Graphic by Sandra Tsang
Tarot Illustrations by Ira San Andres, Tiffany Ha, Brinda Prasad, Allison Nguyen, Lisa Pham, Linda Nguyen, and Audrey Webb
As the first full week of 2021 comes to a close, we take time for reflection, healing, and preparing ourselves for what the new year has in store for us. Silk Club is back after a much needed rest, and we're excited to share the first edition of our Folklore Tarot Card Series! Inspired by traditional Asian folklores, we've decided to create our own deck— starting off with the Major Arcana.
Despite any hardships or challenges you may face this upcoming year, we hope that you will also find many moments of joy and celebration no matter how big or small. The Silk Team had a lot of fun making these classic stories come to life. We hope you enjoy them! <3
Upright: endings, change, transformation, transition
Reversed: resistance to change, personal transformation, inner purging
During the day, the Manananggal appears as a seemingly average woman. At night however, bat-like wings stretch out from her back to fly— severing her upper torso from the rest of her body. With a gruesome body with trailing organs and a long forked tongue, she hunts for her next victim. Sometimes, she preys on pregnant women as they sleep, sucking their blood and consuming the heart of the fetus. When the Manananggal targets men, she disguises herself as a beautiful woman and lures them into a secluded place before ravenously feasting on his organs. It is said that those who want to ward off the Manananggal scatter rice or salt around their homes. Her biggest vulnerability is the lower half of her torso, left abandoned and motionless— sprinkling salt or garlic on it kills her.
Meaning: Do not fear death. Although it implies an end, possibly of a relationship or interest, it also brings forth new possibilities. Allow yourself to let go of unhealthy attachments and gain a sense of self-awareness. Death is about endings and beginnings, birth and rebirth, change and transformation. There is beauty in death, and it is an inherent part of being alive.
Folklore: The Cowheard and the Weaver Girl
Upright: illusion, fear, anxiety, subconsious, intuition
Reversed: release of fear, repressed emotions, inner confusion
The Cowheard and the Weaver Girl is a story of forbidden romance. One day when the fairy Zhinü was visiting the mortal realm with her sisters, she fell deeply in love with a mortal cowherd named Niulang. As the two lovers got married and had children together, Zhinü started neglecting her cloud weaving duties. When the Goddess of Heaven found out that Zhinü’s negligence was due to her relationship with a mere mortal, she was furious and sent Zhinü back to the heavens to resume weaving. The devastated Niulang was determined to see his wife again so he hid in an ox hide and carried their two children to the heavens. Unfortunately, the Goddess of Heaven found out and scratched a river into the sky with her hair pin to eternally separate the two lovers, forming the Milky Way. Zhinü and Niulang were banished to opposite sides of the heavenly river, but the Goddess of Heaven was eventually convinced to allow the two to be together once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. On this day, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day. Once they reunite, it rains because the magpies and lovers are sad. When the two are apart, they long for each other with uncertainty and illusion, represented by The Moon. The Moon can indicate some sort of block or emotional repression much like the heavenly river that divides these forbidden lovers.
Meaning: The Moon is a card of illusion and deception, and therefore often suggests a time when something is not as it appears to be. Perhaps a misunderstanding on your part, or a truth you cannot admit to yourself. You need to listen to and trust your intuition so you can see beyond what is in front of you. Let go of your conscious mental blocks or negative self-talk and allow your intuition to guide you. Your dreams, intuitions and inner guidance lead you forward toward higher levels of understanding.
Folklore: Draupadi Vastraharan (The Disrobing of Draupadi)
Upright: courage, persuasion, influence, compassion
Reversed: inner strength, self-doubt, low energy, raw emotion
The Disrobing of Draupadi marks a turning point in the Sanskrit epic, The Mahabharata. Her five husbands, the Pandavas, are tricked by their cousins, the Kauravas, into playing a rigged game of dice. The Pandavas lose their kingdom and wealth to the Kauravas, followed by the eldest brother, Yudhishthira, gambling away each of his brothers. To humiliate the Pandavas even more, the Kauravas push Yudhishthira to put Draupadi at stake. When the Kauravas win the round, they drag Draupadi into the court and try to strip her of her sari. With the Pandavas either unable or unwilling to help her, she prays for protection from Lord Krishna. As they pull off the layers of her sari, the fabric continues to extend infinitely, leaving her fully dressed. Eventually, the Kauravas give up from exhaustion. This moment demonstrates Draupadi’s resilience and strength. Despite being humiliated by both the Pandavas and Kauravas, Draupadi relies on her own willpower to protect herself.
