Color and tarot go hand in hand. Part of how a reader might choose to interpret a card in largely depends upon the colors used in the card. As in color magic, reds could help a reader access elements of power, confidence and passion, orange could help them pull on fun and creativity, and so on. Some decks even rely on color to carry meaning. I don’t even know how I would begin reading the Thoth deck, for instance, if it didn’t have any color.
Color to me is one of the defining reasons why I would be drawn to or even choose one deck over another. So imagine my total surprise when I found myself enchanted by a black and white deck.
The Shadow Light Tarot (and its smaller iteration, the Wander Light Tarot) form the first occult bodies of work from creator Eric Tecce, who is currently in the process of illustrating a 120 card astrology-based oracle named Astro Light. In addition, Tecce also has plans to develop additional projects focused on mythology, dreams, crystals, and plants. If he can bring all this to pass, he surely will be a tour de force in 21st-century occultism.
Tecce first began designing the cards that would eventually become the Shadow Light Tarot back in 2016. He completed his deck in 2018 and got his first prototypes of the deck in their tuck box in June of that year and began selling them on his own website. There were limitations with what he was able to do with the prototype that did not match the presentation he had envisioned for this deck, so he launched a Kickstarter fundraising project for the deck in September 2018. The deck’s artistry, uniqueness, and depth practically sold itself, and the project was completely funded within 6 days. In fact, the funding goal was more than doubled by the time the Kickstarter window closed, which allowed Tecce to add in additional cards, develop a lovely booklet, upgrade the box to include magnetic closure, silver gilt the card edges, AND develop a whole secondary deck, Wander Light. His end product is absolutely stunning.
The card stock Tecce chose is absolutely delicious. He notes that it is a 330 GSM card stock, which I am going to attempt to remember for future deck purchases because I am finding it to perfectly hit that sweet spot between rigid and pliable. The cards are sturdy and obviously durable, but they shuffle with ease. And the edging! I love an edged deck and have taken it upon myself to edge a few of my own, but I’ve always shied away from metallics. This silver gilt edge that Tecce chose is absolutely brilliant. I am positive the deck would have looked wonderful with black edges, but the silver elevates the whole deck. It makes the deck a little sexy, a little sinful and a whole lot of lux. I was very pleased by the quality of the gilding, too, since I’d initially thought that my hands would look like I’d pet a unicorn after I got done handling them. While they were a little sparkly, it was no big deal. I’m sure the gilding will continue to wear nicely as time goes by.
Normally, I don’t seem to register the backs of cards unless they are exceptionally ugly (Rider plaid is the worst). But the Shadow Light backs make me sit up and take notice. They have a dainty occult border of runes, astrological symbols, and tarot suit symbols running along the edges (and they’re reversible, so fear not ye who cannot abide a non-reversible back), which gives it a bit of a Gothic, edgy vibe. The main feature of the back isn’t an overtly occult symbol, though. Instead, it is an eclipsed sun with rays emanating from it. The motif put me in mind of how some people think of the Source: as a point from which all flows from and returns to. It is a motif that I find oddly comforting to have an iteration of on the back of a divination tool, and I really enjoy it.
But of course, the best part of Tecce’s Shadow Light Tarot is his artwork. His drawings are very intricate, his balance of blacks and whites on each card practically perfect, and his compositions are solid. Better yet, each card is absolutely full of detail. I grew up with Where’s Waldo? books as a solid part of my childhood experience, so I love cards that cram detail into their images. Tecce certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard. I’ve been working with this deck all summer, and every time I look at a card, I see something I’ve not seen before. I think that part of the effect is, in fact, all the detail and the other part of it is the black and white style. If there was a draw back to this deck, it might be that the black and white can make it difficult to notice some of those details. I can see that if I was far-sighted, I might struggle to read with it or even find the cards busy. I, however, find the slight difficulty to work in my favor as noticing ‘new’ details has been a great benefit for bumping up my intuitive reading skills.
I think that Tecce’s impeccable attention to detail extended to his decision to make all his cards panoramic, which is the runaway strength of this deck and why I think it was worth adding to my collection.
Now, Tecce is not the first artist to attempt a panoramic tarot. James R. Eads may have secured that honor with his limited run of Light Visions Tarot in 2013 and its more popular 2014 follow up, Prisma Visions Tarot. But for my money, Tecce did it better. Eads’s first deck is bordered, so his panorama is visually interrupted. In his second deck, only the minors are borderless and panoramic, which makes Prisma Visions feel too much like two separate decks to me. Tecce, on the other hand, has not only delivered seven different borderless panoramas. These panoramas include the majors, the four minors, and two small bonus card sets: cards representing the elements and the World Tree and some ‘archetype’ cards. I have mostly just appreciated the two bonus panoramas as art pieces, but I have experimented with using the archetype set as significator cards, and that’s been rather interesting.
