The Royo Dark Tarot is a rare treasure. It blends magnificent art with dark fantasy and gothic themes as well as traditional Tarot card meanings to create a deck that is not just a cool dark deck, but one that you will want to study and read with on a regular basis.
The Royo Dark Tarot is an evolution and completion of the Black Tarot by the Dark Fantasy artist, Luis Royo. His work really is magnificent, which is reason enough to get this deck. The deck does follow the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition but in a subtle way. By that I mean, if you saw the images without the titles, you may not immediately know which card they are supposed to be. But if you see the card name with the image, you see the connection quite easily. Because they are a bit unique, you can gain a new level of understanding of that card or see it from a new perspective.
Royo is indeed dark fantasy and there are graphic, and what some might consider to be slightly provocative cards. For example, in the 2 of Cups, a couple is kissing. He holds her arms. Her hands are clearly in the front of his very low slung pants and I assume she is fondling him, although we do not see that clearly. To some this may be offensive or something they don't want in their Tarot. For others, it is hot, provocative, and intriguing. Whatever your opinion, it is a powerful image.
That's what I noticed as I went through these cards…these small details that added so much to the images. There are several angels in this deck. They are not cute cherubs but beings of intense might and majesty. The point where the wings meet the shoulders is so well rendered that I can feel the power…and what I can only assume to be great pain. Royo is quite the master of the evocative detail.
I started pulling out cards to talk to you about, but the pile grew so quickly that I had to cut it back to just a few.
The 6 of Pentacles shows a female angel clad in white, who looks very human in form, alive and natural. She is kneeling on the ground, holding and comforting a male angel who looks dark (in color) and mechanical (in texture). They contrast so greatly and yet share similarities. He is tortured and perhaps dying, empty, his life draining from him. She is filled compassion and love, which she seems to be giving to him, or wanting to give. The image is so intensely poignant. It highlights the connections between to the giver and receiver. It shows what they share in such a powerful moment.
The 7 of Cups shows a woman, dressed in white, gazing intently off to the side. On her head she wears a strange headpiece made of a human skull. It is festooned with pearls and lace. The booklet says:
In the realm of imagination, between dreams and delusions, the white bride has learned the language of death.
This card is usually noted for confusion, for the inability to make a choice, for perhaps seeing options through rose-colored glasses. Royo pushes deeper, underneath that common experience, to find out what is possible at a soul level. She is a bride, ready to commit to a choice, but in the time between she learns something about life and death and more than likely, herself.
There are plenty of excellent dark fantasy and gothic-styled decks available. For one that takes the familiar RWS meanings a bit deeper, not just darker, I suggest the Royo Dark Tarot. This one, with its incredible symbols and magnificent art, is the complete package.
Name of deck: Royo Dark Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator's name: Luis Royo
Brief biography of creator: Extremely popular Spanish artist known for dark fantasy.
Artist's name: Luis Royo
Name of accompanying booklet: Royo Dark Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: Booklet is 86 pages; 14 in English
Authors of booklet: Luis Royo
Available in a boxed kit?: No
Reading Uses: General
Artistic Style: Dark fantasy
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes
Does it have extra cards?: No