Back in 1998, Earthlyn Marselean Manuel sent me samples of a pack of cards she created to acknowledge women of African descent, reflect the realities of our lives, and support our quest for well-being and happiness. Manuel named each card for a role that a Black woman may take in her own life and in the lives of others-for instance, Pathfinder, Healer, Poet, Helper,Seer, Warrior, Midwife. Her Black Angel deck, published by HarperCollinsSanFrancisco in 1999, is one of the most unusual decks on the market. Fans of books by Iyanla Van Zant or Luisah Teish will love these cards.
Although Manuel claimed no formal art training, she produced colorful images of deceptive simplicity and uncanny sophistication. They glow with energy and almost leap off the cardboard. Some remind me of Haitian folk paintings and make me want to dance. Though the art may be called naive by some, it is potent. These cards are so alive!
Who are these Black Angels? Manuel calls them, "dream symbols designed to stimulate the unconscious and uncover hidden, suppressed, or lost aspects of ourselves, the parts we feel kept us from 'fitting in'...inspirations meant to bring forth feelings and emotions." Manuel's own inspiration came in the form of a dream of a huge Black angel standing unseen in the midst of a raging, boogie-down party. The dream lifted her from her immersion in community organizing and the corporate milieu to an engagement with her creative, spiritual, expanded Self.She'd been starving for this Self, and she hadn't known. She looked around her and noticed that other Black women lived in an ongoing crisis of physical, emotional, and spiritual imbalance. Her Black Angel deck reflects how we are and how we might be.
Each angel can be thought of as a path. A woman is either awake (aware)or asleep (unaware) on the path. Manuel's system does not call for use of reversed cards, just an understanding that we're not always in aconscious, purposeful upswing of the old Wheel of Life and Fortune. So, each card has a Waking Path and a Sleeping Path meaning. Manuel sounds a clear wake-up call. Her 180-page paperback offers interpretations, spreads, and suggested exercises for getting the most out of these angels.
For instance, one procedure--Three Piles of Gold--ends with three Black Angel cards applied as follows:
(1) My soul is sleeping because...;
(2) I am helping the waking of my soul by...; and
(3) the gold I found in myself is...."
One recent Three Piles of Gold reading I did produced these three angels:
1. The Dreamer
2. The Braider
3. The Sower
and definitely spoke to a long-standing, often painful issue around feeling invisible and underappreciated; how that might be healed by connection to true community; and the revelation of a mission to create and share with great numbers of people, to "plant new seeds for the world."
Can men use the Black Angels Cards? Although these images are of women,and some of the text addresses itself to women-specific concerns, anyone will find counsel applicable to the broader human condition. And Real Men can use these cards to communicate with and nurture their Inner Feminine. Folks who are not of Black heritage will also find much to admire and value in Manuel's gentle, perceptive teachings. Although Black women have suffered specific hurts down through history, we are not alone in our capacity to be hurt and to internalize those wrongs, to doubt and thwart ourselves, or to heal and thrive.
Thank you, Earthlyn Marselean Manuel for caring enough to make your passion visible and give us these outstanding angels!
i found god in myself & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely -Ntozake Shange, from the choreopoem, "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf"
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This page was created February 27, 2001 and updated May 14, 2002.
(c)2001, Eva Yaa Asantewaa