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.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

It has been months since I stayed past my bedtime to finish a book. The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida made me do just that yesterday. I turned off my Kindle, only leaving the epilogue part unread. There are only a few things that can match the luxury of reading in bed right after you wake up. And the last few pages of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida would be a perfect companion to savor at that moment. Which exactly what I did right before I write this post.

I found out about The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida only a few hours before reading it while browsing through the Avid Readers event catalog online.

The first thing that caught my attention was the name “Sumida” — it must be about Japan. And as you know, something, anything to do with Japan interests me. I then went on to read the synopsis. The first paragraph said:

Miwako Sumida is dead.

That was all I needed.

I’d read the book for those two reasons alone. But then, while searching what’s the best (ie: cheapest) way I can get it, I realized that The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida was written by an Indonesian-born Singapore female writer, Clarissa Goenawan. I don’t think I have ever read any Japanese fiction written by a non-Japanese before, let alone by someone I share a certain degree of identity with. 

I feverishly waited for the workday to be over. I finished my dinner, took a shower, and told Fafa that I am retiring to bed early today. With a final click on a button that says $14.99, I entered The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

The book was written from three different perspectives, none by Miwako Sumida. Though all of them centering around her. The story gives equal importance to the other three characters and their life.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is also layered with many sub-stories and details which add depth to the novel — from the watch that Miwako wore, the Salt Studio to the Secret Diary Zine — turning it into one delicious read.

It also took me to all the familiar places I have been yearning to go back to in Japan — from the English bookstore, Shinjuku train station, the convenience store, and the shrine. And then there was the part set in a small village below the valley, which made me pause to daydream about my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage in September next year in the middle of the night.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the book is written in a distinctive style of Japanese novels, with a bit of absurdity and melancholy, which if not overdone, can be utterly beautiful. And Clarrisa managed to do it perfectly. 

So beautifully written The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida might top my best book in 2020 chart. But that’s a decision to be made for another day, as I have just download Clarrisa’s first book, also set in Japan, titled RainBirds. 

Update: Avid Readers is hosting a free online Queer Book Club on The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida on 4th November and a conversation with the author the day after.

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!

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.

Warung Nyoman Nusa Lembongan

After spending all morning snorkelling in Nusa Lembongan, we were ready for lunch so we rented motorbikes and got directions from the helpful locals to get to Warung Nyoman.

Warung Nyoman is a house cum warung owned by a middle-aged woman and her two young daughters. The place stands in front of a fantastic view of the stone beach. They also put tables and chairs outside covered with umbrella huts. The whole place felt surreal, like a setting for an exotic movie. We ordered grilled fish, rice, and veggies. While waiting for the food, we were chilling with Bintang beers and feeling utterly blissful. The food came, and it was delicious, especially the sambal (a chilli-based condiment), which we asked for more and more. I was impressed by Ibu Nyoman’s hospitality. She was attentive and even gave us the tourists a discount for the meal. Warung Nyoman was featured on Lonely Planet.

On the way back from Warung Nyoman, I saw many patches of wet grass looking thingies being laid out to dry. I then realized those were seaweed, the locals’ livelihood. The exciting thing was that the seaweeds were not only green, but some were brown, also. It was quite a sight.

Warung Nyoman was a gastronomical experience by the beach with friends; it was one of the best meals of my life.