Future in the Cards: Thai Politics Reimagined in Tarot Symbolism

“2020” and “The Leader” cards. Images: Thai Political Tarot / Courtesy

BANGKOK — Flip over The Empress card – it’s a young female student protest leader. Wheel of Fortune becomes the replica of the missing 1932 revolution plaque. The High Priestess is a bald Buddhist nun. Three of Cups pays homage to an ‘alliance’ with activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Elements of the Thai political and social conflicts are being illustrated as tarot cards by a 29-year-old female artist on the Thai Political Tarot page – one of the thought-provoking and creative fanarts born in the student-led protests that gripped Thailand throughout 2020. 

“I like both politics and tarot,” the artist, who goes by the pen name Summer Panadda, said in an interview. “ So when the protests started, I started thinking how many scenes in real life were like the story of tarot.”

“Tarot has elements from the experience of humanity, and I also think tarot makes the political situation easier to understand as well,” she said. 

Summer drew the cards from the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana and reinterpreted them to fit the Thai context. 

Nearly every issue that made the news in 2020 is covered, from the anti-government protests and the snail-pace investigation into Red Bull heir’s hit-and-run to kindergarten violence, fights for gender equality, and the viral “Milk Tea Alliance.” 

“It’s a year where everyone’s eyes are being opened in all aspects,” Summer said, adding that some astrologers even approached her with a request to use her decks for tarot reading sessions. 

Image: Thai Political Tarot / Courtesy

The organic, crowdsourced nature of the pro-democracy movement is a ripe ground for memes, internet artworks, and other tributes created by online artists and netizens. 

The last major demonstration took place on Sunday, when thousands of protesters marched to the Grand Palace to submit their petitions asking for monarchy reforms to His Majesty the King.

They were blocked en route, and riot police turned water cannons against the protesters close to their destination.