I like to be as inclusive as possible when doing tarot readings. It’s not always easy when the skin color of the characters on the cards in most decks is paper-white or some shade of pinkish-caucasian.
But I also prefer to read with the 22 major cards of historic Marseille decks, which made it impossible to present my nonwhite clients with art that looked like them. This vexed me for a long time.
And then I found the Black Power Tarot from the German musician King Khan.
Khan paired with Belfast artist Michael Eaton, with Khan providing the vision and Eaton doing the drawings.
The story of the deck is fascinating, and includes one of my tarot heroes, Chilean filmmaker and author of the essential The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards, Alejandro Jodorowsky.
From Khan’s website:
From the visionary mind of King Khan was born the idea to celebrate Black Power using the mystic language of tarot. He chose 26 African American people whom he felt followed a true path of illumination despite being born in a country that was so corrupt and vehemently against them.
Khan had studied the tarot over a decade and was given a deck of the Tarot de Marseille by Alejandro Jodorowsky while he visited him at his home. Jodorowsky’s personal teachings paved the way for Khan to understand the tarot much deeper then ever before.
The mission behind the “Black Power Tarot” was to add a heavy dose of surrealistic mythos to American history by replacing the archetypes of the major arcana with the chosen people, thus giving the world a new deck …
Khan then presented the drawings to Jodorowsky, who was asked to approve of each one. Jodorowsky approved 17 of the 22 cards in the first round. Khan and Eaton made the proper changes to the five remaining cards until they finally recieved Jodo’s blessings and the supreme honour of being two of his spiritual warriors.
The selection of iconic Black personalities in this deck is truly inspired. From Tupac as the Hanged Man, Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau as the Papesse, Tina Turner as Strength/La Force, Richard Pryor (hoisting a crack pipe) as the Fool, to James Brown as the (funky) Lover, the deck is a 22-lesson course in Black cultural history. Punk legend HR from Bad Brains even makes an appearance as Death.
But best of all, it’s a traditional Marseille deck, which means it can go immediately into my repertoire. And the characters on the cards suit the personalities and meanings of the traditional trump cards perfectly. None feel shoehorned, and each brings an added layer of cultural and artistic resonance and depth.
I absolutely love this deck and highly recommend it.
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You can read more about the story of the Black Power Tarot here.
Buy the deck on Etsy or other tarot retailers.
And if you’re interested in learning how to read tarot, please check out my online course, The Art and Magic of Tarot: Foundations. It is truly the most in-depth and comprehensive tarot course available!
Michael M. Hughes is a writer, speaker, and magical thinker. He is the author of Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change as well as numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction, and he speaks and teaches classes on magic, tarot, occultism, and more.
His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN, The L.A. Times, Rolling Stone, Comedy Central, Wired, Elle, Vox, Cosmopolitan, and even the ultraconservative The American Spectator, which wrote: “He may play footsie with the devil, but at least the man has a sense of humor.”