Tarot Motifs

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Tarot reading 7849.jpg

Here is Belladonna, The Lady of the Rocks, The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find

The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.

The Tarot (usually pronounced 'tare-oh') is a very popular motif in the Urban Fantasy, Ontological Mystery and Horror Tropes genres. It can be used by references or as an item in the setting itself. And, of course, it can be merchandised for fun and profit.

The Tarot is a deck of cards which evolved in parallel with the Card Games during the Renaissance (although expect its source to be much more ancient in any setting that likes Ancient Conspiracy and old mythological references). They're made of 22 Major Arcana and 4 suits of 14 Minor Arcana.

The cards are named after the game they were used to play, i.e. "French Tarot" and "Tarocchini" wherein the cards of the so called "Major Arcana" were used as trump cards of different ranks (until the 1700s they were just called trump cards). Any and all mysticism surrounding the cards seems to have originated in the English-speaking world during the 18th century. This probably had a lot to do with the rise of Spiritualism.

In pop culture, tarot decks are almost always exclusively built of Major Arcana, when they even bother with details like actually sticking to cards one can find in actual tarot decks. Viewers are Morons, after all, and drawing Death is far more dramatic than stopping to explain what, exactly, the Four of Swords actually means (death and burial, if you were wondering).

There's a variety of older decks with different forms, but the most anciently fixed Tarot is the Tarot de Marseille with the 4 suits and 22 major arcana. The Rider-Waite Tarot, from the 19th century, was the first to put pictures on the Minor Arcana and is also an influential model for all Anglo-Saxon Tarots. The most influential modern Tarot is probably Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck (1943), which keeps the Waite format but tweaks the symbolism and changes several names; Justice (XI) becomes Adjustment (VIII), switching with Strength (VIII), which becomes Lust (XI), for example, while the familiar Waite court cards are replaced by Princes, Princesses, Knights, and Queens.

There's a lot of other tarots recently made that do not fit to those patterns (from slight alteration to wild differences; this is an online example of one such). It's not rare in fictional work to use the Tarot as a Motif while not sticking much to the traditional structure of Tarot. The quote by Eliot above is an example of a entirely made up Tarot cards mixed with actual ones. Diana Wynne Jones observed, in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, that High Fantasy Tarot decks have up to ten suits, plus wild cards and trumps, and appear to have only aces and court cards. This is not limited to High Fantasy.

The Tarot borrows a lot of symbolism from most of the Western hermeticism and mythology (decks prior to Rider-Waite were even typically based on Roman Catholic themes and symbolism), so expect crossover imagery.

See also Themed Tarot Deck for Real Life tarot decks modified, often with characters from fiction shoehorned into the different roles. See also Tarot.com - it uses Universal Waite as default, but there are card variations for 98(!) decks.

Tarot card info.[edit | hide | hide all]

The usual structure:

The 4 minor suits represent the four elements:

  • Swords/Air, ancestor of the suit of Spades. The suit often has a sinister or violent bend to it as well as relating to the intellectual and to cleverness.
  • Cups/Water, ancestor of the suit of Hearts. It deals with emotional matters, like relationships and romance. The Female symbol.
  • Coins (or Pentacles)/Earth, ancestor of the suit of Diamonds. It deals with the physical, with wealth, health, and growth.
  • Staves (or Wands)/Fire, ancestor of the suit of Clubs. It deals with will, passion, and power. The Male symbol.

The suits are numbered from one/Ace to ten (expect a Numerological Motif if they appear as such), the remaining four cards being the King, Queen, Knight and Page/Jack (although variety of tarots will give those cards new names). The King tends to represent a mature masculine approach to the suit's qualities, the Queen a mature feminine approach, the Knight an immature and extreme-prone approach, and the Page/Jack a beginner's approach; they can also represent people who take these approaches, and are perhaps underutilised in tarot motifs.

The 22 Major Arcana are numbered from 1 to 21, usually in Roman numerical, with the first/last card The Fool being unnumbered (it's sometimes referred as the 0, 22, or Infinity):

