True Black Girl Magic!
While many may shy away from tarot and divination, I embrace the subject. So I was extremely excited to learn of and later review the Black Tarot deck by new author and activist Nyasha Williams. The beautiful deck is illustrated with black and brown shades of people with the accompanying An Ancestral Awakening Guidebook and a guided journal for Black Tarot, Ancestral Illumination.
If you are familiar with tarot, you may know that most of the cards usually display people of European descent. So this diverse deck and its companions are much-needed tools.
Nyasha Williams grew up living intermittently between the United States and South Africa. Her efforts as a creator, author, and activist are to combat the systems of White supremacy, colonization, and the patriarchy, working towards decolonizing, liberating, and indigenizing minds, organizations, and our world. She lives in Colorado with her husband. Learn more about her below.
Fancy: How did you discover spirituality?
Nyasha: Most people’s first exposure to spirituality through religion is through their parents and guardians. Mine was no different. I was raised in the church with my parents making us a part of communities with fierce outreach. College was the period in which I chose to leave the church as worshiping ‘White’ Jesus, blindly reciting liturgy and questions that pastors never seemed to have the answer to didn’t feel like the correct fit. I practice Ancestral Veneration, which I stepped into in my late 20s.
Something that takes time to discover and that one gains with wisdom is that our souls’ experiences down here are our spiritual journey, and there isn’t one spiritual awakening there are many. I look back and see moments of reclaiming and returning to myself: in Paris, getting the ‘big chop,’ restoring the correct pronunciation of my name, walking into self-love, and identifying as Black first.
The more time I spend here on earth, I understand that coming back to our highest selves means returning to the truest you. The you that felt safe, loved, and engaged with the world from your heart. The you that wasn’t dulled or dimmed to meet societal expectations or standards. The you that believed and loved to dream. Our job as adults is to heal back into that self, our whole self, and build a world in which we nurture our true selves from a young age.
Fancy: Which idea came first, the tarot deck or the book?
Nyasha: In my mind, they are a package deal. Divination is centered around seeking guidance as we navigate the world. Divination tools are created to aid in this way. Many people start by having readings done by others and then eventually try to read for themselves. The tools work as a key to hearing the messages being relayed. When beginning, it is commonplace for readers to use the book to understand what is being said. As your intuition and discernment grow, you will rely on the guidebook less and understand what is being said from an inner knowing. Each guidebook carries the voice of the deck in written form.
Fancy: For someone who is unfamiliar with tarot, how would you explain it?
Nyasha: Tarot is a set of cards, one of many divination tools under the category of cartomancy. Tarot cards are used in readings by those looking for divine counsel, whether it be from one’s Ancestors, Deities, or the Universe.
Traditional tarot decks are made up of 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana are the foundation (major happenings), and 56 Minor Cards (temporary or minor happenings) are divided into four suits. There are 156 meanings in the cards if you choose to include reverse meanings. The cards are based on the 78 archetypes. Archetypes are themes, images, and characters that appear in folklore, myths, spirituality/religion, and stories across time throughout the world. The traditional suits in tarot decks are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. Each suit is composed of four court cards: Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings, and 10 number cards. Every one of the suits is linked to one of the elements (air, water, fire, and earth).
In Black Tarot: An Ancestral Awakening Deck, the suits are Wands, Baskets (Cups), Knives (Swords), and Coins (Pentacles). The four court cards of each suit are represented by the family, Sons (Pages), Daughters (Knights), Mothers (Queen), and Fathers (Kings).
Once the cards are cleansed and shuffled with intention, the cards can be read through the layers of symbolism on the cards. When interpreting the message, readers consider the suits, numbers, illustrations, intuition, and the card in conjunction with each other.
Fancy: How did you connect with Kimishka Naidoo?
Nyasha: Kimishka Naidoo and I went to high school together at Pretoria High School for Girls when I lived in South Africa. Our wanderlust and conceptualist souls have kept us connected no matter the distance. When I was looking for an illustrator for the tarot deck to create sample illustrations before pushing it out to publishers through my literary agents, art by Kimishka kept hitting my Instagram feed. I reached out to reconnect and see if she was interested in the project, and the rest is history. Our collaboration has allowed the deck to be created by BIPOC women, and I love that the Motherland’s essence is part of the art with her currently living in South Africa. She is also the illustrator of an Oracle deck my second youngest sister and I wrote that will be coming out in the fall of 2023.
Fancy: Tell us about the companion journal.
Nyasha: The journal, Ancestral Illumination: A Guided Journal for Black Tarot, works to help practitioners with regular practice of readings, taking time for gratitude and shadow work reflections to consider and walk through every month. Journaling is a beautiful way of tracking our needs and cycles while learning who we are. The combination of tarot and journaling helps us notice patterns, build connection with a deck, and self-reflect on our growth.
Fancy: Did you write all of the readings yourself?
Nyasha: I assume you mean did I write the card descriptions and meanings myself. A huge part of my designing this deck was to help me solidify the meanings of the cards in my psyche. I struggled with the Rider–Waite–Smith imagery, and the card meanings could be expanded for me based on my life experiences. Black Tarot: an Ancestral Awakening Deck and Guidebook is my reimagining of tarot cards, inspired by decks that have crossed my path and the truth I heard each card wish to convey to readers. It was also important that the deck centered Black people in the visuals because diversity in divination tools is still lacking even though it was a regular part of BIPOC Ancestral spiritual practices.
Fancy: Will the bundle items be available for individual purchase, like you purchase one item but not the others?
Nyasha: The deck and guidebook are a package deal, and the journal is sold separately.
Fancy: Why is the moon cycle so important?
Nyasha: The moon cycle is important because it affects us as it does all living things. We all know the moon affects tides, and we are seventy percent water. Each phase of the moon carries a different energy, and astrology enlightens us that it governs our emotions, conscious and subconscious. Being conscious of the moon’s cycles and how they impact you as an individual, and us on communal and us on a global scale – history and major events in the world can be better understood. I highly suggest moon mapping and transitioning your calendar (and new year) in alignment with the seasons as a foundation in whole-person living.
The Woman Behind It All
Fancy: How would you describe your swagher?
Nyasha: 10-year-old me would be excited and satisfied that I am a qualified chef, a teacher, and an author.
13-year-old me would be amazed that I found my birth family and am building relationships with my maternal side.
16-year-old me would be joyful in my self-love, knowing my worth, and walking back into my power.
18-year-old me would be proud of my new boundaries in relationships and around my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
22-year-old me would be pleased with my shedding of societal timelines and allowing my walk to be my own.
25-year-old me would be astonished at my growth in coming into my identity as a Black woman and connecting with my Ancestors through Ancestral Veneration.
27-year-old me would be appreciative of my healthy communication skills and healing from past relationships that were harming my current one.
31-year-old me is content with the internal peace I have found and the lightworking I do in the world, decolonizing, indigenizing, and liberating.
Fancy: What makes Nyasha, Nyasha?
Nyasha: I turned to my best friend for a discussion around this question. She voiced that I am always unapologetically myself in any space and live for being in the real. When it comes to being and interacting with others in the world, I center my interactions around this quote: “I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depth and a great fear of shallow living.” by Anais Nin. I am a go-getter and bring to life anything I set my mind to. I work to have a strong work-life balance in regard to rest, leisure, and work, in honor of my Ancestors who did not have this luxury. I believe that there is enough for everyone and we have been fed lies to compete for a piece of the pie. I believe in building the world that our Ancestors and future children deserve.
Stay connected with Nyasha below:
Quick Links: https://linktr.ee/NyashaWilliams