Jul 13, 2017

Tarot Deck Review: The Darkness of Light Tarot

The Darkness of Light Tarot is visually stunning self-published tarot deck by Tony DiMauro. The premise of the deck is that there is always balance between light and dark. There is always a bit of light in the darkness, and darkness in the light.

The Cards
The cards measure approximately 2 3/4" x 4 3/4". The backs are reversible and feature a horizontal image of two wolf heads. The cards have a light sheen to them. The borders are black, a brilliant choice, as white would have given such a different feel to this deck. The titles are set along the top border. One of the unique aspects of this deck is in the titles. The Majors are titled in Italian (for historical and personal reasons), and the Minors in English.

The card stock is okay, but not the greatest. It shuffles very nicely and comfortably, but after my very first (riffle) shuffle, there was already some chipping. After a couple weeks with it, it is already showing wear and tear, with many of the edges starting to come apart. I think cards with black borders tend to show wear more quickly. So the cards won't stay pristine for long. I'm not thrilled about this, but I happen to like the look of a well worn deck, and I think the style of the artwork in this deck lends itself to looking especially magical when worn.

One of my cards (the Ace of Cups) came with a printing error on the back, a white splotch at the bottom of the card. So if I were to fan out the cards, I would know that card was the Ace of Cups from the back. I don't generally fan out the cards in a reading, so it's not really an issue.

The cards come housed in a black matte tuck box. There is a warning on the website (darknesstarot.com) about opening the box. It is tough to open without danger of ripping the top, so you do need to open it carefully. The top of mine is warped now. The deck also comes with a nice cotton drawstring bag printed with the wolf design from the backs of the cards.

The order the cards come in is deliberately different from the way you may be used to. You will first see the Major Arcana, but then the suits move in reverse order through the seasons (Blades, Coins, Cups, then Wands) as though time were moving backwards. And in each suit, the cards are arranged alphabetically (excluding the numbered cards). So instead of Ace through King, you will have 2-10, then Ace, King, Knight, Page, Queen. One of the reasons for this ordering is because the artist wanted each suit to end with the Queen as the final authority, so instead of just switching the places of the Queen and King, he reordered it entirely. This way, among the numbered cards, Aces are "high", making it feel more aligned with the Courts than on the opposite end of the suit. This reordering also turns the initial power structure on its head, beginning with the King and ending with the Queen.

Ultimately, the reason for this reordering has to do with balance and opposites in nature, as with light and dark (the very theme of the deck itself). There will be more detailed information on this when the guidebook is released. The artist has very deliberate reasons for doing everything he does. It is astounding how much thought he has put into the execution of this deck, from start to finish. Even with something so temporary like the ordering of the cards, which will disappear as quickly as a sand castle, with the very first shuffle.

The cards are dark, and mostly blacks, whites and greys, with small splashes of color here and there. The most vibrant cards are in the Wands suit. The art style is different from any other deck I have seen. It was painted both traditionally and digitally. I am magnetically drawn to the knife painting style of the backgrounds. It's what first piqued my interest in the deck, while the rest of the artwork maintains my captivation.

The suits are named Blades, Coins, Cups, and Wands. They follow seasons different from what I am used to. In this deck, the correspondences are as follows:

Blades: Winter
Coins: Autumn
Cups: Summer
Wands: Spring

I am used to Wands (fire) representing the heat of Summer, and the Cups (water) representing Spring. There is a wonderful plus side of Wands being Spring in this deck... the coloring! The vibrant pinks and beautiful flowers of the Wands suit make this one of my favorite Wands suit of any deck. It is such a lovely vacation from the yellow and oranges you usually see in the suit. I don't use seasonal timing in my readings, so it doesn't make any difference to me where the seasons are applied. An interesting thing I learned was that the artist painted each suit in its corresponding season.

There are so many cards I want to discuss. The breathtakingly gorgeous Universe card is one of my favorites from any deck. The sash translates into: "All light will turn to darkness, and in all darkness, there is found light." The Chariot card is so fantastic. In most decks the Chariot feels ironically lifeless, dull, static and boring, despite its intended meaning. This Chariot has life in it, power, beauty, movement and soul. It has a story behind it. I love it.

