From the Numinous Tarot by Noel Arthur Heimpel
Can we talk about the fact that there is still an overwhelming lack of racial diversity in tarot decks?
Last week, tarot blogger Kelly-Anne Maddox raised the topic in one of her Cardslinger videos of racial diversity in tarot. Specifically, the lack of visible people of colour in tarot cards/decks. With an introductory note about being white herself and aiming to open/amplify rather than ‘lead’ this important discussion, Kelly brings up issues including white-only decks, tokenism, and the exotification of people of colour when they are depicted in tarot decks.
Her video is here (Kelly brings up the topic around 25 mins in.)
So far, there has been a steady stream of responses to the #TarotsoWhite hashtag.
For those who haven’t seen or been following #tarotsowhite, here are some of the responses I’ve seen so far (and please add additional links in the comments):
Benebell Wen: My Perspective and #TarotsoWhite
My first inclination is to say, as a person of color, the whiteness of tarot card imagery doesn’t bother me. But I can’t leave it at that. I have to ask myself why it doesn’t bother me. The reason why it doesn’t bother me is what I said before—by now I’m used to it. People of color are used to being invisible. And, well, that’s deeply problematic. So even if it doesn’t bother me, it should bother me just as it should bother every person of color. If it doesn’t bother you, then it will never change. And if it doesn’t change, then the racial paradigm will always leave us marginalized.
Kimm Smith: On the White Face of Tarot
I want to say deeply to the tarot authors and artists out there today, that you may not notice it because YOU Are seeing yourself, and that is a familiar comfort. But know that all people of color would also love to feel that sense of connection as well. And as a Black woman, I also don’t expect to only see faces that appear as my own, but I want to see and feel all of us. Because that is this planet’s reality.
Kristen at Over The Moon Oracle Cards: I see white people in my tarot cards
It’s great to bring more awareness to this but I believe we should be focusing attention on the consumer. The finger should be pointed back at ourselves. If we truly have an ethical problem with a deck, we should not be purchasing it, promoting it with giveaways, showing it on our Instagram feeds, or doing video reviews of the deck. As deck purchasers, we need to change our mindset and buying habits, and use the power of money to create change.
Asali Earthwork: #Tarotsowhite, the sky is blue (but prince said we could make the rain purple so anything is possible!)
As a black queer femme tarot reader, I’m asking that we all stop blaming time for what humanity has wrought.
The original RWS deck didn’t feature people of color because its creator chose it that way and a good chunk of its users preferred it that way- not because there weren’t any people of color around with aspects of their lives mirroring any one of the 78 paths of the tarot.
That choice continues to be made, perhaps with less intention (or just as much intention), today in countless decks.
So make a different one when you pick out or publish your next deck.
Hazielle Wong: #TarotsoWhite: Cultural Diversity in Tarot
Sticking a person of color onto your tarot decks isn’t what makes you a compassionate, understanding, or tolerant tarot practitioner. What would make us better tarot readers, in terms of cultural diversity, is actually making an effort to get to know different cultures and the people of these cultures better. Or, if we are completely ignorant about the culture of the person we are reading for, being open-minded and accepting about the differences in general when it comes to upbringing and beliefs.
Tarot bloggers are in a unique position to dispel diversity myths, to explore & showcase different cultural perspective, and to start honest & needed dialogue, as Kelly-Ann has done with #tarotsowhite. Even if it means we get triggered or exhausted, it’s a conversation worth having (for those who feel up to having it and when they feel up to it). This and other ally actions are ways to effect changes to the face of tarot. That said, remember that even if it seems like the experiences of POC or other marginalized groups are accessible or relatable, or that a conversation will make us the same kind of angry or trigger the same kind of reactions, remember that that just might not be the case.
ALSO: Tarot reader and coach Fiona Benjamin shared a video on Periscope called Tarot Allies and Allies in Masks which by all accounts added some really important views to the conversation…but that has already vanished into the mists of time!
Today, I know I will lose dozens of followers over my #tarotsowhite post- but here’s the thing about authenticity.
— Fiona Benjamin (@tarotbyfiona) April 25, 2016
(I contacted Fiona about the possibility of a replay, and she’s suggested that instead, she write a piece about why she rates her working deck, the Transformational Tarot, for inclusivity. So more on that later!)
Also on Twitter…
so tired of all black decks only being “egyptian” or “african” themed. apparently 20th century black ppl like me don’t exist. #tarotsowhite
— Sonja (@stillwedream1) April 24, 2016
But on the topic of #tarotsowhite WHYYYY is every Asian in some sort of funky ethnic attire? I wear leggings and cardigans…
— Fiona Benjamin (@tarotbyfiona) April 24, 2016
Asali has been reviewing decks for queer, trans and POC inclusion for months. This is a brilliant series that will make you think hard about the decks you choose and use, and also help you find decks that are truly inclusive.
Tarot artist Trung Nguyen talks about representing queer folks and people of colour in his art and forthcoming tarot deck.
At some point, I took a hard look at my work and wondered why none of the figures in my images looked like me, the people in my family, or any of the folks in my life. And it just amazed me, you know? If there was room in my mind enough to empathize with talking animals and flying lizards, why didn’t I seem to exist in my own imagination? The notion was almost a little ridiculous, but at some point I actually had to convince myself, in all my Asian Americanness, that I deserve to exist in my own fantasies!
Asali interviews artist Noel Heimpel, who is currently at work on their own super-inclusive tarot deck. Another amazing conversation about true diversity and what it means to begin from a point of inclusion.
Over to you!
Regardless of ethnicity, as members of the tarot community we have power. For starters, we are consumers. We spend our money on tarot decks. Our choices are powerful! We can choose to keep buying whitewashed decks, or we can use our consumer power to encourage change and boost the artists and deck creators working on a new generation of more inclusive tarot decks.
Those of us who can afford to, let’s commit to doing this. When you next see crowdfunding campaigns doing the round, check out the work. Consider making even a very small donation to encourage and support the artist. Creating a tarot deck takes a shit-ton of effort, work and time, but if the tarot community stepped up and supported, diverse tarot deck creation could become so much more sustainable.
Right now, you can support:
- Trung Nguyen via Patreon
- Noel Hiempel – The Numinous Tarot via Patreon
- Kristen at Over The Moon Oracle Cards by buying her decks or on Patreon
- Cristy C Road – The Next World Tarot by buying things from her shop (including rad tarot art prints)
- The Slow Holler Team by pre-ordering the Slow Holler Tarot deck
- And you can support Wanjira at Asali Earthwork to continue her Tarot of the QTPOC project by buying tea, talismans and tarot readings from her shop.
+ I know there’s lots more out there! If I’ve missed out voices and projects, please add them in the comments!
And if you have a platform and an audience, you can use it to signal-boost the voices of people of colour. It’s not just our tarot cards that are whitewashed, the tarot community as a whole tends to be by white voices and faces. The conversation about racial diversity in tarot is a crucial one, and centring and amplifying the voices of people of colour can help the conversation can become louder and really move us forwards.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.