Tarot readings are gaining popularity here in Malaysia. While nobody would call it “mainstream” at this point, more people are openly interested in it than ever before. I say “openly interested” because the stigma attached to this practice is definitely more mainstream. I’ve met people who are quietly teaching themselves how to read, and saw the relief on their faces when they found other local readers they could talk to.
The community in Kuching, Sarawak is small but growing. When two or three are gathered in the name of a shared passion, things happen. (Especially when I’m among the two or three.) But we all have a shared problem – Kuching isn’t Kuala Lumpur, and things as niche as tarot decks are hard to find. There are no speciality shops. The bookshops here don’t stock these decks. The vendors you find online sell cheap but pirated decks.
So where do we get our decks? While the title of this article is about buying decks in Malaysia, I will be recommending stores in nearby regions as well.
When I use the term “tarot”, this can also refer to other card-based divination practices like oracle or lenormand.
Malaysia and Singapore
If you happen to live in KL, Kino is hands down the best place to get mass-produced decks – tarot, oracle, and lenormand. If you’re outside of KL, their website is quite comprehensive. You should be able to find a lot of popular decks.
MPH does not usually carry stock in-store. I’ve seen box sets being offered once as part of their collection of activity boxes, but I’ve not come across an MPH in Kuching that has tarot decks on sale. Their website lists up to 15 pages of decks with the note “Special order available”. If you had any experience ordering from them, let me know what it was like.
Other tarot readers
This is tricky if you don’t know any other tarot readers or if you’re keeping your hobby private. In Kuching, we have a small but growing community of tarot readers and we do like a fresh new deck. But when we need to make space or release the ones that we do not resonate with, the other members of the community get first dibs.
If you meet other tarot readers in your area, ask if they would be open to keeping in touch. Setting up a Facebook group or swapping Instagram usernames should be fairly accessible to most people. You can go as far as a WhatsApp or Telegram group as well, depending on what others are comfortable with.
Other shops we like
Based in Singapore. They carry some indie decks that you won’t find at big stores. It’s one of the stores worth checking out if you’re looking for a particular indie deck but cannot stomach the shipping rate from the US.
Based in Hong Kong. The owner loves indie decks, making this another good place to check first if you are looking for something that Kino doesn’t carry.
Hat tip to Book Depository, which shuttered in April 2023. I decided to include them here because this is where my community and I get most of our decks. Yes, there was panic-buying when the closure was announced. RIP and thanks for all the decks.
Pirated or Fake decks
We Malaysians have certain sites or apps that we check first when we want to own something but want to find the cheapest possible option. This is true for tarot decks, and they ARE available on such platforms for an insanely low price. These are pirated decks, and as a creative myself, I cannot condone buying them or supporting places that sell them.
I know some people out there don’t care and there’s nothing I can do about it. I know there are people who want a low-cost deck to try out or do not have the money to shell out for a genuine product. But if you love a deck and get a lot out of it, remember that there is a creator behind it who might not want to create again because they worked themselves to the bone for years, only to have some random online shop based in China hawk it for RM10 with zero of that going back to them.
How to tell a real deck from a fake one
Here are some quick tips to identify if your deck is real or not:
- Price: Real decks rarely sell for below RM50.
- Packaging: Fake ones come in a tuck box and a QR code for a PDF copy of the guidebook. Very few genuine ones do this. Real ones come in nice solid boxes and a copy of the guidebook.
- Quality: Nearly zero care about print quality, cardstock quality, card size, cutting, etc. They just want to make a quick buck.
If you get the chance to handle a deck before buying it, you should definitely use your best judgement on whether the quality is acceptable or if the cards fit in your hands.
Can I buy a deck for myself?
Yes. You’re going to come across some schools of thought online or elsewhere that tarot decks should be gifted, or some kind of bad luck will befall you. This is not true. There are many reasons why you should choose your own deck once you know what you’re looking for, and I wouldn’t say no to a gifted deck. Hey, those things can get expensive.
My first deck was a gift from a friend who understood it was not going to be easy for me to stumble upon one here. Now I own 13 decks and yes, I picked them all myself.
Should/Can I buy a deck without seeing it physically?
It’s scary to drop so much money on something you haven’t seen with your own eyes, but it applies to nearly everything you order online. Spoiler alert: Most of us buy decks without seeing or touching them first. If we’re lucky, one of our friends already owns it and we get to look at the real thing. But most of us rely on reviews and flip-throughs to get an idea of what the full deck looks like.
For me, connecting with the artwork is a key factor in my being able to use the deck. I rely on flip-throughs which you can find on YouTube. A reviewer would open up a box and literally show you every single card and what else is included in the box.
How do I choose a deck?
Tarot decks come in many themes and flavours. You’re very likely to find something that you would like. If you’re just starting out, the options can get overwhelming.
If you don’t know where to start, the beginning is a good place. Most tarot decks are based on the Rider Waite Smith Deck. The meanings in each card are well-documented and this knowledge is transferable when you switch up to a different deck.
I found it helpful to start with an RWS and learn the textbook definitions. When I started looking at other decks, I already knew whether I understood the imagery and symbolism. This is how I teach myself; it might be different for you. Some people start with a themed deck straight away and are still able to learn.
Part of being a tarot reader is studying the artwork on a card, so liking the art is usually a good indicator that the deck would suit you. It is natural or even easier to start your search with popular decks, but only you will know if it is right for you.
If you’re shopping for an oracle or lenormand deck, it’s the same – connect with the artwork and you’re more likely to understand and interpret them better.
It’s worth mentioning that you could be drawn to a particular deck without knowing anything about it. It is not an exact science, but if you find yourself attracted to one such deck against your logical brain, it’s worth considering because your intuition or subconscious could be furiously swiping right.
Is it okay to buy used tarot decks?
Yes, as long as it is in good condition and all the cards are there. If it makes you feel better, you can cleanse the deck before using it.
I hope this article finds you when you need it.