But even more exciting than having a couple extra sets of cards is the fact that each of Tecce’s panoramas is also a 360° panorama. In other words, the Fool not only joins with the Magician and the Ace with the Two, the Fool also joins with the World and the Ace with the King. You could set them all up inside a cylinder if you wanted to, set the thing to spinning, and the image would never end.
For the panoramas alone, Shadow Light has become one of my all time favorite decks with which to do pathworking and study. You really could spend hours going over all the cards, noticing all the detail and weaving it into a narrative as you travel between the cards. The panoramic quality has not been terribly useful for most readings, but I have had a few that I’ve done where contiguous cards have popped up in the reading (say, a 9 and 10 of Swords in different spots of the spread), and I have taken the time to put the cards together and take some special time to consider how the spread positions may have a unique connection.
The only thing I’ve found a little disappointing with the Shadow Light Tarot has been its little white (or black) book. It is a gorgeously designed booklet, and given Tecce’s talent for design and his high standards, I would expect no less. I would, however, have liked more in the way of actual content. It has a nice page with the five primary panoramas, but the images are so tiny in this format, I really didn’t get much out of it. The only card descriptions are keywords, and while I thought the keywords were nicely insightful, I would have liked to have seen a bit more in the way of interpretative tools. Most of the booklet is a list of the Kickstarter backers, which is nice way to show appreciation for them, but it is also several pages that I’ll never reference.
As an extension of his Kickstarter campaign, Tecce also developed a miniature companion to Shadow Light: the Wander Light Tarot. I’m not really a huge fan of miniature decks as my hands are large enough to shuffle a standard tarot deck without much problem, and my penchant for highly detailed decks means that if I did get my favorite decks in miniature, I would be struggling to make items out.
But Wander Light is a whole different sort of miniaturization.
Instead of simply shrinking down his Shadow Light images, Tecce took the central figures of each one and removed them from their scenes. What is left is a beautifully minimal deck that is both modern and traditional: a very hard triple play to hit. I didn’t think I would care to read with the deck as I do love those detailed cards that give me lots of fodder for intuition to get me to click into some psychic moments, but I am reading with them way more than I thought I would. They’re great for helping me to actually learn and use keyword triggers, numerology, and other structural parts of the tarot that I can more or less ignore when I slide into that intuitive space. Weirdly enough, using this little deck is actually making me learn the tarot better.
Wander Light also contains more cards than the standard 78 of the tarot. Like Shadow Light, it contains elemental cards and one for the tree of life. It also contains cards for the sun, moon, all the planets, and Pluto (you’re still a planet to me!). I’ve removed these from the deck, and I’ve been using them as a sort of quick morning draw to tap into the broad “energy” of the day. It’s been working fairly well, but I think I’d rather have a whole bunch of astrology cards to do a sort of visual daily calendar. (I guess I’ll have to get a copy of the Astro Light oracle, then!)
My favorite thing to do with Wander Light, though, has been to mix it in with readings I’m doing with Shadow Light. The cards obviously look great together, so there’s no worries there. One of the things I’ve done was draw a Shadow Light card of the day, then pop three Wander Light cards beneath it to see how that theme could carry through in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Another thing I’ve done is if I have questions on a card in a spread I’ve done with Shadow Light, I’ll pull Wander Light cards and pop them in the corner to see if I can get further clarification. That’s been a visual game changer for me, as I tend to get overwhelmed when I see too many cards scattered before me.
Shadow Light has been a game changer deck for my own practice, and Wander Light has been an unexpected blessing, but I know black and white decks aren’t for everyone, and Shadow Light in particular can be a bit difficult for far sighted people to see. If you’re in that camp, then keep an eye on Tecce’s social media and his Waking Canvas website (or, better yet, become a patron) for updates on a new iteration of the deck: Lucid Light. Tecce has been in the process of colorizing his Shadow Light images, and a great side benefit of that decision has been that the cards look less busy. The color helps your eye differentiate between background and foreground and all the various details, and also uses color to highlight especially important elements. I am trying very hard to not grow my tarot collection, but I have a feeling Lucid Light is destined to be a part of it when it’s released.
Tecce is an independent deck creator and sells his decks almost exclusively on his own website. Shadow Light currently retails for $75 USD, Wander Light retails for $33 USD, and the pair can be bundled together for $99 USD.