  • ZERO/XXII/Infinity - The Fool (Le Mat): a carefree jester straying dangerously close to a cliff-edge, a dog at his heels. A Tricksters as often as an innocent protected by his own luck, a madman who speaks with the voice of gods, an idiot who hides strange powers. The Fool is a symbol of the in-between, of The Grotesque, innocence, divine inspiration, madness, freedom, spontaneity, inexperience, chaos, creativity, and infinite possibilities.[1]
  • I - The Magician (Le Bateleur): shows a young man with the symbol for infinity as his hat. He holds tools of his trades, which are small symbols of the four suits and of luck in his hands. The Tarot de Marseille traditions tends to view him more as The Trickster and sometimes a bumbling one (and is sometimes instead named Juggler), whereas for the Rider Waite version he's more of a powerful and assertive magician. In divination, it's often attributed to the consultant, so it can more often represent the protagonist. Key words are action, initiative, self-confidence, manipulation, and power.
  • II - The High Priestess (La Papesse): an old woman with a closed book, a symbol of hidden knowledge, wisdom, female mystery, and magic. The card may often double up with Triptic Goddess imagery. She often is a Threshold Guardians, and associated with water and the Moon.
  • III - The Empress (L'Impératrice): a young and fair woman, sometimes pregnant, with symbols of power. She represents prosperity, creativity, sexuality, abundance, fertility, and comfort. It can hold symbolism related to The Three Faces of Eve, and represent the main female Love Interests. See also Earth Mother.
  • IV - The Emperor (L'Empereur): a crowned and often bearded man, sat on a throne with his crossed legs in the shape of a 4, and holding a scepter. This card is a symbol of power, action, leadership, stability, and decisiveness. Can be associated with The Government.
  • V - The Hierophant (Le Pape): an old man with a tiara, blessing two monks. A symbol of education, authority, conservatism, obedience to rules, and relationship with the divine. This card is most often associated with The Church, which could mean the Corrupt Church[2] as well as Crystal Dragon Jesus depending of the setting.
  • VI - The Lovers (L'Amoureux): in the Tarot de Marseille imagery, it's a man having to choose between two women, who represent two paths his life could lead to, and thus a symbol of standing at a crossroad and needing to make a decision. In the Rider Waite version, they are Adam and Eve, a more traditional symbol of love and romantic relationships, but also the danger of temptation and desire.
  • VII - The Chariot (Le Chariot): a king leading a chariot made up of two differently colored horses (in some cases mythical creatures). A symbol of victory, conquest, self-assertion, control, war, and command. The image of mastering, controlling, and leading two opposite forces to run the same carriage is a strong image of this one.
  • VIII - Justice (La Justice): a woman, sometimes blindfolded, holding a sword and set of scales. A very traditional allegory of Justice Will Prevail, objectivity, rationality, and analysis, expect references to the Judgment of Solomon, the Balance Between Good and Evil, and other Secret Tests of Character.
  • IX - The Hermit (L'Ermite): an old man in a dark place or cave, holding up a lantern. It's associated with wisdom, introspection, solitude, retreat, and philosophical searches. Often a symbol for the Mentor Archetype, but could also indicate the hero suffering from a BSOD and undergoing an introspective quest full of deep meanings before returning to kick ass. Could also be a Seeker Archetype.
  • X - The Wheel of Fortune (La Roue de la Fortune): a six or eight-spoked wheel decorated with elemental symbols and surrounded by different animals wearing wealthy and beggarly clothes. A symbol of fate and varying luck, fortunes, and opportunities, and the cycle of life. What goes up will go down, what goes down will go up. Easy Come, Easy Go.
  • XI - Strength (La Force): a young girl taming a terrifying beast (often a lion). Beyond the Beast and Beauty imagery, there's a moral about the stronger power of self-control, gentleness, courage, and virtue over brute force. On the other hand, you may as well call it the card of Waif Fu. (Also, certain decks will list Strength as card VIII and Justice as card XI).
  • XII - The Hanged Man (Le Pendu): a man up-side-down, hanging from one leg. His other leg crosses it forming a 4, while his arms are typically bound behind him, forming a 3. You may as well call this the Crucified Hero Shot card. It's associated with self-sacrifice for the sake of enlightenment, bindings that make you free, paradoxes, and hanging between heaven and earth. Apart from Jesus, it can be associated with such gods as Odin (hanging from a Yggdrasil to learn the runes), Osiris (getting killed and resurrected since way before the C.E.), Prometheus (forever stuck on a mountain getting his liver devoured by an eagle for giving fire to men), or Dionysus (not called "the twice-born" for nothing). If a character is associated to this, it's a good bet he's a Messianic Archetype. On the other hand, the card is not always positive; it can also be associated with traps, self-entrapment, passivity, and giving up. In Renaissance Italy, the image of the Hanged Man was used mainly to indict business rivals as dishonest - the "pittura infamante" - it was such a graffiti problem, and gave such a bad impression of Florence (as a place of sharp business practice), that it was not permissible to depict rivals in this way for a while.
  • XIII - Death (L'Arcane Sans Nom): The Grim Reaper, not even named in the Tarot de Marseille version (where its title is "arcana without a name"), and represented in the Rider Waite deck as the Great Plague. It is often used for a cheap effect of Doomy Dooms of Doom Foreshadowing, and even more frequently parodied as such. More accurately in Tarot, a symbolism of metamorphosis and deep change, regeneration and cycles. Often, a show will do just enough research to know that the Death card isn't a portent of doom, but a symbol of change, but their research tends to stop there. When drawn, most often, the reader will explain that the card does not actually mean literal physical death, and the story will go on to demonstrate that, in fact, it totally does. (Either that, or the person receiving the reading will not listen, panic, and faint out of sheer fright.)
  • XIV - Temperance (La Temperance): a woman with angel wings (sometimes interpreted as the healer Raphael) pouring water between two cups, one blue, the other red. A symbol of synthesis, prudence, harmony, and the merging of opposites.
  • XV - The Devil (Le Diable): a Hermaphrodite Satan standing over two naked and chained figures. Aka The Dark Side, the urge to do selfish, impulsive, violent things and be a slave to one's own impulses. Remember that Evil Is Cool, Evil Feels Good, Evil Tastes Good, and Evil Is Sexy. May be the time for a Deal with the Devil and other temptations. Occasionally subverted as a more positive figure of power, sexuality, and knowledge (typically because God Is Evil and/or Satan Is Good). Sometimes interpreted as a symbol of imbalance, showing that both excess and abstinence are unhealthy, and that moderation should be applied to life.
  • XVI - The Tower (La Maison-Dieu): a tower stricken by lightning, from which two people fall to their deaths. A straight Tower of Babel allegory about pride preceding a fall. Often associated to overly arrogant, prejudiced, and authoritarian organizations (including The Government) which walk to their own ironic demise. Also more generically used as an omen of doom and disaster, at least by those who know better than to use Death for that or who think that Death alone isn't ominous enough.
  • XVII - The Star (L'Etoile): a young girl pouring water in a river and on land, under a star-lit sky. Associated with hope, faith, altruism, luck, generosity, peace, and joy. Very much a messianic card as well, as an omen of the coming of The Chosen One.
  • XVIII - The Moon (La Lune): dogs howl at the moon, around a pool with a crab in it, with two towers in the background. Associated with creativity, inspiration, dreams, Madness Tropes, illusions, fear, fantasy, the subconscious, and trickery. Master of Illusions and Lotus Eater Machines can be associated with it, as can be Shape Shifters and Wolf Men. Also a good spot for a Mind Screw or a Dream Sequence.
  • XIX - The Sun (Le Soleil): children frolic beneath a blazing sun. A symbol of happiness, joy, energy, optimism, and accomplishment. Can be associated with the hero's reward, or to an initial state of happiness. Sometimes associated with the myth of the Androgynes and Soul Mates (although in Rider Waite influenced tarots, it's more likely to find the latter in the Lovers card).
  • XX - Judgment (Le Jugement): a young man rising up from his grave, reunited with his parents, as an angel blows the trumpet of the Last Judgement. It's The End of the World as We Know It, the time for the Final Battle. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse are probably not very far off. Actions are weighted, plots reach their achievement, secrets are revealed, and it's time to see if it will all end up for the best or not. Beware of death by redemptions and resurrected messiahs.
  • XXI - The World (Le Monde): a naked woman (or Hermaphrodite, depending on deck), dancing, surrounded by figures of an angel, a bull, an eagle, and a lion (which represent the four elements in transcended forms). A representation of the world, the totality of it, symbol of fulfillment, wholeness, harmony. Often what the hero fights for and tries to save. Sometimes his reward. Called "The Universe" in some decks.
    • The four animals might also represent the four gospels of the New Testatment. Each gospel writer is traditionally represented with some form of animal: Matthew (human), Mark (lion), Luke (ox), and John (eagle).

