by Kimm Smith of the iWonder Sisters
Many years ago a friend bought me a tarot deck as a birthday gift. I had been talking about learning and working with the Tarot for quite a few months and was really surprised when I received The Egyptian Tarot in the mail. Though it seemed quite daunting for a beginner, I began working with the deck. I am sure there are a few decks with similar titles now, so I will show you what my deck looked like…
Because most of us know at least a little about Egypt, I wasn’t surprised about the type of imagery on this deck. I had already figured that the faces would hearken back to an ancient Egypt, and that the skin tones of this particular deck would be what we call in the American Black community, “the acceptable color of a paper bag”.
I never really got on with The Egyptian Tarot and soon put it aside.
My interest in learning the Tarot never waned and it was in the Spring of 2015 when I decided to start looking at decks. Checking out all of these modern new tarot and oracle decks had me drooling and creating long wish lists.
It took me a little while to see, but after viewing about 50 decks I noticed that all the women looked like Gwyneth Paltrow and the men, like Fabio or Brad Pitt. The Emperor is actor Ben Kingsley and the Empress, like Queen Elizabeth. Though I have nothing at all against any of these people or people that look like them, I felt the way Black people felt many decades ago in my mother’s generation, that though they supported the theatres and popular movies of the day, they never “saw themselves”, meaning that there were no people of color in any major roles, but instead we were relegated to the roles of maids and bumbling, uneducated idiots.
The art in tarot decks are even less representative of people of color, than MGM was back in the day. And that reality, I have to say, is shameful.
It seems that even in 2016, the only way it is acceptable or even thought of, when it comes to representing all people of color in a tarot deck, is to show us in ancient Egyptian form, which is not something many Black people today can relate to because it does not show our culture in the present moment, doing absolutely normal, everyday, wonderful, loving, and magickal things. Instead, we are all too often depicted as tribal. And as a 48 year-old Black woman from Philadelphia, a big city, who has picked up and moved to a horse ranch in New Mexico, I can tell you with authority, that Black lives are just as diverse as any race, and we want to have the joy of being integrated into society, art, film, magick, and of course, the Tarot.
I am genuinely hurt and disappointed when I come across a tarot theme or new deck that attracts my interest enough to want to know more, and once again I see what many Black people call, “a lily white” human expression only. It makes me feel that in some way, people are still trying to forget that we are here.
And that saddens me like you would not believe.
So lately I have been so turned off by decks that draw my attention because of their themes, that I have been more innately drawn to more abstract tarot depictions.
The First Light Tarot/Oracle by Dinah RoseberryThe Archeon Tarot by Tim Lantz
I want to say deeply to the tarot authors and artists out there today, that you may not notice it because YOU Are seeing yourself, and that is a familiar comfort. But know that all people of color would also love to feel that sense of connection as well. And as a Black woman, I also don’t expect to only see faces that appear as my own, but I want to see and feel all of us. Because that is this planet’s reality.
The planet is not just one face, it is all faces, all colors, all races.