I don’t remember what prompted me to buy my first tarot deck but I’m pretty sure that I bought it from a New Age spiritual shop in Union Square about a decade ago. At the time, I could only find one tarot deck with imagery that spoke to the aesthetics and narratives of Black people and I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t created by someone Black. In the absence of an African-centered deck, I settled on Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck because I found the symbolism and illustrations very intriguing. They were a fresh departure from the uber Eurocentric traditional decks such as Rider Waite.
For years the Toth deck has been my go to…that was until I hosted a tarot party at my house in February for Lunar New Year and my friend pulled out the absolutely gorgeous and mystifying Dust II Onyx deck. It literally took my breath away. Created by Courtney Alexander, the cards are not only luxe, they literally pull you into their ornate imagery and symbology that is a reflective of the ancient mysteries of Africa and its Diaspora. After using this deck, it reaffirmed the importance of not only connecting spiritually with Black iconography when working with tarot, but also the psychological energy that occurs when using a deck created by Black folk.
I had the privilege of meeting Courtney in person which made me love the deck, all the more. Not that I needed any additional reasons. Even after enrolling in a Master Tarot Course, I was hesitant to start offering readings. But soon after working with Dust II Onyx, I started offering my services to close family and friends who have all find my readings super on point. In the words of Ms. Cleo, call me now! (I kid…but I don’t).
While it’s hard for me to imagine another deck that would capture my heart like Dust II Onyx (and I promise this isn’t an ad…), I thought it would be useful to compile a list of all of the decks that I’ve come across that utilize African Diasporic imagery and were made by Black people. Like all things in life, representation does matter, even when getting readings, life advice and spiritual consultations.
And while there are several other decks that exist with Black imagery, they weren’t created by Black people. I own a few myself because what matters most is how you as a reader, connect with the cards. But the point of this post is to stress what better way to connect with cards than when the people in the cards look just like you. In the words of the late great Miss Cleo “the cards dem neva lie.”
Happy Reading! Pun definitely intended.
– Shantrelle P. Lewis
New Orleanian, Sango crowned Olorisa, Spiritualist, Conjurer, Re-tired Curator and Socio-cultural Entrepreneur. Follow me on IG at @beaucouphoodoo.
Black femme queer artist, Courtney Alexander, Dust II Onyx is a rich and magical deck that captivates its audience via highly ornate collages created by its maker. The imagery features a pan-African centered iconography that was thoroughly researched. The 78 card deck comes in two sizes – 3.5 x 5 inches and a Travel Edition that measures 2.75 x 4 inches. Black-owned.
This 78-card full color deck boasts of celebrating Rootworks both past and present. Deep diving into the archetypes and personality that have reigned and been deified in Hoodoo culture, the Hoodoo tarot is great for hoodooists, conjurers, root workers and practitioners of New Orleans rooted Voodoo. The deck was created by Tayannah Lee McQuillar who is also the author of Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money and Success.
The Afro Tarot
Afrofuturist artist Jessica Lofton aka Jessi Jumanji, uses several mediums and layered images that span the ages, to create a 78 card deck that interweaves Afro-surrealist imagery with the traditional meanings of the Rider Waite deck. It also comes with its own mini guide book and sturdy box for storage. Black-owned.
Designed by Lolu, the “78 Card Tarot Deck venerating the various spiritual practices throughout the African Diaspora on rose-petal finish black cards with gold foil and silver ink.” Those who have reviewed it describe the luxe feel of the cards. It’s definitely at the top of my lists of decks to buy next.
Kaleidadope Tarot: A Dope Tarot
Influenced by the Twilight Zone, Krystal Banner’s Kaleidoscope deck, with its straightforward illustrations, was definitely created with 21st century imagery in mind. I’d go so far to say that the deck would be appealing to many millennials for its minimalist nature and holographic edges. The official website also boasts that the cards are reiki infused. Krystal was even generous enough to create a video that showcases each cards in the deck. You can watch here. Black-owned.
