Meet Courtney Alexander, the artist and visionary behind Dust II Onyx a melenated tarot deck featuring opulently dressed POC adorned in flowers and jewels depicted as the major archetypes of the tarot. Each card was meticulously hand painted with the powerful use of symbols reaching deep into the recesses of our cosmic ancestral memory and feels like pure magic!
Courtney's artwork for the decks surfaced on Instagram when she began the launch of her ambitious kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to get the production of the cards going and has since received some major buzz amongst magazines and mystics alike. These cards are a major moment in modern tarot history, especially for those of us who have longed and waited for the perfect tarot deck with cultural representation that we could really connect to. It's safe to say, Dust II Onyx will be one of the most highly anticipated divinatory decks of 2016!
Hi, Courtney tell us all about how you got started on your tarot journey?
For a long time, I was truly afraid of Tarot. When I was younger I was super saved and in the church. I remember a sermon by hellfire and brimstone preacher John Hagee. He told this elaborate tale of how he went to perform and exorcism on a woman. The reason she had been “possessed” was her use of Tarot cards. He ranted on and on about how the cards are forbidden, blasphemous, devil-filled and lead to contact with demonic spirits. It had me shook for a long time. Even as I grew more distant from Christianity I still found I had a certain trepidation in regards to dealing with anyone who used them. My first spiritual counselor and clairvoyant experience was with a beautiful and wise black mother. Part of my comfort with her was the fact that she didn’t use cards.
Over the years I began to slowly open myself up. I had received readings just to try, however I still hadn’t experienced a reader who deeply touched and connected with me. So I turned to using Tarot apps on my own. I downloaded the Galaxy Tarot app and it was my go-to for awhile. I also began to enjoy the art of other decks like LineStrider and Gypsy. It really took some of the mysticism out for me and helped me to realize that they, although powerful, are ultimately tools that do not have some magical or forceful power over me.
Earlier this year I finally sought out my own physical deck. While searching for decks I realized there were none that felt like ME. There were only a handful of decks that featured people of color, let alone black people. The most well known decks were not even created by people of color. I found them to be very well made and studied decks, but it lacked the connection I sought at a soul level. So I made up in my mind I’d make my own and here we are today with Dust II Onyx.
As a woman of color, I can’t tell you how excited I along with so many other WOC readers are about these cards! It’s like, "YES! FINALLY!" there is a major lack of representation for POC in the imagery of most traditional tarot decks, what you’re doing is quite powerful. How do you feel about creating a piece that is so meaningful for tarot herstory?
This is all surreal honestly. I knew I wanted to create a Tarot deck, but had NO idea that they’d be what they are now, inspiring so many people. I feel tremendously blessed and honored. It has humbled me even more. Although I can appreciate my role as creator and the work I’ve done through the years to grow as an artist, I can’t deny the divine guidance. This process has made me so much more aware of my spirit family and how they’ve been in my life all this time. How I’ve been supported and nudged through the years to finally be here in this space. Every hardship and frustration makes sense. Every connection and failed project was only to teach me so I could finally push out this deck.
If I had that boyfriend, graduated the first time around, got that cushy job, or lost those friends I wouldn’t be where I am. I have such a greater appreciation for life now because I now realize my life and destiny is bigger than me. In some ways it feels like a big responsibility, yet on the other end it means I can trust that divine support even more and stop trying to control what my life should like. I’ve ultimately surrendered.
There is so much in a name, I have to ask what does Dust II Onyx symbolize/represent for you?
At first, when I heard Dust II Onyx pop into my head while driving, I wasn’t sure. It definitely sounded cool. But now I see that we are all dust from the ether. As spirit beings we come into this life to be refined and to take shape into a higher more expressive form of the energy we began as. Onyx is a powerful stone with such a rich and varied history. It is the perfect stone to symbolize the state of refinement we all will eventually reach by creating our own story.
What inspired you the most during the process of creating the imagery for your deck?
I was inspired by the goodness and beauty I want to experience. There is so much diversity in this world, and especially within the diaspora. As a person of African descent I wanted to celebrate that. In so many ways the conversations can divide us on who should and should not be respected or accepted. But there is room for all of us and my goal has been for Dust II Onyx to show that. The spirit of one card does not come at the expense of another, in the same way walking in your authenticity does not have to come at the expense of someone else’s.
Did you choose to stick with the same symbolism of more traditional decks such as The Rider-Waite or have you created your own system/meanings for your cards?
