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RiccardoLS  RiccardoLS is offline
Join Date: 20 Nov 2002
Location: Italy
Posts: 1,093
Darkness and dark decks

I have seen a few comments regarding the Dark Grimoire Tarot as a “dark” deck.
While I totally agree with that definition, I wanted to think aloud about what “dark” really means, relating to Tarot deck. The Dark Grimoire is but one among many “dark” decks, but I had the occasion of discussing it while it was being built, and some of those observations may be of interest.

We cannot deny that one of the main differences between decks is simply the Art Style. If we accept, just for the sake of discussion, that Tarot meanings are constant and fixed, the art style may be seen as just a dress. It is a simple superficial layer, appeasing our aesthetics, but with no real influence to the higher truth behind it.
And yet, whenever we use intuition to read Tarot and we actually let ourselves be challenged by the cards we drawn, the way even a constant, known message, is given takes the greatest importance, and brings in different directions.
I may say that, even if there is a necessary link between the two, we can see two different terms of “darkness” in Tarot.
The first is a darkness of emotion. Whatever meaning is contained into the cards it is conveyed by a “dark” metaphor, and “dark” is the interpretation key to unlock the Arcana. This is a darkness of language.
The second is a darkness of content. Whatever the appearance of the card, the deck strives to look into the dark side of things, in the uncharted reaches of the hidden side of the moon. This is a darkness of substance.
Then, when we ask “does the end justify the means” we may conclude that the end and the means are both parts of the same thing, so they are the same. The same language and substance may be parts of the same thing, and could not really be seen one separate from the other.

Well… the dark language sometimes may seem very frivolous. When an adolescent is upset he thinks suicide, and beauty equal damnation. Everything is huge and every single uneven step looks like a hole in the fabric of the universe. It’s a powerful appeal… one that has his tool on me and I think many of us, independent of our age.
This language may be use the same way we use elves and fairies and jolly cherubs: to distract. It works: it is dark… there must be depth. People die, so their last words are certainly important. Etc…
On the other side, such a language encourages to see the dark side of things, to expect and to look for trouble, and works better to let our intuition deal with sadness, loneliness, inadequacy, defenceleness, rejection… all elements that are an important part of our emotional life. If we think (just an imho, and definitely summarized) that the conventional Tarot meanings are focused on the intellectual and emotional drive of a “Magician Hero”, dark language decks allow us to see the emotions of the little ones, not just of the giants.
And that’s important. Inuit is good to talk about snow (or so I’m told).

What we must consider is that, if we use a dark language deck, we attune ourselves to that language. Our associations, the emotion we let surface, our mood and color, will all fit a coherent whole with the darkness we are handling.

A dark substance deck is different. It wants darkness… and there is no one among us that has nothing to offer on that side. But to use such a deck honestly, you will end up looking a the darkness and maybe, for just an instance, think the darkness is your true self (I don’t believe that. We don’t look at darkness often. When we do, and recognize it to be part of us, we just assume/fear that is the whole).
I don’t think this is what we really want to do every day. Facing this path means so much energy and commitment that it can just be done a few times in a while.
By the way… darkness in not just darkness within. There is also in the world… and it affects us, through our defense systems.

Well, anyway… one of the observations we did along with Michele Penco was not to confuse language with substance. They are linked, but they are not the same.

The basic of Lovecraft Horror was the concept that the world itself was “evil”, and madness would have been the only fate of those who looked beyond the veil. So the veil of Maya, illusion separating from truth, is our savior.
It is a bad way to look at the world, also because the “seeker” is always the “victim”.
I think the “dark” of the Dark Grimoire Tarot is about touching darkness. (Well, it’s a Tarot deck and not a collection of Lovecraft based illustrations). When you are drawn into the darkness how do you say yourself, how do you remember light…
How do you allow darkness to change and mold you (because if you go into the darkness you must accept it or sacrifice something as precious: read Hearth of Darkness by J. Conrad – I really would like to make a Tarot deck on that concept)?
And again… what is the meaning of darkness… how can you accept and feel the evil of the world and not be destroyed.
So, when we touch darkness, we don’t do that through a glass window. And still, in a way, even if it doesn’t seem to change anything, darkness is also touched by us.
It was difficult to try to convey the main character of the deck (there are two actually: a man and a woman) as both a victim and a hero. As someone fighting darkness and someone embracing it and learning from it (darkness is both a devourer and a teacher?).

There was one last concept I wanted to address about darkness and that was quite important when thinking about this deck: the concept of “empowering”.
One of the ways to use Tarot we consider important evolves around the “empowering” concept. Future should not be fate, and a querient (if you read to others or if you read to yourself) should be encouraged by Tarot to find solution, think strategies, act… and ultimately accept responsibility for himself.
When considering a horror/dark deck, one should think that the horror concept really has not heroes but rather victims. The horror comes exactly when the point of view of the reader/spectator has no control over things. There is nothing but to run and hide, and even so, there is no escape. The feeling of dread we receive from true horror is definitely linked to “lack of control”. Doing an horror Tarot deck means asking people using it to synthonize with lack of control, and that’s not really good for empowering.
Answering this contradiction, and trying to find a way to have these two concepts coexist has been an important part of the design work.


One final note. Most of the times creating a deck is not a way to give an answer to all possible consideration about a theme (like darkness, for instance). It’s just a way to ask the questions, or to open a door. We don’t know, ever, what’s behind the door.
If the deck is good, it may be, it can *spark* something in those using it, and then be useful, right when it’s needed to. If the deck is bad, then… it doesn’t work this way. ^_^
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