Folklore Tarot Cards: Edition 02
Graphic by Catherine Liu
Tarot Illustrations by Lisa Pham, Sunny Leeuwon, Bri Tan, Jaden Tsan
Surviving through many years, changes in leadership, and time as a whole, the long awaited second edition of the Folklore Tarot Card Series is back in 2023. Join us as we celebrate the culture and art that our tarot card creators have brought us in this series :)
Upright: new beginnings, spontaneity, innocence, idealism, freedom
Reversed: chaos, naivety, poor judgement, recklessness, greed
The Chinese legend of Sun Wukong tells us of a Monkey King born from stone. Through dedicated and disciplined Taoist practice, he was able to access the 72 Earthly Transformations, which gave him amazing strength, enough to support the burden of two heavenly mountains on his shoulders while running with the speed of a meteor. He could flutter between humanity, the world of animals, and the material realm, transforming into other living beings and objects. Boasting unlimited energy and skilled in combat, he was able to defeat the best warriors of heaven. However, he had a constant internal battle with his short temper, impatience, and proclivity towards anger. This caused him to commit the foolish, foolish sin of daring to rebel against heaven. In return, the Buddha imprisoned him under a mountain for five hundred years. Upon his freedom, he became the bodyguard of the great Magician on their journey West.
Despite the colloquial negative connotation we have for the word “fool”, The Fool card often represents youth, adventure, and freedom. The Fool card represents willingness to try new things and go with the flow, which can lead to a plethora of opportunities. Like all cards, however, The Fool in its reversed position can have a less desirable meaning. Reversed, this card represents the gullible tendencies and naïveté that you can experience while on a journey of exploration. While The Fool encourages you to experience the freedoms and joys that life has to offer, it also cautions against making decisions without thinking critically beforehand.
Upright: Intuition, knowledge, divine feminine, the subconscious
Reversed: Secrets, disconnection, isolation from society
The Vietnamese Black Crane murmurs the life saving gift of being an oracle. Within the eyes of this tale, centers a soul who shifts between a Black Crane and a human. One day, they foresee the destruction of their home village, lost to the fury of flames and the Black Crane makes haste to warn all living bodies of this impending doom. Fortunately, favor was on their side and everyone lived. This Crane certainly lived up to their worshiped title as a creature of longevity in Vietnamese culture. The Black Crane lives on in modern Vietnamese traditions and culture. Seen as a symbol of longevity, good fortune and bliss, the Black Crane is incorporated into many practices that center the idea of eternal life.
In Vietnamese art and literature, the black crane is often depicted as a symbol of grace, elegance, and wisdom, and is frequently associated with scholars and intellectuals. In traditional Vietnamese martial arts, the movements of the black crane are often emulated, as they are seen as graceful and precise. The black crane also holds spiritual significance in Vietnamese Buddhism, where it is believed to symbolize enlightenment and spiritual awakening.
The High Priestess can be most closely attributed to the idea of inner knowledge. With the duality that this card represents, there is an encouragement to learn from both sides of every situation. The High Priestess enlightens you to the duality of the world, and pushes you to trust your intuition, and be brave in taking on new challenges. Explore the depths of the world and yourself, being bold in your steps.
Upright: Love, determination, ambition, skillfulness
Reversed: Deception, wasted potential, missed opportunities, carelessness
The Magician is a lifelong student of the sacred doctrines and principles that constitute Buddhism.
the story of a humble Buddhist monk named Tang Sanzang who travels from his home in Southern China to India in order to bring back holy texts and enlighten his countrymen. After being released from the mountain he was trapped under for 500 years, Wukong serves as the monk's bodyguard throughout his journey. Though he has no magical powers or weapons, he uses his wizened intellect to memorize any scripture, and meditate for vast amounts of time.
His journey lasted for over 17 years, during which he traveled thousands of miles, faced numerous perils, and encountered a variety of individuals and creatures from Chinese mythology. Despite the many obstacles he encountered, Tang Sanzang remained dedicated to his quest, and his journey became a symbol of devotion and perseverance. Today, he is celebrated as a cultural hero in China and has become a significant figure in Buddhist history.
Just like a magician who can conjure up illusions, a person who can learn has the ability to create new ideas and concepts, connect seemingly unrelated pieces of information, and come up with innovative solutions to complex problems. Learning is a transformative process that can unlock new opportunities, broaden perspectives, and increase one's understanding of the world. It is a power that is available to all, but those who harness it can achieve incredible feats and make a lasting impact on society. Like any magical power, learning requires practice, dedication, and a willingness to embrace new challenges. With these qualities, anyone can unlock the full potential of their learning abilities and achieve their dreams.
The Magician tarot card is the embodiment of the power of manifestation and transformation. The card symbolizes the connection between the spiritual and physical worlds, and the magician's ability to channel energy and bring forth change. This card is often interpreted as a sign of creativity, self-confidence, and the ability to manifest one's desires into reality. It also represents the power of the mind, suggesting that the power of manifestation comes from a clear and focused mind, and the ability to visualize and execute a plan. In a tarot reading, the Magician suggests that you have the potential to create something new and transformative, and have the skills and resources to bring their vision to life.