It is important to note, that Tarot cards can come in two positions. The straight, normal position, with the name of the card in the bottom, and the reversed position, with the card upside down. Every card has a whole new set of different meaning when it's reversed. Usually the meaning of a reversed card is the opposite of the normal card, although some reversed card have some specific meanings, and there are exceptions. It's also important to note that reversed cards are neither good nor bad. They just add new sets of meanings.

The Fool, for example, means "A start, uncertainty, unknown". A reversed Fool, depending on its place in the reading, will represent a figure of stability, someone with a clear focus. A reversed Death, on the other hand, does not mean life, but rather avoidance, skill, maturity. A reversed World is usually catastrophic, no matter what the reading is about, and so on.

Finally, note that in an actual Tarot reading, the placement of a card in a reading will solidly define its meaning; it's important to remember that a single card alone is like a single word: it does not usually constitute a clear message.

For actual Tarot readings, accurate or not, see Tarot Troubles.

Examples of Tarot Motifs include:

Anime[edit | hide]

  • Fairy Tail plays it so straight it is obviously Mashima's intention from the start. The Cards Magic Cana uses is formed of tarot cards, and the cards, combined or alone, produce attacks relating to their intended meaning.
  • Vision of Escaflowne used a lot of Tarot symbolism, including to name each episode. Rather than using the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot, Hitomi's deck uses the Merlin Tarot (a tarot deck released in the late 1980's based on Arthurian mythology). The difference, however, is that Hitomi's cards are titled in Gratuitous Italian, and the Minor Arcana cards have their titles changed to one of their associated keywords (for example, the "Warrior of Beasts" is renamed "[The] Ambition").
  • Sartorius in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX uses a Duel Monsters deck based on Tarot cards. Not only does he duel with them, he also uses them symbolically just like real ones, to represent the character traits of people he's facing.
  • Sailor Moon had a filler arc about tree-born aliens who attacked by causing tarot cards to come to life.
  • At least two of the cards in Cardcaptor Sakura were taken directly from the Tarot - Strength and the Lovers. Generally speaking, cards as a tool for magical powers is obviously inspired by the Tarot, as CLAMP admitted in the Cardcaptor Sakura volume of CLAMP no Kiseki.
    • In fact the cards were explicitly used as a Tarot deck in the episode "Two Sakuras," when Kero guided Sakura in a reading to identify the Mirror card (and her target).
      • From the manga: "Water reflects things ... Shadow follows movements ... and Illusion isn't real... so you must be the Mirror card!" Sakura still didn't catch on until her doppelganger started mimicking her moves, though.
  • Miho, the Oracular Urchin in several episodes of Ranma ½ 1/2, used a Tarot deck for her fortune-telling.
  • Likewise Chikage in Sister Princess, although any explicit symbolism in the cards was unintentionally subverted by turning the reading into Stock Footage that showed the same five cards, over and over again.
  • In the first season of the anime Kaleido Star, Fool, the Stage Spirit, can read the future using tarot cards.
  • The anime version of Death Note had a memorable allusion to The Tower in the couple of episodes that just went crazy with the symbolism all around - Persephone, Maundy Thursday, the internal symbolism of the bells, and probably more.
    • The front cover of every manga volume can easily be read as a tarot card:
      • Volume 1: The King of Swords
      • Volume 2: The King of Swords (unless it's the Page of Swords in a swanky chair)
      • Volume 3: The Devil
      • Volume 4: The Lovers
      • Volume 5: Justice (shippers might say the Two of Cups; Kira supporters might say The Chariot)
      • Volume 6: The Magician
      • Volume 7: The Page of Swords
      • Volume 8: The Knight of Swords
      • Volume 9: The Hermit
      • Volume 10: The Chariot
      • Volume 11: The Eight of Pentacles
      • Volume 12: Judgment
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Celestial Being uses Tarot-based codenames for various things. The main character's Gundam, Exia is also known as The 7 of Swords (which isn't all that symbolic, considering it actually carries seven swords: four beam, two vibrating a Swiss Army Weapon with a blade the size of a bus) for instance.
    • More straight example can be found in the side stories Gundam 00P and Gundam 00F feature prototype of Celestial Being's Gundams and each Gundam named after things associate with arcana. Gundam Astraea named after goddess Astraea of The Justice. Gundam Sadalsuud named after Sadalsuud of constellation Aquarius, associate with The Star. Gundam Abulhool named after sphinx in The Chariot. And finally, Gundam Plutone named after Pluto is either Death or Judgement.
    • While Gundam Wing doesn't explicitly use tarot imagery, an offical tarot deck was released for the show, featuring characters and mobile suits. You can see it here.
  • The third part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a group of characters that all have astral-projection based superpowers themed and named after the major arcana. After using up the tarot, later series opted for powers based on pop music songs from the '80s and '90s. Really.
  • In the case of CLAMP's X 1999, the creators themselves released a tarot deck. The major arcana art was clearly created with this purpose in mind, but the minor arcana art is mostly recycled from art books. Still, a beautiful (and often pricey) piece of functional art.
  • The Ending Theme of D.N.Angel shows tarot cards slowly turning around—partially because Risa enjoys telling the future with them.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files has a serial killer leaving behind Tarot Cards at the crime scene, but Kindaichi very quickly realizes that the killer Did Not Do the Research because said killer leaves the Hanged Man card upside-down.
  • Kaori Yuki's Count Cain makes liberal use of Tarot cards: Maryweather is introduced as a Tarot-reading street urchin (who continues to read Tarot spreads throughout the series); and the organization Delilah refers to its members by their card names.
  • The first scene/page in both the anime and manga versions of Ayashi no Ceres feature Aya getting a tarot reading, and the reader freaking out about what she sees.
  • In Yami no Matsuei during the cruise ship arc, the murderer leaves Tarot cards on or near the bodies of his victims, which serve to reveal the corpse's secrets and explain why they deserved to die. Of course, we find out later, Muraki was the killer, and he was doing it mostly to mess with Princess Tsubaki's head.
  • One of the endings for Pani Poni Dash! has different characters as tarot cards each episode. Sometimes they fit, other times they're tangentially related at best.
  • Trinity Blood had its own tarot deck released with the DVD box sets, with illustrations by the same artist who worked on the novels.

