Here we are! At long last, a comprehensive review of the beautiful Tarot Nusantara. This is perhaps one of the hardest popular tarot decks to attain at this time, and one that took me nearly three years to find. Getting anything out of Indonesia is a great head ache, and from the looks of it the word on the street is that the tarot deck is now out of print. I have searched for this tarot deck through collectors forums and just about any corner that you can string a message with the subject of "Tarot" on it. I spent many nights writing to my favorite sellers and other members of the community that had acquired their copy. Nobody seemed to have any leads, so I wrote to Gagas Media, Transbonja, Hisyam Fachri himself, and numerous stores across Indonesia. All they told me is that the tarot deck was not available and that they were sorry.
I was annoyed after the first year because I didn't understand how much harder it was to find a recent deck than my authentic 1983 Keishobou Tarot from Japan. The Keishobou Tarot only took me an Ebay search to find, and I bought it after six months of debating whether or not it was worth it. It's actually one of the first tarot decks ever published in Japan. Back to the Nusantara Tarot — not even the legendary Chialing could find it! The search started to stall and lag when I ran out of leads, but every now and then I would still contact somebody about it or search for it on Ebay. Recently I came to find one had been sold relatively cheap on Ebay while I was celebrating my birthday in Japan, so I was mortified to find that I had lost my chance to get an inexpensively priced copy without the fuss of searching.
Finally, I found myself two original copies. I won't go into many details, but I can say that I found one from my seller and paid an exorbitant pretty penny for it, and the other from a professional tarot reader native from Indonesia. One will be used and worn with pride, the other is to be kept pristine for study and admiration. Who knows? I may come to use them both, that's how much I love this tarot deck.
The Nusantara Tarot doesn't read to me as the RWS usually does. Rather, you are made to contemplate the string of cards. I can't say that they interact with one another, but the scenes are quite lively. It isn't very difficult to get pulled into the card to interact with the players contained therein. I can see that Devil dancing over his chained prisoners, the dogs howling at the Moon as it shines down with madness of the night, the Magician prepares for his ritual and the Hanged Man isn't going anywhere anytime soon. You can see that everyone is immersed in what they are doing, and they don some very interesting attires to add to our imagination. There is no dialogue amongst them, they are too centered in their world to really preoccupy themselves with anybody looking into what they are doing. This helps preserve the magic for me because it makes the characters stand out with no doubt of their purpose and their responsibilities as divine staples of archetypes. There is life and magic contained in this deck, and I love it.
The illustrations themselves are quite whimsical and charming. Illustrations are graphic and flat with printed motifs to add a little texture. There are also smudges that make the images look old; to me they were quite unnecessary, but they look just fine. I think that the brighter, the better with cards like these. There was really no need to push for the tarot being aged and worn, but its part of their charm. The figures are slender and lanky, and they come to life as they depict the scenes we are familiar with while adding a new twist. I love the Tower and Devil cards, which are usually the cards that people tend to shy away from because they don't understand tarot. Here, even the darkest cards have a speck of whimsy and a silver lining that you're not likely to miss when you are reading with them. The cards are so sweet that we are more receptive to what we have to hear, whether we agree with it or not. It will tell us what we need to hear through a soothing voice, but still show us the more erratic moments in life. I can say that it's quite tasteful even though it's so colorful.
The cards are poker size and very thin, but also very easy to shuffle and fan out, which I really like. They fit comfortably in my hands and in a tin I have found to house them in. Hopefully this will help in keeping my copy pristine; I wouldn't like to leave it up to chance. My only complaint is that up front the laminate makes the image hard to read. There are so many diminutive details that can get lost if your eyesight is not so good or if the lighting is not ideal. If the light hits them directly, they will look glazed. In dimmer light, you will be able to appreciate the details a little better. If you have the replica, neither the stock or the illustrations are an issue. The replica is much larger, but I think the texture in the backs is quite important, and that is lost in the replica.
