REVIEW | Tarot cards for the people: Shrine of the Black Medusa Tarot

The Shrine of the Black Medusa Tarot is a stunning tarot deck created by Casey Rocheteau.

I spotted it back in 2016 while it was fundraising on Indiegogo under the subheading “Tarot Cards for the People”.

I was stunned to see this even being conceived – a deck created with Black queer magic as central to its inception? Where they do that at?

Right. Damn. Here.

Tarot Cards for the People

Let’s start with the title Shrine of the Black Medusa. As a Black girl who came up in love with and entranced with the story of the Gorgon sisters – and more than that always pictured them as Black women, dreadlocks swinging fierce and snakelike – this title was everything. That the deck, and our reading with it, would create space for us to bring ourselves before the Shrine of these incredible Black sisters felt like a lifelong affirmation I’d been waiting for.

In a world where Black women and femmes are always called to the front of the movement when our particular magic is needed and then quickly discarded and left to languish, an art project like this asking the world to make the worship of the Black Divine Feminine a spiritual practice (or at least a part of our spiritual practice) is its own pocket of a radical revolution. And when you come to the Shrine to ask of the Black Divine Feminine, you better come bearing sweet gifts!

“This is a deck made not just for black folks, but for black femme witches; for those of us who put roots down, whose blackness inspires fear, even amongst our peers.

The cards were not so much meant for a full tarot deck but for postcards to be sent as gifts to Casey’s supportive community. And of course, art speaks, and soon it bloomed into a full-on art project and then finally to a deck. If you take a look at the cards, you definitely feel the sense ‘art piece’ rather than traditional tarot illustration, which I deeply appreciate. Every card is its own world created, unbothered with tethers of linear time; instead traveling back and forth, gathering exactly what it needs to give you the wisdom you need.

Of the deck, Casey said: “In one sense, I made the deck for myself. I never had a game plan about who I wanted the deck to reach, I was just making the kind of deck I wanted to see. In another sense, I made it as a celebration of black and queer cultures, and so anybody who wants to come to that party will hopefully connect to and see themselves reflected in it. I’d never seen a deck with collage images before, and have rarely seen a deck that specifically reflects black queer culture that was produced by black folks.”

Getting into the deck

The deck’s art is put together collage style. Many of the cards’ pieces look like they were pulled from 70s to 90s images of Black folks- which makes me excited all over again, because there’s something about that period of time that created a particular vortex of Black influence on society and culture that is still felt today. The colors are bright, bold, and hyper-saturated. It feels messy and dirty and silky and golden all at the same time which again calls to that 70s to 90s era influence. The cards are a good quality, easy to shuffle, and super smooth. A bonus for me is that they are matte, which makes photographing them a pleasure. And no borders! I’m all the way into that being the new trend.

The titles of some of the major arcana cards were unfamiliar, but that was a function of me not having much in the way of experience with the Thoth tarot perspective. A more significant change is the in the courts. The order of the cards is Princess, Prince, Knight, Queen; once again highlighting this deck’s commitment to privileging women’s and femmes’ experiences and perspective. And goddess, you should see the queens in this deck. Stunning.

The deck is remarkably easy to read with. The colors grab your attention and keep you focused on the images, drawing your intuition in as the different pieces of the collage speak their word to you. While the major arcana and courts are fully illustrated, the minor arcana are done pip style but in a way that makes it clear what cards you are dealing with. Something that may throw off some folks is the change in fonts for the card titles- and sometimes their lack of presence! I find that the disparity fits the tone of the deck though, and quite frankly you’re not looking at the titles for too long anyway. The art is so much more intriguing.

Casey Rocheteau has created an incredible art project that inserts a necessary and often elided voice into the tarot. The cards are unapologetically political, queer, femme, and Black. This does not, in my opinion, limit their audience. On the contrary, the centrality of these identities to the deck expand it. It reaffirms the queer Black imaginary as central to both spirituality and culture and all lived experiences – turning the status quo on its head.

You can learn more about her vision and experience creating this incredible deck in my interview with her. And of course, purchase the deck at Casey’s website or right here at the Little Red Tarot shop.

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