Comic Book[edit | hide]

  • In Neil Gaiman's Books of Magic series, the main character visits the end of the universe and discovers that the last living entities are psychic after-echoes of people throughout history who have merged into the major arcana, with the explanation that the tarot cards were inspired by subconscious character archetypes that all people come from and eventually return to.
    • Earlier on in the series, he gets a reading from Madame Xanadu, and the four cards drawn correspond to the four members of the Trenchcoat Brigade that are acting as his guides.
    • This crosses into Hellblazer comic when a dead wizard sends him a message showing the the line of people who have held the position of the "Laughing Magician" that he's inherited he's hasn't it's his unborn twin brother who's the Laughing Magician who is using the power that comes with it to screw with John's life making him commit mental suicide allowing the twin to take over, it's that kind of comic. Amongst these are Lady Constantine, other figures from the Constantine family and a figure of Constantine in jester clothes who quotes from the conversation that the soul entity that Timothy confused with John (because he looked exactly like Constantine in jester clothing) in the Books of Magic suggesting they are the same person. Though the entity isn't named from the dress it's obvious it's meant to represent the Fool and it dosen't take much Wild Mass Guessing to suggest that the souls from Laughing Magician line join to become part of (or all of) the fool entity. Also notably John Constantine takes up the position of the fool in the Vertigo Tarot Deck.
  • Tarot cards tend to show up in Hellblazer from time to time. Constantine confronted his inner demon (in a figurative, yet slightly literal sense), in the form of different tarot cards, in one issue.
    • Unless it's the same demon, another issue has Constantine "exorcize" all his bad habits and send them down to hell. After being an unambiguously good guy for a while, he's told via expy tarot cards (I don't recall "Reynard the Fox" in any real tarot deck) that he needs the bad parts of himself and has to regain his magnificently manipulative abilities. It's implied the mysterious card reader is Jesus.
  • A minor X-Men villain named Tarot had the ability to bring Tarot illustrations to life and command them, as well as some obvious ability in reading them.
    • Her teammates, the Hellions, had an annoying habit of scoffing at her divination even though they were fully aware that magic exists in their world.
  • In Lucifer, a deck of tarot cards called the Basanos were made by an angel in imitation of Destiny's book and achieve their own sentience. They possess the ability not only to see the future, but also to manipulate probability until their victories are inevitable.
  • Tarot symbolism is a significant part of DC Comics' Trinity, with various villains stealing mystical swords, staves, pentacles and cups on behalf of the Big Bads, Egyptian tarot symbols appearing on Wonder Woman's shoulder, and a kidnapped tarot reader realising that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman can be represented by most of the Major Arcana. It culminated in a spell by the Big Bads to access the power of the archetypes the Trinity represent, and claim their positions.
    • Also in Trinity, there was a Justice League Arcana and its Evil Counterpart, each hero/villain representing one of the major arcana for their side.
  • There actually was a Marvel based Tarot deck, though it was only the major arcana. Likewise, DC licensed the Vertigo characters for a full tarot deck a few years back.
    • The Mavel Tarot deck was used in-universe as a plot device for a minor rival of Dr. Strange, sent on a mysterious quest to gather artifacts aligned with the 4 suits and 4 ancient gods in order to seal some ancient evil/preserve magic in the Marvel universe. The deck itself was in this guy's possession and when drawn from would depict villains or heroes on the cards (though not always the same person everytime), symbolizing their fulfillment of that specific role within the Marvel Universe. For example, Dr. Strange would come up as the Magician 9 out of 10 times, but the other time, one of his rivals would appear on the card instead. Most of the time the Scarlet Witch would show up as the High Priestess, but sometimes it would be Storm (indicating her latent magic potential and her role in the Marvel universe).
  • A memorable issue of Alan Moore's Promethea used the Major Arcana of the Tarot to illustrate the history of the universe, from the Big Bang onward.
  • World of Flashpoint #2 has Traci Thirteen using Madame Xanadu's tarot deck to locate various people who can advise her or serve as an example, each of whom is the living archetype of a card. The characters she meets are: A Red Tornado android who can't leave the lab he was created in (The Hermit); a freedom-fighting cyborg Nat Irons (Justice); a near-feral Beast Boy (The Chariot ... somehow); a Buddhist pacifist Guy Gardner (Temperance); an imprisoned Circe (The High Priestess); and Father Jason Todd (The High Priest).
  • In The Secret History, tarot cards are tools of immense power based on the immortal Archons' superpowered runestones. The Archons and those in the know—referred to as "players"—call tarot cards "blades."


