The Dark Exact Tarot – new deck interview spread


Getting to know Coleman Stevenson’s Dark Exact Tarot with a TABI six card interview spread.

I purchased this deck a few months back and I am continually amazed at the sheer magic of it. In The Dark Exact Tarot  Stevenson has replaced the conventional human figures of major and minor arcana with plants, animals, objects, and alchemical and other graphic symbols, in a severely beautiful, monochrome palette.  The deck is inspired by a range of traditional tarots, but for quick reference seems most closely allied to the Rider-Waite system, particularly in the Minor Arcana. This is where one of its many qualities comes into play for this grumpy old cartomancer: I really don’t like the standard Rider-Waite deck nor its many derivatives. Finding a deck that taps into that tradition but has created its own aesthetic world is a great joy.  The Major Arcana can be read in the context of this tradition, but Stevenson has developed her own visual language for these, and the images they contain merit researching individually to discover further nuances.


As I said, it is the sheer magic(k) of this deck that gets me every time I handle it. The cards fairly crackle as they are dealt. Bearing that in mind, I used the entire deck for this spread, and it obliged by dealing only the Major Arcana. In short, this deck needs to be taken seriously. Look out …

1. XII Hanged Man  2. XX Judgement  3. X Wheel of Fortune                                                     4. XXII The Fool (2)  5. XIV Temperance  6. XVI The Tower

1.What is your most important characteristic?

XII Hanged Man: the white silhouette of a single stem rose hangs inverted against a plain black background.

General interpretation: releasing past patterns, new perspectives, achieving peace after a time of difficulties.

Conclusion: this will be a good deck for discussing major turning points in one’s life.

2. What are your main strengths?

XX Judgement:  the white outline of a right hand bisected by palmistry lines is raised against a black background. The palmistry lines swoop around and across the hand to the frame of the card.

General interpretation: redemption, epiphany, understanding your place in the world, a call for major change in your world.

Conclusion: Judgement compliments The Hanged Man in this context, offering ways towards personal enlightenment and routes towards major changes.

3. What are your limitations?

X Wheel of Fortune: an astrological wheel topped with wings and supported by five simple geometric arrows, the whole being reminiscent of Lakhota Black War Bonnet designs.

General interpretation: natural cycle of growth, ending of a problematic time, a unforeseen change or one where the causes are out of one’s control.

Conclusion: while the first two cards suggest the deck can be used for discussing serious life changes, this one suggests that if there is lack of clarity or indecision in the person needing a reading, or a sense that changes are beyond one’s control, another deck should be used for advice. Alternatively, this deck should be used to discuss new beginnings rather than reflecting on the end of a cycle or the end of a time of of crisis.

4. What are you here to teach me?

XXII The Fool (2): a sunflower stem in full bloom against a plain black background.

General interpretation: here is another departure from tradition: the Dark Exact Tarot has two separate Fool cards at the beginning and the end of the Major Arcana Cycle. Here it stands for enlightenment, maintaining a balanced life, applying and sharing knowledge.

Conclusion: this deck has ambitious plans for me it seems.

5. How can I best learn from and collaborate with you?

XIV Temperance:  the white silhouettes of an iris (?) stem and single leaf growing up towards a pentagram.

General interpretation: moderation, self-control, impervious to external annoyances, taking the middle path.

Conclusion: it will take some work, but we’ll get there.

6. What is the potential outcome of our relationship?

XVI The Tower: at once the most conventional yet still mysterious of the major arcana, a tower is struck by lightning on three sides, standing against a background of repeated astronomical symbols for Mercury.

General interpretation: Sudden and unforeseen change, catastrophe?

Conclusion: I guess this could go either way. For good or ill, this deck will certainly help in bringing sharp focus to areas in need of change. However reading the conventional interpretations of The Tower with the accompanying symbols of the archetypal psychopomp Mercury, provided I do the background work, we could get some very interesting results together.