There was a time when tarot was primarily a thing of the Western world. Now, tarot has spread all over the planet! Often in my tarot webinars I have students from all over the world.
As tarot becomes more popular in different cultures, new tarot decks are bringing us insight and images from those cultures.
One such deck that is sure to be very popular all over the world is Dreaming Way Tarot from US Games. I had the opportunity to review the deck recently, and was honored that the deck designer, Rome Choi, responded to my review and agreed to answer some questions.
Rome Choi pointed out immediately that my understanding of the deck was limited due to my lack of understanding of Korean culture. I knew right away that young people would get the deck better than I did; K-Pop is super-popular amongst young Americans right now.
My email conversation with Rome Choi really got me thinking about cultural differences. We had a particular exchange that I found both amusing and enlightening.
One of my few complaints about Dreaming Way Tarot is that the High Priestess is wearing knee socks. As a fifty-year-old Western woman, knee socks are something I haven’t worn since I was ten years old. To me they seem immature and undignified, not fitting the esteemed status of the High Priestess.
Rome Choi assumed my dismay at the knee socks was for any entirely different reason. Apparently, these days in Korea knee socks are sexy! The High Priestess is wearing the socks to symbolize her sexual maturity as well as her virginity. Essentially, the knee socks symbolically replace the pomegranates on the backdrop of the RWS High Priestess. Mr. Choi assumed I was offended by the socks because I thought they were too sexy – but I had never considered the possibility of sexy knee socks.
Now that he has explained the symbolism too me, I think it is a very modern, classy way to update the High Priestess and honor the tradition of her fertile-yet-virginal archetype.
Some of my other issues with the cards turn out to be smart symbols that indicate Mr. Choi’s own interpretation of the cards. The woman in the Ten of Cups looks unhappy because she is making needed sacrifices for her family. The teapot on the head of the Page of Cups indicates her emotional immaturity.
Tarot itself is a language. Each deck designer, no matter their culture, offers us tarot through their eyes. As different cultures reinterpret tarot, and as different generations reinterpret tarot, we will no doubt see new images, new symbols, and new ideas of what the cards might mean.
Rome Choi has an impressive background. He has been reading tarot since 1997, and has studied Transpersonal Psychology at the Seoul University of Buddhism. What he and his artist, Kwon Shina, have offered us in Dreaming Way Tarot is more than an interesting tarot deck. It is also a next step in the evolution of tarot.
I think that as tarot evolves, we are not likely to lose all of the old ways, or the old images and traditions. The evolution of tarot offers us an opportunity to reach more cultures and more generations, and to learn from them. The evolution of tarot offers us the opportunity to discover symbols that resonate for people all over the world.
For me this is a reminder that, while tarot came from a particular culture and time, tarot really is for everyone, everywhere.