Culture Themed Tarot Decks

There are only a handful of things in life that I am more obsessed with compared to tarot. One of it is culture (check out my other blog: KultureKween).

Eventually, researching the interconnection between traditions and tarot, which started as a curiosity, grew into an obsession and has now turned into a life goal.

I also must admit that I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours researching tarot decks with the two cultures that I associate the most with, Indonesian and Indian.

Though there are more than a few Indian culture themed tarot decks out there, I didn’t find any that I liked nor could relate to as of now.

As for the Indonesian themed tarot deck, first of all, I was surprised that it existed to begin with. It’s called Tarot of Nusantara but it didn’t call out to me either. Instead, I found some other culture themed decks that I absolutely adore. Here they are, sorted by my liking from top to bottom*.

1. Tarot of Divine – $22

With rich, vibrant art and a keen understanding of traditional tarot archetypes, illustrator Yoshi Yoshitani infuses Tarot of the Divine with worldly insight and an intriguing selection of fables and folktales from cultures across the globe. With fables from more than forty countries, this spiritual journey is a worldly experience like no other.

This is a dream deck for a culture-geek such as myself. That combined with the price and zero shipping fee made it too easy for me to click pre-order sometime last year. I am still waiting patiently for it to arrive at my doorstep.

2. Yokai Yochi Tarot – $53

There are plenty of Japanese culture themed tarot decks in the market. From the traditional art of Ukiye to the pop-culture Manga deck but none of it spoke to me as much as Yokai Yochi did. The deck portrays ghosts, folklore, and traditional Japanese artwork. This is the second time I have mentioned this deck on my tarot deck list. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and order it.

3. The Gentle Tarot – $60

The Gentle Tarot is an indigenous-made, hand-drawn tarot deck filled with imagery influenced by life in remote Alaska. Mariza, the artist behind Mari in the Sky and The Gentle Tarot deck, is a nature-inspired illustrator, grew with ceremony and daily rituals that connect us with the elements, songs that ancestors sang with words and sounds that speak to this connection. She is inspired to share the love, honor, and respect that the planet is due.

Best part: 10% of all proceeds from the deck sale are donated to ocean and climate change research.

4. The Delta Enduring Tarot – $50

I mentioned above that I couldn’t relate much with the Indian tarot decks out there, but then I could relate so much to some of the cards from The Delta Enduring Tarot deck.

It’s an illustrated tarot deck centering on the natural beauty and struggles of life in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta Enduring Tarot pays tribute to these ebbs and flows, and to the lives of those that continue to make the deep south a more verdant, just, and enduring landscape–despite the storm of oppression always on the horizon. Egan, the artist, is an illustrator born and raised in the arms of the Mississippi Delta. They practice medicine and the esoteric arts of magic, with a predilection for the healing of communal ritual.

This deck has been sold-out, therefore very hard to find. I am not sure whether it will ever be reproduced but I surely hope so.

5. The Hoodoo Tarot – $33

Celebrating the complex American Rootwork tradition, The Hoodoo Tarot integrates esoteric and botanical knowledge from Hoodoo with the divination system of the tarot. The cards features full-color paintings by magical-realist artist Katelan Foisy and elegantly interprets the classical tarot imagery through depictions of legendary rootworkers past and present as well as important Hoodoo symbolism. In the accompanying guidebook, Tayannah Lee McQuillar provides a history of Hoodoo and its complex heritage, including its roots in multiple African and Indigenous American ethnic groups as well as its European influences.

Read the interview with the artist here.

6. The Magical Nordic Tarot – $20

I almost got this deck a few times. I am into Nordic culture and lifestyle and it’s pretty affordable (it’s the cheapest deck on this list), but knowing the majority of the deck (all the minor arcana cards) is not illustrated left a lot to be desired.

*Prices are in USD, excluding shipping.

Tower Moments

Of all the “bad cards” in tarot, the Tower is something I am comfortable with. Maybe even a little too comfortable.

The 16th card from the Major Arcana, the Tower is traditionally seen as the representation of disaster, sudden change, significant disruption and chaos.

Those are enough reasons for people to not want to see it in a reading.

It makes sense. We, human beings, tend to seek stability in our lives. I am no different. As I write this on top of my picnic rug, in the park soaking the sun, eating the cheese and getting a bit buzzed from the wine, I too don’t wish for the rug to be pulled from under my feet. Both metaphorically and literally.

