- 168 pages.
- Black and white printing (The Dark Exact Tarot is just black and white, so color would make no sense in this case).
- Self published.
I have been an avid user of the Dark Exact Tarot, and I have been along for the journey ever since the first edition, so safe to say, I have been waiting for this guide book for a while now! That means I have had plenty of experience of using the deck without a full dedicated guide, although it does come with a pretty standard LWB (little white book).
Right off the bat I want to say that having access to this guide book really changes how you work with the Dark Exact deck. It really opens it up, and adds a great deal of depth to it. And this is a much, much, much deeper deck than I had originally thought. It is like a dark portal that transports you and your mind and to a secret place that reversals some of the mysteries hidden inside the Major and Minor Arcana of Colman’s wonderful take on the Tarot.
First of all, this book has a very nice Preface, which describes some interesting facts about designing the Dark Exact Tarot itself. I do wish it would go into even more details about the creation and the choices made, but I know there is some more information about this online and if we’re lucky, more interviews will show up in the future were Coleman talks about this. Anyway, I’m glad the preface got into this nonetheless, and it is always an important aspect to address, as it will help you understand the deck better.
The second section is called Reading The Tarot: Major and Minor Threads. It deals with ways to read tarot and the “proper” practices and the basic procedures. All good stuff. It takes a modernistic approach which I really love. It talks about letting other people touch your cards (often a big no-no) and that makes me happy. I don’t go about showing my cards to just about everybody, but if someone shows interest, I will let them touch the cards with their own hands, and I get excited it when friends and family wants to hold the cards as I talk about them. In a way, it feels very much the same as when a good friend or family member plays one of your precious instruments. You get a new perspective. You get to see (or hear) the “tool” under a different light and that might grant you valuable insight. But I digress. This chapter has a wealth of wisdom and advice for both new and old tarot readers.
Next up is the Major Arcana. The Fools Journey. This has the information of the cards themselves and their divinatory meanings. You get two pages for each card. The first page has a picture of the card itself (a little smaller in size than the physical cards) and it features stone correspondences. Now, that is not something that’s useful for me right now, but my practice both in terms of divination and magick/witchcraft is ever evolving, so I appreciate it being included. Also, a few of the pages has extra explanations of what the name of the some of the specific symbols featured on the cards are. The second page is the description of the card, which includes keywords, interpretations and reversed meanings. At first I had one gripe about this presentation… as it has a lot of wasted space, and I thought it could have been utilised a little better. However, I rapidly changed my mind as I continued reading the book and suddenly realised that this extra room was perfect for adding your own notes! A blessing in disguise. This is probably not what Coleman intended, but I actually find it to be a good thing. For me, this is very much a workbook, and the art of reading Tarot is always a work in progress, so adding your own touch and insights will make your own personal journey more meaningful and unique. And Coleman, if you are reading this, how about you make a Dark Exact add-on sticker pack to this guide? They could include additional alchemical and esoteric symbols related to the cards, general updates and even some extra few sentences per card. I would love to modify and decorate my book in this way. Just a thought.
Following this is of course the Minor Arcana. This presentation does take a slightly different approach. You get one page with a picture of the Ace, and the opposite page has a few lines about the appropriate suit with it’s alchemical elemental symbol, and beneath that are the meanings for upright and reversed positions. Then after that, it deals with three pip cards at a time, with one page presenting three cards in a row and another page with the three card descriptions. The court cards gets the same treatment, but with 4 cards instead of three. I would have liked a little more information for each card, especially because reading “pips” with no scenes or people can sometimes a little tricky for me. But what we get here is good, and it goes above and beyond the LWB. Again, there is plenty of blank space to add some notes of your own, so it is not a big deal, you just have to do some of the extra work yourself, but you should do that anyway!
Later on we get some sample spreads, both the classic ones and some new and exciting variations. Six in total. The original “Dark Exact” spreads are really interesting and it is always nice to see some different and unusual spreads to get inspired. And that is not all, because after the spreads we get treated with three sample readings. This was a very neat surprise and they are very thorough and I think they will be particularly useful to novice cartomancers, although the more experienced readers should find these fascinating as well.
At the very end there is an index, a References and Recommended Reading list and Acknowledgements. I cannot praise the author enough for including an actual index! Now, this is a small book, so the index is not that long, but it is still hugely useful to have, and I know later printings will expand on this. Also, a recommended reading and reference is a must and these last sections of the guidebook is what really brings it up to a serious and professional level. Being a bibliophile who buys way too many books on esoteric subjects, I am m all too aware of the fact that many authors of niche publications skip over this part, rendering their release rather useless in an academic sense. In no way am I an academic, but I consider myself a student (and sometimes even a teacher) so I like to know the sources of where the information came from. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Occult and esoteric writers, take notes.
I learned something new about reading Tarot in general, not just relating to The Dark Exact deck. My feelings are that this book was written from a Tarot reader’s perspective and from someone’s personal experience over a long period of time, and that the deck was primarily made to be practical and highly functional as opposed to just a design project from the artist. This is real Tarot, real Magick, real Witchcraft, and definitely NOT style over substance. My experience up until this point, having worked with the Dark Exact deck for way over a year, is that this peculiar deck is MUCH deeper than I initially though. Straight out of the box, it always lived up to its name; Exact. It has been very exact and has cut right to the chase, but it sometimes left me feeling that it couldn’t quite reach the depths of some of the other decks I regularly use. However, after having read this guide, I can see that impression was wrong, and I have now gained a brand new appreciation of Coleman’s wonderful Tarot. This even has the potential to become a modern classic in my humble opinion. With a guidebook as good as this, I can’t see why not!