Shrine of the Black Medusa Tarot
Created by non-binary artist/writer Casey Rocheteau, The Shrine of the Black Medusa Tarot uses collage to “celebrates Black culture, queer magic and hoodoo divination.” According to Rocheteau’s website, the deck is named for the legend of the African witch turned monster, Medusa and celebrates “the pantheon of monsters within each of us, knowing that Medusa was more metaphor than monster, and that Perseus was a buster.” Shrine of the Black Medusa follows the Thoth tradition. You can buy the deck here.
Afro Goddess Tarot Arcanas
This deck was created by a Black woman specifically for the use of Black women. The 79-card jumbo deck has illustrations of Afrocentric Black warrior goddesses. The first edition is sold out but you can pre-order the latest edition on Andrea Furtick’s site.
African American Tarot
Although I can’t actually verify that the creator of this deck, Jamal R., is actually a man of African descent, I’ll safely assume so. The African American deck pulls from a variety of different continental cultural references and juxtaposes them to African-American historical and pop cultural references. The deck also has the names of each cards written in four different languages – my assumption is to connect with the various parts of the Anglophone, Spanish-speaking, Francophone and Portuguese speaking Diaspora. The highly expressive images are also flanked by a symbol of the Black Liberation Flag. Definitely more on the vintage 80s/90s side of things. But the uber Black vibes are there. Nothing says Black more than RBG flags.
UPDATED As of 5.28.20 – The Black Gold Lenormand
A few weeks after I initially posted this article, someone sent me the link to Tea’s IG Account. I went to the page, of clearly fell in LOVE (so Gemini/Libra rising of me…I know) and of course backed the Kickstarter Campaign at the wholesale level because why buy one deck when you can buy five? It’s only the second Black-created Lenormand deck that I’ve come across. It’s US African-American centered, in terms of its folklore, archetypes and iconography. Highly influenced by her elders and ancestors, the deck is an homage to Black American indigenous spiritual traditions. Conceived and created by Tea, the 36 card deck of beautifully designed black, white and gold cards comes with an 82-page saddle-stitched guidebook. You can purchase the deck via Tea’s Kickstarter. There’s even an option to buy a deck and gift another. Given the fact that it costs about the same as some of these other decks on their own, why not pay it forward? After all, the Ancestors bless, those who look out for their kinfolk.
My best friend, who just so happens to be Akan by heritage, introduced me to this oracle deck. I loved the use of Twi words and Akan Adinkra symbols and their pronunciations. The 44 card deck is minimalist as color and design goes – the cards are white, gold and black.
According to its creator Lolu, the Okana Oracle Deck is a “luxuriously printed 25 Card Oracle Deck on rose-petal finish black cards with gold foil. For use in working through our shadow selves and doing the work to make sure our true nature isn’t the catalyst for stagnation. Also used for re-establishing a path of communication between one and their ancestors, to answer the tough questions with the voice of a loving but honest elder.”
Created by Jessi Jumanji, I’ve never seen anything African-centered like the Flora and Fauna of Africa Deck. The 3.5×5 inch deck features over 100 different species of plant species and spirit animals. Each card delivers a message and affirmation. Example: The Okapi states “Embrace all aspects of you. Your uniqueness is your power. Let your spirit guide you.”
An Afrocentric modernized spin on the famed 1840 Marie Anne Lenormand deck, the Goddess Oracle Deck includes 37 cards, a 50 page guide book and a velvet protection bag. Although I personally use the traditional Lenormand deck when I want some very straightforward answers to dilemmas, I’ll give this deck a try. And if you decide to pick it up – beware of the mice in your life.
I just happened upon this deck. Created by the same sister who created the Hoodoo deck, Sibyls Oraculum: Oracle of the Black Doves of Africa enlightens its readers about the legendary Libyan Sibyls, African prophetesses of the classical world. Although she was Eurocentricized historically, Tayannah Lee McQuillar repositions her more accurately as the African prophetess who presided over the Zeus oracle temple in the Siwa Oasis. Here’s a slideshow I found detailing the hidden history of the Ancient African prophetesses in classical Europe.