Deck Name: Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards
Creator(s):Bresi-Ando Tools for Living
Publisher & Year: Simone Bresi-Ando, 2018
There’s this glorious Black owned place not far from home that sells and serves tea. I don’t particularly like tea. I drink coffee daily. Some of my witchy artsy friends drink tea, and I love them, so we went to that particular tea place cause, you know, Ujamaa.
Then I met the owner. He doesn’t just like tea, he loves tea. Much more than I like coffee, if I’m being honest. Using careful questions and allowing my nose to experience tin after tin of tea, I chose one and realize I’ve been very wrong about tea. I didn’t know to give it such attention. I carefully select my coffee, grind the beans fresh, lovingly pour, press, steep, adorn, sweeten, and cream my way into my perfect cup. If I gave tea half that consideration, it too could be elevated. So I now sit at the feet of those who love it and am in the beginning of my own warm fragrant relationship.
What does this have to do with the Adinkra Ancestral Guidance cards lovingly brought into being by Simone Bresi-Ando?
There is a careful selection, measuring, and steeping in this deck that speaks of quality and devotional love. If you want to hear more directly from the creator, she was kind enough to speak further here.
The Adinkra Ancestral Guidance cards showcase a unique set of 44 symbols. Adinkra symbols are described as “ancient, visual, philosophy-based, communication system”, “derived from the Akan people of Ghana and Gyaman people of Côte d’Ivoire.” Some of them are familiar to me, like the Sankofa bird, while others I’ve never run into before. It is especially exciting to find deeper meaning in patterns and symbols I have seen worked into textiles and art.
The Guidance cards come in a tri-color drawer-style box with yellow-gold satin pull tab which present a polish and style that doesn’t overwhelm the message of the cards. There’s a nobility and classiness in these glossy 3.5” x 5” cards with muted beaten gold edge gilding.
I was initially concerned that all of this presentation would turn this into a fussy collector’s deck, but they actually feel sturdy enough to ripple shuffle without fear. Even though I prefer a gentle overhand side shuffle myself, I love the way the cards look fanned in any direction and find myself selecting cards that way for the sheer beauty of it.
Each card presents the symbol surrounded by a delicious border, name, phonetic pronunciation, as well as a translation and main meaning behind the symbol. For the most part, I find the cards easy to read alone, though the 59 page guidebook includes expanded philosophical explanations to help you go deeper. However, it is the teaching story element that really hits home for me and allows each message to spread across many different situations.
For example, the symbol Nsaa refers to “A high-quality Ashanti fabric woven by hand.” The additional information on the lower part of the card goes on to reference a saying – “he who does not know authentic Nsaa, will buy the fakes”.
On first glance, I got a warning not to buy into something that seems like the real thing if you don’t truly know it well enough to tell difference between what is real and fake. Depending on how and where it hits in a reading, you can really tease this out. It could speak to someone who is inexperienced, warning not being swayed by a good sales pitch if you do not know enough to see beyond surface flashiness in an object, situation or relationship. Don’t believe the hype. Your inexperience and lack of wisdom in this area is showing. No shame, but stop acting like you know what you’re doing. Maybe it’s time to ask advice from someone wiser than you before moving forward.
Speaking of asking others, I then cracked open the Guidebook and took it further in Philosophical Significance: “Authenticity, Genuineness, Excellence. Be thoughtful in how you interact with practices, traditions and culture. Truth has value. Preserve what is sacred. Always credit the source.”
There are layers upon layers ready to speak.
Alone or paired with another deck, we can weave rich narratives worthy of a wise Big Momma. Matter of fact, the storytelling element can enrich any reader wanting to craft memorable messages for their clients and self.
I love stuff like this.
I learn best through stories and experience because 1) I am human and 2) This is the way I was taught. As an African American child of the generations wide Diaspora, it took me a while to realize that not everyone has this relationship with elders, ancestors, and stories. I hope you have it. I wantyou to have it. It’s a rich human legacy. Want it? It’s in these cards.
The Guidebook offers some good spreads, I was particularly drawn to the meaty Ancestral Lineage Spread that “helps you understand your ancestral guides, the essence of them, how they can help you and what they want you to know.”
The familiar spreads, like a simple 4-card, speak just as well.
A quick speed read can slip right off the displayed text. Go Back and Get It. Change Your Attitude. (Be a ) Good Farmer. Rays (All-seeing Eye). Times Change.
Then, my favorite, you can deep dive in. The creator noted she chose black backgrounds for cards that hold weighted significance. Seeing a card like Sankofa in black makes perfect sense. It may as well be the informal symbol for every family reunion I’ve ever attended. The Elders mix this into every tale they spin to teach the younger and I hope they never stop. Don’t forget where you came from, make something of yourself to elevate the future generation that will look to you for wisdom. Past, present, and future are all wrapped together, even though the present decides where to step. This reading reminds you’re required for the link forward and back to work. It’s your efforts, your willingness, your personal connection with the cosmos, all relationships that will guide where your foot will fall as the tides and times shift.
I was slangin cards with some of my Sistars, at the end of a New Moon Circle, incense and candle light flickering. Every time we come together our invite our ancestor’s wisdom into the space. And yet, I shared one of my favorite cards from the deck and expressed my frustration that my western-educated, English-speaking mind had trouble holding the name of the symbol. The card was Funtumfunafu Denkyemfunafu meaning conjoined crocodiles, the story is that they unwisely fight over food even though they share one stomach. Such a dope lesson.
And yet, I recognized many of the sentiments, teachings carefully massaged into my hair, smoothed into my skin, whispered, sang, and repeated stories of warning and wisdom. The meaning and delivery of the symbols fit my heart where the letters and sounds could not easily fit my mind. Story and symbols are powerful as they can gain entry where literacy alone cannot.
I don’t explicitly know what that means. I could try to speak about ancestral memory, common lineage and the miraculous preservation of culture. Instead, I’ll simply say the beaten gold edges, crisp white, and deep glossy blacks of this deck lay a path to the heart. It’s transmitting a vision and perception of relationships, with self, others, the Earth, and the Divine that I believe to be of universal human value.
If you want a deeper connection to a nuanced, ancient, and relevant wisdom, the Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards should be on your list.