Tuesday 21 April 2020

Dark Grimoire Tarot Review

Dark Grimoire Tarot Review

Review by Casey Douglass

Dark Grimoire Tarot

Many years ago, I bought the Dark Grimoire Tarot, a tarot deck that takes as its inspiration a variety of dream worlds, dark grimoires, and the horrific visions that they are reputed to lead to. The star of the show, for me at least, is H.P Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, and it was the Lovecraftian imagery that drew me to this tarot deck more than a decade ago. I’ve finally given it a more serious perusal, and this review is the result. I also gave myself a very amateur tarot reading with the deck, which begins about half way through the review. I hope you’ve got your Great Old Ones slippers on...

Michele Penco is the artist that created this set of tarot cards, and a fine job he did too. When I think of Lovecraft’s eldritch stories, I think I’ve nearly always seen most of them in my mind’s eye, as blandly coloured landscapes, with the people looking grey and unwell as they struggle with existential horror. Penco’s colour palette and eye for detail pretty much nails this aesthetic. The shadows are deep, the colours are muted, and the images carry an otherworldly melancholy that’s certainly intriguing to look at. The back of each card features a stern painting of Lovecraft himself, with an assortment of creatures looking over his shoulder.

Dark Grimoire Tarot

Accompanying the cards is a small booklet that gives a very brief introduction to the deck and the various associations and meanings that the deck contains. It also details a simple Magic Pentagram card layout, in which you draw five cards, each giving a particular insight into an aspect of the issue or question you bring to them. If you have a deeper interest in learning the tarot, you’ll certainly need a heftier tome to gain a decent understanding. I’ve dabbled with the tarot before, many years ago, so I thought I would follow the technique mentioned and see what the deck had to say.

Dark Grimoire Tarot

I like to view tarot as a way to plumb the subconscious depths. I also think that the universe is a very strange place and uncanny things can happen, or events might be linked in ways that we don’t yet realise. I’m happy to sit in this “don’t knowingness” as I consult this deck, and if I enjoy the experience or feel I gained an insight, that’s just a bonus. With this in mind, I decided to ask the deck “Why do I feel so doomed?”

Yes, I like to start with the light-hearted stuff. I’ve been struggling with a variety of things lately and they could all fit quite nicely into the general bracket of “feeling doomed”. Consulting a darkness-themed tarot with such a question also seems quite apt to me, especially as many of Lovecraft’s characters ended up struggling with just such a feeling. I'll paraphrase the parts of the companion booklet’s insights that seem to apply, and I'll flesh out the various meanings of the cards with my own impressions and ponderings of the imagery too. I'll say again, I’m no tarot expert, but I can certainly wing it with prompts to set my mind off in the right direction.

I shuffled the deck while thinking about my question, because... quantum/occult/theatrical reasons. I then drew my five cards. The first is meant to relate to the purpose of the query. The second, to illustrate the past that led to the current state of affairs. The third is said to show how things will progress if I continue on this path. The fourth is meant to warn of possible difficulties to overcome. The final card should deliver a way to overcome said difficulties. Here are the cards I was given:

Dark Grimoire Tarot

1 – The Magician. This card appears to show Abdul Alhazred writing the Necronomicon. That’s a nice, big-hitting card to get things started! I was more drawn to the view through his window than anything though. As I write these notes, I’m sitting about the same distance from my own window, which is an enjoyable synchronicity. When I look at the image, I get the impression of life passing someone by as they sit and turn inwards. This is pretty much my own default state. Are we both approaching the same doom or both trying to escape it by turning inward?

2 – Knave of Pentacles – This is the card that is meant to tell me how I came to this current situation. The Pentacles relate to the physical body, our attachment to it, and the things around it, such as our possessions. The knave means “presage of oncoming transformation”. I also notice the gold disk that the character is holding, with their back turned to the far more interesting view behind them. In this card, I can kind of see my situation, how chronic illness has caused me to live a far more limited life, and to also become fearful and more attached to the few things that give me security.

3 – Ace of Swords – So how will things progress if everything continues unchecked? Swords are the element of Air which relates to our intellectual centre. It relates to our thoughts and how, if allowed to run loose, they can become demons and actually hinder us. The Ace aspect means a beginning or concentration of forces. Well I know how thoughts can be a pain, I’ve struggled with OCD since I was ten years old. I guess this card could be telling me that if I follow my obsessions and fears down that rabbit hole, my mind will end up creating some kind of anxiety-fueled black hole, something that would go very badly for me.

4 – Two of Swords – As far as any difficulties that might need to be overcome, it’s interesting that the next card is also a Sword, which again, is an intellectual/mind-based card. The “Two” means forces facing off against each other. I was really taken with the imagery of this card, the blindfolded musician playing in front of strange creatures. I initially thought that they were trying to attack him but on closer examination, they look enraptured by his music. A big source of my “doomed” feelings are the hang-ups I have about my writing. It’s quite funny to see a card drawn that seems to scream “Do it anyway and ignore your fears!” Maybe I should type while wearing a blindfold?

5 – Inverted Five of Swords – When I read through the small booklet, I couldn’t find any mention of “Inverted” (upside down) cards and their meanings, which is something I’ve previously used with other tarots. When I shuffled the deck, I made no effort to randomly rotate the cards at all, so they should have all come out facing the same direction. This card didn’t, and I just felt it was worth going with my feelings and keeping it inverted. From my very meagre experience with other decks, an inversion tends to carry the opposite meaning to the usual associations. The Five of Swords is another “mind” card, and again, it was the image that struck me the most. It depicts a man running from a mob of creatures. He is calm, as if he has been doing this for so long, that it’s everyday humdrum to him now. With the inversion in mind, I pondered if, instead of running away from his fears, he should turn and run towards them. I guess if nothing else, it would mark a change of pace for him. So for me, again, this card was about approaching fears rather than running away.

So, there we have it, a review of a tasty tarot deck and an amateur attempt at giving myself a reading from it, all in one article. My reading told me what I already know about anxiety, fears and acceptance, but it’s nice to have this endorsed by the dark gods too. If you enjoy the dark imagery that the Dark Grimoire Tarot contains, and you also happen to be a bit partial to Lovecraftian horror, I think it’s a fantastic card-set to own, even if you never intend to give it a run-out for a bit of tarot-reading fun.

Visit the Lo Scarabeo site for more information.

I’m off to run towards my doom now. Only kidding, I never run anywhere...

Item: Dark Grimoire Tarot
Artist: Michelle Penco
Instructions: Giovanni Pelosini
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Released: 2008
Price: Around £18