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The Afro-Brazilian Tarot

by Alice Santana & Giuseppe Palumbo

The Afro-Brazilian Tarot
Price: $19.95

Number of cards in deck: 78

Measurements: 2.6 x 4.72 inches, or 66 x 120 mm.

Back of card: Based on The Wheel, shown above. The Wheel card is divided at the horizontal midpoint of the wheel itself, and then reflected to make the bottom half of the card. This means the 8 kernels of the Opele necklace become 12, a significant change in its meaning & use. May be inverted, but contrasts poorly with the front of the card. If you spread the cards out, face down, on the table, you will, in fact, not be able to tell if the Wheel card itself is not face up.

Booklet included: Yes, 64 pages, 2.6 x 4.74 inches, or 66 x 120 mm. Instructions in English, Italian, Spanish, French & German.

Publisher: Lo Scarabeo. Printed in Italy, imported by Llewellyn Worldwide.

Comments: This deck is a combination of the Nigerian Yoruban & the Brazilian Candomble, which is based on the Nigerian.

The opening notes, which are quite good, several times refer to the enslavement of the Yoruba peoples as their deportation. This isn't the story I learned in my USofA officially approved history books when I was in school. I was taught that evil European slave traders raided the coasts of Africa, stealing whomever they could. Despite ongoing propaganda to the contrary, children have never been encouraged to think in school, as this fairy tale collapses upon examination.

It's clear that slave ships were indistinguishable from transports that haul hogs to slaughter in the 21st century. Both cram as many living units into the smallest spaces imaginable, both are complete sanitary messes, both stink, both will accept a certain loss of contents (ie, death in transit) as a cost of doing business. If you ever get the oppportunity to see one of these livestock haulers up close, do so. Then imagine people in them. You'll have a pretty good idea.

There is an even more telling similarity between slavers & cattle haulers: Neither had on-board security. In the case of livestock, this is obvious. The rancher who raised the animals voluntarily exchanged them for hard cash.

So how did the slaver get his cargo of slaves? He didn't come equipped with a raiding party. He relied on the locals for his supply. There are some nasty implications. The one that interests me at the moment is what happened to the civilization(s) that eagerly sold so many into slavery? Where did they go? Who are their descendants? What was the criteria that resulted in this group being singled out & sold, but not that group? Military defeat? Race? Religion? Language? Is Darfur in the first decade of the 21st century just business as usual? (My apologies if this got hashed out in the miniseries Roots. I've never watched a lot of TV.)

Such are the thoughts that arise from the word, deported.

Subsequent Spanish, French, English & ultimately American efforts to Christianize these people resulted in the fusion of various African cults with Roman Catholicism, resulting in Santeria, Voodoo (or Voodun), Candomble & some others. What I've heard from other sources is the Africans did this by corrupting the sacrament of Ordination (no small feat). They now use the results for their own ends. Western writers tend to agree with the Caribbean / African / South American proponents of these religions, describing the results as good & wholesome. I am of the opinion we must examine individual sects & draw individual conclusions. To her credit, Alice Santana agrees, writing, The Yoruban religion that evolved in Haiti, rather, was different and assumed a more obscure and disturbing direction. (pg. 3) Which, if you know anything about Papa Doc Duvalier & if you cast him in the twin roles as national political leader & national spiritual leader, is not a surprising conclusion.

In all the fancy metaphysical stories told by all the fancy metaphysical authors of all the fancy new-born (and short-lived) metaphysical schools of a century ago, Africa & its native peoples & cultures were notably omitted. This despite the fact that African art & music were the rage in Paris & other western capitals at the time. (One need only think of Stravinsky & Picasso.) When asked, the reply was swift & definitive: The secret story of Africa was to remain secret. It still is.

A little is known: The Orixas are not represented with an anthropomorphic or zoomorphic form, but only through symbols. To communicate with mortals during spiritualistic gatherings, nevertheless, the deity assumes human form, taking over or "mounting" a medium, christened & consecrated within the Candomble community. (pg. 5)

These deities are said to be benign & helpful, and that must be true for the majority. However, it remains dangerous to the untrained to "open themselves" to such mounting by forces unknown.

The notes with this deck identify the gods on the major arcanas, but not the characters on the minors. The gods shown are not always appropriate to the cards themselves. The two examples shown above:

Magician: Babalao. Priest of the divinatory cult of Ifa. He casts the opele (necklace of 8 kernels) in the opon (magic plate) in order to find the odu (path) and determine the future. (pg. 5)

The Lovers: Oxossi. Orixa of hunting, he ensures food for his people. (pg. 6) Does this not refer to The Emperor?

In each of the suits, there is a two-card sequence. The Wands sequence is shown above. Despite the appearances, the celebrant is not lighting a fire, as there is neither flame nor fuel shown. In this deck, Knaves are shown as shamans. Among other magical objects, there is a curious long stick. Midway along its length a number of shorter, straight, pointed sticks branch off, as if from a stylized twig broom. The main stick continues beyond these, to end in a carved bird at rest.

Many striking images in this deck.

The Astrology Center of America

207 Victory Lane, Bel Air, MD 21014
Tel: 410-638-7761; Toll-free (orders only): 800-475-2272

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