“It is only in darkness we can see the stars”
Author: Arthur Wang
Available At: https://trueblacktarot.com/
By the Gods, this deck is absolutely gorgeous. The passion project of Arthur Wang, the True Black Tarot kickstarter was first posted on the 17th of September 2017 and soon barreled right past the required amount as people fell in love with the impeccable craftsmanship and luxurious artwork of this beautiful deck. Each element is designed with style, function and beauty in mind, and together present a deck of cards that feel arcane in a way many modern decks just cant quite capture. Every aspect of True Black is an experience, it is no over exaggeration to say that it, like the Fountain Tarot before it, represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship in Tarot and Oracle design. It’s amazing, I love it, here’s why:
The design of the box itself is exquisite. Matt black with the name of the deck and a beautiful star-map motif embossed on the box in black foil, it’s a work of art in its own right, and instantly eye-catching sitting on any shelf. The inside of the magnetic-close box continues the astrological design with the now customary “premium tarot deck quote” on the inside of the lid, this time claiming “it is only in darkness we can see the stars”, just a perfect introduction to this deck. The box is a solid build, and is sturdy enough to protect your cards from being scuffed, but you won’t be risking damage to this beauty, believe me.
Running at 112 pages the little white book (or should that be little black book?) that comes with the deck is compact, tactile and informative. With the same matt finish and black foil embossing as the box, its an attractive little guide, but the true value of it comes in its exploration of the complex imagery of the cards. Each of the Minor Arcana cards are given a page to themselves, with four keywords outlining their main themes, a small black silhouette of the image and a short passage exploring the symbolism and meaning behind each one. The Major Arcana get the same treatment as the Minor, with four keywords, a small silhouette image and passage about them, this time with an extra page for each of them detailing the hidden meaning of the embossing on the cards, something that is essential if you want to delve into the hidden depths of this opulent deck…
Just handling these cards is a sensual experience, with an almost rose-petal like texture to them. The cards are hand edged in black and, according to the website, are printed on 18pt stock card stock, and while I have no idea what that means, I can hazard a guess and go with “sturdy” and “thick”. This deck is BIG, running at twice the size of a conventional RWS deck. The cards are also supposedly scratch, chip and splash resistant, and while I am never going to risk trying those claims out, it’s comforting to know this deck is going to last.
The back of the cards are fully reversible, with a matt black colouring featuring True Black’s embossed foil star-map design, creating a subtle and stylish visual. However it is, of course, the images on the cards themselves that solidify True Black as a masterpiece in Tarot design.
Arthur Wang’s vision was to design a timeless work of art, something that he explains in evocative detail in his Kickstarter description:
“True Black’s inspiration is timelessness. Tarot is a compendium of mankind’s omnipresent hopes, fears, and dreams, and a tarot deck should feel as everlong and constant as our human nature. The figures, styling, and clothing are designed to be enigmatic in presence, unable to be placed in any specific time or place, though simultaneously colored with facets of both the past and future, an artifact of our collective consciousness.”
Each image conveys this vision perfectly. Depicted in an almost dream like context, they shine from the darkness bathed in the glow of a golden shaft of light, almost as if they are being displayed in a museum, or performing on stage. this stylistic choice is highly reminiscent of the almost “staged” feel of the images in the Rider-Wait deck, the influence of Pamela Coleman Smith’s background in stage design influencing her now iconic paintings.
The Human figures that feature on the Major Arcana and Court cards continue this dream-like quality. Their faces obscured, their bodies perfectly formed and marble white, they appear not as people but almost as grecian statues, artifacts of humanity itself.
The Minor Arcana are more pip-like in their design, but absolutely beautiful in their execution, and each of the 79 cards are painted in opulent tones of ivory white and luminous gold, with some cards sporting the occasional punch of fiery orange, emerald green, blood red and the merest hint of sapphire, all soaked in a delicious degree of chiaroscuro. Photographs don’t really do them justice, these are truly a sight to behold.
Each of the Major Arcana feature an embossed UV foil design that accentuates the underlying symbolism of the cards in new and fascinating ways, from a topographic map of lake Mungo behind the Hierophant, to a depiction of Milgrim’s experiment surrounding the Devil, each of these details add a complex and nuanced dimension to readings.
There is simply not enough praise I can give the True Black Tarot, it is absolutely perfect. I love it, you know you want it, find it at www.trueblacktarot.com