Film -- Animated[edit | hide]

  • In The Princess and the Frog, when Dr. Facilier reads Naveen and Lawrence's futures, no cards are named, but we clearly see The Fool, Three of Pentacles, and the Tower in Naveen's hand, while Lawrence is almost a replica of Ten of Wands - mirroring their situations in life perfectly. And it gets better. Naveen's hand also shows a card of himself between two lovely ladies, which resembles The Lovers. However, the number itself on the card is XV - the number of the Devil, symbolizing temptation and a need for self-control. Next the card flips into something with a IX on it, probably the Nine of Pentacles (physical independence from marrying a wealthy woman). It all works, and it's not a little delightful.


Film -- Live Action[edit | hide]

  • One modern deck, often marketed as "The Tarot of the Witches" [1], was actually designed for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. Early versions even had the 007 logo on the back, like in the film.
  • The Star Wars movies feature tarot imagery. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is constantly in Hanged Man poses - hanging in the cave, floating in the bacta tank, upside down on Dagobah, swinging from the vane beneath Cloud City. The motif is appropriate to Luke's spiritual transition from brash kid to wise Jedi and the sacrifice, of both his hand and his innocence, that accompanies that transition.
    • Not to mention that Vader and Yoda are pretty clearly Death and Hermit archetypes. Yoda even waves one of Luke's penlights around in lieu of a lantern.
    • Leia as card VI; 'Get that walking carpet out of my face!'
    • What about sabacc in the EU? The names have been changed, such as "Moderation" instead of Temperance and the "Evil One" instead of the Devil. The Lando books even have him using his deck in this way.
  • The opening credits for the Disney film The Haunted Mansion feature three tarot cards representing the tale of Master Gracey and his lost love: The Lovers, Death, and the Three of Swords (which represents betrayal and heartbreak).
  • The Ninth Gate includes extensive Tarot imagery, both for actual characters and situations. For example, a minor character is killed and his body is found looking exactly like the Hanged Man, (also reflecting one of the illustrations in the book) while Balkan's death occurs in a Tower ravaged by flame after he becomes too proud, and numerous characters are analogs of various cards, including: Boris Balkan as the Magician, Baroness Kessler as the High Priestess, Mrs. Telfer as, depending on your interpretation, either the Empress or a new, younger High Priestess, Vargas as Death, (his entire family, estate, everything around him is physically dead, and it's when the main character examines his copy of the book that he starts going from just doing a job to being interested in what's really happening) and perhaps also the Hermit, while Corso is the story's Fool with Hidden Depths... really hidden depths in some interpretations. (Like the one that says that Corso is actually Satan and has undergone a Xanatos Roulette and Memory Gambit to return to heaven. The book is supposed to "raise the devil" and so it does, by showing him the way back home). (For a bonus, the knapsack Corso which one character remarks on and notes that he seems to take it everywhere even mirrors the one the Fool traditionally carries).
  • The Holy Mountain: "The Tarot will teach you how to create a soul".


