them are easily removed. I love that the inner box is round like the deck, and it fits the deck perfectly. Unfortunately, both the front and back book covers are creased already, with very minimal use and great care. But otherwise, the deck, book, and housing are all top quality.
There are 78 cards in this gorgeous deck, which feels like a nod to the tarot, though the deck is an oracle. The cards are really large, measuring 4.5" in diameter. The cardstock is nice and thick, slightly flexible with a smooth matte finish. They are not easy to shuffle, being so large and round. The backs feature a diamond pattern. Her previous two decks have the same pattern on the backs, with different colors, and I would have loved to see that carry over to this deck, making them feel like more of a set.
The cards are numbered with Roman numerals which kinda sucks when you have 78 cards. I'd much rather see "48" than "XLVIII". It would make it so much easier to look up the card in the book if they were numbered normally. The Roman numerals do give the deck a more artistic feel I suppose.
The deck is based on archetypes chosen by the artist. She talks in the book about how hard it was to select 78 archetypes and the process she went through to cull them down (from about 250!). I can't even imagine how hard that must have been, but she did an amazing job with her selections!
There are four "suits" in the deck: The Selves (30 cards), The Places (20 cards), The Tools (20 cards), and The Initiations (8 cards). There is no indication on the cards themselves as to which suit they belong to. I'm glad they didn't add a suit indication to each card because it would add unnecessary clutter to the cards. Once you get to know the deck, it becomes pretty self-explanatory which suit each card belongs to.
There are a few sets of cards that have counterparts, which I always love: Mother/Father, Crone/Shaman, Maiden/Mother/Crone, Creator/Sustainer/Destroyer (though I found it odd that the order of the cards in the deck is Creator-Destroyer-Sustainer).
The cards feature a mixture of artwork and collage. Many of the collage images are crudely cut out, which I find an interesting choice. There are only a few cards (five, I think?) that are artwork alone, featuring no collage work. Since most of the cards include collage cut-outs, the deck differs from the artist's previous two decks but they still flow together very well. I have only used the three together once so far, but I could tell from that one reading that using the three decks together would make for really in-depth readings since they each bring something different to the table. They address such different aspects of life while remaining artistically cohesive.
There are some collage images that I can't quite make out, but it doesn't really bother me. I really like the combination of collage work with line drawing and watercolor. It's just beautiful. Many of the cards' colors are breathtaking. While there are some bright cards in the deck, on the whole it has a dark shadowy vibe to me, which I like.
Something that really stood out to me in the deck was the plethora of hand images. I just flipped through the cards really quickly and counted 30 cards with collaged hands.
My favorite card is The Queen. The colors are just so striking, it pulls me in every time. I also love The Bardo, with the skulls circling the artwork. Some other favorites are The Orphan (both the card's imagery and the archetype), The Poet, The Venom, The Siren and The Maiden. The deck is a delightful feast for the eyes, for sure!
There are a couple of cards (The Underworld and The Gem) that feature worms that I recognize from The Wild Unknown Tarot (5 & 9 of Swords). I loved this, it was like seeing an old friend!
My least favorite card in the deck is The Comic. It is really creepy which is ironic since it's meant to be a card of lightheartedness. (And I'm normally a big fan of creepy, but this is not creepy in a good way. It's a disturbing creepy.) It's a collage image of a cat with holes cut out of its eyes, revealing a set of uneven, disoriented, distorted human eyes beneath. And one eye cut-out is larger than the other, looking droopy. It is very disturbing. Yet the message of the card is one of laughter. This card completely missed the mark for me.
There are some cards where the imagery isn't directly symbolic of the archetype. There's a card called The Kiss which features holding hands, and I wonder why lips weren't chosen instead. I understand it's a metaphor, but with archetypes, you're looking for simple symbols that represent an idea, so I'd think lips here would be a more obvious symbolic choice. In The Castle card, there is no castle, no abode whatsoever. Instead, there's a closed eye and a rose in a pearl square. Made no sense to me. But reading the book passage allowed me to stretch my imagination and see the correlation between the images on the card and the archetype of a castle. So there are some cards that are not so obvious in their imagery and your mind has to make that leap. And there are some cards that I still don't quite get, but in those cases I just use the archetype title as my focus.
Another small thing I noticed was in The Initiations suit, the card orientation becomes confusing. You have to choose whether you read the number or the card name upright. I choose the card name, and that's also the way the cards are oriented in the book. But that makes the images in the Eros and Kairos cards sideways, which isn't ideal.
There is a card called Apocolypse, and I don't know if it is a typo or if it is spelled that way on purpose. There is no explanation. It is spelled that way on the card and in the book passage several times, with it being spelled "apocalypse" only once.
The imagery in the deck is quite striking and dark with just the right amount of colorful splash here and there. There are a lot of archetypes I didn't expect to find and those delighted me. For example, The Orphan, The Sustainer, The Siren, The Starborn, The Dead End, The Empty Room, The Bardo, The Riddle, The Venom, The Thread, and really all of The Initiations suit. The deck is jam packed with wonderful and creative archetypes. There is much to unpack here. I think that Krans did a spectacular job with the archetypes she chose for the deck. There were so many surprises for me and such a wide variety of people, places and things in the deck to work with and explore in one's life.