But it didn’t start this way for me.

I came from a somewhat traditional Indian family. I say somewhat because my parents are smart people with kind hearts who want nothing but, what they think, as the best for their daughter. But at the same time, they are bogged down by society and at times dated and jaded traditions. Growing up, it had always been a constant struggle between following the social values and just being a child, and later, a teenager. For example, they would let me wear whatever I wanted, which was more than most Indian girls growing up in a traditional family could ask for. But at the same time, I wasn’t allowed to date.

I did both. With that, I turned into the rebel of the family and started what I called as my Tower moments.

My Tower moments started when I, as a teenager, laughed on the face of the priest who told Amma that he could magically make me stop rebelling. A major tower moment was when I cancelled my wedding a couple of weeks before the day. Another one, when I moved to Singapore without a job and proceeded to live there for almost a decade before uprooting the somewhat comfortable life I had built for myself to go back home because I wanted to heal my relationship with my parents. Again without a job. I also summoned The Tower when I migrated to Melbourne, and again when I married someone from a different background in Bali. This time without any priest.

The Tower is a shadow self that I have accepted. It taught me to be calm throughout chaotic periods in my life. From the period when my dad stopped talking to me to being bullied; even when I was made redundant. I went through these with a zen-ish outlook.

And I know I can go through similar shit moments in the future because I had deliberately chosen to walk through worse things, either because it aligned with my values or to chase my dreams.

I also learned that even though I always have plans for my life (Virgo baby!), sometimes the Universe grants my wishes in different ways. And based on my past experiences, it could just be in the Tower mode.

It’s good to remember that fundamentally the Tower is about radical changes. A reminder to:

“Be positive, it is time to replace the old foundations of the past with something that is more genuine and will serve better in what is to come”

Labyrinthos.


Not gonna lie, knowing that — if tomorrow, something happens and I have to uproot my life yet again — I can do it, feels pretty empowering. And I blame my semi-traditional Indian parents for it. They shouldn’t have instilled the value of resilience in the young rebellious me.

Thoughts on Kind of Hindu

I read Kind of Hindu, from Mindy Kaling’s Nothing Like I Imagined, a 6-parts Amazon Original Stories, on Kindle Unlimited yesterday. I chose to read Kind of Hindu first (other titles include Big Shot and Help Is on the Way) just because I find it the most relatable, as I too am kinda Hindu.

The book started with how Mindy identified as a secular American. Growing up as an Indonesian Indian, with very less exposure to both Indian culture and Hindu religion, I can relate to her. Though I have always held on to both my religion and cultural heritage. Even stronger now as an Indonesian Indian living in Australia.

The book is a light entertaining read. Dripped with the usual Mindy-ism. One of my favorite phrases in the book: “my Indian Hindu assistant, Akshara, had once hired (an Indian priest) to bless her new VW Jetta“.

I got a bit emotional towards the near end of the book when she talked about her mother. Maybe because I read it past midnight, after a couple of glasses of alcohol. Or maybe because I haven’t hugged mine for almost a year now, no thanks to Corona. Either way, I was like “I get you, sis!”.

But there are parts in the book that made me go “huh?!” — like when she categorized paper towels, scissors and apples as mysterious items just because the Indian priest had asked for it. Because, as she said, Mindy had been to Hindu pujas before, where all these items are must-haves. And even if, you have never been to any Hindu ceremony before, I can guarantee you there is no mystery about a regular household paper towel.

Also, I don’t get the joke about not knowing whether to call the Indian cities Chennai as Madras (former) and Calcutta (former) as Kolkata. Even I, the third generation of Indian Indonesian, know the reason they changed the names of some cities in India — and my parents were born in Indonesia! I didn’t find that bit funny. It was kind of knowledge-white-washing of your own heritage. I didn’t expect that from Mindy, my brown heroine.

The rest? Well, you gotta read it, I am not going to give you any more spoilers of the 23 pages book.

Kind of Hindu would make a perfect blog post or two (it’s divided into two stories in the Kindle version), not something I would pay $1.99 for. But since it’s on Kindle Unlimited, which means I am getting it for free, I have downloaded the next one, Please Like Me But Keep Away.

This time I am going to listen to it. Because listening to Mindy reading a Mindy’s adds a lotta charm to it.

