NIGREDO
In alchemical texts the use of crows or ravens to represent nigredo or death is common, and it
is often the appearance of nigredo that would signal the beginning of the opus or alchemical
work.

The Ten of Air from the Vision Quest Tarot is an example of a nigredo state.  Buzzards,
vultures and such birds of prey are often used to symbolize negative or invasive thoughts that
need to be overcome,  In this case, the scene can be associated with "mortificatio," death and
"putrefactio."

Thoughts give form to the world around us, and this is the reason why we must be aware of
how negative thinking can affect our manifestation of reality.  Just like Key 13, Death, or Key
15, the Devil could represent an aspect of
nigredo, so could any situation that brings a sense
of darkness to our soul, or a sense of despair.  We should look carefully at the cards in a
spread that could signal a mental state of helplessness, desperation, inability to take action,
cards that bring forth a sense of remorse, shame, pain, defeat, deep suffering, soul searching
or complete disorientation.  The element of Air is usually assigned to swords in tarot.  This is
the element that rules the mind and our thoughts, but it is also the element of Spirit and
Ruach.  

The IX of Swords above is often associated with the archetypal "Dark Night of the Soul." But
remember that nine is also the number of the Hermit, and can signal wisdom achieved after
trial or sacrifice. Take a closer look at this IX of Swords; look at the decorations on the bed
and the sigils on the quilt; look at the way that the swords are lined up against the black
background.  We know that this is a card that requires deeper understanding because this
individual is going through some form of personal transmutation.  .

The cards below could be interpreted as different ways to experience
nigredo in our life.  
These examples are from the Waite Smith deck, the Sola Busca 3 of Swords, the Fey Tarot
and Meier's Atalanta Fugiens (M.P. Hall collection)
Illustration from the Vision Quest divination deck reproduced by
permission of AGM AGMuller.  ©1998 AGM AGMuller
Further reproduction prohibited
Examples of Albedo