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Piers Anthony used a lot of Tarot Motif in his Constellation cycle. There were space ships that took the forms of the four suits.
    • Tarot cards and their history are also the central theme of one of his early trilogies.
  • Harry Potter used Tarot symbolism a couple of times, most obviously in a the chapter called "The Lightning-Struck Tower" in which Dumbledore died and the Tarot divination seance done by Trelawney which Harry spied on. It's also arguable that Snape has been made intentionally in a Hanged Man figure with the image of his young self under the spell of Levicorpus - he certainly fits the meaning.
  • Parodied with the Discworld Caroc deck, which includes cards such as The Importance Of Washing The Hands instead of Temperance. In Mort Princess Keli takes Death out of the pack three times in a row... without putting it back. This is a bad sign.
  • One Wild Cards book features a variant with Rosa Loteria, an Ace whose powers depend on which card she draws out of a Mexican loteria deck.
  • In Emma Bull's book Bone Dance, Tarot itself plays a large role, and the chapters are set up like an actual Tarot reading.
  • At the end of The Dark Tower, the Man in Black tells Roland's future (and foreshadows the plots of the next two books) with a tarot deck.
  • Used prominently in Mercedes Lackey's Phoenix and Ashes.
  • Last Call by Tim Powers used the Tarot motif for all it was worth.
  • The Book of Amber series has a deck of magical cards called Tarot used for communication and to transport oneself from one world to another using the "Trumps" (another name for the Major Arcana). There's a few full fledged Tarot decks made as merchandising for the series or the Tabletop RPG. Some people believe that the most gorgeous of them was the classical Marseille deck by Florence Magnin.
    • Images from the Major Arcana would appear in the books as well. One scene had a man hanging upside down from a tree = The Hanged Man. Another image during a hellride through Shadow had a crown in the air with a sword vertical through it = Ace of Swords. There may well have been many more references scattered through the books. Descriptions, unfortunately, don't always bring the image of a specific Tarot card to mind.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Childermass has a deck of Marseilles cards that predicts a number of events, which all become clear in retrospect - and some earlier.
  • Within the Gates of Ivory trilogy by Doris Egan, Theodora of Pyrene is hired by one of the aristocrats for her Tarot reading skill. It turns out that much of his business success is because his family possesses a magical deck which provides accurate (and immersive) predictions, but only works for one person at a time and it's chosen her.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novels, tarot is an analogue to poker, with 40K imagery used for some of the major cards.
  • In the Imperial Guard novel Cadian Blood, the regiment's sanctioned psyker, having read the cards, boldly asks to speak with the Space Marine librarian about "the Emperor's Tarot". This conversation leads to a general warning. The card imagery is all Warhammer 40,000.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Daur at one point plays with cards to pass time; some of the imagery is Warhammer 40000.
    • It would, incidentally, be difficult to get a deck that was consistent with all three novels without its being enormous.
  • In Christie Golden's Ravenloft novel Vampire of the Mists, Jander Sunstar has the cards read for him. Death appears—the reader tells him it doesn't necessarily mean death, but he thinks it does. The Tower appears and she likes that considerably less. Then the Sun and she thinks it good news and he does not like it at all. (You see, he's a vampire.)
  • In the first Circle of Three book, the Three of Cups is integral to convincing Kate to stay friends with Annie and Cooper and pursue magical studies with them. The plot of the fourth novel revolves around Annie's new-found talent with the Tarot.
  • In The Eagle Has Landed, by Jack Higgins, the Nazi officers being sent to assassinate Winston Churchill are given a Tarot reading at one point. One draws death, and is told that it's possibly a good omen; when the commander's card is drawn, the psychic immediately puts it back in the deck without showing him and lies that it was strength (it was actually the hanged man). Guess which one of them lives.
  • In the Thieves' World setting, the Tarot-like deck is used by S'Danzo fortune-tellers and once in a while a complex reading becomes plot-relevant.
  • Samuel R. Delany's Nova is a science fiction novel that includes a running theme of Tarot readings and imagery amid the cyborgs and starships. One curious thing is that a Romany character states that his people consider the Tarot to be utter BS, and a scholar is astonished by this: how could anyone intelligent not believe in Tarot?
  • Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series uses tarot imagery with an interesting twist. The "Deck of Dragons" is organized into Houses based on a certain theme (Light, Death, Shadow ect.) with a smattering of Unaligned which correlate strongly to the Major Arcana with such concepts as chance, wisdom, and authority. The twist is that these cards often represent actual characters from the series and that who embodies each card is subject to change based on events in the books (for example when certain characters die they then take positions in the House of Death). So the Deck not only can be used to predict the future but to also describe the present state of supernatural politics.
  • The Darksword Trilogy has a clear equivalent in the form of "Tarok" cards. Joram is represented by the King of Swords card; Simkin by the Fool.
  • In Dune Messiah, we're occasionally given details of a new tarot deck that was recently issued and uses symbolism based on Paul's reign as emperor. This actually turns out to be a plot point; the deck was issued by a conspiracy against Paul, since the sheer number of people attempting to read the future (albeit ineptly) creates a constant prescient static which causes Paul to ignore any signs of static he gets around the conspiracy (prescients have trouble seeing things around other prescients).
  • In the New Jedi Order, Drama, a member of the space-faring Ryn species that are hated and reviled for their Gypsy-like ways, successfully reads Han Solo's fortune using the sabacc deck. Its cards seem to be a combination of Tarot's Arcana with a few fey elements thrown in (the Queen of Air and Darkness, for example, the ruler of the Unseelie Court in Dungeons & Dragons), all of it given a Star Wars flavor.
  • Charles Williams wrote several modern fantasy novels, including The Greater Trumps, which is all about Tarot—specifically the One True Original Tarot Deck, the only one that can really tell fortunes (and control the elements), and the magical self-playing chess-like collection of images linked to the deck.
  • In Valerie Worth's novel Gypsy Gold, Bella reads Miranda's fortune using these cards.
  • Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths features the Sibylline. Though obviously analogous to the Tarot, the trumps include such cards as the Parliament of Bees, the Two-Handed Engine, the Hermaphrodite and the Heart of Light. Minor arcana are sometimes used in readings.
  • Ru Emerson's The Princess of Flames makes use of a fantasy version; the title is one of the cards.
  • Lani Diane Rich's The Fortune Quilt repeatedly uses the phrase "Towered" as a reference to having one's entire life trashed and having to start over again. (It also features a psychic quilt designer.)