How it Reads
My first draw with this deck was paired with a card from each of the other TWU decks, giving me a lot to unpack in one reading. The Archetype card (one of The Selves suit) really underlined the core issue.
My second reading was a one-card pull and with this one I had decided to play around a little with the orientation of the card as it was drawn. The card (The Seed, from The Tools suit) was turned over at a right angle. I never read with reversals, but I thought I'd dabble a little with these. In my mind, I saw the cards as moons. Upright is the full moon, the card's full potential. Reversed - new moon energy: dark, shadow, lacking. And anywhere in between illustrative of waning and waxing energies, the degree dependent upon the angle of the card. The Seed was turned over exactly midway in waxing energy, gaining steady momentum, moving towards sprouting. Something was working its way towards sprouting. It needed to be nurtured and left to grow, not uprooted to check on its progress. Patience and faith were needed at that stage. And that was something I really needed to know.
The next day I drew two cards, The Vow and The Warrior. The message I received was: What promise have you made that requires fighting for now? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to uphold that vow, no matter how hard it's become? I believe promises should never be made lightly or flippantly. But sometimes you aren't the same person you were when you first made a vow to someone and you have to be willing to let that person (you once were) and that vow go to honor who you are now. Only you know which vows are worth fighting for. And if they are worth fighting for, then give it everything you've got. This message came at just the right time for me.
The next reading I did was using a spread in the guidebook. The spread is called The Inner Quest and was the inspiration for the entire deck. You are meant to separate the deck into the four suits and draw a card from each. I wish I had known that before shuffling the deck. It took a long time to make sure the deck was properly shuffled, as the large round cards don't make for quick shuffling, so I wasn't about to separate them again. And I don't want to do so every time I want to use this spread. So I created a cheat instead. I shuffled, then drew until I turned over a card from each suit, simply setting aside duplicates from the same suit. It's amazing how spot-on the reading was for me. I had doubts when I turned over the last card, but reading the book's passage expanded my perception of the card's archetype and the reading fell in line.
This deck reads really deeply. It packs a punch. It doesn't feel like an ordinary oracle deck. It really delves into the nooks and crannies of your soul and gives you a lot to chew on.
The book is 223 pages, featuring black and white images of the cards. The font is handwritten like in Krans' other guidebooks. It opens with a Table of Contents with a listing of the cards, separated by suits. The book discusses the creator's process of creating the deck and a few sections on various elements of archetypes. Each of the four suits have a page describing their significance. The book touches briefly on card rotation and suggests that a card that is not exactly upright might be read as "off track" in some way.
There are five spreads in the book:
Follow the Image (One Card Reading)
Summon the Divine: Root, Heart, Crown. A simplified 3-card chakra reading.
The Inner Quest: Who, Where, With What, Why(a 4-card reading). This is the one I referenced above, using one card from each of the suits. (The card positions sound like the board game Clue... "It was The Judge in the Empty Room with The Sword!") Ha! But seriously, this reading was really a good one, giving such a well-rounded and all-encompassing answer to the inquiry.
The Axis Mundi (5 cards). This one is like a condensed Celtic Cross.
The Heroine's Journey (5 cards). Based on Joseph Campbell's story arc of the Hero's Journey.
Each card has a two-page spread in the book. On the left page is a black and white image of the card. On the right page is all the information on the card. On the top of the page is the card's name followed by a few keywords. There is then a paragraph of information on the archetype. On the bottom of the page are three tidbits: When Light, When Dark, and Go Deeper (examples of each below).
The Mother When Light: glowing, generative, creative, nurturing When Dark: dim, exhausted, controlling, limiting Go Deeper: read "Tao Te Ching" (chapter 1), and imagine The Mother of Ten Thousand Things.
There are also snippets of information along the sides of the page where you have to turn the book first left then right to read them. While I appreciate the author using up as much space as possible, providing more content, it is annoying to have to turn the book to and fro to read it. I'd much rather read it normally, in vertical columns, or the main text could have expanded into those margins giving room for the extra text.
I have not read the entire book yet, but the passages I did read helped me understand the archetypes better. I love the added "Go Deeper" suggestions, as it leads you further and further down the rabbit hole. There are many ways to use this deck that will enable you to explore depths you hadn't thought of. I can't think of another deck that does this.
Aside from the obvious observation that this deck is really gorgeous, it is unlike any other oracle. It really does go where no other deck goes. It doesn't read like a predictive oracle, but rather a self-exploratory one. On its own, using a card from each suit, you can get a very deep reading from it. Used in conjunction with other decks, it would lend a valuable added layer to any reading. Obviously, my first choice would be to pair it with the other TWU decks. Even though I've only used this deck for a short time, and I love all three TWU decks, this one is now my favorite of the three for the depth it offers.
If you would like to see all the cards, I have a flip-through of all 78 cards on my IGTV on Instagram (@thebohemianess).
The deck and book come housed in a lovely, sturdy outer box that opens magnetically. There is a cardboard insert that holds the card, but I have removed mine, because it is easier to access the cards without it.
