Friday, July 3, 2020

Not Quite Comics: Trungles' Star Spinner Tarot

The tarot card deck became intertwined with hypermasculine, gatekeeping occult knowledge popularized by Aleister Crowley quite a while ago, adding a tinge of danger to what is less a divination tool and more a method of self-discovery. There have been numerous versions of the deck with more inclusive and diverse imagery and interpretation since the first publication of the Rider-Waite deck over a century ago. Many have been published from a feminist point of view, and several have come from cartoonists. Annie Murphy's work with The Collective Tarot and Katie Skelly's Bad Girl Tarot are two prominent examples.

A recent, exquisitely designed version is the Star Spinner Tarot (Chronicle Books) by the cartoonist and illustrator Trungles (aka Trung Le Nguyen). He sets out to create imagery for his deck that avoids Orientalism and the exoticization of African cultures in favor of one that delves into more familiar but still poignant imagery that still draws from a storytelling milieu. As such, the water-bearing chalices draw from mermaid imagery. There is abundant faerie imagery. There are many allusions to mythology. There is a diversity and balance to the images in terms of masculine and feminine, as well as racial diversity without exploitation or exoticization. The design is absolutely flawless, from the rich colors to the box itself, which self-seals with a magnetic strip.

Trungles' line is beautifully precise and fluid; with the pastel color pattern at work, it has almost a lyrical quality. His instincts as a storyteller are at work not only within each image but also within each of the minor arcana. There's a story told through the chalices, wands, swords, and coins. That said, these story images are fragments, meant to be evocative rather than directly. They are notes that are played in each individual reading, creating a special kind of music between the cards and the reader.
In terms of its functionality as a tool for self-reflection, Trungles adds a few interesting wrinkles. For example, he has four variations on the Lovers card, where the person receiving the reader chooses the one they are most comfortable with. Those variations include different configurations of men, women, and non-binary figures. Even Trungles' description of how each card can be interpreted is gentler and more thoughtful than traditional decks. Disastrous cards like the Tower and the Ten of Swords, as Trungles describes them, portend woe but also an opportunity to move in a new direction. Many of the reversed cards describe a person who is unwilling to let go of difficult emotions. One can easily see how working with this deck on a regular basis might produce a meditative, fruitful set of personal revelations. 

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