The Magician is hot. I'll just leave that there, with my full gratitude. The beautiful Empress is designed after one of my favorite artists, John William Waterhouse. The Emperor and Hierophant are usually my least favorite cards in a deck (the ones I certainly relate to the least) and they came up for me together one day. They are both fascinating to look at. The Emperor is such an interesting character. He has to be one of my all-time favorite Emperors, if not my very favorite. I love his stance and the expression on his face. The Hierophant appears to have only one leg, and I don't know if that was intentional. Whether it is or not, I only see the shape of one leg beneath his robe, and I rather like that quirk. It leaves me wondering what his whole story is.

There are a couple cards where the person's face is washed out (Temperance and Page of Blades). I love this so much, but I can't say why. It lends a creepy atmosphere (Temperance much more so) which I am really drawn to.

The Five of Wands is absolutely beautiful to look at, but it doesn't give me the feeling of competition and fighting you usually see in this card, so it's one I struggle with. I am fascinated with the Six of Cups. It has a strangely eerie feeling to me, despite being a generally positive card. It gives me the feeling of a bittersweet happy ending to a psychological horror/thriller movie, where the kid is alive at the end, but has just gone through some seriously traumatizing shit.

The Eight of Cups is gorgeous, and the Nine of Cups is one of my favorite Nine of Cups ever. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I just love this dude so much. He has a really chill vibe. He looks like if Dumbledore was a muggle.

The Four of Blades is brilliant, taking place at a gravestone. It is a card of rest. In this case, eternal rest. As rested as you get. The Six of Blades has a stunning gothic vibe. The Ace of Wands is beautiful, and the Ace of Coins is simple, yet I find it positively captivating.

I know the Three of Coins (showing three masked, caped men walking towards you) absolutely has a backstory that I am dying to hear. The Six of Coins has a similar feel. As if you've walked in in the middle of a movie, not knowing what you've missed. There are a lot of cards that beg further questioning, so many details left open for interpretation and I love that. I will discuss another example of this further on in the review.

There are some cards that I can't completely make out in the darkness of the image, and some where the dimensions seem off to me. For example, it is really hard for me to make out what the patch of snow is resting on in the Five of Coins. It looks like it is floating in mid-air. It comes across much more clear in the online images. Also, the left leg of the man in the Ten of Swords appears to be missing a calf. It looks like his thigh just turns into a very large foot at the knee. It must be an optical illusion I can't make sense of for myself.

I do believe I saw somewhere that the artist actually sculpted the faces for the Star, Moon and Sun cards. There are so many levels of fascination to this deck. There are several cards with a dog in it, and it appears to be the same dog throughout the deck, which I thought was a really cool touch. Also, the deck is filled with Easter eggs (hidden references). Among them, the artist promised a piece from art history in every suit, the Three of Coins being one of them.

The Pages and Knights are evenly gendered, each having two males and two females. At least, I assume there are two male Knights, as their heads are covered with armor helmets. And the Page of Blades has a blurred out face, but I will assume it is a male, to make sense of the gender equality.

The Page of Wands reminds me of an actor, but I can't place him. The Knight of Cups is simply wonderful, as is the King of Coins, both so unique and mesmerizing.

The Kings, I read on Tony's Instagram page, may be seen (up to your interpretation, of course) as the same man at different points in his life. I thought this was a lovely idea, and would have loved to have seen the same age/maturity progression with the Queens.

How it Reads
My first reading with this deck was a Mind-Body-Spirit reading that was on point. In the Mind position, I drew the Eight of Wands, which was indicative of the crazy pace of my monkey mind. And it is this card I drew that I want to discuss further. The Eight of Wands is a perfect example of a card that begs many questions, and is open to many interpretations. The man stands with a bow aimed, but the bow has no string and he has no arrow, though his arm is cocked, ready to let go. Is he practicing using visualization? Are those branches (wands) above his head going to be made into arrows? What about the string? Are the string and arrow invisible because Wands is the spiritual suit, and it is not about physical action, but unseen action? Has he already let the arrow fly, and it was so fast and powerful that it took the bow's string with it? Does he not have the necessary materials ready because everything has just happened too fast (great speed being a traditional meaning for this card)? There is so much that can be interpreted from this image alone.

