If you’re not equipped with a Tarot deck yet, we’re here to help!
By Donyae Coles
Tarot is an excellent skill not just for telling fortunes at a party but also for self-reflection. Learning to read the cards can help you figure out where your life is heading how you really feel about it. The problem is that there’s a lack of diversity in tarot cards. The good news is, they may be a bit harder to find but they are out there.
There are some wonderful decks that feature a wide range of diversity but you have to dig for them. Dust II Onyx and Next World Tarot are both amazing for representation but the problem with both is that they’re not available for purchase (but you can preorder them). Here are eight (ish) decks that feature diversity and you can buy them right now.
Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot: This deck is a fantasy-inspired deck based on the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) style of tarot cards. They feature a variety of people dressed a medieval/fantasy style of clothing and involved with various magical dealings. Although it seems like this would just be a bunch of white people, the cards feature people of various colors and although body size and shape diversity is lacking, it does show people in different romantic pairings. This deck is rich with esoteric knowledge and symbols, but is easy enough to read for a beginner.
Haindl Tarot: This deck’s art is more experimental and the card type is Thoth, the second most popular tarot type. This deck has pip cards for all of the minors which means it only shows the suits and the number, but there is some variation in the illustrations, so look closely! The major arcana and the court cards both feature people from various cultures. This deck may seem a bit scary at first but it’s light hearted and the art is quite beautiful.
Tarot Illuminati: This is a very basic take on the RWS deck. The cards look very lovely with gilded edges but at the end of the day, they are a very traditional set. Like Modern Spellcaster, the figures are dressed in more medieval clothing style but the art is more consistent with the classic deck. It doesn’t have as much diversity but for a reader on a budget who wants to see people of other colors, this is a solid deck. The artist’s follow up deck, Tarot Apokalypsis, has much more diversity but is much harder to work with.
Mary-el Tarot: This deck has a lot going on but there are plenty of figures mixed between the fantastic. These cards feature stunning art-work and people of color are spread throughout the deck as well as various body types. This deck is based on RWS but it takes some getting used to as the images are far from traditional. It is perfect for intuitive reading and is full of surprises.
Tarot of the Cat People: This deck is an older deck and the art has a sort of 70’s vibe to it. The deck features people richly dressed people and a wide variety of cats, both domestic and wild. I like this deck for its rich color and clearly Black figures.
Black Power Tarot: This deck is based on the Marseilles tarot style which is slightly different from both Thoth and RWS. Unlike the other decks on this list, this deck features only the major arcana which means there are only 22 cards all of which feature famous Black figures. This style of deck, for those who practice with them, can give very in-depth readings with very few cards.
Slow Holler: This deck was created, card by card, by variety of artists. The deck is a sort of magical love note to southern queer folx and although there aren’t as many figures featured on the deck, the creators put it together from a queer experience. There is only deck on the list that doesn’t primarily feature people on the cards but due to its relationship with queer identity, it is an important and powerful work.
Slutist Tarot: This deck is an exploration and celebration of femme-centered sex positivity. The deck is hand drawn and features femmes of all types in various states of undress. Some of the cards recall classic scenes and characters as well as famous femmes. Others are pulled from the imagination of the artist.
Not Mentioned . . . for a reason:
Some people who are familiar with tarot may ask why I did not include the Illist Tarot on this list. For one, it’s sold out but for two, many people in magick communities of color are upset by the treatment of artist in the use of Black figures to market the deck. The deck is advertised as a primarily Black deck but it has very little representation. Furthermore, the creator uses AAVE in her guidebook, further appropriating Black culture.
Similarly, I have not recommended the Ghetto Tarot. The artist did pay her models but considering she is not from the culture that the deck is based upon, and is profiting quite heavily not for her vision so much as the proximity to Blackness that her cards feature, the project reeks of appropriation.
The reason I’m mentioning these two decks here is because it’s important for people to be aware that it’s not enough to feature diversity, it’s important that the creators not be rewarded for appropriation. This is a huge issue in the spiritual community and even if you are just starting out with reading tarot, it’s important not to fall into the traps set by people to make a profit by cashing in on using the images people of color without supporting people of color. The decks I have recommended here are not all created by people of color but they were illustrated mindfully to add diversity and not marketed to sell diversity.
Author Bio: Donyae Coles is a freelance writer. You can find her work surrounding spirituality and witchcraft on Spiral Nature. She also been published on Resist and Guerrilla Feminism. You can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @okokno. She blogs at www.freenightsandweekends.org.