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: in "Restless", a tarot card which features hands is presented as Buffy's. Later it shows her friend. This fits with her being Manus in the "super slayer" spell
    • Taken Up to Eleven with a WMG that each episode of Season 5 is a Tarot Card... and works!
  • The first musical episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, "The Bitter Suite", used Tarot symbolism in sequences that took place in "the land of Illusia" - a sort of embodied form of Xena and Gabrielle's subconsciouses. Callisto appeared as the Fool (and spun the Wheel of Fortune), Joxer as the Hanged Man, Gabrielle was dressed up to look like the Empress, et cetera.
  • Carnivale kicks off with the tarot imagery right from the opening credits, with a deck created especially for the show. It shows a deck of cards, then uses historical footage to make parallels: the Great Depression with The World; the Dust Bowl for the Ace of Swords; the KKK and Nazi Germany for Death; Babe Ruth and Jesse Owens as Temperance; the U.S. Capitol Building as The Tower; and FDR as Judgment. The cards themselves are all based on famous paintings. Too bad it's not a real deck and, according to Dan Knauf, HBO will never let them create or market the deck.
    • The character of Sofie is, at the beginning, the Carnivale's tarot-card reader and fortuneteller. She is frequently seen reading cards, and in the pilot, gives Ben a prophetic reading. The Moon in the "Past" position, with a flashback of Ben healing a dead kitten as a child; Death in the "Present" position, highlighting Ben's healing powers and his mother's condemnation of what he is; and The Magician reversed in the "Future" position, showing Ben's denial of his powers and ignorance of what that really means in the grand scheme of things. At the end, Sofie is concerned about Ben's reaction and asks what he's hiding, provoking a vision of Justin shouting "TELL ME!", which won't happen until the series finale, and not even to Ben, but to Sofie.
    • Another significant reading occurs in "Cheyenne, WY", in a flashback Iris has of Justin raping Apollonia, proving he is Sofie's father. Unfortunately, very little of the reading is visible, but the Temperance card is one highlighted aspect, showing the subtext of the scene (the merging of opposites, synthesis, bringing of harmony).
  • Kamen Rider Blade draws primarily from standard playing cards, but each of the four Kamen Riders is named for the Tarot suit that corresponds to their playing card suit: Blade = Spades/Swords, Garren = Diamonds/Coins,[3] Chalice = Hearts/Cups, and Leangle = Clubs/Wands.[4]
  • Father Ted, a British comedy series set in Ireland, used the ominous misinterpretations of death for laughs. Ted visits a fortune teller during a carnival and she draws Death. He gasps, then's told it's not actually bad. She draws Death again, then one more time. Then lampshades it with "There's only supposed to be one in each pack!"
  • Reaper included one escaped soul that acted as a fortune teller with card based powers. She tells Sam's future, then legs it after drawing three Devils in a row. Includes some very good foreshadowing when she brings up conflict with his father.
  • Episode 2.02 of Ashes to Ashes has a murder occurring among a gypsy community. Of course, the local Wise Woman has to read Alex's cards, telling her she's due to meet someone "tall, some would say handsome, some would call him the Devil made flesh". She then draws the Hanged Man for Gene - symbolizing self-sacrifice, paradoxes, and being caught between two worlds.
    • Becomes Fridge Brilliance and a Call Forward in Season Three when it's revealed that Alex is in Dead Copper Purgatory, created by Gene, the Psychopomp guardian who helps lost souls cross over, and does meet a tall, handsome Devil made flesh in Jim Keats, who may possibly be Satan himself.
  • Bones has some Tarot imagery in it, most obviously in an episode that centers around a tarot reader. Overarching the entire show is a character named Temperance, and one of the central aspects of the show is her close professional relationship with someone who is very much her opposite.
  • Some time in the 80's or 90's, All My Children featured a storyline involving a Tarot reading in which the Tower appeared. The reader fudged the reading and told the recipient it meant something good, but another character (Opal?) later upbraided her for it, saying (rightly) "You and I know that is the worst card in that deck![5]" Very refreshing to not see Death automatically (and incorrectly) used, for once.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Huntress has songs "Eight of Swords" (in the music video their vocalist even poses as the tested character on this card, with blindfold and all) and "The Tower" — both on the album Spell Eater, and the former also as a single.

Other[edit | hide]

  • The webseries Broken Saints engages in a creepily effective round of foreshadowing when the main characters avail themselves of a free tarot reading given by a creepy albino shopkeeper.
  • Fan made Tarots are occasionally created in fandoms. There are tarots for Revolutionary Girl Utena, Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Parodied in the Homestar Runner flash Jibblies 2, in a scene with Strong Sad and Pom Pom.
  • "I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died." - Steve Wright
  • The music video for the Church's "Almost With You."
  • The figure with the lantern on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV is The Hermit.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Dungeons & Dragons features the minor artifacts called Decks of Many Things, which are obviously tarot decks (though equivalent playing cards are also included). The deck can bring good things or bad, such as enough experience to gain a level, or a powerful enemy. Or large amounts of wealth. Or poverty. Or wishes. Or instant and (almost) irreversible death. If you come across such a deck and you're not mid-to-high level, your DM is insane and you'd best not touch it.
    • In the classic Castle Ravenloft adventure, the DM is supposed to make a tarot reading to decide elements of the adventure (including Strahd's motivation). This led to the Tarokka deck; the cards used by the Vistani in the wider Ravenloft setting.
    • Advanced D&D also listed (in some supplemental book of artifacts) a complete set of instructions for magical effects based on all cards, upright and reversed, in a standard Tarot deck. Usually, upright cards were good news and reversed cards were bad news, but with effects ranging from "You will soon have a castle of your very own" to "Die, burst into flames, and be reborn in 5d5 minutes as another race".
    • Generally, these decks are really best used when the campaign is getting boring and you feel like stirring things up.
  • The fact that humanity occasionally consults the Emperor's Tarot for advice in Warhammer 40,000 says a lot about the setting. The fact that the readings are almost always some variation of "we're screwed" says even more.
  • There was a tarot for Mage: The Ascension which features the four essences (Dynamism, Stasis, Entropy and Questing) as the suits of the minor arcana. The meaning of the major arcana was changed to suit the setting (The Moon, for instance, has two werewolves howling as the goddess Luna emerges from a pool of blood).
    • Mage: The Awakening, the new-edition reboot, has the five separate mage paths each identified with a particular card: Acanthus (the Fool), Mastigos (the Devil), Moros (Death), Obrimos (Strength), and Thyrsus (the Moon). One of its sourcebooks, Keys to the Supernal Tarot, explores the Tarot, using its symbolism as inspiration for plot hooks and story ideas. Like Ascension, it has its own tarot deck.
      • Mages are also able to learn how to use the Tarot to enhance their powers, essentially drawing a card and determining if it indicates that the spell they want to cast is fated to succeed (or fail).
  • Kult has the Tarotica which is pretty much Tarot based on its cosmology. The minor arcana are changed to five suits. Skull (death), rose (passion), hourglass (time & space), eye (madness) and moon (dream).
  • In the Nephilim, Major Arcana play an important role in the game's cosmology. All nephilim 'belong' to one particular Arcanum that defines the personality of that character.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh has the "Arcana Force" series of monsters, each one representing one of the Arcanas. Their gimmick is that you must toss a coin every time you summon one and, depending on the result, you either get game breaking effects or major nerfing.
    • After the "Arcana Force" archetype, there is now the "Magical" series, also based on the major arcana.
  • Villains and Vigilantes had a sourcebook with a villain team called the Tarot Masters, who were split into the Minor Arcana (non-powered underlings grouped into the four suits and issued special weapons resembling their suit), and the Major Arcana (which was made up of supervillains resembling one of the 22 trumps). They were even the villains of an adventure booklet outside of the sourcebook where they first appeared, almost unheard of for that game.
  • Due to a licensing problem regarding SPECTRE, the James Bond 007 RPG substituted the evil organization with TAROT. Which has a tarot card motif, naturally.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Cirque Du Soleil's ZED is built around this, starting with the titular protagonist representing The Fool. Check out the character list at the official website.


