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.

Best Days

What Was The Best Day of Your Life?

What was the best day of your life?

The question popped out on my phone. Sent by Jik. It got me thinking. The thing is, I have many.

The days I spent with my cousins, driving around Jakarta to buy the best road-side food.

The weekend I went to Malaka with my Uni friends and made more friends by the time we went back to Singapore.

Our three weeks honeymoon in Japan.

The weekend I went to Goa to attend my cousin’s wedding.

The first time I saw the Autumn colours IRL.

The many moments I shared with Cheryl when we worked together.

The day I went to the theme park as a kid with just my parents. I was wearing a red dress, and they let me do water rafting. It was so fun. I felt so happy and excited, and a bit of a grown-up.

The day I got a salary hike.

The day I got approval to move to Australia.

The day I stood in front of the sixteen floors National Library in Singapore.

The day I noticed Vi entering the classroom wearing her purple pyjamas.

The days I spent in Phi Phi Island, wearing a bikini for the first time and learning to be confident in it.

The day I bought my first MacBook.

Birthdays.

The hours I spent in the bookstores. And the hours I spent in Spellbox.

The night of the New Year’s Eve when I met Fafa.

The drunken night walk with my cousins in Copenhagen.

The day I ate MSG ridden fried-rice in a Chinese restaurant in Italy after not having rice for more than a week for the first time in my life.

Japan days.

My first snowfall day.

The days where Fafa kindness was the only support I had.

The weekend in Uluru.

The hours Jik and I spent in coffee shops in Hong Kong.

The time with LOL memories.

Quality times I spent with Amma and the moments of hugging her.

The day my Amma complimented me on my cousin’s engagement day.

Drinking Karak Chai in Dubai.

The nights I sat on the beach.

The hours I spent in the kitchen with my workmates – having lunch or just taking breaks.

The days I spent with Erwin and Vivi, rediscovering Jakarta.

The days and nights I spent with Thu just messing around while trying to figure out life.

My days in Singapore.

First dates. Second dates.

The days where I do very little but don’t feel guilty at all. The days when I do so much and feel a sense of accomplishment.

My post-grad days.

Sleepover nights.

My wedding days.

The day I realised I had all the support I needed in life.

The afternoon in Brisbane when we took an hour Uber-ride to eat good Indo food.

The day I discovered Serial podcast while travelling in Europe, which led into the true-crime rabbit hole.

The day I took Shinkansen for the first time, the second time and every single time after that.

The day I set up my blogs excitedly.

My last working day in Singapore.

Those are some of my best days—the ones I would love to redo. I realised now that most of them involve being surrounded by my loved ones, travelling and discovering myself. Here is to creating space in my life for more of those kinds of days.

Film Camera MjuII Kodak Colorplus 400 Mirror Selfie 2020 Meletos

2020 The Year I…

…Rang in the new year in Japan for the third time in a row. We had sushi and sake as the first meal of the year.

…Went to Bali for a weekend getaway. Now reflecting back, I am grateful we had the chance to travel outside of Australia this year.

…Started a new job in a new company.

…Practice with Miko, the first (second-hand) film camera I scored on eBay at the end of last year.

…Celebrated my friend’s, Liz, 30th birthday with a stay-cation in Mornington Peninsula.

…Self-isolated.

…Joined a witch coven.

…Bought my first ever indie tarot deck created by a female artist, then the second, then the third.

…Studied for CPA.

…Started liking black-coffee which no doubt is heavily influenced by Fafa.

…Finally enjoyed a good sandwich. It’s from Tivoli bakery on Toorak road which was introduced to me by Liz.

…Lived in lock-down for the most part of the year.

…Had a lengthy period of sadness from the combination of Covid and seasonal depression.

…Which made me pick up running.

…and cooking.

…and journal-ed as if my life depends on it.

…Got a tarot deck and oracle deck for birthday gifts from Fafa and Jik respectively.

…Had plenty of tarot readings.

…Deepen my tarot practice.

…Started a tarot blog then stopped because I thought I didn’t have that much to talk about in relation to tarot.

…Facetimed with my parents every single day from March onwards.

…Started this blog, a personal blog, but proceed to discuss mostly about tarot.

…Paid for a Google Photos account.

…Found out that Chiron has entered my chart since March and will stay there until the beginning of next year. Eek!!

…Finally read The Alchemist and generally read more books than last year.

…Stayed in a Mornington Peninsula airbnb.

…and in a Meletos winery in Yarra Valley.

…and in the farmhouse in Echuca where I took a boat trip along the famous Murray River.

…Went to an art gallery in Bendigo to celebrate our date-anniversary.

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.

What Inspires Your Passion?

What inspires you to write?”

