Adinkra guidance cards combine spiritual health and West African history to steer self care away from one-size-fits-all routines


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Photo: W+G Creative/Courtesy Simone Bresi-Ando

Self care. Mindfulness. Staying present. These phrases are synonymous with today’s holistic health movement, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s approach to wellness is the same. For some, self care includes addressing past traumas; mindfulness involves applying ancient wisdom to contemporary challenges; and staying present means honoring their ancestral legacy in their daily lives.

Simone Bresi-Ando, a Ghanaian-British boutique owner and PR powerhouse, considered these very ideas when she created the concept for the Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards ($70), a 44-card oracle deck built on re-establishing a connection to the ancient symbols of the Akan and Gyaman people of modern-day Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. “The spirit is eternal and it is always searching for freedom,” says Bresi-Ando. “And I’m on this journey to decolonize my life.”

adinkra guidance cards
Photo: Courtesy of Bresi-Ando

Bresi-Ando sees the Adinkra symbols of her parents’ native roots as a way to help others dig deeper within, guiding them on their own self-care journey that goes beyond the mainstream approach to holism. As spirituality has begun to play a larger role in personal self-care routines, Bresi-Ando, a diviner for over 15 years, conceived the idea of creating an oracle card deck based on the “brilliance of our ancestors” as a potential path to reintroduce the African Diaspora to a communication form many of them have lost.

Like most oracle decks (including tarot cards), the Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards (produced under Bresi-Ando’s brand, Tools for Living) are designed for self-discovery and spiritual growth. But unlike most oracle cards, her deck provides many with their first foray into the remarkable insight of a community cut off from them through generations of oppression, demonization, and dismissal.

Like most oracle decks, the Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards are designed for self-discovery and spiritual growth. But unlike most oracle cards, her deck provides many with their first foray into the remarkable insight of a community cut off from them through generations of oppression, demonization, and dismissal.

The Adinkra symbology was first seen and used to embroider cloth for royalty and spiritual leaders centuries ago, and then later incorporated into architecture, pottery, sculpture, and much more. (The first preserved piece of art that features Adinkra symbology dates back to 1817, though the symbology itself is much, much older than that.) Over many years, it would develop into a cultural philosophy (not just symbols or art) that touched every area of life—from love to leadership—for the common man and royalty alike. In order to help novice diviners understand and use her deck, Bresi-Ando made sure to include a small guide—59 pages to be exact—that interprets the meaning of the symbols and explains how to engage them with various recommended card configurations.

Bringing a way to apply African historical symbols to everyday life—through the form of oracle cards—seemed like the perfect way for Bresi-Ando to not only fill a void, but ultimately to express herself and give meaning to her own history. “Cartomancy is one of the oldest forms of divination. And the Adinkra contains not only profound messages about the world around us, but also knowledge useful in everyday life,” she says.

Adinkra features more than 400 symbols, but only 44 of the most popular are used for the deck. Because of that, these diviner cards might seem to be an inefficient summary of a system for eternal guidance. However, the deck not only welcomes you to adopt the Adinkra into your personal outlook, but it also opens a window for those who want to pursue a closer study of the symbology and develop an in-depth understanding of all the Adinkra has to offer. “There are some amazing books on the symbols that I think would unlock a lot of questions,” Bresi-Ando declares. “That’s what it did for me. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and I welcome others to explore it.”

With her commitment to recognizing the beauty and power that comes with communing with your ancestors through divination tools, Bresi-Ando sees her Guidance Cards as restoring the reverence of the Adinkra symbology, and introducing (or re-introducing) those to its multi-layered history; one that Bresi-Ando hopes to help create and navigate a life of meaning, authenticity, and courage.

Looking for other oracle or tarot cards? There’s a slew of them to choose from. Plus, how oracle decks can actually help you fight stress.

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