The Darkwater Tarot is a beautiful and intriguing deck, and I am excited to be reviewing it here to share with you. The creator, James Douglas is an artist, illustrator and teacher and developed the Darkwater Project over several years. The deck grew out of working with tarot from the perspective of self-trust and exploring the images to further delve into the messages. Douglas introduced myriad signs and symbols into each card
“…to explore the idea of personal and collective memory, using specific archetypal (visual) triggers.”
There is no manual or LWB with this deck. It is up to the reader to explore a path through the images, connecting and discovering as they go. The major arcana and the courts contain a double image (like a playing card or tarock game) which offers the reader a multitude of narratives from which to draw, and negates the need for reversals. The minors are laid out like a Tree of Life ladder with additional circles containing various scenes, again adding as much or as little extra information as the reader needs. I found my rudimentary knowledge of the Tree of Life helpful, but I do not believe anything is lost by not having an understanding of it.
The deck appears challenging, so the best way to thoroughly discover its delights was to draw some cards for myself and go exploring!
The Fool/The Traveller – The Chariot/Concealed – Six of Cups
As The Fool/Traveller I’ve been sitting, maybe dreaming of embarking on something. I may have done some homework and preparation for this (books, tickets) and it’s time to move. My inner dialogue offers me both caution and encouragement (dog). I could stay ensconced whether physically or metaphorically – the tree in the centre shows deep roots but I’m choosing to go.
The Chariot reiterates this movement. I’m in the driving seat and in command of the vehicle. The symbols for Water and the sign of Cancer show me that this adventure could be an emotional one. ‘Concealed’ asks me to look at something I keep to myself – the faces in the wing mirrors beckon some deep discovery. But do I have to look backwards or to the past to find it? The waxing moon helps me feel ready and open. Thoughts around the moon and Cancer make me think of my family. I’m focused on the way ahead. My knowledge of the Tree of Life tells of Tiphereth here in this Six – beauty, compassion, harmony. This is a journey associated with happy times and things that make me feel good. Each cup contains more detail than the last. The cups are full – a wellspring. The corner image of an older hand giving a bloom to a younger hand is offering the chance to see a RWS aspect to this card, which is nostalgia. I know that astrologically (in the system I use) this card is Sun in Scorpio, so a spotlight into the past perhaps.
Overall, I feel the cards are showing a gentle but harmonious trip into some memories. Nothing uncomfortable, even though my Fool wondered, in his prior stillness, whether it would be, and Concealed alerted me to be ready to face something. In fact, my alighting in the Six of Cups simply made me appreciative of past times, and gave me something to smile about. (NB of course, had I drawn more cards, the journey may have taken another turn, but this was just for a sample.)
Here are The Fool and The Chariot turned around for closer inspection.
I really enjoy the story-telling aspect to these cards and find it rather like a personal question and answer session.
At this point, I had a most informative and insightful chat with James Douglas himself, which reiterated the love of a narrative linking of the cards. This is some of what he had to say about The Fool/Traveller – As part of my internal monologue regarding this aspect of the traditional 0 card, I ask myself: has the Traveller returned from a journey, or are they considering and planning a new venture. Calm reigns supreme, the dog is passive and waiting – and the Traveller inhales = learnt knowledge, summoning up the breath of life to increase oxygen intake to feed their project. Package tours can be quite dull, but at least there are safe.
The Fool, on the other hand has all the trappings of a Traveller, without the oversight – they jump recklessly out of the card. A foolish or frivolous nature with a certain amount of instability, but very exciting. The Fool exhales = innate (innocent/untamed) knowledge.
As a therapist who uses the tarot in a lot in my work, I feel this deck will be an important addition to my collection, particularly with face-to-face clients. Already I have experienced seekers finding even the smallest detail standing out in significance.
Here are a couple more examples showing the dual personalities of a court card, and the ladder design of a pip card.
The Ten of Wands and the King of Pentacles
The Ten of Wands shows both the ability to hold a bundle of Wands (top left corner) or the difficulty and burden this could become (bottom right corner). We also see the levels and themes of the Tree of Life. The King is shown as a smooth and accomplished businessman, either surrounding himself with the trappings of success, or wearing them outside in his bountiful fields. Some or all of these archetypes find connections and triggers for the reader. I’ve never worked with a deck quite like it.
The cards measure 12cm x 7cm on good quality cardstock. Beautifully smooth and easy to shuffle. They come in a tuck box with a simple, contemporary design (see top photo). The card back shows a checkerboard and Flower of Life design with industrious bees in each corner.