Kim Krans is the artist behind the spellbinding Wild Unknown Tarot, a deck that captivates the eye with its subtle, powerful use of color, and striking designs for each arcana. First published in 2012, The Wild Unknown has since produced other indelibly beautiful occult pieces, like the Animal Spirit deck and the Spirit Cloth. I had a chance to ask Kim a few questions about The Wild Unknown, including how it got its Bob Dylan-inspired name, how the Animal Spirit and Tarot decks can be used together for deeper insight, why the Spirit Cloth enhances the experience of using the tarot deck, and more.
‘The Wild Unknown’ is taken from the lyrics to the Bob Dylan song ‘Isis’: “So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away, to the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong” What about those lyrics inspired the creation of Wild Unknown?
It happened in reverse actually; I had a growing company on my hands with no name, and I was searching hard for the right fit. I turned to song lyrics and poems (as I still do in times of need) and Dylan was at the top of my list. The words “The Wild Unknown” felt both like a place and a force simultaneously, it felt right – so I went with it. Friends told me the name was too long and would never work, but I went with it anyway.
What’s your favorite tarot deck? Do you feel it’s influenced your Wild Unknown Tarot Deck?
I don’t have a favorite. Many decks line my shelf, and I love collecting them but it’s not my style to land on one. In the end I’m an artist, and artists pull from many sources as well as reject many sources. This is part of our job – to be influenced and to be original. How can I make my deck look or feel like this already existing deck? – that is not the right question to ask. It will not lead the artist down a helpful road.
How can the Animal Spirit Deck be used for insight into one’s relationship to the self and others?
The Animal Spirit Deck helps us explore our inner contradictions, complex natures, and the endless mystery of who we are by directing our eye to the natural world. Anytime we look to nature we become more connected to the Self. Nature is so wise. It gets us out of our heads and into an exploratory and symbolic space. Creatures do that in an instant – it is one of their gifts!
What’s the process of writing an Animal Spirit Deck like? What kinds of informational sources do you draw from?
When I set out to create the Animal Spirit Deck, I first had to figure out how to give the deck a supportive structure, similar to the way the four suits and the major arcana do in the tarot. The next question became what animals to include, and how to draw them in such a way that the essence of the theme and creature came through. Then more questions to answer… What was the story I wanted to tell with the deck? How would it be meaningful for people? I am a longtime student and teacher of yoga, so I followed the breadcrumbs of the sages and set out on my journey.
At the end of the day, the Animal Spirit Deck is created through the lens of a yogi. The Swan, for example is the consort of Saraswati, the goddess of creativity. The Owl is the ally of Lakshmi, goddess of abundance and wealth. The energetics of Bhujangasana inform the way I drew the Cobra card, and the meaning of the Peacock card comes from the digestive and transformative power of that asana. The mythic Spirit cards symbolize the chakra system of the subtle body, starting at the root and ascending to the crown chakra.
Animals have been mesmerizing humans since the beginning of time, in every culture, in myth and folklore around the globe. This will continue until the end. They are just so powerful and such a blessing to our human experience. Every moment we can spend in awe of them is a moment well spent.
How can the Animal Spirit Deck be used in conjunction with The Wild Unknown Tarot for a deeper, more layered reading?
Each deck has a distinct vantage point and contributes its own perspective. They are like two wise old friends who love to voice their opinions and tell their favorite mysterious tales. With the tarot, you feel like you’re in the realm of archetypes and symbols… a system of old themes and meanings. This is helpful for your imagination and opens up associations. With the Animal Spirit Deck, now you’re thinking about nature and its vastness, its power and wonder. You are realizing you are part of a larger creation and a child of the Earth. So using the two decks together… blast off! You end up with beautiful synchronicities and pairings of images, meanings, questions.
How does the Spirit Cloth enhance the experience of using your decks? Do you have any suggestions for best ways to use it?
I found people had many questions about how to create a dedicated place or sacred space for their readings… so I started thinking about prayer cloths, altar cloths, even ouiji boards. These objects shift a space from mundane to mystical, and they define the purpose of the space as one of connection. It’s powerful stuff. Once you lay the Spirit Cloth down you have a tangible psychic terrain to work in.
Plus, the Spirit Cloth (among other things) is fun and inventive. It’s easy to get rigid or stuck in your ways with tarot cards, and the Spirit Cloth reminds us that experimentation and ease lead to many discoveries. My goal was to create something that let the mind whirl with possibility.
How long have Spirit Cloths been used? Are they a traditional or modern practice?
Well the word Spirit Cloth is one we coined, but in general, yes – cloths have long been used to help define sacred space. Think, for example of an altar cloth in a church or puja in India. Do an image search of altars and you’ll be surprised – there is usually a cloth involved, used as a backdrop for objects and for defining the space as sacred. The basic idea here is establishing reverence – for a practice, for a space, for an experience. The Spirit Cloth helps us tap into that feeling.