Review by Ashe Monday
This could very well be the single cutest tarot
deck in existence.
The title "African Tarot" is
probably quite offputting to many people: are the art and
descriptions specifically meant for Black people? Not at all.
I am a black woman in Washington state and have
showed this deck to countless white friends who have
found it adorable. Its booklet displays meanings that
seem pretty much standard to Rider-Waite system.
Indeed, I've seen this deck defined as a "Rider-Waite
The suits are also traditional: Wands, Swords, Cups
and Pentacles. However, in the artwork the Swords are
depicted as spears, the Cups as gourds and the Pentacles as
golden discs. It is a very colorful (mainly primary
colors, even), happy little deck, even though the people
rarely give more than a vague Mona Lisa-type smile, if
that. They have dark skin and dredlocks, but that's
about where any cultural departure ends.
however, was the clincher for me. There are a lot of
"whimsical" decks out there with "childlike" art, but so help
me, the art on the African Tarot is something I'd be
*proud* to display on my 'fridge. It's childlike, but
also of good quality and seems very secure in itself, a
rarity in many homegrown "whimsical" decks.
are approximately 3" x 2.5" and covered with what I
assume is a standard, slick coating. This makes them easy
to shuffle, but I have a habit of dropping some cards
if I'm just going through them while holding them in
my hands. The design on the back is as charming as
each individual card design -- two spotted tortoises in
the sun, reversed from each other so you can see
either of them upright as long as you're holding the card
lengthwise. According to the South African author, the
Shangaan culture considers the tortoise a symbol of "the
slow coming of justice". Appropriate, no?
comes in a brown, corregated cardboard container which,
after a few years of ownership, still seems quite
sturdy. Both sides of the box are decorated with the same
cardstock as the deck, with hints of the art style and
relevant information printed on them. It gives the box a
very environmental feel that goes with the deck very
This deck's only failing is that it's a little too cute
for general-purpose readings. I would not want to use
this deck to read for someone asking about an illness
in the family. However, I feel that this is a fair
assessement: the authors tend to shun reversals and have
subtitled the deck "Journey Into the Self." It is meant to
be a lighter deck, and a loved deck.
For me, it is.
Very much loved, in fact. However, don't let the
"lighter" aspect fool you. One of the spookiest tarot
experiences I've ever had, involving a lost -- and later
recovered -- card and some odd correspondences, happened
involving this deck. It's not a *fluff* tarot. I would
consider it more of a powerful specialty deck.
See card images from the African Tarot
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