The Dark Grimoire Tarot, published by Lo Scarabeo, is arranged like a traditional Tarot deck. The images are all fully illustrated, and the cards correspond roughly to their Rider-Waite counterparts. The illustrations or given a sepia wash and are very dark in their nature, which leads a reader to interpret the cards in a darker, more pessimistic may than they might have normally. The deck is based on the assumption that authors of horror – and particularly H. P. Lovecraft – have managed to have visions of a forgotten world that intersects with our own, and bases its symbolism around supernatural elements of horror.
In particular, the deck is based on the forbidden teachings of dark grimoires of magic, such as H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional Necronomicon – or is it fictional? The deck is designed to be a grimoire in and of itself, providing forbidden knowledge and insights into a forgotten world of magic. The deck’s illustrations and scarce explanations force the reader to rely more on intuition and individualized interpretation of the images than most other Tarot decks.
The Minor Arcana
The four suits of the Dark Grimoire Tarot are the typical ones, but with slightly altered meanings, referring to different aspects of the conscious self: Wands are Lights, representing Fire, creativity and sexuality, Chalices are Dreams, representing Water, emotions, and feelings, Swords are Demons, representing Air, thoughts, and control, and Pentacles are Shadows, representing Earth, matter, and needs. The numbers from one to ten also each represent a different aspect of each of the four elements, and each act as part of their own grimoire:
Ones: The cover of the book, telling and hinting at what is inside, and indicating the suit in its entirety.
Twos: The book opens, and begins to be read. The energy of the book and the energy of the reader collide, creating an obstacle and contest of wills.
Threes: The reader advances beyond the introduction, and sees the purpose of the grimoire, and he and the book are at peace, and unify. The reading becomes natural.
Fours: The reader begins to understand the grimoire, and he is fulfilled and in a stable frame of mind.
Fives: The reader stands upon a cusp: whether or not he should advance to a higher level of understanding, or remain in his current, comfortable mental state.
Sixes: The reader ponders his dilemma, and thinks of the possible consequences.
Sevens: The reader begins to take physical and mental actions to see if they wish to move forward.
Eights: The reader decides to hold back for his own safety, but experiences stagnation and a lack of completion.
Nines: The reader is driven on then, and experiences the full text, and so is completed but perhaps also conflicted, and may never be the same again.
Tens: The grimoire ends, and a new one must be read. The reader reflects.
The Court Cards
The Court Cards each also reflect the energies of their suits, and are set up in a standard fashion with a King, Queen, Knight, and Knave. However, the cards represent different aspects of the same personality, rather than four distinct ones. The Kings represent having achieved control over one’s shadows, demons, emotions, or creative light. The Queens represent the ones who guard the sources of these four elements, and represents one’s outlook and perception of the four forces of life. The Knights represent impulsive urges to act on the drives given to them by their shadows, demons, emotions, or creativity. The Knaves represent one beginning to understand themselves and how their four centers of consciousness relate to them, and seek to learn more about them.
The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana are typical of a Tarot deck, and reflect meanings almost exactly like those of the Rider-Waite deck, albeit with a warning embedded in each one, as well as giving a darker view of each of the meanings than is normal. The symbolism used is overtly taken from the works of Lovecraft and other dark horror writers, and the use of grimoires and forbidden knowledge is key in the events occurring in the scenes depicted.