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For many of us, a tarot card reading goes something like this... a mystical being in flowing robes sits behind a dark, velvet curtain in a candlelit room, leaning over a small table foretelling our impending doom. But for our curios editor, the experience was a totally different story. She shares her account with tarot card reader and astrologist Letao Wang from The Healing Kingdom.
Remember that scene in Ghost, where Patrick Swayze looks over the shoulder of a scheming Whoopi Goldberg as she scams another grieving victim hoping to reconnect with a lost loved one? "What a crock of sh**", he mumbles under his breath as the poor, naive soul hands the so-called "medium" yet another crumpled $20 bill. Well, that's pretty much the view I have always had when it to comes to psychics, horoscopes, fortune tellers, and any other kind of future forecasters out there – scammers.
Now living in Asia, the concept of having one's future told, be it through palm reading, face reading, reading turtle shells, or whatever, is not something totally alien to me. Supposed psychics have been around in Hong Kong and the rest of the world for centuries in their various forms, and I'll admit I've even dabbled in it myself for the sake of a tongue-in-cheek experience, making the occasional stop in Temple Street Night Market when friends have come to visit me from England. "Take it all with a pinch of salt – or maybe a tub", I always tell them, as they sit down nervously on the plastic stool beside Meg Mystic, where she sets up shop each night with the other fortune tellers.
"You will have two career paths... you have a strong life line so will see old age... you will have one or two children... don't drive too fast". These are just some of the random prophecies that I've heard repeated time and time again, falling on the impressionable ears of different friends (I must add), as if they've been plucked out of a handbook of bull**** written for scammers like Whoopi.
So, when I received an invitation to meet with Letao Wang, a 34-year-old tarot card reader who operates his business, The Healing Kingdom, from his humble flat in Wan Chai, I expected to walk away with the exact same conclusion – it's fun but all baloney. After all, how can a series of cards, picked completely at random, hold any kind of accuracy when it comes to mapping out one's future path, or guiding us towards our so-called destiny? Surely that's all just down to maths and probability? And then comes the headache.
That said, the fact that I had very limited knowledge of tarot cards, and had yet to dabble in that area of the mystic world, lead me to accept his invitation and lay all my cards on the table (I had to get that in here somewhere) during a reading of my own. Like all good little journalists, I did my research before I went, and learnt that Letao has been practising the art of tarot cards since his mid 20s, after having his own reading done in Sydney Australia by the famous psychic reader, Paris Debono, who later became his teacher.
After doing readings for friends – and never in exchange for money – he finally built up enough confidence to set up his own business, The Healing Kingdom, in Hong Kong. The fact that I couldn't find Letao anywhere on social media (I did my stalking) and he had confessed upfront in previous interviews that he is "not magic" or "a feather-waving medium type reader" immediately piqued my interest, and I was curious to meet this seemingly down-to-earth guy.
When I arrived at his sun-filled apartment in the quiet neighbourhood of Wan Chai, I was loaded with curiosity and a ton of questions, along with the satisfying feeling that I would finally have someone to direct my cynical viewpoint towards. But after spending just 40 minutes on the receiving end of a reading, I am no longer so confident that it is all "a crock of sh**", and I'm not sure it's fair to lump tarot cards into the BS box, along with the Temple Street posse.
And here's why –
Now this could all be coincidence, or it could be a brilliant example of the power of deduction and reading a person, but based on the cards laid out in front of me, in which Uranus, Atlanta, Mars, Venus, Medusa, and Jason (of the Argonauts) all made an appearance, Letao was able to surmise some pretty accurate truths about my life. And the experience went something like this...
Sat in his dimly-lit reading room, surrounded by crystals, books, and trinkets, Letao explained that the reading would focus on the next six months and focus on the psychology I would carry from now until May 2019, rather than specific events that would occur in that timeframe. I was quite surprised to hear this and was eager to get going. After writing down my name and date of birth, he asked me to think of two areas of life I wanted to explore. "What do most people ask you about?", I said. "Around 80 percent of my clients have questions about their love life and career", he replied. "Great, let's go with that then".
Next Letao asked me to select thirteen cards from a pack of 24, which were laid face down in a circle on the table. After I made my selection, he took the cards and laid them out in a very careful sequence of columns and rows, before turning them over to reveal a display of buff gods and hot goddesses from Greek and Roman mythology. It turns out he commissioned an artist to design the cards from scratch to make them as personal as he could, while conveying his love of ancient mythology. He told me he only ever uses his own cards for a reading, and never other people's, as they don’t "speak" to him in the same way.
