Colour psychology and colour vibration play an immediate yet subtle role on an emotional level in every aspect of our lives, including when we read tarot cards. As soon as I lay the cards I can see and feel from the colour what sort of atmosphere I am looking at. Dark and gloomy, light and bright, a mixture of the two – full of action and fiery or watery, cool and passive.
Colour emits vibration and evokes emotion. We generally see reds as passion, willpower, energy and strength while blues evoke tranquillity, peace and truth; greens evoke growth and abundance, fertility and healing and black can introduce a sense of oppression and darkness. Gold evokes wealth, success, riches and spirituality; purple also evokes spirituality and divination; silver connects us to the moon and femininity, intuition and the spirit realm; white evokes peace and purity; pink evokes romance, compassion, and love. For most of us this colour psychology is embedded within our subconscious and we can immediately access it and sense it when we are reading.
So what happens when you read with a deck that is black and white?
Years ago, when I was an avid kick-boxer, I was in a workshop where I was blindfolded and I had to hit a moving target without the use of my eyesight. If you have ever been blindfolded you realise that the removal of one sense will heighten other senses.
Similarly, when we read with a black and white deck, other cues come to the foreground first rather than the initial evocative hit of colour psychology.
I don’t read positional tarot spreads – with one card in one position, another card in another position and so on – I always read the cards as a merge and interaction within a small narrative or a larger tableau, so for me the initial impact with a black and white deck is spatial.
I look to where there is calm space in the reading and where things are more hectic and what area of the reading these show up in.
I look at movement, where is that movement fast, and where does it slow down, and what direction is the movement in the reading heading.
The directionality and the interaction between cards is highly pronounced, where are the people, are they facing each other, what are they ignoring or turning away from. What links the cards together, symbol repetition and pattern recognition is also heightened, as opposed to pinpointing repeated colour recognition or the flow of colour between cards.
Where are the elements at play in the reading, what areas are ‘wet’; and what areas are ‘dry’? Look to where the passive cards are and where the active cards are?
I have three black and white decks, and they each have their own voice.
The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson is based on the esoteric working of the Secret Order of the Golden Dawn, of which Aleister Crowley, Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith were members. In this deck we see references to kabbalah along with astrological and planetary correspondences. Spirit Keepers Tarot First Edition by Benebell Wen encourages the initial practice of ritual colouring of specific symbols to personally engage and activate the deck. The Bianco Nero by Marco Proietto draws from the classic Visconti and the Rider Waite Smith decks. All three decks read quite differently, based on the unique voice of the artwork within each one.
If you ever needed a reason to have multiple decks, one of them should be to continually stretch and mix up your visual interpretation techniques, to read each deck with it’s own voice, letting the artwork guide your interpretation in conjunction with the analysis of the tarot system itself.