iTongo Tarot for Transformation

iTongo Tarot for Tansformation is an ethnic/art tarot deck, based entirely on South African myths and legends.  An indigenous knowledge system with powerful archetype images.


The deck comes in a box set.  78 Full colour cards and 144 page reference book.  Cards are 80mm x 120mm full colour both sides.  The card back has my iTongo logo.  Based on iTongo which in its broadest concept means Spirit, more specifically the spirit of the ancestors.  The name also encompasses universal consciousness and physical manifestation.  It is believed that when the ancestors visit man, they often manifest as a snake.

The snake is commonly found in African mythology and is regarded as immortal because it sheds its skin and continues to live. For the Zulu, the snake is a metamorphosed amalgam of the ancestors, who visit either in dreams or in reality. A snake that enters the house is unthreatening and is viewed as ‘family’ and as such is never harmed.

My symbol is made up of two parts.  The lower part is  Ouroboros (tail-devourer), a snake depicted with its tail in its mouth forming a continuous circle, is considered a symbol of eternity.

It is present in many African artworks – cloth patterns, wall paintings, and metal works. The whole forming the figure eight, which is the symbol of infinity.  iTongo is therefore represented as infinite eternity.

African folk tales were passed down in a strict oral tradition from one generation to the next. Tribal storytellers were called Guardians of the Umlando (tribal history). These people were entrusted with the history of the tribe, under oath never to alter, add, or subtract a single word. If anyone broke the oath and altered the stories in any way, he was cursed for generations to come.

I have chosen tales that resonated with the themes and archetypes of Tarot rather than specific icons or periods in our history. I also sought to reflect in some way the diversity of our South African Rainbow Nation. My aim is to present broad patterns of what is known of the mythology and history of South Africa preceding the arrival of Dutch and British settlers. This has been quite a task within the range and scope of this project and is by no means intended as a definitive view of the South African indigenous peoples’ history or cultural beliefs.

The iTongo cards are a tool for transition and personal transformation. We now know that the Cradle of Humankind is in Southern Africa; so as you vision quest through the iTongo, may your spirit recognise its home.

iTongo Card Divisions

The twenty two iTongo Trumps or Major Arcana of the iTongo Deck are based on South African Mythology and legends. The African language titles are either a direct translation of the traditional European Tarot Decks or reflect the concept of the card. i.e. 13 Death (isiXhosa translation “uKufa”)

The numbering and naming of the cards in European tradition come from the first deck I received from my father when I was fourteen years old. (Tarot IJJ Deck (c) 1970 By S.R. Kaplan). The exception is Judgement, which I have named The Earth.

The 56 iTongo Number cards or Minors follow suit (Ace through 10) including the Pages and Knights (named Warriors). The titles of the cards indicate the conceptual meaning.

The 56 number cards are based on tribal history spanning the periods in question (c.1700 – 1850). The apportioning of the directions of the suits is based on the percentage of people speaking a language in a specific geographical region*.

People of the East: Zulu (KwaZulu-Natal region) • KwaZulu-Natal – isiZulu (81%), • Gauteng – isiZulu (21%)

People of the South: Xhosa (Eastern and Western Cape regions) • Eastern Cape – isiXhosa (83%) • Western Cape – isiXhosa (23%)

People of the West: Sotho, Tswana (Free State, Gauteng, North West, Northern Cape regions) • Free State – Sesotho (64%), • Gauteng – Sesotho (13%), • Northern Cape – Setswana (21%) • North West – Setswana (65%)

People of the North: Pedi, Venda, Ndebele (Limpopo and Mpumalanga regions) • Limpopo – Sepedi (52%), Xitsonga (22%), Tshivenda (16%) • Mpumalanga – siSwati (31%), isiZulu (26%), isiNdebele (12%)

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