I found that for my daily draws, most of my readings produced brilliant philosophical thoughts, rather than divination for the day. And as soon as I turned the cards over, I heard the messages in my head. One day I drew the Nine of Cups and Seven of Cups and I heard "If you could have anything you wanted, what would you choose? Now how about this? You can have anything you want. Just choose!"

The next day I drew the Hierophant and the Emperor, and like I mentioned earlier, I normally can't relate to either of these two guys. They are like white noise when they come up in readings for me. But I like their depictions in this deck, they feel more approachable than usual. The Hierophant appeared to be channeling divine wisdom, and his arm stretched out of the card towards the Emperor, who was backing away slightly like "You want me to do WHAT now?" The cards spoke to me of a power struggle, illustrating my need to either decide between two approaches to something, or to blend two approaches for a compromise, perhaps being open to bending my own rules a bit to allow for a new way of doing or seeing things.

One morning I drew two cards (Six of Cups and the Moon) right after waking up from a dream. The Moon card can represent dreams, and the illustration on the Six of Cups was so reminiscent of the dream I had just woken up from!

The next day I drew two cards, along with two oracle cards and they all read together beautifully. I always like to pair tarot decks with oracles to see if they play nicely with others, and this one did not disappoint. The tarot cards I drew were Strength and the Tower, and along with the oracle cards, the message I received was one that ended up being eerily relevant in the coming days. It was about the strength it takes to start all over from scratch, when you have come so far. Knowing you will be better off, happier in the long run if you start all over from square one, even though you might be so close to the (much crappier) finish line right now. The message was to follow the calling of the heart instead of following progress just for progress' sake. And it was one I really needed to hear in the coming days.

The day after that, I drew The Five of Blades and the Magician and had another wise message come through me that I wouldn't know I'd need until that night. And boy, did I ever need to hear it (along with the one from the previous day)! This pair told me, "When you feel like you are at an unfair disadvantage, remember your power. Reclaim your inner fire. You can turn anything around with the power of your mind." That evening, I had a major Tower moment (predicted the day before) and this two-card reading saved my spirit from being crushed. It kept me strong and inspired me to keep my head up and stay in my power. I am so extremely thankful for that. This was one of those important moments when the tarot really, truly made an impact in my life. And that sweetheart of a Magician came up for me again the next day, as a beautiful reminder.

I had another reading that incredibly echoed an epic reading I did with another deck the week before, confirming the importance of the message and the progress I was making.

I did a few more readings with the deck, and for daily draws, I would always get a piece of sage wisdom that I would hear in my head as soon as I turned the cards over. And in a reading with deliberate questions and spread positions, I would receive relevant information and smart advice.

In the eleven readings I have done with this deck before sitting down to write this review, I never once drew a Court card. So, amazingly, I can't comment on how the Courts read for me at this time. I can only say that they are gorgeous.

There is no accompanying LWB at this time. The artist is working on a book with a tentative release goal of Fall 2017. It will most likely be a free PDF download from his website, with a fancy printed copy for sale for collectors. I cannot wait to read the book. Having had several conversations with Tony, I know him to be a very detail-oriented artist, putting a tremendous about of energy into each card. I know the book will be extremely well thought out with meticulous detail. It promises to be a fascinating look at all the hidden details in the cards.

Final Thoughts
The Darkness of Light Tarot is an incredibly unique, artistic deck. It is outrageously beautiful and so pleasing to the eye. It is on the darker side, literally, color-wise, so I wouldn't think to grab it for a reading if someone needed cheering up. But I'm a fan of dark things, so I wouldn't hesitate to use it for regular readings. It feels mellow yet powerful at the same time, which I feel plays well into the deck's theme of opposites.

The artwork does stray from RWS a bit here and there, but I think it would be a fine deck for a beginner. There is a bit of nudity, and it has a mature feel to it, so it's not one I would use for kids.

This is a deck with artwork that calls to my soul. It feels good to look at the images, no matter what cards I draw. That is a rare thing for me. I love this deck with a passion... it is without a doubt one of the greats.

Deck: The Darkness of Light Tarot self-published by Tony DiMauro