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Playing with a full deck
Publication Date : 19-03-2013
Classical Thai characters adorn Viroj Tangtadsawadi's line of gold-encrusted tarot cards
Thirty years ago, he introduced the Japanese manga Doraemon to Thai children and spawned a J-pop culture phenomenon that is still around today. Since then, Viroj Tangtadsawadi, a businessman with the Midas touch, has grown in stature and wealth, going on to pioneer Thailand's first "Meet and Greet" fan club meetings, cosplay and pocket monsters.
Now this entrepreneur, who has for years devoted himself to astrology, is on a mission to show Thai culture to the world through his "Jatumaharaja Tarot" or "Four Heavenly Kings Tarot". A world first, the tarot deck features illustrations of classical Thai characters that are made luminous with 24-karat gold dust sprayed between the cards' laminated finish.
While tarot-card suits and their meanings are the same, the illustrations and themes vary greatly, from ancient Egyptian to animals and fairy tales to manga. In Thailand, most tarot cards are clones of the classic Rider-Waite-Smith decks with their Christian imagery.
We caught up with Viroj shortly after he launched his cards.
What was your inspiration for creating the Jatumaharaja Tarot?
This is my third tarot creation in 18 years of horoscope and astrology. I envisaged it as the best of the best, a set that would leave a lasting impression of the beauty and delicacy of Thai arts in the international tarot realm. The "Jatumaharaja" or "Four Heavenly Kings" is made up of the four gods believed to live in the first of the 16 planes of heavenly beings, in accordance with the Buddhist and Brahmin faiths.
Legend has it that they are protectors watching over the cardinal directions of the world. A king that rules financially holds the pentacles (circles or coins), while the others hold cups (or harps in some Asian cultures), swords, and wands.
I use the theme of the four heavenly kings because they are aligned with the suits of the Minor Arcana - coins, cups, swords and wands. However, the Jatumaharaja has nothing to do with nor does it interfere with the interpretation of tarot reading. The interpretive meanings of the cards are based on the standard tarot reading. In using the names and illustrations of the four kings, my intention was to convey their wish to help us in revealing our fortune and also that they would like to make merit.
It took seven years for these tarot cards to become reality. I would like to give special thanks to my friend, adviser and researcher Dr Zei, and also the ace drawing artist, whose name I prefer not to reveal.
What is the purpose of using 24K gold?
I believe the cards, like other material forms, have minds and can communicate with us. This coupled with gold, the best of nature's elements, gives the cards more power, enabling my reading to be clearer compared to ordinary paper cards.
How is your consultation different from that of other tarot readers?
In Thailand, nine out of 10 tarot readers base their readings on international-standard techniques while the rest, myself included, adopt an individual approach. This is because our minds are so different. When a person asks a question, his or her mind changes depending on the moment. I use my inner sense to read peoples' minds and thereby treat them differently. For example, at the beginning I may ask a person to open 10 or 15 cards. Experience has shown that treating people differently is effective, so I use this as my personal approach during consultations.
What kinds of people come to consult you?
There are three types of people who consult fortune tellers. First are those who need entertainment, who are content with only yes or no answers. They account for almost 90 per cent. The second group coves those who need consultations while the third, those who need healing, number less than two per cent. I generally give consultations and healing advice.
Like other decks, the Jatumaharaja tarot comes with a companion book. Do you think people who purchase the set will be able to read their fortunes by themselves effectively?
The booklet that comes with the deck is supposed to be a guide. You do not necessarily consult it all the time. Try to use your own intuition in interpreting the cards, and you will soon be able to strengthen your intuition or mind power.
What about accuracy?
Accuracy depends on experience and strong intuition in interpreting the meaning. People say you need to believe the revealed cards but each fortune teller has a different repertoire in reading them. Most people who pick up the Queen of Swords, a strong, aggressive woman who needs to protect herself from her enemies, are leaders or those in high ranking positions. Men beside these women often face defeat. My interpretation is that they are mostly divorced or unmarried. The cards are like friends. You need to learn about them, touch them often, spend more time with them and use your sense to understand them.
You are not just an expert in tarot but also on name changing, numerology, the Chinese art of physical characters reading and much more. Which specific kind of astrological reading would you suggest for specific types of persons?
I have had six names so far. Whenever I use Viroj as my first name, I feel successful in almost everything I do. I always say that an astrologer needs to possess several astrological arts. Your horoscope is like a globe. An astrological art is like the sun. Sometimes the sun cannot shine on the other side of the globe or through the bottom of the ocean. My advice is to consult different astrologers in order to see a larger and clearer picture of yourself and adapt different perspective consultations for a smoother and happier life. I am not the best fortune teller; many others are also excellent in their approaches.
The regular edition of the Jatumaharaja Tarot deck with 83 gold-rimmed paper cards and a 120-page companion book is available at bookstores. An English version is scheduled for release by July.