There are 36 cards in the deck, measuring "3.75" x 5.5". They are quite large but easy enough to shuffle due to their flexible card stock. They have a very glossy finish. The backs feature a blue and white fish design which isn't reversible, but difficult to tell which end is up. There is a large light blue border around the cards, with a subtle dotted design. Within the border is the card number and name (on top) and a keyword (on bottom).
The artwork in this deck is so unique and refreshing. The majority of the surfaces of the artwork are comprised of dots. The colors are so bold and vibrant, it is a joy to just look at the cards.
Despite the very specific area this deck covers, there is great variety in the characters in the cards. There are birds, fish, shells, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, habitats, and more. I love the cards like Tides and Rough Seas, because they add an even wider reach to the deck.
Visually, my favorite cards are Shark, Tides, Jellyfish, Dugong and Manta Ray. My favorite animal is the manatee, and I have several decks that feature dugongs, to which I always say to myself, "close enough"!
How it Reads
My first reading with this deck was a single card, but incredibly poignant. I had found out that day that the hospice patient I was caring for had passed away the day before, just hours after I had left him. I was very sad and wished I had been there for his passing. I drew the Sea Shells card soon after hearing the news. From the book: "Sea Shells were all once home to the different sea creatures that lived inside them. Once the creatures have moved on, outgrown or been eaten, their shell will make its way to rest, empty upon the sand, carried there by the waves." I couldn't help but see the metaphor of this man's shell, his human body, being left behind when he was done with it, as he returned to spirit. The card is meant to be about inner guidance, but it had a distinctly different, very specific and special meaning for me that day.
The next day, I drew Shark, my favorite card, visually, in the deck. It was a kick in the pants for me, telling me to do what needs to be done before someone else takes the reins. Take charge while I can still control the outcome. Eat or be eaten, baby.
I drew the beautiful Tides card one day. I had once tried tracking my moods and energy levels with the cycles of the moon for a few months, but it only proved that I am unpredictable and not at the mercy of the moon or my menstrual cycle, as no patterns emerged. So when I pulled this card, I decided instead to zoom out and see if my moods flowed more on a seasonal cycle. I definitely harbor ill will toward summer and have a life-long love affair with Autumn. But it interested me to see if my moods and energy levels are decidedly different when each season rolled around. Perhaps I can be predictable four times a year, if I can't be pinned down on a weekly/monthly basis. It was food for thought.
One day Seahorse flew out of the deck when I was shuffling. Family time with my kids is the best. We were playing a game that day, laughing so hard that I cried. Love that! This card nailed the dynamic that day.
Two days in a row, I drew Starfish. The card is about symbols and synchronicities, so it was fitting that the card itself would come up more than once! At that time, my stalker symbols were volcanoes and peacocks. The Starfish made me pay more attention to what those symbols might mean for me at that point in my life.
The next day I drew Rockpool, which indicates healing saltwater. It was time for an Epsom bath or a pink Himalayan salt bath to relieve my pent-up stress and to release negativity. I love when cards point me in the direction of actual, physical steps to take to better my well being.
I've had Sea Anenomes come up telling me to create safe boundaries during a time when I was being pushed around by immature drama.
I've received the Sea Sponges card several times when I am emotionally overwhelmed, advising me to let my feelings come and go rather than holding on to them, and reminding me not to absorb others' emotions. This card encourages us to feel all of our feels and then let them pass on through, keeping only what nourishes us. Laugh hard and cry hard. Kids do this naturally. The message of this card reminds me of The Sedona Method.
The cards are so comforting, so wise. They give you what you need to hear on any given day in such a kind and gentle way. I turn to this deck when I want to be given advice that I know will help me feel better right away.
The 96-page book is really beautiful. It measures 4.75" x 7.25". The pages are thick and smooth and the images are in full color. The book begins with a Table of Contents. There is an Introduction which discusses the Australian saltwater environment. Next is a section on how to use the cards, including three spreads (One Card Enquiry, a 3-card Sun Cycle Card Reading, and a 5-card New Horizons Card Reading).
The next section is titled Working with Saltwater. It's a lovely two pages on many different ways to work with the energy of saltwater.
The rest of the book is dedicated to the card meanings. The cards are listed in alphabetical order. On the left side is a full-page, full-color, life-size image of the card. On the right side is the card meaning, given in a generous several paragraphs. First you are given a little information on the card subject (whether it be an animal, shell, habitat, etc.) which I really appreciate. Then you are shown what the card means for you in your life and how you can use the information for healing, empowerment, etc.
It's a really lovely and helpful book that compliments the deck wonderfully.
This is a very gentle deck that has an easy-going flow to it, very fitting to the watery theme. It would be the perfect deck to bring to the beach, of course, and has a summery vibe to me, but can obviously be used year round, perhaps especially for those in winter who yearn for a taste of summer. Being a water themed deck, it is also a good choice for sensitive or emotional readings. The deck feels relaxing and healing like a warm salt bath. It is now the first deck I think of when I feel out of sorts or sad, and need comfort and emotional healing.