The Darkwater Tarot by James Douglas

reviewed by Katalin Patnaik

Katalin offers us a review of The Darkwater Tarot after using it over a period of time, demonstrating the process for getting to know a deck. For more of a “first impressions” review of the same deck, you can also check out Margo Benson’s review here.

At last year’s TABI conference we were really lucky to have James Douglas with us. He held a workshop on Friday after the dinner we had at the conference venue, and gifted us with his own deck: The Darkwater Tarot.

To get to know the deck, I have used the Darkwater Tarot exclusively for two weeks for whatever reading requests I got, and wrote a report on how I fared. It was an exciting two weeks, to say the least! Let’s see some of the notes I wrote:

13 September

First go with the Darkwater Tarot. First ever deck that inspired me to shuffle reversals into it. Now I am not sure which side some of the pips are, but it doesn’t really matter. They stand strong in both directions. Loving the versatility. Gives straightforward love readings. The illustration is a little straining for my eyes because of the chess board backgrounds the pips have.”

Darkwater Tarot pips
Darkwater Tarot pips

To explain my note: I never use reversals. I have tried it and didn’t click with it. But this deck was begging to be shuffled that way and so it is now my habit to shuffle-cut-turn-it-over-shuffle-cut. I find it exciting to see what direction the cards will be when I pick them. Some of the pips’ directions are not obvious at first glance, but you can tell on most of the cards whether they are upright or reversed.

I need to admit that at the beginning it was a bit straining to look at the illustrations, not only because of the chess board backgrounds, but because of the extreme lack of colour. It is so black and white, it was hard to see what I should focus on and what is not so important; what is in front and what is in the background. But then after a few readings…

14 September

Strain to the eyes reduced significantly after looking at the cards ‘properly.’ It’s a bit like those magic images you have to look at in a special way to reveal a hidden picture. The cards are very talkative once you get used to them. Crisp readings, loving their style! No nonsense, to the point. Black and white.”

Darkwater Tarot
Darkwater Tarot

Yes, it took a few readings to discover how to look at the cards. You need to let go of your expectations and some of your previous knowledge of tarot to let your intuition and the emotions the pictures evoke take over the lead. But once I got used to them things started to go from average to extraordinary! Like some of my readings on the 19th:

19 September

Some eerily accurate spiritual readings done. Still shivering. Shocked and grateful querents all day. Maybe it isn’t a chess but an Ouija board? Love the ease of connection to the Other Side.”

The Darkwater seems to work best with questions of an introspective/spiritual nature – life purpose, spirit communication, next steps to take, etc. I don’t work as a medium because I don’t trust my ego to stay out of the question, and that is why I use the tarot to communicate with spirits… and boy was the Darkwater more than satisfactory! I had querents crying with relief, having an eureka moment, or admitting to themselves (and me) that they knew what I told them all along but denied it… It may be down to the deck’s lack of colours – it reminds me of what is beyond the veil. The whole deck is like a vision of another world, no wonder it worked so well with the Other Side.

Darkwater Tarot reversible Major Arcana
Darkwater Tarot reversible Major Arcana

On the flip side, mundane everyday life questions take a bit more time to figure out. For me at least, the deck doesn’t lend itself to timing and money related questions. It worked really well with love, though, and isn’t that the most frequent topic we tarot readers are asked about?

I also grew to like that there is no manual to the deck. Sure, sometimes it takes some thinking to find out what the pictures tell us. But once you catch the way of how to look at the cards, you will let go of your mind’s barriers and the meanings will just flow in! I like it that it lets us rely on our intuition rather than using set keywords as crutches!

As for technical details: it has a lovely thick-ish cardstock: not too thick, not too thin, with a shiny finish. It is right now self-published, but James is looking for publishers – or so I’ve heard! *winking at publishers*

Darkwater Tarot deck size
Darkwater Tarot deck size

In summary, I found the Darkwater Tarot to be a deck that, for me, works best for love and spirituality. The monochrome images mean we see things the way they are in their cores, without any extra symbolism that colours could confuse us with. This is a good deck for situations where our egos might distort the message. There is no arguing with black and white. There’s no grey area. It is what it is.

I am honoured to have received a copy of it and will treasure it forever. Thank you, James!

Visit James Douglas and The Darkwater Tarot online at


Chloe · January 30, 2020 at 5:33 am

I like the reversed images, really cool and gothic looking deck. and good on him for self publishing.

    James · February 2, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Many thanks Chloe.
    It wasn’t my intention to create a Gothic (looking) deck. As soon as a deck is published, the work takes on a new life – and it becomes whatever others want in to be.

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