I’ve mainly stuck with the overall theme of each care in the RW system. I’ve just used my own intuitive interpretation through the art. I wouldn’t necessarily say there is a well planned system quite yet. The cards actually inform me so many times I’ve created a card and wasn’t fully understanding my visual choices until the card was completed. I’m a Virgo, so I found the idea of planning the deck very overwhelming. I work best when it is spontaneous. Once all of the cards are finished they will all make sense as they already have. I think by letting the cards speak they truly have a sense of strength and autonomy that gives that soul people feel from them.
We all embody the archetypes in many ways and periods through out our life, but which major arcana card do you most identify with and why?
The Empress is my birth card so she definitely resonates with me. She is full of life and love, she’s rooted and not afraid of her sexuality or creativity. I love her energy because it is not forceful. She simply just IS. I also love the High Priestess because I feel the High Priestess is what the Empress eventually transforms into. Similar to how the Hermit is a higher expression of the Fool. Instead of taking the plunge into the outer world, he takes the plunge within.
I think right now I’m really into the energy of the Queen of Wands. Her energy is undeniable and her flame reaches high, steady and strong. She lights her own way. Her staff is a symbol of support, command, and protection. When Solange’s A Seat at the Table came out I really saw her being the Queen of Cups. She came out as the Queen of Wands and it made so much sense. This is my favorite part of the process when I know the cards are speaking for themselves. I love the look of compassion, yet strength in her eyes (which are Nicki Minaj’s by the way). Her crown is a blossom and in the center a symbol of the source of manifestation. In her hand, she holds a Wand of her own creation. The woman’s head that sits at the top is ready to roar, but only when the Queen is ready to remove the orb and unleash the full potential there. It is exactly where I am in my life right now.
What are some of your daily tarot rituals? (if any) and do you have any fun spreads that you'd like to share with our readers?
I don’t have a consistent daily ritual, but I do like to draw angel cards. They are these mini one word cards that are direct and uplifting. I find them great for daily use, spurring action, and even use them to clarify spreads.
My favorite spread is what I call my Vehicle spread. It’s set up like:
I like this analogy of a vehicle because it allows me to understand and take responsibility for what’s going on in my life. We are ultimately the driver. We have guides that seek to direct us. Our riders are the energies that operator on a subconscious level. Then understanding what moves us (front and back wheels) is a way to understand what energies we are directing ourselves with. Of course most importantly we should understand what we are leaving behind vs what is coming up ahead. Seeing this spread with reversals become even more apparent in regards to understanding what energies are blocking and hindering the movement of the vehicle. It’s my favorite go-to spread for most readings I do for others.
Speaking of decks, how many decks do you own? and what are some of your personal favorites to work with?
I own 3 Tarot and 2 oracle decks. My very first was the Aquarian Tarot by David Pallidini. It is a beautifully simplistic Art Deco style deck. I find it’s energies to be very good for more soul work. Any questions that require me to really go into myself. I have the traditional Rider-Waite which I use for the more mundane questions or surface issues in my life. I also own the beautiful Crystal Tarot but I haven’t been drawn to read with it much.
I have the Angel Cards, which I explained above and now own Alana Fairchild’s Isis Oracle. I believe that deck called to me. I had a sudden urge to own a deck and throughout the week I’d stop at different shops never finding anything. I knew in my mind a particular shopped needed to be visited but they were closed during the week and I was inpatient. Either way I went to the shop and she was there as if waiting for me to arrive. Since then I’ve found this oracle to be a very powerful addition to my spreads. I believe spirit is moving me into other realms now that Isis Oracle helps me tap into.
Can you share more information about your Kickstarter and where people will be able to purchase your deck, hopefully on our site (fingers crossed)!
Well the Kickstarter is nearing its end on October 17! So please support in any way you can. If you can not donate right away, I also take shares and positive loving energy. All of your beautiful messages sent have definitely motivated me through this intense process. Please visit http://kck.st/2cIbJ1F to support the Kickstarter! You may also sign up to receive updates at www.dust2onyx.com.
Dust II Onyx: A Melanated Tarot Deck will be a full 78+ card tarot deck. Each card will feature spot gloss and gold foil accents to maintain varying surface quality of the original works. The cards will be high quality 3.5″ x 5” cards on 350GSM stock with rounded corners. The decks will come in a limited edition lidded box. You may also purchase metal and digital prints of the artwork during this campaign! I just want everyone to know that this deck is gon’ be lit! (And I don’t use that word often). I’m putting my all into the quality of this work.
Stay tuned for more updates on the deck via @Dust2Onyxtarot on instagram!
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