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Meet the Author: Nyasha Williams of Black Tarot, Interviewed by Jordannah Elizabeth of Astrology for Black Girls

Image of the Strength card from Black Tarot

RP Mystic’s offering of tarot decks and journals welcomes two empowering new additions: Black Tarot: An Ancestral Awakening Deck and Guidebook and the accompanying Ancestral Illumination guided journal by Nyasha Williams, illustrated by Kimishka Naidoo, both on sale December 6th, and available for pre-order now. Back in September, RP Mystic hosted Nyasha as she interviewed Jordannah Elizabeth, author of Astrology for Black Girls. Today, we share Part Two of this series, with Jordannah interviewing Nyasha.

Black Tarot reinterprets the classic 78-card deck with stunningly illustrated Black figures and imagery to awaken ancestral ties and enhance your connection to the divine. Companion journal Ancestral Illumination is filled with prompts, questions, advice, and plenty of writing space to help you chart your tarot journey – plus four full-color sticker sheets. Read on to learn more about the creation of these tools, and their unique place in the African Diaspora!

Bonus for Denver area residents and visitors: Join Nyasha for her deck launch at Tattered Cover Book Store – Westminster as she presents Black Tarot and Ancestral Illumination! Happening December 6th at 6pm MT.

And Boulder area residents and visitors have a chance to join Nyasha at Boulder Bookstore on December 8th at 6:30pm MT! Tickets are $5 and available through Eventbrite.

Jordannah Elizabeth: When did you begin to read tarot cards?

Nyasha Williams: My first exposure to a tarot deck was in college. My then and now best friend, Amber, had a deck, and it piqued my interest. But when I moved back to Colorado in my mid-twenties, I started stepping into the craft. I don’t consider myself a collector in any sense, but children’s books and divination tools are two items that may change that original truth. I started with just reading for siblings and friends, expanding through curious and trusting connections of mutuals. Consensually, I ask before accessing an inquirer’s energy, as divination is an intimate practice. Learning discernment around who to allow to access your energy is no light matter. I take great care in deciding who I get spiritual consultations or readings from. Many of us, including myself, learn this life lesson through boundaries the hard way. I honor all who welcome me to support and connect with spirit as we navigate our soul’s journey.

Image of The Hermit card from Black Tarot

JE: What’s your take on Black mysticism, and why did you decide to create this deck?

NW: This question made me laugh because the answer is far from simple. While there is much to say on the topic, I will get my thoughts across as best as possible.

While as both a descendant of Ancestors who were stolen from Africa and enslaved and a transracial adoptee, I have done my fair share of processing around loss and seeking Ancestral kinship. Decolonizing and indigenizing have been my movement toward liberation. In decolonizing and deconstructing my spirituality, at first glance, I believed that The Church, through colonization and white supremacy, had stomped out our link to our original African spiritual practices. With further examination, traditional religion was kindled by our fore-parents covertly woven within Christian practices, still being carried out today and often our first exposure to rootwork, conjure, and the craft. Even in my Lutheran-Anglican-Mennonite religious background, I experienced traditional practice in churches my family attended.

Ancestors and Deities have been relabeled as Saints; baptisms function as spiritual baths and cleansings; possession as catching the Holy Ghost; light language voiced as speaking in tongues; offerings and sacrifices as tithing and communion; Ancestral altars as church altars; songs, spells, and manifestations are spoken as prayer; and oils, mojo bags, talismans, and divination tools operate as the cross, anointing oil, incense, the Bible, and rosaries. The ‘old ways’ or traditions of Black mysticism are more than superstitions used to connect with or repel spirits but are a system of beliefs built around Ancestral connection and wisdom.

Image of the Justice card from Black Tarot

Before brick-and-mortar Black churches were built as sanctuaries to convert to Christianity cosmetically, we made our own ‘church’ spaces. We connected in tobacco fields, at riverbanks, in secret cabin meetings at night, within the trees and wilderness of parts of the Underground Railroad, and in the song of Negro Spirituals. Our Blackness was our first church home.

