Asians and Tarot Reading

Photo Credit: Tungstar via Sina.
Photo Credit: Tungstar via Sina.

Where are the Asian Tarot Readers? I wrote an article for that addresses the intersection of tarot reading and Asians/Asian Americans. Link: (last visited 4/30/2013).

People of color, especially Asians, form associations around their race for every topic– blogging, voting, golfing, farming, realtors, lawyers, doctors, chess players, musicians, journalists, kidney donors, Republicans, Democrats, pole dancing, basketball, you name it, there is probably a group of Asians who have formed an association. Yet there are no Asian American tarot associations, no gatherings of Diasporic Asians who are interested in tarot. Why not?

The experience of writing it was the most amazing part, because I had the blessed opportunity to interview Joanna Ash of Sun Goddess Tarot, Zach Wong, the creator of the Revelations Tarot deck, and Deedra Wong of Tarot Perspectives, three really amazing individuals in the tarot community. I love what they’re doing, each one of them walking a slightly different path through tarot studies and practice.

I was surprised to find that tarot is more common in Asia than I first expected. For those not in the know, the above photo is of a Taiwanese celebrity, Jay Chou, a music, singer-songwriter, and actor. He was in the 2011 film Green Hornet. Chou purportedly consulted the tarot to ask about the success of his forthcoming music albums. Link: (last visited 4/30/2013).

Jolin Tsai, another Taiwanese pop sensation, features tarot divination in one of her music videos. Seems like it isn’t quite as taboo for mainstream public figures in East Asia to associate themselves with tarot as it seems to be here in the U.S. We seem to be irrevocably Puritan when it comes to our open-mindedness to such practices.

I ended the article with this, and a silly quoted statement from my friend:

[Asian tarot readers] see no problems with the few individual Asian tarot readers who exist to assimilate into the greater tarot associations at large rather than group-identifying with Asians only.

“That’s because only white-washed Asians do tarot,” said one of my friends. “Asian Americans who are anchored solidly in the Asian American community aren’t into that kind of stuff. If they were, there’d be an Asian American tarot group like the one you’re asking about. The absence of such an Asian American tarot group is your proof that activist Asian Americans aren’t into it.”

. . . Have you had any experiences with the tarot? With Asians who practice tarot? And why the heck isn’t there an Asian American tarot association?

In spite of how common and acceptable tarot practice is in East Asia and its seeming endorsement from Asian celebrities, in the States, Asian Americans consider tarot to be “white-washed,” meaning Asians who reject their ethnic heritage to act as whitebread as possible are the ones who are thought to be tarot practitioners. Interesting juxtaposition there.

One of the commenters below the post, Jonathan V, an Asian American male tarot reader, pointed out an authenticity and exotification issue that I immediately related to, since I also practice both tarot and I Ching. There tends to be doubt about the “authenticity” of my tarot readings, but then non-Asians seem to love it when I use I Ching. I’m suddenly an “authentic” I Ching divination practitioner simply because of how I look. I look the part, i.e., I’m Asian. Nevermind that I was born and raised here and just as competent and just as inept as the next John or Jane Doe I Ching student over.

In any event, I hope that article expands the dialogue of Asian American tarot practitioners and the correlation of tarot to race and culture.

One thought on “Asians and Tarot Reading

  1. Hey Benebell,

    I know you wrote this years ago, but I can relate with a lot of what you said here. Only a few people in my life know that I read Tarot, so I haven’t experienced this attitude in the Asian community in regards to that… but about other things; other interests of mine, which are apparently not on the list of prescribed acceptable interests for Asian women. My fascination with things outside of the culture caused people within it to conclude that I was white-washed, because if I was as true-blood Asian as I was supposed be, I wouldn’t be interested in “such weird stuff.” Frankly, if the fact that I don’t allow cultural constraints to dictate what I will/won’t do means that I’m “white,” so be it. I don’t suppose it mattered to those judgmental people that I was actually BORN in Asia (whereas they were born in the US) and that I actually know how to speak our native language (and they don’t). Nope, I was white-washed.

    As far as Asian Tarot communities go, I believe Asian-Americans first need to experience a resurgence of interest in traditionally Asian divination methods such as i-Ching. That way, we won’t feel like we’re latching onto a purely Western tradition (like you said in your interview with Christiana Gaudet) by practicing the Tarot. If we integrate our own cultural roots into our spiritual journeys, we will as a community feel more open to embracing traditions that are outside of our culture. As for myself, I hope you do continue your i-Ching research and come out with another monster book about it. Maybe by the time you publish it I’ll be done reading your first monster book! Which I’m loving, by the way. Cheers!


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