The Dark Exact, otherwise known as Coleman Stevenson, is a one-person divination powerhouse from Portland, Oregon. Her work spans original tarot decks, ritual kits, and divination guides; all with a striking black and white minimalist aesthetic.
Her latest work is a compelling evolution – The Personal Oracle. Breaking from the traditions of tarot, this deck is near-blank slate for users to investigate and develop. Presented are 39 cards, each with an image and title; the symbols are varied, ranging from "The Boot" to "The Sun", with a fine selection in between. The symbols are untraditional but non-arbitrary, selected with unspoken intention – they are open potential. Unlike the tradition tarot with its fixed symbolism and centuries of interpretation, this deck is meant to be interpreted anew by each owner. The accompanying book is mostly blank, so that each owner can fill in their own guide as they use the deck.
It's a very clever idea, and one with a lot of merit. I've always loved the traditional tarot, but have often struggled with the internal symbolism at work. This deck makes no bones about being a pre-picked selection of symbols – each having a meaning for the original author – but are generic and non-judgemental enough for any owner to take them in their own directions.
The thing I admire most about the deck is that it acknowledges that "fortune telling" is not about magically telling the future, but about a process of investigating one's own intuition through symbols – and in this case, the deck abandons the traditional tarot for a tabla rosa, allowing for that investigation to happen without historical baggage.
I'm excited to explore this deck, and begin to develop my own symbolism.
Some initial thoughts:
- the artwork is clean and crisp. Beautiful stuff
- the deck is small – smaller than tarot or poker decks – but I find that a nice portable size
- the deck is pretty lightweight – for an object that is meant to grow with the owner, the cardstock is thin
- This requires a lot of work from the owner, as you need to create meaning and interpretation from scratch. But that's its strength too
- I've been struggling with there being 39 cards. I feel like that number should have meaning, but haven't gleaned it yet. WHY 39
- I really, really want to make a game out of this deck