The United States was born into Christianity. As a people, we were not. We are born into the lineage and survival of our Ancestors, carried in our DNA. Our ancestors are us and we are our ancestors. Our blood knows that nothing is new. The way our hearts beat in rhythm when we hear drumming. Why our community dreams of fish when someone is pregnant? We cannot appropriate African or Diasporic Traditions that are ours. We must, however, acknowledge that we can cause the same systemic harm as anyone if we don’t decolonize and decenter whiteness. We are generations deep in spiritual double consciousness. It is both captivating and disheartening in the ways we know and unknow ourselves. The unknowing stems from fear and colonial attempts to disbar us from being practitioners or becoming privy to how Black mysticism permeates our daily lives.

There is much to the world that cannot be seen or understood by the bare eye. If interested in beginning, start in a place of grounding – cleansing, protection, shadow healing, and work. We naturally do this work communally in places of worship. Take time to reconceptualize and feel out what this practice looks like at home, openly living out our traditional practices.

I wrote the deck in the movement of uncloaking Black mysticism while reclaiming my Ancestral divination traditions. Decks were the first tool I started working with, but as much as I resonated with the practice of tarot, I struggled to find a deck that felt perfectly aligned for me, visually and in the message. I started reimagining the tarot deck, and the Ancestors spoke through me to shape the message. The journal complements the deck to aid in helping encourage reading rituals and gratitude as everyday practice.

Image of the Ten of Baskets card from Black Tarot

JE: How did you land on the final illustrations, and how do they inspire you?

NW: The deck illustrations were part of reimagining the Rider-Waite deck. I have never visually aligned to Rider-Waite, and I wanted to change due to the lack of diversity in divination decks. In deciding what visual went on each card, I sat with the meanings of each card and allowed inspiration to flow around what image would best embody its energy. My inspiration comes from the illustrator magic of my high school friend, Kimishka. She resonated with and heard my vision for the deck artistically and carried out my voice beautifully. I get immense joy from seeing the gorgeous drawings of Black community working to provide clarity, guidance, and inspiration through engaging with the deck.

Meet The Author: Jordannah Elizabeth

Jordannah Elizabeth is a music journalist and author of the forthcoming She Raised Her Voice! by RP Kids. She’s written on a number of topics for Ms. MagazinePOPSUGAR, Bitch Media, O Magazine, and Cosmopolitan. She lives and writes in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Meet The Author: Nyasha Williams

Nyasha Williams grew up living intermittently between the United States and South Africa. As a kindergarten teacher, she was inspired to write her first book when one of her Black students told her that mermaids could not be Black. Williams kickstarted her first picture book, What’s the Commotion in the Ocean, starring a Black mermaid who spreads a message of marine conservation. The beautiful illustrations and diverse representation caught the attention of many, and her Kickstarter was publicized on Pantsuit Nation before becoming fully funded.

Williams began I Affirm Me in 2020, inspired by a mantra she and her students recited together at the beginning of each day: I am confident and capable / I learn at my own pace / I am loved / I believe in me / I believe in us. I Affirm Me was born of her desire to spread a similar positive message to Black children as well as celebrate the beauty of the Black community. “As BIPOCs, we are operating and navigating a world that wasn’t made for us and is actively working against us,” says Williams. “My efforts as a creator, author, and activist are to combat the systems of White supremacy, colonization, and the patriarchy, working towards decolonizing, liberating, and indigenizing our minds and world.”

Nyasha Williams now pursues social justice, decolonizing work, and creating for her community full-time. Her current projects range from educator-created anti-racist conversation decks, to an all-Black tarot deck, to a coaching course for anyone wishing to decolonize, liberate, and Indigenize. You can find her on Instagram at @writingtochangethenarrative. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

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