— saged-traveling lady on the train to Beijing.

I was taken back by the question. Not many have asked me this before. I forget when or who asked me the same question before that day when I traveling solo in China.

My mind traveled back to earlier that month when I just started contemplating on changing my writing direction to focus on culture, which eventually birthed Kulture Kween a few years later — to 2012 when I started a travel blog — to 2007 when I started a blog after I read a classmate’s poetry blog — to 2004 when Erwin Tanudjaja introduced me to the concept of a blog. The same Erwin who introduced me to the internet in 1997.

But, it was two years before that, I realized my passion for writing.

On the day I forgot to bring my homework. I called Amma from a rusty (even for 1995) coin-operated payphone from my school begging her to bring my homework.

It was not compulsory. It was an extracurricular activity. My grade wouldn’t be marked. But for some reason, I put an effort to write an essay with a not-appropriate-for-middle-school topic. I spent the whole long weekend in August to write and rewrite it in longhand (it was 1995). Finally, I put my rebellious twist on it. I know it would be marked by the school principal and didn’t care if he was going to penalize me for it. I just didn’t want it to be a cookie-cutter school essay with a sprinkle of mundaneness.

Thankfully Amma refrained from executing a teachable moment that day. She took an auto-rickshaw and dropped the paper to me at school. Just in time for me to slip it to the stack of papers waiting in the Principal’s office.

My essay won. No gift. The acknowledgment was done and dusted in less than two minutes. But it didn’t matter. I felt such joy at the moment, more than scoring a solid 100 on an exam paper.

That moment topped my childhood happiness chart.

That was the moment that gave the answer to what inspires my passion question asked by the stranger on the train. The foundation for me slogging hours and hours on writing/blogging/journaling.

Thank you for not penalising me on that day Mr. School Principal. I hope my hoarder parents still keep the winning essay somewhere in the house.

Tin Recipe Box Full Of Fleeting Taste

I looked at the caller ID on the phone. Amma. “What do you want me to cook for you?

I smiled even though I knew she wouldn’t be able to see it from across the ocean. She had asked the same question a hundred times before. To which I gave the same answer, my favorite has always been the same, a famous local dish from the region she grew up in: “prawn curry“. Then I added, “but, let’s cook it together this time“. I anticipated a “Why?” but it never came. Good. The answer to that particular why weighs heavily on my world and I rather put it in writing here than explain it to her.

It all started when a friend, who lost her mother, shared her regrets. One of them was her struggle to “cook like mom” for her grieving family. How, even though she could remember some of the ingredients, some of the recipes and some of the methods, none of them was enough. Enough to bring the same taste to the same plates, served at the same dining table to the same people.

Her words woke up my own demon who whispered into my ear as I lay in the bed, asking me “what would my regrets be?

The answer? Infinite.

One of them, the same as my friend, would be the fleeting taste of Amma’s cooking. Even though she had given enough advice to last me seven reincarnated lives, Amma had never taught me to cook, because I was never interested. That night, unable to sleep, I decided that it needed to change when I flew home next.

The day I reached home, I was greeted by the smell of exotic spices filling the air and a warm bowl of prawn curry on the table. I half-heartedly complained that I wanted to learn to cook it, but was secretly glad I didn’t have to right after the long flight.

The next day I used a different approach in the effort to capture the fleeting taste: I made her write the complete recipe with foolproof detail.

Why don’t I dictate it for you so you can write it in English?” she complained. “No, Bahasa Indonesia is fine, but I want you to write it” I replied. She complied and passed me the paper with “make sure you cook it otherwise you just wasted my time!

Putting her note in the recipe box, I promised her I would. In fact, I told her, I plan to fill the box with other recipes from her, my friends, and even my own. It will be a sort of artifact to summon love and support from women in my life, including myself. She laughed and air-quoted “cooking rice” is not a recipe.

Ha! She doesn’t know that I can boil pasta too!

The day I flew back to Melbourne she hugged me tightly, enveloping me with the warmth of her love. How I wish I could put that motherly love into the recipe box and keep it with me forever.

That’s when I realized it wouldn’t be her cooking that I would truly miss, but the love she put into cooking the food for me. That, even though I have the original blueprint inside my recipe box, it will still be a fleeting taste.

Pilgrimage To Kawah Ijen

When the guide told us that there is a magical blue fire that could be found only in two places in the world; one in Russia and another one here in Kawah Ijen, near Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, we got more excited.

Unfortunately, he neglected to inform where and how far it is from Bromo, the main reason we visited Surabaya. On the day we found out that it’s 5 hours away, but it felt silly not to go there since I was already in Surabaya, so we decided to go for it but needed to stop somewhere in the middle to rest for a while.