White Rice and White Wine

If you were on the death row, what would your last meal be?

I reread the Skyped message that popped on my desktop screen.

It was from Pedro.

If it was anyone else, my reaction would either be “WTF” or “hu?”.

But coming from him, the question was as normal as a “Good morning“.

That’s how he usually greets me every day; with a question, more often than not, with bizarre ones. After all, our friendship is strongly based on life’s morbidness. We celebrate death, worship Kali, discuss heartbreaks, and quiz each other on serial killers trivia.

This is not an easy question to digest first thing in the morning.

I know that my last meal needs to be epic.

The thing is, I have way too many dishes I love so much; from Singaporean chicken rice, Indonesian nasi Padang to Indian dosa.

After wasting a good chunk of the working hour, I typed my answer.

I told him that if I were to face the death penalty (hopefully for doing something semi-heroic) my last meal would be a South Indian crab masala thali meal.

Then, I asked what would his last meal be. He replied almost immediately. Looked like he had put enough thoughts on this beforehand. “Vatapa”.

I remember Vatapa.

Pedro told me about Vatapa in the first week we were introduced. That time, out of sudden, he declared that he was missing his favorite Brazilian food and then proceed to show me this Vatapa picture.

I also remember thinking how it looked like my favorite prawn sambal, a widely loved Indonesian dish originated from the Sumatra region. I told him to bring back something next time he goes back to Brazil.

The last meal question lingers in my mind.

I wonder what would others choose, so I texted Fafa. Thankfully, he, too, is well versed with my cuckoo side, no explanation required.

At first, he said anything that his mom cooks. Well, that’s not how this works my friend! Otherwise, we all would choose our mom’s cooking. I told him his mom wouldn’t want to visit him after he committed such a heinous crime. He then settled with meen pollicithu with Kerala rice thali meal. Yum! I wouldn’t mind sharing his last meal.

Aww, the thought of couple’s last meals, how romantic.

With some more minutes to kill before home time, I pinged Manda, and asked her the same question. After giving a few judgy remarks, she replied with: sashimi for entree, hawker food as the main course, creme brulee for dessert, and a glass of mojito to wash it all off.

Damn, she is fancy! Especially when I thought she would settle for just laksa.

Then again, she had a point, why would I deprive myself of the pleasure of dessert and alcohol, my two life vices (among many), if it’s going to be my last meal?!

I pinged Pedro back to clarify that I would also have mango sticky rice for dessert and a bottle of Moscato as my last meal’s drink.

Loads of white rice and copious amount of wine. Yep. Seemed legit both for epic last meal and as the title of my memoir.

Tea

I am a tea lover.

I love the how the color desolates when mixed with hot water, the different effect of the smell, the taste of it and how it made me feel warm and nice on the first sip.

I love tea mugs and the ritual of pouring the tea into it.

I love the tea tradition that each country has. Like in Indonesia, they serve tea whenever you go to the other person’s house and there is teh botol, India with their milk tea and tea shop, English tea, snack time tea, Singapore teh tarik and oh, of course, China and their teas.

Meanwhile, tea ceremonies in Japan is all about respect and serving.

Indian Girls Night Out in Little India

My highly rested Inspired brain was fighting the routine this morning. I couldn’t bring myself to wake up on time nor on snooze time, I was about to be late for work so naturally I decided to let it be and went to BK to have King’s breakfast and sat there until 10 am before I went to work. Then I took a two-hour lunch break and came back by 2 pm. By 4 pm I was done for the day and stopped working, restlessly making toilet trips while arguing with my colleague whether the name Koch is pronounced as cock (her way) or Koc (mine and other colleagues’) for hours.

I met my besties for dinner (minus Fia and Mr. Tsao) we are having a girls night out at Little India. We went to the Masala Hut, my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood. I made them tried to the gulab jamun, they didn’t like it. I explained to them about Indian culture as correctly as I could before drinking ourselves silly at Prince Of Wales, This bar has become my regular!

It is a colonial house type turned into a pub cum backpacker hostel*. It has a very laid back atmosphere (indoor and outdoor), live music with an open mike concept, and cheap drinks. What else does one need from a place to chill?

While drinking baron beer (another story to tell) my brain kept reminding me this is one of the reasons I stay in Singapore. Sipping beer on a workday, close friends, surrounded by cool people while listening to live music and planning trips around the world.