When I was contacted by the kind folks at Liminal 11 to see if I was interested in reviewing their new deck, The Luna Sol Tarot by Mike Medaglia, I took a look at their other publications and a few sample images of the deck and happily accepted the offer.
Now look, I don’t do many reviews, though I’ve there’s been an increase in publishers reaching out to me to share their latest publications with my readers. I don’t say yes often because if I’m going to spend time writing a review and sharing a publication with my rad community I want it to be something that feels purposeful and enriching. The Luna Sol Tarot got one of my rare review “yeses” and I’m genuinely excited to share with this charming deck with some real depth.
But first a purposeful detour…
Asali Earthwork has already written a review for this deck and said so much of what I wanted to write about. So please read her words and get lost in the honey of her work as well as her gorgeous ongoing list of tarot that celebrates and includes QTPOC in its images. Something that Asali addresses and one of the things I wanted to write about, too, in this post was about how we do inclusivity around race, color, and ethnicity in indie tarot and oracle decks. The Strength card, the suit of Pentacles but often the Nine of Pentacles at minimum, and, of course, the Empress are increasingly becoming the standard place for folks of color and especially Black folk. Go ahead, rummage through some of your decks and you’ll start to notice a discomforting pattern.
On examining this trend, Asali asks a powerful question: “Who gets to be soft and reflective and who has to be strong and resilient?” This isn’t just a question for tarot but one for life and definitely one to be asking in our social justice movements.
So why is this trend of enforced strength fo folks of color and especially Black folks so persistent not just in tarot but in other inclusive art? Here are some (but certainly not all) of the reasons that I think tarot and oracle creators trying to be inclusive fall into the trap of painful stereotypes and restrictions. None of what I’ve listed are excuses for lack of inclusivity or not well considered attempts at inclusive imagery - but a way for us to excavate beliefs that are no longer useful and cultivate new ones that are truly inclusive.
Traditional Court Card Correspondences: There is a tradition of tarot cards, especially the court cards, having physical characteristic correspondences. The Pentacles, for example, were supposed to correspond to folks with black and dark brown hair as well as dark eyes. And then there is the idea that different court cards correspond to, if not to the different races of the world, then at least the amount of melanin someone possessed. The suit of Swords, for example, corresponded to the fairest skinned (i.e. the suit of intelligence and quick thinking going to the whitest folks) and the Pentacles to folks with the darkest skin. I mean… sigh, right? This is not a useful system and quickly degrades revealing racist roots.
Earthy Origin Story: I remember hearing one person defend having Black folks and folks of color in the Pentacles suit or as the Empress because it was a nod to our origins as a humxn species from Africa. But that too often slides into “noble primitive” thinking and this constant, problematic association of folks of color and especially Black folk with earthiness. Please pause and rethink this dynamic, whether it’s something you’ve imposed or internalized or a bit of both.
Trying to Celebrate Strength + Fierceness: There’s a terrible twist that happens when folks begin to unpack oppressive and prejudiced behavior - what was once avoided and denigrated can suddenly become worshiped and overly idolized. Both perspectives lack letting someone be humxn and flawed and needy and tender. In the US, Black women have increasingly become the fill-in image for strength and resilience whether in our politics or in our tarot decks. And while celebrating strength is one thing, it can create a damaging, isolating, and unreasonable expectation on the same people we’re trying to uphold. The point of social justice is not to move our opinions of “the other” from that of the lowest to the highest, but to meet everyone in the beautiful and messy middle.
Basically, I would encourage all of us to think more critically and, more importantly, more creatively about inclusive imagery. So, how does The Luna Sol Tarot hold up to all this examining? Pretty darn well.
When I saw the sample card for Temperance and the Star I knew that this deck had at least moved beyond Diversity in Tarot Decks 101. Folks of color show up throughout all four suits of the deck and in a broad range of emotional experiences. I actually said “thank the Goddess” when I saw an image of Temperance. It’s rare to get a masculine-presenting Black person for this card. And, damn, do we need more imagery like this. Also, since the Star is one of my favorite cards in the deck I was thrilled to find a hairy, curvy, South Asian person represented.
Can I take a moment to put out my personal request to the tarot and oracle card universe? More Asian and South Asian representation. The Luna Sol Tarot has both.
The Luna Sol Tarot has a welcoming and trendy color palette but still uses color purposefully and is full of inviting imagery that would be easy enough for most beginners to connect with, with some real lovely innovations for experienced tarot readers to enjoy. The Major Arcana in this deck is familiar to most PCS / RWS readers with some great innovative twists. I love the inclusion of animals in each Major Arcana card that reveal an extra layer of meaning that’s incredibly useful for old and new readers. The Hierophant gave me chills and the Lovers… Well, the description in the accompanying little white book is a gift.
And speaking of the LWB - it’s great! I commend folks who are able to pull off a useful LWB - it’s a hard task and Mike Medaglia’s experience with writing short insights and descriptions from his comic writing is a definite boon.
The Minor Arcana is detailed without becoming distracting and the innovations found in the Major Arcana continue through the four suits. The Ten of Swords shines, the Four of Disks is such a clever and useful way of understanding the energy of that tricky card, and the Ten of Cup is adorable. The Court Cards don’t deviate from the classic titles, but many of the court feel queer and nonconforming to me and the art feels fresh and inviting.
I really like this deck. It’s one I’ll be reading with it in my own personal practice and that I’m happy to recommend to folks who are looking for an inclusive deck that both honors and innovates on tarot tradition. I like that The Luna Sol Tarot is gentle without being stripped of power and that it speaks to the Medaglia’s commitment to balance without getting lost in the arbitrariness of binaries. Because balance is less an act of trying to find equality through opposites and more about expanding access to experience - where we’re not asked because of the color of our skin, our country of origin, our disabilities, class, queerness, gender and so on to exist more on one emotional frequency more than any other. This deck feels like an act of service and love to the reader. Also, Asali pointed out something I hadn’t considered before reading her review - The Luna Sol Tarot is positioned in a more accessible price point than many other inclusive decks - heck yeah!
And, please, please check out the other publications happening at Liminal 11 - there seems to be a lot of tarot-inspired content including a beautiful webcomic exploring the Major Arcana. Along with The Luna Sola Tarot and calendar, they kind folks at Liminal 11 sent me Women + Pattern + Plants by Sarina Mantle. I’ve never wanted to use one of these adult coloring books before until this gem arrived on my doorstep. Oh, and the Modern Witch Tarot looks like an utter delight (hot tip: be sure to look at the 10 of Swords).
Would you like to see more reviews on this blog or general recommendations for things tarot and magickal? Let me know in the comments. Also, be sure to share your favorite inclusive decks in the comments, too, letting us know why you love them.