Newly published tarot and oracle decks arrive on Amazon, Etsy, crowd-funding platforms, and bookstores every month. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks as well as published ones. Reviewing a deck is a subjective judgment intended to help readers determine if they want to own the deck.
The critical review of a deck for askAstrology involves looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion text of the deck, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review the Black Tarot by Victoria Iva (artist).
The Gilded Tarot Cards
From the back cover of the box:
Enter the darkness of the Black Tarot, where sparks of light punctuate the midnight realm. From the incredible imagination of Victoria Iva, these 78 cards will offer you penetrating insight into the depths of your mind and soul.
Inspired by her visions of the dark underworld, artist Victoria Iva created these eerie and macabre cards to help you penetrate the depths of the darkest reaches of your psyche and soul. Her incredible use of black, greys, and white to render stunning images will provide you with powerful personal and professional readings. This deck will truly take you to another world.
The deck has striking images that perfectly capture the intense feelings of the artist’s dark vision.
Printed on thick, luxury art paper, these cards have a gorgeous matte finish with curved edges and a black border. A simple and easy-to-read white typeface on the bottom shows the names of each card. The quality of the card stock will hold up in professional, repeated use; and the size of the cards will make them easy to shuffle.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The deck artwork is not as visually accessible as I would prefer for professional and public readings, making the deck something of an “acquired taste”. However, the design of the cards makes the Black Tarot haunting and intense. You will need to memorize the meanings of many of the cards since the artwork is not always clear regarding how to interpret what has been drawn.
Major Arcana 20 – Judgement
From the companion book:
Meaning: Judgement represents significant and life-changing decisions, as well as the Judgements from the world around us. Judgement, as an archetype, is the twentieth lesson for the Fool, teaching us the need to use all we have learned from others and the lessons we need to make the most important choices in life.
Symbolism: A hand reaches up from the ground into another world, seeking to be welcomed. If the Judgement is not in its favor, it will be destroyed.
Upright: deciding for others, being judged, consequences, and closure
Reversed: prejudging, stereotyping, lazy thinking, and abuse of power
Three of Cups
From the companion book:
Meaning: Gather your closest friends and celebrate something … anything!
Symbolism: Three cups form a small pyramid while a single burst of light hovers in the distance; it shows the way through the darkness.
Upright: celebration, and sharing
Reversed: overindulgence, and discord
Queen of Spheres
From the companion book:
Meaning: Get your life in order; review your finances and make sure all important legal documents are in place. Assess your material life and fix anything that needs attention.
Symbolism: A woman with intricate energy flowing through her head into the darkness above meditates on the sphere approaching her.
Upright: stability, and necessity
Reversed: instability, and desires leading to debt
Explanation of the Cards
The booklet contains sections: Introduction, the Deck, Spreading the Cards, Tips, The Major Arcana, and the Minor Arcana. The introduction states:
Reading Tarot cards can reveal insights into your past, present, or future. The premise is simple: the Querent asks a question, and then the Reader draws the cards and interprets the results.
Tarot reading has been used for divination since the 1700s, and every Reader develops his or her own methods for interpreting the cards. There are some fundamentals, but Readers are encouraged to explore and develop their own unique approach.
The booklet gives a demonstration of a three-card spread. And the Tips include:
Become familiar with your deck. Buy a journal and take a page to write about each card, starting with the Fool, in the Major Arcana, and going through all seventy-eight cards, in sequence.
Look at the pictures and use the explanations in this booklet to connect each card with one of your life experiences. Since the cards are archetypical, you have experienced all seventy-eight at least once. Perhaps you’ve experienced certain cards repeatedly. Write your corresponding life experience with each card in your journal.
And finally, each card of the Major Arcana gets a page of text while two Minor Arcana cards appear on each page with short descriptions.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck is quite unique and will largely appeal to a select and limited group of people. This deck is clearly not for everyone, but its intensity cannot be denied. People who feel drawn to this deck will not be disappointed when using it to explore for themselves. Helping others use this deck will certainly require letting people see the deck and decide if they feel comfortable with it.
I would recommend the deck for personal use, collecting, admiring the artwork, and limited professional use. This deck has beautiful, even somewhat disturbing artwork. The guidebook that comes with the deck is concise and useful.
The deck is visually limited when it comes to conveying the meaning of some of the cards, but the expertise and passion of the artist is unmistakable. I give this deck four out of five stars.