Meaning: Strength predicts the triumphant conclusion to a major life problem, situation, or temptation through strength of character. Rather than physical strength or will, this card speaks to the inner strength of the human spirit's ability to overcome any obstacle. Your strength allows you to overcome any growing fears, challenges, or doubts.
Folklore: Preah Thong and Neang Neak
Upright: harmony, relationships, value alignment, choices
Reversed: self-love, disharmony, imbalance, misalignment of values
There was an Indian Prince named Preah Thong. One night, a hermit appeared in his dreams and told the prince he should set sail to the East. The hermit told him that he would find land which would later become a great and wonderful kingdom. When the prince woke up, he set sail with plenty of food, water, and a select amount of soldiers. Several days passed and the prince’s ship approached an island. Preah Thong ordered to moor the ship and got off to explore the island. The island was full of animals and vegetation, but there were no other human inhabitants, so the prince laid claim to the island and asked his people to build a settlement. After wandering around the island, the prince came across a beautifully grande Thlork tree. The shade beneath the tree entranced the prince, and so he decided to rest. It was then he decided to call this newly formed claimed Nokor Kauk Thlork (The Kingdom of Thlork.) The young prince awoke to a high-tide in the late afternoon. Weary and fearing the unknown, he dared not cross the water on his own and so he continued his stay beneath the shade of the Thlork. Before long, night fell. The full moon danced and dazzled the water that surrounded him. It was then that a procession of people emerged from the water carrying various goods and accompanying a beautiful woman. Preah Thong, entranced by the woman, stirred from his spot which grabbed the attention of these people. The two fell for each other in those moments. Neang Neak introduced herself. Enthralled by this human man, she insisted he meet her family. They were happy about their plans to get married. Expected to live on land, Neang Neak’s father graciously used his power to recede the water surrounding Kauk Thlork island. A beautiful land emerged for the amazing Neang Neak and her prince husband. They built their Nokor Kauk Thlork Kingdom and lived happily for eternity. Preah Thong and Neang Neak portray love and harmony in relationships through their marriage and through the two kingdoms’ alliance.
Meaning: The Lovers is a card of open communication and raw honesty. It indicates some decision about an existing relationship, a temptation of the heart, or a choice of potential partners. Often, an aspect of ones life will have to be sacrificed; a single lifestyle may be sacrificed and a relationship gained or one potential partner may be chosen while another is turned down. Whatever the choice, it should not be made lightly, as the ramifications will be lasting. While this card typically refers to a romantic tie, it can also represent a close friendship or family relationship where love, respect and compassion flow.
Folklore: The Star Fruit Tree
Upright: balance, moderation, patience, purpose
Reversed: imbalance, excess, self-healing, realignment
In The Starfruit Tree, the eldest sibling of two intoxicated themself on the luxurious offer that a mysterious, mythical bird had sung to them: “Give me your star fruits in exchange for flight to a place of wondrous treasures.” With eyes filled with monetary gluttony, they agreed to the contract along with their youngest sibling. Thusly, everyday the pair fed the beast in exchange for riches that made their days less dull. However, insatiable appetites know nothing of moderation or balance. The eldest shoved away plates of patience and one day desperately tried to bring as much fortune as possible on the winged-creature as they flew back. Unable to bear the weight of a ravenous greed, the bird dropped the voracious sibling and the hoarded treasures into the water to be swallowed up by the waves. Unlike they who lacked temperance, the youngest perfected the practice and was able to safely accumulate wealth forever.
Meaning: This card indicates that you should learn to bring about balance, patience ,and moderation in your life. You should take the middle road, avoiding extremes and maintain a sense of calm. You are being invited to stabilise your energy and to allow the life force to flow through you without force or resistance. It’s time to recover your flow and get your life back into order.
Folklore: Con Rồng Cháu Tiên (Descendants of the Dragon and Fairy)
Upright: femininity, beauty, nature, nurturing, abundance
Reversed: creative block, dependence on others
This tale about the origin of Vietnamese people tells the story of dragon Lạc Long Quân, who saved fairy Âu Cơ from a mythological beast and later fell in love and started a family with her. From a sac of a hundred eggs, the two became parents to a hundred children, the originators of the Vietnamese people. While they never stopped loving each other, they decided to return to their homelands after some time, Lạc Long Quân to the sea and Âu Cơ to the mountains, each taking half of their children with them. This story serves as a reminder that regardless of where we are from, whether it be the mountains or the seas, we are connected and unified by two people that loved each other although being different by nature.
