Dark Carnival Tarot
Created by Rachel Paul
I first learned about the Dark Carnival Tarot at the 2013 Readers’ Studio when I won a print of the Strength card from this deck. When I looked at the image I was blown away by the art. It has a graffiti style with a very gritty, urban, edgy feel to it. The cards drew me into a surreal landscape that is both familiar and frightening.
In the companion book, Rachel introduces the reader to the Dark Carnival/Juggalo worldview with its bizarre face paint, supportive community and sometimes gratuitously violent imagery. I had never heard of this movement before and found it interesting. I may never enter Juggalo-world myself but, other than the music, it’s not all that different from the one in which I grew up. Perhaps that’s why this deck appeals to me so much. Despite its otherworldly, sometimes creepy imagery, I have a feeling this deck will kick me in the teeth when necessary to force me to face facts and not sugar coat my bullshit.
The suits in this deck are Gats, Faygos (you have no idea how excited I was to realize I know what Faygos are – they make a diet chocolate soda I love), Axes and Duckets rather than Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. Each suit is inspired by a Juggalo musical artist: Gats – Violent J; Faygos – Shaggy 2 Dope; Axes – Twiztid and Duckets – Blaze.
The Court Cards are either real or symbolic characters who populate the Dark Carnival/Juggalo world with names like Big Baby Sweets (King of Duckets) and Boondox (Warrior of Faygos). Even as I write this I have no idea who these artists are but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m sure knowing gives the reader additional insights into the meanings of these cards and the energies behind their imagery but I don’t think it’s essential. I know who Insane Clown Posse is and I’ve heard of a few of the other groups but this a lifestyle with which I’m totally unfamiliar. It rather reminds me of a grittier, more urban group of Deadheads but that might be quite a superficial understanding.
The Majors are Juggalo takes on the familiar archetypes. Most maintain their traditional names with some having a more Dark Carnival tag added on. For example The Magician becomes The Juggla, The Emperor is aka The Carnival of Carnage, The Star is aka The Spirit of Detroit. Even amidst the chaotic, violent, vivid imagery there is depth, hope and insight. Although the companion book is written in a manner reminiscent of a gangsta rap song, it has a similar depth of feeling, rawness and emotional honestly. There is something searing and honest in this deck.
Rachel Paul is not trying to sugar-coat anything or pretty up reality. She is tearing back the curtain and saying “this is my world, my reality and welcome to it.” She reminds us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that life can bloom in the middle of a garbage strewn lot. This deck proudly proclaims “the world is full of chaos and craziness but if you can find the truth at its core you will also find depth, meaning and beauty.” This deck reminds us that there are various worldviews and lifestyles out there. Each is just as valid and legitimate as another. The Dark Carnival Tarot offers a glimpse into one of them.
I’ve used this deck for my daily draw for the past few days and must say I find it easy to read. Although the companion book offers additional insights and background information, I think anyone familiar with Tarot could use this deck right out of the bag. The art might not be to everyone’s tastes but if you are open to its energies I think this deck will prove quite useful for shadow work or pushing you beyond your usual preconceived notions. So take a chance and step in the tent of the Dark Carnival Tarot. Who knows what wonders might be revealed to you?