News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

Tarot gets an African interpretation

magician-sangomaTarot cards have been used by people seeking answers to personal questions for centuries. The pictorial cards have traditionally depicted archetypal characters and scenes from European myth and history. Now, in what is billed as a world first, those wanting to access the occult knowledge of the cards but are more at home on the continent of Africa can get a deck illustrated with South African myths and legends.Called the iTongo Tarot for Transformation, the deck uses images painted by Chantal Fielding, a Port Elizabeth-based artist

Author of the cards, Robyn-Anne Pollard, said: “observations combined with my own quest to recognise my roots, led me to research and develop this project.”

Pollard said a Sangoma she consulted about the etiquette of using a European system to tell African tales told her that Tarot was “the bones” of her ancestors and that “the voices of Africa are in your heart – you should tell the stories”.

She said while Tarot decks traditionally relied on images belonging to the European Renaissance period dating back 600 hundred, their equivalents can be found in African mythology.

She said iTongo transposed the symbolism and meaning of the European-based decks to visual images that are uniquely South African yet retain the universality of the Tarot archetypes.

She said her aim was to present broad patterns of what is known of the mythology and history of South Africa preceding the arrival of Dutch and British settlers.

As such, it was based on African folk tales that were passed down by the tribal story tellers in an oral tradition from one generation to the next.

“These people were entrusted with the history of the tribe, under oath never to alter, add, or subtract a single word.”

Hence she said she chose tales that resonated with the themes and archetypes of Tarot rather than specific icons or periods in South African history as she sought to reflect in some way the diversity of the South African nation.

“This has been quite a task within the range and scope of this project and is by no means intended as a definitive view of the South African indigenous peoples’ history or cultural beliefs.”

She said it was accessible to anyone who is interested in self discovery, South African stories or in Tarot.

“It’s a renaissance of Africa.”

The cards also got the thumbs up from award winning author Rachel Pollack.

“The iTongo is wonderful, very well thought out, beautiful art and it works well in readings as well as teaching us about Africa’s peoples and its deep traditions,” wrote Pollack in a review of the cards. – Yugendree Naidoo, West Cape News

Tags: african folk tales, african mythology, african myths and legends, sangoma, south african history, south african nation, tarot cards, tarot decks

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3 Responses to “Tarot gets an African interpretation”

  1. Like most accounts of tarot in English language media, this story is a little misleading. Tarot cards have not always been associated with the occult or fortune telling. The tarot was really made for card games still played in countries like France. It is a gross distortion of culture to have people believe that tarot cards are only used for tarot reading.

  2. Helen says:

    This perfectly good article does not say anywhere that Tarot was only ever used for one thing historically and it is not an academic thesis on Tarot anyway but a Tarot deck review.

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