Tarot Deck Reviews: Melanated Classic Tarot
In the tarot and oracle deck community, there are few representations of melanated energy shown in popular decks. When I first began my journey in tarot in 2009, there were only two decks that sparked the diviner in me. Those decks pulled me in like a seductive romance that whispered sweet nothings in my ear. The decks were saturated in images that highlighted darker hues and for the first time, I felt like someone was paying attention to what I craved from this community. When those decks arrived in the mail, I shuffled and shuffled and shuffled and asked for the card that perfectly described me. It was this day that I knew tarot was for me because both decks yielded the same card and my heart sang a love song that I’ve memorized and adored for more than 10 years. Since that time, so many others have emerged. Now, my playlist is oozing over with tarot songs of freedom, resistance, guidance, beauty, and sheer love. I find joy in exploring this world because finding decks by Black, Indigenous, and other People Of Color (BIPOC) is more accessible now than ever before. From those two (2) decks, my library has grown to more than fifty (50) decks and I am compelled to share these love songs with you hoping you find something that makes you want to sing along.
Given this, it is only right that these decks be featured and celebrated to gain a better appreciation for different perspectives, specifically, those often othered. We must recognize the importance of displaying people of African descent in divining work. While I will include other points of view, the focal point of these reviews will be centered on perspectives in the African diaspora. And so, to kick this celebration off, let me introduce you to the Melanated Classic Tarot by Julia Goolsby and Oubria Tronshaw . This deck was chosen because its inspiration is rooted in the artistry of the most popular Tarot artist in the history of this community, Pamela Coleman Smith, the first noted tarot deck artist of African descent. Pioneering Pamela Coleman Smith needs her own blog which may be offered up in the future but for a snippet of tarot herstory, continue reading. Corinne Pamela Coleman Smith was born to Corinne Colman Smith and Charles Edward Smith, two Americans who relocated to London where she entered the word..
In addition to creating the artwork for the famous Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, she was a poet, stage and costume designer, folklorist, editor, publisher, and lover of all things art and occult. Adding to her credits as an illustrator, were more than 20 books and many magazines. Smith's work was exhibited by the famed Alfred Stieglitz. This historic accomplishment is particularly significant considering she was the first non-photographic artist to ever hang work in Steiglitz's Photo-Secession Gallery. She is truly an inspirational artist and world traveler that every tarot diviner and lover of art should explore in depth. It is no wonder that the Melanated Classic Tarot creators chose to honor this forgotten artist with a deck that celebrates darker hues reflective of her Jamaican heritage.
As the illustrator of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, Smith's artwork elevated the system to it's current world wide fame. It is for that reason, many people refer to the deck as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck to acknowledge the massive contribution of this artist to tarot diviners all over the world. What Goolsby and Tronshaw have done gives melanated readers texture and provides "visual reparations" for all of the diviners that previously struggled to see representations of themselves in this amazing insightful tool that brings clarity and connection to the spirit world.
The guidebook for this reimaged deck is written by Oubria Tronshaw. It includes short descriptions with references to planetary influences in the major arcana. In the minor arcana, it draws connections to major arcana using relationship analogies in the descriptions that assist readers with understanding an important philosophy, "as above, so below". The Egyptian, Hermes Trismegistus expressed in The Kybalion (p29), the link between the macrocosm and the microcosm with this phrase. That which occurs in our external environment is also occurring in our internal environment. Our lives serve as a mirror reflection of what we think, feel, and believe. Tronshaw unpacks this expression by folding the concept into the text in the guidebook. The major arcana paints the picture described, "as above" while the minor arcana colors the concept, "so below". Trismegistus' philosophy is interwoven seamlessly in the guidebook accompanying the Melanated Classic Tarot deck creating the perfect marriage between picture and words.
The artwork by Julia Goolsby featured vibrant colors that honor Smith's original work yet stand as creative and dynamic images in their own right. These images illuminate tarot leading one to feel like an evolution and revolution is occurring all at once. Just as the guidebook has taken the general energy and elevated words to display the relationship between the major and minor arcana, so has the artistry of this deck to given a new life bridge from the past to the present. Goolsby has made some substantial shifts in vibrancy and facial expressions presented in the deck. Celebrating African facial characteristics, kinky hair textures, and skin tone variation, it is beyond the act of coloring peach faces to make them brown. This deck reimagines a tarot world that pays homage to the magic of the original work and its author's Jamaican roots. While this may seem like an easy task, upon inspection of these cards, one can easily see that this feat was nowhere near a simple task. I took joy in purchasing it as my young diviner's very first deck because representation absolutely matters and I wanted my daughter to begin her journey feeling sacred and safe inside her self and her skin. Melanated Classic Tarot by Julia Goolsby and Oubria Tronshaw is detailed, deliberate and delicious to work with in readings.
I invite you to click on this image below and get your deck today. The Melanated Classic Tarot is the perfect introduction to the Rider-Waite-Smith system for those of a coco hue. Be sure to also follow deck creators on Instagram @blaquepenn_comix and @oubria.