When it comes to the number of decks required for a tarot reader to work, I usually answer that just one is enough. But with all this, I, frankly, can call myself a Tarot maniac. No, I don’t buy absolutely all the decks I like in a row, but I am happy to follow the novelties and the best examples of the past in the Tarot industry. I read reviews, watch video presentations, browse thematic forums, scrupulously keep a list of the decks I like most, and also save galleries to my computer. And today I want to talk to you about black and white tarot decks, which I personally find very beautiful, minimalistic, and extremely understandable. Let’s talk?
- Why do I like black and white decks?
- Could a black and white deck be more informative than a colored deck?
- Black and white deck reviews are my TOP-12
- The Hermetic Tarot
- Light and Shadow Tarot
- Tabula Mundi Not et Lux
- Phantomwise Tarot
- The Ritual Abuse Tarot
- The TAROT ReVISIONed
- Davids Taro
- The Tarot of the Absurd
- Wanderer’s Tarot
- Diary of a Broken Soul Tarot
- Stick Figure Tarot
- The Ferret Tarot
Why do I like black and white decks?
You know, I think the answer to this question lies in the same area as the love of black and white photography. Monochrome shots, due to the absence of colors, concentrate our attention solely on the plot and details, not allowing us to be distracted by some extraneous, not so important trifles. On the one hand, in Tarot, of course, absolutely everything matters symbolism, color, the smallest details like the pose of a character or the background of a card. My favorite deck to this day is Aleister Crowley’s Tarot Thoth, and artist Frida Harris is known to have meticulously worked not only on the symbols but also on the color palette of each Arcana. Yes, I do not argue that with the help of color you can extract a lot of additional information or capture special nuances that are imperceptible at first glance.
But on the other hand, sometimes you really want some kind of simplicity and minimalism! I just want to pick up the cards and not think about why the Emperor’s cloak is red, the lion on the Arcanum of Temperance is white, and the Hierophant holds a black key in his hands. I just want to look at the map and understand: aha, here, for example, there is a rose, but there is no need to guess how the meaning of the symbol changes if the flower turns out to be red, yellow, or blue. A rose always smells like a rose, whatever you call it. Do you understand what I mean?
That is why one day I really wanted to have a black and white Tarot. Simple, clear, easy to understand, and, of course, very beautiful. And then I started my search. More precisely, it was a little different: at first, I saw one black and white deck, which I just fell in love with, and then, after buying it, I became interested in others, made in shades of gray. Today I want to show you some very unusual, interesting monochrome decks that I discovered in the course of my searches. But before that, I would like to show with one illustrative example why color is sometimes simply not needed.
Could a black and white deck be more informative than a colored deck?
In order not to be unfounded, I will give an example of the three Major Arcana. Take, say, the Magician, Emperor, Justice, and the Hanged Man from the Hermetic Tarot and place the classic color images of Ryder-Waite side by side.
Personally, I see in this black and white Magician much more symbolism that spurs the work of intuition than in the traditional first Arcanum of Waite.
And look at the Emperor! Such energy and power are bursting out of the black-and-white card that it seems a little more, and the power of Arkan will knock everything in its path! It’s not just a static ruler seated on a throne, it’s an amazing dynamic!
Now compare the two Arcana Justice! Is it possible to say that from a monochrome image we will not feel absolutely all the nuances of the card: the power of balance, the harmony between opposites, and the importance of the balance between light and darkness?
And finally, let’s take a look at the Hanged Man. Comments here will probably be superfluous.
Black and white deck reviews are my TOP-12
Of course, not all black and white decks have such a deep symbolism as the Hermetic Tarot, presented in the above examples, but very many of them are interesting and unusual in their own way. Of course, I cannot show you all the existing monochrome tarot cards, so I chose for you a dozen the most attractive to me. Well, let’s move on to a short overview? One of my favorite decks – Wild Unknown Tarot – will not be included in the article, because I can not attribute it to completely black and white, after all, there are some color accents in it, albeit in small quantities.
The Hermetic Tarot
The stunning black and white esoteric Hermetic Tarot deck are based on the secret lore of the Order of the Golden Dawn. The cards include a huge amount of symbolism: here you can find astrological correspondences, geomantic figures, kabbalistic symbols, references to numerology, and even elements of angelic writing. The deck requires a thoughtful approach, so it is categorically not suitable for beginners. But for those who have already worked with the Tarot Tota or other decks created in the traditions of the Golden Dawn, it will become an excellent working, and, moreover, a universal tool. I myself work with this deck, and I want to note that its energy is quite tough, more masculine than feminine. The cards answer very accurately, sometimes so much that the hairs on the headstand are on end. The deck is straightforward,
Light and Shadow Tarot
A rather rare Tarot deck of Light and Shadow was released more than twenty years ago – back in 1997. The creators of the deck were inspired by the spiritual traditions of the East and West, so the cards reflected the elements of the culture of the Celts, American Indians, Africans, East India, as well as medieval Europe. On the one hand, many of the minimalistic Arcana of this deck reminds us of Ryder-Waite plots, but along with them there are completely different, author’s images. This deck is almost impossible to get on sale, so I printed it myself for the collection. I have not yet used it in practical work.
