In my post on Tarot Style Families I showed a quick glimpse of my current Tarot crush, Le Tarot Noir. It’s my very favoritest TdM deck, and I’m excited to share with you why I love it!
The deck’s packaging reminds me of an old-school crayon box. The top opens like the cover of a book. Inside is the book it comes with, and underneath that the deck is split in half and banded with plastic.
The box is meh. It’s nice in concept but the top doesn’t latch or tuck or anything. It just sits there. Shrink wrap is the only reason it managed to reach me in one piece. I certainly don’t trust my cards in it for travel. If you plan on taking these cards around with you I recommend getting a bag or box from the get-go.
The cards themselves are amazingly impressive-looking. The whole deck has edges gilded in gold, which is nice, but honestly it feels like a superfluous detail when looking at the card faces. There’s a level of artistry here I haven’t found in others of this style. The images have the limited palette of a Marseilles (thankfully muted) and the artist focused quite a bit on fine line work and draping. Add to that the dark whimsy the artist brought to the deck and I find myself purring whenever I touch it.
The Aces are the loveliest I’ve ever seen in a TdM. The Ace of Cups especially makes me swoon.
The rest of the pips are equally gorgeous. I love the emphasis on curves and the fleur-de-lis detailing.
Overall the deck is simultaneously traditionally elegant and otherworldly. I feel a tingle every time I pick it up.
The book it comes with is beautifully printed but the binding is awful. It split the first time I opened it and pages started falling out almost immediately.
As you might be able to tell from the above pic the book is also written completely in French.
For all of its lovely visuals, the book doesn’t help much with card interpretation even if you do read French. If you’re looking for a “how to read this deck” intro any TdM book on the market will serve well (although I particularly recommend this one). However, if you want to read what this book says I’ve included a how-to at the end for quick-and-dirty translating. You’re welcome! 🙂
Using the Deck
Reading with this deck is a profoundly enjoyable experience. It’s like the cards latch into a different part of my brain and make my intuition work harder.
They’re also big and kind of awkward. They’re more square-shaped than standard decks and can be difficult to manage. If you’re going to read with these you need room to spread out a bit. I have a dedicated 30″ x 30″ cartomancy table, so space isn’t really an issue for me, but those working in tight quarters may want to opt for a smaller deck.
The size of this deck is one of the reasons I don’t travel with it (the other being that I worry about my baby getting damaged). If I feel like reading a Marseilles-styled deck on a travel day I’ll take my Universal Marseilles in its little tuck box with me and leave this beauty safe at home.
Aside from readings I adore this deck for Tarot spellwork. Seriously. ADORE. They feel so much more targeted than RWS decks that spellwork just flows. The only downside is that the deck isn’t usable for divination until any spellwork is completed.
This is not a deck to shuffle. Part of that is due to the shape and size, which makes the whole deck a mite challenging to hold all at once. The gilding also sticks a bit. The most important reason, however, is that I’ve read reports from others that the finish on the back can start cracking if they’re bent too far. Since I would be beyond upset if anything happened to these cards I treat them more like little paintings. No bending! This is the only deck I have that I refuse to bridge shuffle.
I never recommend TdM decks for complete Tarot novices, but if you’re already pretty grounded in Tarot and want to jump into TdM-style decks this is a fine place to start. No reason not to go straight to the Best in Class, right? And this deck is certainly that!
Available here for about $35.
Translating the Book
As I said earlier, the book that comes with Le Tarot Noir is written completely in French. Translating it doesn’t reveal any info that couldn’t be obtained from other books in this style family. However, I didn’t know that when I got it. I wanted to know exactly what it said, and I always enjoy reading the artist’s approach to the cards. So I translated it. Here’s a step-by-step so you can do the same thing if you feel so inclined.
- Take a picture of a page with your phone and transfer it to your main computer.
- Go to this link. According to the blurb on the page (which I edited for punctuation because I had to), “NewOCR.com is a free online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) service. It can analyze the text in any image file that you upload and then convert the text from the image into text that you can easily edit on your computer.” How cool is that?
- Click “Choose File” and select the picture you took. Right below that set the recognition language to “French”.
- Click “Upload + OCR”. If you need to rotate the picture you’ll get a chance after you click. Make sure the text you want to translate is in the box and click “OCR” above the image.
- Once it loads you can scroll down below your original picture to see a box containing all of the text from the image. It’s still in French, but it’s out of the image!
- Above that box you’ll see a link to Google Translate. Click it. Another window will open containing all of that text in English! It’s like magic!
Here’s how the above page came out. I made some punctuation changes I didn’t note, but otherwise this is exactly what Google Translate spit out. My commentary is in [brackets]:
The map of the Judgment is composed according to a vertical diagram [like a hierarchy].
Characters occupy the bottom of the map and an angel with trumpet overhangs the whole. This “top / bottom” representation is typical of medieval society: the whole of life was conceived in this way, according to the Christian tradition, with the Hells below and the opposite, the kingdom of Heaven.
The angel with the trumpet is a herald of the Last Judgment; awaken[ing] the dead and lead[ing] them to their final destination, whether Hell, Purgatory, or Paradise. The flag that adorns the trumpet is linked to the resurrection of Christ.
The naked couple of the arcana prays and surrounds a chest from which seems to go out the third personage [from which the third person seems to emerge]. All three are cleared of their attributes Terrestrial [free of earthly trappings], in the simplest apparatus [no clothing-naked], humble before the Divine power.
The chest can be seen as a coffin. Perhaps they pray that this third man is resurrected, or more likely to be sent to Paradise? The identity of this third man remains rather vague.
[It is] also probable that this couple died and awaited the judgment of the angel for soap [no idea here – they’re awaiting judgment, got it] or it will pass eternity. In this case, the man who leaves the trunk [chest/coffin] may be a trubhon [minion?] of hell, waiting to take them away.
That’s not too shabby! A few weird words, expected considering I doubt Google Translate has to do a lot of esoterica, but otherwise coherent. And way faster than going word-by-word with a dictionary! Better yet, the translated text can be easily copied and pasted into a Word document or the like. Do the whole book this way, make whatever edits you need, and you’ll have a pretty fair translation you can print out and keep with the deck!
I realize that doing this 78 times might seem like a bit much. However, not every card in the deck has accompanying text in the book. All the Majors do, as do each of the Aces. Court cards share the same paragraph by rank (only one for all the Pages, for instance). Nothing at all is said about the other 36 Minor Arcana cards, so there’s nothing to translate there. If you want to be really thorough you could translate the short intro page and the conclusion, but it’s so not necessary.
And there it is! As you can tell from the above there’s not much in the book that you couldn’t figure out for yourself, but if the completionist in you wants it here’s how.