I just purchased Lo Scarabo’s African American Tarot deck and I have mixed feelings about it. What I like about the deck is the African mythology and imagery. Most of the pictures are deep and trippy. Some of the cards like the Knight of Wands (pictured) and the 5 of pentacles are very mind-bending in their symbolism. For instance, on the 5 of Pentacles card, Abiku (South African mythology) a demon man-eater is depicted denoting abject poverty, hopelessness and the self-destructive nature of placing all of your focus on the material. It was very startling at first glance. I wasn’t expecting such a grotesque image. This card is so obscure that I can’t even find it on Bing Images. Basically, a very strong-looking monster with a giant mouth for a head and razor sharp teeth is using his hands for feet. His feet contain his eyes. Ghastly!
I appreciate how the Major Arcana is firmly based on the Rider-Waite system for the most part. The Star is the only one of the Trumps that I have an issue with because the figure is not pouring out water. You have to read the description book to learn that this Goddess controls rain which is a form of replenishment and promise (rain returns water back to the Earth and ensures that vegetation will continue to flourish in the future) two of the main meanings of the Star card.
What I do not like about the deck is that some of the cards—namely the minor arcana venture so far away from the Rider-Waite system that it is not easy to do readings with them. Every little detail in the Rider-Waite system clearly gives esoteric information that can help the reader formulate an answer. Not so with a great number of the African American Tarot cards. It is only until you research the meanings in the little white description book that some of the bizarre images make sense. Another thing I do not like is the incorporation of American historical figures in some of the cards. From what I have seen thus far, most of these images which are superimposed at the top of some of the cards do not relate to the traditional meanings at all. It is as if these images were included as an afterthought and to justify the American part of African American. Perhaps I need to gaze upon them some more and reflect. Some cards such as the 7 of Swords do not contain any swords at all. How can this be? Why does this deck feel so incomplete and thrown together? I also do not like a lot of the faces of the figures on the cards. In my opinion the artwork was poorly executed in this area.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed and disillusioned after viewing all 78 cards. I do not trust them for doing readings for clients. However, I have decided that I will use these cards primarily for spell work and meditation. I do feel a sense of powerful energy in the cards so I do believe that they do have a mystical component beyond the novelty.
I guess through the procurement of this African American Tarot deck, I have learned that I am a staunch traditionalist. It’s difficult for me to adapt to a new system or an innovation of a tried and true system once I have become accustomed to the traditional. I don’t know if I will ever stray from the Rider-Waite based system of Tarot for readings. In my opinion some things are perfect just as they are and that’s how I feel about Rider-Waite. I feel the same way about traditional/esoteric astrology. While some astrological concepts need to be adjusted per current trends and times, the foundation will never be broken. Rider-Waite is a solid foundation. The African American Tarot is like a low-cost pre-fabricated home built upon this foundation.