Tabula Mundi Not et Lux
A black and white version of the Tabula Mundi deck appeared in 2014, but at that time only included the Major Arcana. A little later, the author repeated the plots of her cards in color, and already in the amount of 78 cards, and also supplemented the black and white version with Minor Arcana. Today, on foreign sites on the Internet, you can find both of these versions for sale, but honestly – I like monochrome more, although the color is also very good. The tradition of the deck is Crowleyan. The cards attract with their soulfulness, thoughtfulness, and depth. Unlike Tarot Thoth, the Tabula Mundi cards are filled with more understandable symbolism, but still, the deck requires detailed elaboration – it is unlikely that it will be possible to read it intuitively right away, especially the Minor Arcana. And it will be all the more difficult to deal with it for the adherents of the Waite system. Personally, I would have bought it for my collection a long time ago,
Fabulous, but at the same time gloomy, surreal, and in some places very simple, mystical, and at the same time romantic – all this can be said about the amazing Phantomweiss Tarot deck. Examining her Arcana, it is as if you find yourself in another world – cloudy and rainy England, where, sitting by the fireplace with a cup of fragrant herbal tea in an old mansion, you so much want to recall fairy tales familiar from childhood and just dream a little. Artist Erin Morgenstern managed to create a bizarre, addictive magical world based on the classic Waite Arcana and the well-known works of Lewis Carroll. The excellent idea and delightful implementation are worthy of the highest praise!
The Ritual Abuse Tarot
Since we started talking about a dark world, another dark but at the same time satirical creation immediately comes to mind – The Ritual Abuse Tarot. If you think this is just another pointless horror story, then you are wrong. This tarot deck was created in honor of the memory of the American children’s illustrator who drew pictures for horror stories. Despite the frankly frightening gloom, Stephen’s work has gained popularity in many countries. Scary, but beautiful – my verdict on the deck!
The TAROT ReVISIONed
I present to your attention a stunning monochrome older lasso – The TAROT ReVISIONed deck of 22 cards. Amazingly traced details, pronounced volumetric images, esoteric and mythological symbolism, on the creation of which the artist Lee McCloskey worked for many years – all this makes us instantly plunge into the space of the map. Despite the fact that the drawings are made in black and white, it seems that the characters of the cards are truly alive. In my opinion, this is a real masterpiece, which is a very harmonious synthesis of esotericism with artistic creativity. I don’t know if we should wait for the sequel in the form of a full 78-card deck. If it ever sees the light of day, I will certainly find a way to acquire it.
The very minimalistic black and white Tarot deck of David is considered by many tarot readers to be a real gem. The meaning of each card is conveyed through a capacious, but at the same time completely simple, symbolic image. In many ways, the cards repeat Waite’s plots, but along with them there is the author’s vision of some Arcana, for example, Lovers on the 6th Arcana enthusiastically kiss, on the 16th Arcana there is no Tower, but there is a hand that is struck by lightning, and the Empress and the Emperor look very unpleasant and even repulsive. And yet there is something so unusual in this creation, isn’t there? I would not mind adding such a deck to my personal collection.
The Tarot of the Absurd
The surreal monochrome tarot deck of the Absurd is a kind of interpretation of the classics from the artist Jessica Schenehan. Maps were drawn using vector graphics. The images of some Arcana are the most real grotesque, while others look quite cute and harmless. The key feature of the Tarot of the Absurd is the presence of two Moon cards in the deck. The fact is that the author reconsidered her view of the 18th Arcanum after becoming a mother, but did not remove the original drawing from the deck, leaving the tarot reader to choose independently which card of the two to use when working.
While we’re on the subject of a few strange decks, we can’t ignore Wanderer’s Tarot – cards that the author herself calls a feminist deck for modern witches. Each card of this dark, unusual deck helps the fair sex to establish contact with their subconscious and reveal all aspects of their feminine and, of course, witch’s nature. At first, the images of Wanderer’s Tarot repulsed me, I must admit, but the more I looked at them, the clearer I understood that there was clearly something in them. I can’t say that I want to buy this deck, but, for example, I would gladly accept it as a gift.
Diary of a Broken Soul Tarot
A rare, unusual, and very elegant Gothic deck in black tones, which was painted by the artist Ash Abdullah in ink and charcoal, is able to win the hearts of connoisseurs of dark tarot. According to the author, the main task of each Arcana is to show a certain shadow, a problem that needs to be solved at a given moment in time. According to the owners, the Broken Soul Diary works great with subconscious blocks, emotional trauma, and inner fears. The illustrations turned out to be really very beautiful, attractive, mystical. You want to admire them.
Stick Figure Tarot
Let’s move from a sad note to a cheerful one. The Drawn Men Tarot, created by Lar de Souza, looks like it was drawn by a child. But at the same time, each plot is quite recognizable. To some, such a free and schematic interpretation of Waite’s Tarot will seem too frivolous, but, as the masters who worked with the deck note, it “says” everything to the point. It seems to me that this is the ideal “travel” version of divination cards that you can take with you on your travels. And cute, funny little people at the same time will cheer you up on the road.
The Ferret Tarot
If a Tarot with cats, pandas, dragons, as well as other real and fictional animals exist, then why not come up with a deck that tells about life, for example, a ferret? Do you know that such cards really exist? Simple, recognizable Waite classics, only ferrets are represented as heroes of The Ferret Tarot Arcana instead of humans. And what? In my opinion, it is very cute, fresh, unusual. With such a deck, it is probably pleasant to work on simple, everyday questions – of course, it is hardly suitable for working out serious problems.
On this cheerful note, I conclude my review. How do you feel about black and white decks? Is the color component important to you? Are there monochrome decks in your collection? If so, which ones? Share in the comments!