The day started early, hiking the gorgeous Madakaripura waterfall which had tired us out. And we had to start again on the same night around 10 PM to begin the 3-hour drive to Kawah Ijen. We got into the car and slept almost immediately. In the middle of the journey, I woke up. Half aware that we were driving fast on a pitch-black road it didn’t look safe at all, if anything, it looked the opposite. I mumbled a little prayer and went back to sleep.

Once we reached there, I realized that my thin top wasn’t a bad choice, fortunately, it felt warmer when we started walking at 12.30 AM.

At first, we all walked together with thousands of stars covering us from above.

The guide said it was a 1 km walk. We thought it was doable. Unfortunately, it was on a steep hiking trail! In the pitch dark. Btw, 2 km was not 2 km, but 3 km. And we were walking beside a cliff and that one-sided cliff turned into two-sided cliffs without any warning sign whatsoever. Also, did I mention that it was pitch dark, people!

This was not my terrain.

I paused every 5 minutes and was getting passed by other trekkers.

At 4 AM, we reached the top.

We then had to pass hundreds of people who sat by the cliff. It looked like they were camped there the whole night and most of them didn’t wear masks. I didn’t get it; weren’t they aware of the strong sulfur smell in the air? I could feel my lips peeling and my eyes watering; didn’t they feel the same? Also, what if one of them decided to go cray-cray right there and pushed me off of the cliff?

We rushed past them to reach the part we could see Kawah Ijen’s magical blue fire.

I was like, “Where is it??” The guy beside me pointed out to a small, teeny tiny thing down below. It was a fog in a faint purple color. That, apparently, was the blue fire. My legs were like “WTF man, you dragged me here for this?!! I am going to murder you!“. I zoomed in as much as I could and snapped a picture of it. Below is the depressing result of my best effort.

It was one of my biggest travel disappointments, right in between Vietnam and Wellington. I felt like crying, but I was worried that the sulphuric air would turn my tears acidic. The guy beside me, who was apparently a guide, continued the conversation by sharing a story that 7 tourists died here a few years ago.

That was the last straw for me. I needed to get out of this crowded sulphuric unsafe place.

On the way, in the dim light of sunrise, I was reunited with my colleagues, who had gone up much earlier because, unlike me, they had normal human strength.

All that wasn’t a total waste though; the sunrise at Kawah Ijen was magnificent! It beats Bromo’s. Which brought me to the conclusion that people go there not only to see the stove fire if at all but to enjoy the starry night, build a campfire and stay until the sunrise.

I thought going down would be easy, boy I was wrong. My legs decided to punish me for making them walk for 4 hours only to see the damn fog. I had to squint with pain every step-down, all the way until we reached the exit at 6 AM. All I wanted was to reach the car and drink some coffee, maybe even embrace the morning.

But instead, I passed out the minute I entered the car.

Hallo uit Amsterdam

Thirty-six hours later, we finally reached Amsterdam. Schiphol airport looked lovely in the morning. After showing our bleary faces to the immigrant officer, we loaded our three luggage into a big taxi and head to the very hip Conscious Hotel Vondelpark hotel, where we will be staying for the night.

Since it was just 8 AM, our rooms were ready yet. So we opened our luggage on the lobby, spilling half of our stuff onto the floor. Finally, after we managed to pack up the luggage and freshen ourselves up, we went out to explore the city.

This time, Amsterdam was just a stopover. We didn’t have many plans, except to eat stroopwafel, meet our cousin and get high at night.

First stop: coffee. We stepped inside a cute little coffee shop run by a Japanese.

Is there a saying about missing a foreign place when you are in another foreign place?

Happy to report that the coffee in Amsterdam was good.

We then walked around the town to find the little bakery that sold stroopwafel that I had with my cousin and her friend five years ago. Stroopwafel and another cuppa later, we continued walking around the city. We stopped for a midday drink at a fancy looking place before joining the free walking tour. We walked along the canal, the red light area and a shopping district. In one of the stops, I bought shell to ad to my jar back home. I also went inside a weed shop trying to get something for Fafa. But I was too afraid that Australian immigration will catch me that I came out empty-handed.

We then had lunch late lunch at the Indonesian restaurant Kanjtil and went back to the hotel to rest.

In the evening we picked our cousin and went to Sampoerna, another Indonesian food feast. Full, cold but very happy we walked around to find the small cafe that sells the best space cake. Once acquired, we shared it between the four of us. Soon after we went back to the hotel and here I am writing this and waiting for the cupcake to take effect.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel anything, just uber tired, which that makes sense because I haven’t slept for almost two days and I am on my period. I guess it’s sleep time for me as we are flying to Norway tomorrow morning.

Goedenacht!