Well it turns out the cards spoke to him pretty clearly during my reading. Based on the sequence of characters in front of me, he concluded that I am on the right career path, armed – like Atlanta – with my sword (or metaphorical pen) and a sense of determination and purpose. This was of course reassuring to hear, and I won't pretend that I wasn't chuffed to have my work ethic represented by a female 'maverick' who was famous in mythology for going against society's expectations of getting hitched and having babies, and instead chose to be a huntress – which was forbidden in those days. Pretty kickass, right?
That said, the fact that Uranus (the god of sky) emerged as my "brain psychology" card indicated that I have a chaotic but new, inventive energy, which gives birth to new ideas and vision, but also a feeling of unrest. Well, my job is to come up with interesting things to write about every day, and I'll admit that I'm fairly restless by nature, and still have a million things left on my bucket list – so that all adds up.
"Uranus is great for people who want to go on adventures", Letao explained, "But he doesn't make people feel very settled or grounded, and he doesn't sit well with those who are stubborn by nature, as he causes anxiety", he added. At this point I went quiet, attempting to hide my Taurean bull hidden deep within. Stubborn? Me? Never. Anyway, moving on. "You need to embrace the chaos within you and trust that the universe will guide you along your path, so don't try to force it", he advised reassuringly. Okay, I thought, so basically take a chill pill – or maybe a holiday.
"You also need to sleep better", he told me, tapping on the head of Medusa, who sprung up in my reading with her slithering smile, spinning "weird dreams" in my head. Right again, I do struggle to sleep well, so earlier nights it is then... just how puffy were my eyes that day?
It wasn't until we got to the romance part that things started to get... weird. "Shall we talk about love?", Letao asked, and I suddenly felt hesitant. "Now I do have a question for you", he said, tapping on the chest of Jason, standing heroically in front of a ship, carrying a sword over his shoulder. "Is your partner far away from you or traveling a lot?". Wait, what? Has he been Facestalking me? Do we have mutual friends who could have told him beforehand that my partner is a pilot? I felt like I had been punched right on my cynical little nose. "Erm yeah", I replied, in a suspicious tone.
"Ah that makes sense", he nodded. "Jason represents travel and distance, and the idea of things being a little unsettled. So at times you might feel a bit restless, which links back to your original card, Uranus." Again, this all seemed to make sense, after all, having a partner in aviation will always mean that your future is a little 'up in the air', and you never know where you might land. But thankfully, Venus was hovering over us like a voluptuous cupid, indicating that things were looking pretty good in the love department.
Visiting Letao was like holding up a mirror and reconfirming the intuitive truths I already had regarding my life choices and vision for the future.
"Naturally, you have a very strong foundation of friendship and love that will lead you both to a common goal, which is shown by Hera, the goddess of marriage and family", Letao explained. Ooh slow down, I thought, but secretly I was starting to like these cards more and more, and by the end of the session I felt reassured that my intuition was pretty spot on. I already knew I had found a keeper.
As I wrapped up my session with Letao, reflecting on what he had told me, and the things he advised me to focus on, it suddenly dawned on me: these were all things I already knew. Visiting Letao was like holding up a mirror and reconfirming the intuitive truths I already had regarding my life choices and vision for the future.
"See this display of cards as a photo of yourself", he had told me before turning them over on the table. "The cards will show your current energy and the psychology you are carrying". This realisation could only lead me to the conclusion that tarot cards are not meant to tell your future, but rather predict what could happen based on your present circumstances and mindset.
Once the penny had dropped, I was keen to know how Letao viewed his role when clients came to see him. "We all have the power to change our lives, or at least see things from a brand new or different perspective, and that's all I am doing here", he explained, "I'm providing a safe, comfortable, and totally private environment to guide people towards the right path which is, in fact, already there... even if they sometimes cannot see it".
At the end of the day, Letao is right. He is not a wizard, he is not magic, and he cannot – in his own words – "put a magic spell on someone’s life and change it". What he can do, however, is encourage people to reflect on their current mindset and question what they need to keep doing, what they might want to consider changing, and what is keeping them from fulfilling their dreams.
I came away from the experience feeling more certain than ever that the most powerful source of information comes from within – our intuition. Just like a good therapy session, the tarot cards give us the opportunity to connect with our true self and question if we are on the right track. "People can identify the actions needed to manifest their goals in the future", Letao explained. "Only they have the power to manoeuvre their own path, make adjustments, and move forward."
Suddenly, it all seemed very grounding and practical. And as I made a conscious decision to worry less about the future, continue to focus on my career, and get more sleep in between, my understanding of Letao's service became very clear – it's like therapy, only with cards and a cheaper price tag.
And while I know there are many Whoopis still out there in the world, I certainly don't consider him one of them. After all, how can I discredit anyone who promotes the message – be the creator of your future?
Now there's an idea I can get on board with.
A 40-minute tarot card reading with Letao costs $800.
Click here to find out more about The Healing Kingdom