Meaning: The Empress is traditionally associated with maternal influence; it is the card if you are hoping to start a family. She can represent the creation of life, romance, art, or new business. Create beauty in your life. Connect with your senses through taste, touch, sound, smell and sight. Draw on these senses to experience pleasure and deep fulfilment. As the Mother Earth archetype, the Empress urges you to venture out into nature to ground your energy and be in flow with the Earth. Allow yourself the time and the space to enter a different frame of mind and receive the grounding spirit of nature into your heart and consciousness. When you do this, you can reach higher planes of consciousness.
Folklore: Tam and Cam
Upright: hope, faith, purpose, renewal, spirituality
Reversed: lack of faith, despair, self-trust, disconnection
Tam Cam is a Vietnamese twist on the typical Cinderella story. It begins with two half-sisters, Tam and Cam, and their mother, who Tam’s father remarried to shortly before he died. The stepmother and Cam trick and abuse Tam, whose heart is pure and persistent despite being forced to toil away for hours until she was dark with grime. Underneath the soot and grease, Tam’s beauty was unquestionable and only served to deepen her stepmother’s and sister’s hatred. One day, the stepmother asks Tam and Cam to go fishing at the river, promising the daughter with the fullest basket a red silk yếm. While Tam worked hard and caught plenty of fish, Cam spent the day playing until the very end while Tam was washing the mud from her hair, Cam empties Tam’s fish into her own basket and returns home to receive the prize. Tam weeps upon realizing what had happened, until a goddess appears and comforts her. She tells Tam to look in her basket, where she finds a single goby. Tam returns home, following the goddess’s instructions to care for her new companion with rice and song until it grows. Formulating a plan, the stepmother sends Tam to shepherd their cattle far from home, so that Cam, looking much like her sister, could wear Tam’s clothes and summon the goby. When Tam returns, she weeps again, finding her only friend being killed for supper. The goddess reappears, telling Tam to collect the bones and bury them in jars under her bed. Tam obeys, going to sleep and dreaming of attending an upcoming festival held by the king. The day of the festival arrives, only for the stepmother to demand that Tam separates rice from bran before she may join the festival, an impossibly long task. Again, Tam is visited by the goddess, who calls down a sparrow to help Tam with her task. The goddess then tells Tam to unearth the jars under her bed, where she finds the jars containing silk clothes, a scarf, and a red yếm. Dressed up in finery, Tam rushes to join the festival. In her rush, she loses a slipper when crossing a river, which is eventually found by the king. The night is spent tirelessly searching for the mysterious lady who fits this shoe, the king intending to marry the owner. Suddenly, the king sees radiant and gracious Tam, and the slipper fits perfectly. They wed happily, and Tam only leaves her new life at the palace to return home for her father’s death anniversary. Throughout the rest of Tam’s existence, her jealous family repeatedly kills her and her reincarnations. By the goddess’s power, she returns from the dead each time to comfort her beloved husband: as an oriole, two peach trees, a golden apple and eventually, as her original human form. The story ends when Tam, having undergone such hardship and spiritual transformation is restored to her happy life with the king and goes to visit Cam, who asks her the secret to her beauty. Tam tells her to jump down a hole, then pours boiling water on Cam, killing her. Tam uses the blood and bones of Cam to make a fermented sauce, then sends it to her stepmother as a gift. The stepmother eats it every day until a crow comes and tells her she is eating her daughter’s flesh, and she discovers at the bottom of the jar is Cam’s skull. In a terrible shock, the evil stepmother dies.
Meaning: When the Star card appears, you are likely to find yourself feeling inspired. It brings renewed hope and faith and a sense that you are truly blessed by the universe at this time. As the Star follows the Tower card, it comes as a welcome reprieve after a period of destruction and turmoil. You have endured many challenges and stripped yourself bare of any limiting beliefs that have previously held you back. You are realising your core essence, who you are beneath all the layers. No matter what life throws your way, you know that you are always connected to divine and pure loving energy. You hold a new sense of self, a new appreciation for the core of your being.