Upright: awakening, redemption, reincarnation, transition, renewal
Reversed: self-doubt, stagnation, inner criticism
In Korean shamanic mythology, the tale of Bari-degi starts with the birth of the youngest princess, the king and queen’s seventh daughter. The king, who has six other daughters and no sons, becomes enraged at her gender. He abandons her and refers to her as Bari-degi, “thrown away thing”. Luckily, she is rescued by an older woman and grows up with no idea of her true identity. Years later, the king becomes deathly ill and pleads for his children to seek out the elixir of life, which is located in the underworld. The six daughters all refuse to make the journey. With no other choice, the king finds Bali and begs for her help. She agrees, and travels to the underworld to look for the elixir that would save her father’s life. By the time she locates the elixir and travels back to the land of the living, it is too late — the king has died. At his funeral procession, she feeds him the elixir, and he is miraculously brought back to life. Bari is reborn as a goddess and is tasked with delivering souls to the underworld after death.
Her trek through the underworld and subsequent ascent to godhood tells a story of female strength amidst suffering and divine transformation.
This card is often associated with rebirth, awakening, and a call to action or a spiritual awakening. It can represent a turning point in one's life where they are being called to account for their actions or to make a significant change. The Judgement card encourages self-reflection, self-forgiveness, and a willingness to let go of past mistakes in order to move forward with renewed purpose and clarity. Overall, the Judgement card is a powerful symbol of transformation and personal growth.
Upright: Control, willpower, success, action, determination
Reversed: Self-discipline, opposition, lack of direction
The Legend of the White Snake begins with a boy named Xu Xian, who accidentally purchases immortality pills disguised as glutinous rice balls. Upon consumption, he realizes that they’re in fact not what he intended to purchase and throws them up in the lake. A female white snake residing in the lake quickly eats them in order to gain spiritual powers, including immortality and the ability to transform into human form. Later while on a stroll through a park, she comes across a green snake being harmed, and utilizes her newfound powers of transformation to save her life, gaining her loyalty.
Years later, the white snake adopts the name Bai Suzhen and the green snake Xiao Qing. Bai Suzhen meets Xu Xian again at the Broken Bridge and they fall in love. Later on, Fa Hai, a Buddhist monk and Bai Suzhen’s enemy, discovers what her life has become. In an attempt to ruin her, he meets Xu Xian and convinces him to give wine to Bai Suzhen, which ultimately reveals her true identity as a snake. Out of shock, Xu Xian dies of a heart attack. Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing take him to the sacred Buddhist mountain, Mount Emei, to revive him, and he confesses that he still loves Bai Suzhen regardless of her identity.
Later on while Bai Suzhen is pregnant, Fa Hai returns and imprisons Xu Xian for revenge, who later escapes to witness his son’s birth. However, their happiness is once again short-lived as Fa Hai strikes again, this time imprisoning Bai Suzhen instead. Years pass and their son grows up to pass the rigorous civil service exam, becoming a scholar and achieving high success. When he gains this victory, he visits his mother where she is imprisoned to pay respect. Touched by this moment and the family’s continuous love regardless of their circumstances, the heavens decide to free her, allowing the family to finally reunite.
The Chariot represents taking action and overcoming conflicts. When this card appears, it is a sign of encouragement to keep pushing through obstacles to reach your goal or a warning sign that you are letting these challenges impede your progress. Either way, you must remain dedicated, determined, and strong in order to reach your end goals and aspirations. Although the journey to happiness may be long, you will get there eventually.
Upright: Happiness, love, fulfillment, contentment
Reversed: Unrealistic expectations, boredom, listlessness
In The Golden Axe, a Vietnamese Folklore, a man whose jaw and hands were dirtied from a hollow life, was uncrowning the earth of its trees to afford himself food and coin. Unfortunately, one day, the ax unrooted itself from his grip as he slung the weapon downward and it was buried underneath the river’s swift currents. The axeman became distraught as his only source of income was gone with the loss of his tool.
He grounded himself on a moss covered rock, weeping onto the ground as the sky had just done earlier when an elder ghosted their way into his sight. Wisps of white parted around their lips as the elder asked why the man was sad.
“I can no longer feed myself because I’ve lost my ax. I have no means of survival now.”
The elder softly sighed and stood upright as a pillar over the man. With hands clasped behind his back, the elder said, “I am the Dragon of this river. I will help you gain that which you’ve lost and more.” Then, the mysterious stranger turned around to calmly descend into the glimmering water where, for minutes, only the movement of the currents was the only thing seen.
It was the parting of the water that announced the elder’s return and he once again stood over the man, asking if the retrieved weapon of brilliant gold belonged to him. The man declined. The elder went back into the waters to find a silver ax. Once again the man rejected the item for it was not his. Following this, a bronze ax was given to only be turned away.
“You speak only of honesty, good sir. As such, I will instead grant you all three axes instead of your worn wooden one.”
Through unwavering dedication and honesty, the man had earned himself more than he could ever hope for.
Like its name implies, The Sun represents brightness, happiness, and joy. Closely linked to the idea of fulfillment in one’s life, The Sun often is used to symbolize a time of alignment with your desires, and achievement of your goals. Its reverse meaning, however, could be an indication of struggle when it comes to contentment in life. Furthermore, the reversed meaning of this card could indicate unrealistic expectations that could be clouding your perspective on life. Either way, The Sun encourages you to survey your experiences with joy, and to take a holistic approach when understanding them.