The cards are in bahasa Indonesian, as is the book that they come with, titled The Real Art of Tarot. I am sure that Hisyam Fachri included in it his psychological reason behind the changes to the standard RWS meanings, but I honestly don't feel like I am missing out on a big secret. The importance of tarot is the bond that we make with it, not so much what was originally meant for it. I really love the fact that they were made by someone who loves tarot but is not a participating member in the American market for tarot. It brings fresh ideas to the table, not just recycled and regurgitated fragments from books that are passed on through distribution for popularity, and not so much the content. It's a rare tool for me to work with that has been encapsulated and protected by the culture it was forged in; to me that's quite invaluable. I feel as though I am an outsider getting to see and experience their best kept secrets, and I say that with utmost respect for Indonesia. The cards themselves are loaded with spirituality without being of an obvious religious doctrine, which is what probably makes Tarot Nusantara so popular for those of us who are not in Indonesia.
I'll let you in on a little secret: This was meant to be a tarot deck for beginners, to get them familiarized and comfortable with the teachings of the tarot. Somehow, it ended up being a jewel for collectors and professional readers. Most everyone on AT has it on their wishlist, and multiple boards and messages are exchanged about it each year. Once we own a copy, we seek another because the deck absolutely demands for backup. We don't need a backup because of wear and tear, — even though I'll tell you right now they are quite delicate, — it's just because if you lose your copy, finding another will be close to impossible. Take it from me, I have been searching for mine for over two years.
INTERVIEW WITH THE TAROT NUSANTARA:
♡ What is your most important characteristic?
Knight of Coins. A gift from a faraway place that brings with it stability and satisfaction. He looks like hes been around, but his garments are quite beautiful still. It must be the wealth collected over his extensive travels. His hair falls in long ringlets, he's quite beautiful. This crowns the last out of print deck desired for my collection and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction because of it.
♡ What are your strengths as a tarot deck?
Seven of Wands. Persistence in the face of opposition. Just when you think the battle is won, something always pops up to try and rob us of our peace of mind, but this deck is persistent also in the struggle for mental peace. It could in turn present us with things that are challenging to accept because they present mental hurdles for us to overcome. We should be on our feet always if we expect to be able to deal with the trials coming our way anyway.
♡ What are your limits?
Two of Swords. This seems to be a favorite, we saw it in last week's Tarot of Prague entry. The Two of Swords states that in refusing to have an open mind to messages, we block out our intuition. If we are not receptive, we won't get the point of why we are asking the tarot for aid in the first place. If we're not ready for the message, we won't be able to gain anything from it.
♡ What are you here to teach me?
Seven of Cups. How to make choices based off what is best for me rather than what I think is best for me. All options are attractive when they are presented, but they aren't always what we need in order to be able to make something come out of the choice. We will be able to examine and discern to clear confusion, whether mental or in this case emotional.
♡ How can I best learn to collaborate with you?
Four of Coins. Hanging onto what I've got. It feels like it's suggesting to accept the foundation laid out before the deck came and to use it instead as another part of the puzzle that was already there. Basically suggests that it will help keep things in the same balance they were in when I first started reading with the RWS tarot deck.
♡ What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?
The Magician. Magical alchemy once more. This one states that the relationship brings with it divine inspiration that we can manifest into a reality. When we accept the inspiration that comes towards us, we become open to a divine plan of action. We learn and we grow, and we become masters of what we do. Mastery over the tools is suggested here, and with that comes mastery over the ritual as well.
♡ Which card do you want to show off?
Hanged Man. See how he hangs, suspended and enlightened. He reaches the realization of purpose simply by turning his gaze on the same matters in a new way. The world looks different from another angle, and in being able to appreciate that angle, we gain new perspectives and solutions. It's saying that even if the terrain is familiar, there are new additions sprinkled in that will make it nice to work with.
♡ How do you see me?
The Sun. The outward expression of joy and being very centered in the present. It is a card of sweet vanity and merry laughter ringing through the ears of those present. I have been after this tarot deck for a very, very long time... so naturally, working with it does make me very happy. It is the newest addition to my collection, a fragile one but one that brings me much joy.
♡ How do you see yourself?
The Moon. The shady opposite to the sun and my absolute favorite signifier. When it popped up, it made me smile. The moon looms over the dog and the jackal with its third eye open and the traditional drops of blood raining down upon them. The crayfish is a lobster this time around and it emerges from the waters of the sleeping subconscious to find itself in a peculiar scene. The dogs are dancing and there is a lot of swirling movement around. It's quite lovely and speaks of pure intuition without harness.