Web Animation[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The obscure Sega Saturn game Mansion of Hidden Souls used Tarot cards as a compass, in the sense that each room would be associated with a tarot card and when you used the deck in the blank-slated main hall, the card revealed would guide you to which room you had to go next (if you remembered which room had which card associated to it, that is).
  • In Quest for Glory IV, you can visit a band of gypsies after you rescue one of them. The old woman will read your fortune periodically. The cards will vary depending on what point you are in the story as well as some minor tweaks based on which class you are. They added one card, the void - a pure black card that represents the Eldritch Abomination; it basically marks the end of reliable prediction and freaks the gypsy out severely that it keeps coming up.
    • There were six other cards besides, each representing a piece of the Eldritch Abomination: bones, blood, breath, senses, heart, and essence. These only show up in the very last reading, when you learn where to find the spell scrolls that allow you to summon the body parts of said Abomination.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island has you encounter a gypsy woman who will read Guybrush's fortune five times. Each time the fortune consists of a single Death card. Guybrush asserts that the Death card is merely a representation of change, but the gypsy insists that in this case, it is not. You are going to die. Which is true, as you fake your death shortly after that. Several times, although maybe not five.

Guybrush: "I've got five Death cards. That can't be good."

    • Later, you use those five Death cards to cheat at poker.
    • Tarot cards are used as expository/recap devices in The Tales Of Monkey Island.
  • SaGa Frontier had a whole Set of Spells based off the Tarot (Saber, Gold, Shield, Grail, Death, Fool, Magician, and Tower)
  • Almost every character in Magical Drop is based directly on one of the Major Arcana. Exactly how close they are to the actual card depends on the character—the Empress is nearly perfect, embodying the positive and negative maternal aspects of the card, with a Dominatrix Evil Overlord persona and a kind, nurturing, saintly one—the plot of the second game revolves around freeing her from being stuck permanently in the former persona. The Lovers, on the other hand, is a five-year-old girl who rides around on a pig—try figuring that one out. Notably, they actually corrected an instance of Did Not Do the Research between games. In Magical Drop 2, Strength was a huge, villainous, and male bruiser... which is the exact opposite of everything the card represents, so for 3, his virtuous and courageous tomboy daughter ended up taking his place. And last but not least, we have The World, who is not only Ms. Fanservice, but, ironically enough, the ribbon that strategically covers her takes away from a more accurate representation.
  • All of the boss monsters in the House of the Dead series excluding those in Overkill are named after Major Arcana cards. As of the fourth game in the series, only the High Priestess, Moon, and Devil have been left unused.
    • The Magician, Emperor, Wheel of Fortune, and World are especially important, serving as the final bosses of the first four games. Respectively, they use fire, shapeshifting, electricity, and ice to attack the player, so in a sense, they symbolise the elements. Now all we need is a final boss that symbolizes Earth.
    • Also, some of the bosses are hilariously off-kilter from their appropriate interpretation. For instance, Temperance is the Incredible Hulk crossbred with a morbidly obese frog, the Empress is a dual-chainsaw-wielding monstrosity, and Hierophant is basically an undead Sahaguin. Others, like the Tower (big scary Hydra), Wheel of Fate ("I shall destroy everything... and resurrect everything."), Emperor (created to "destroy and hate mankind" (with that exact wording) and preserve the environment at all costs,) and Star (astrokinetic humanoid whose purpose is to test the heroes' strength) are more akin to their namesakes.
  • The Persona series has this in droves. Every persona you can create belongs to one of the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana appear in 2 and 3, the former as mutatable Personas, and the latter as after-battle bonuses (Sword gives you a weapon, Cup heals you, Wand increases your EXP, and Coin gives you money). Much of the third and fourth game is dedicated to improving your proficiencies in major arcana through social interactions with humans that, through personalities and life situations, represent one of the major arcana. Also in 4, the main team summons their Personas by destroying their respective Tarot card.
    • In the third and fourth game, all of your Personas get a boost from the "Social Links" you develop over the course of the game. These Social Links are each tied to a major arcana, and in a case of Doing The Research, the stories in these links always tie into the real meaning behind the cards. Death is also used properly in both Persona 3 and Persona 4. It may not always be obvious that the stories properly reflect their arcana, but by the end you'll see it. This is jarring in Persona4's Moon Arcana, who is a Rich Bitch nothing like her card's meaning, though it all ties into the created-facade of the Moon Arcana in the end, no worries. In Persona 5 this is changed to "Confidants", but the mechanics are about the same.
    • Persona 3's major boss battles also correspond to the Arcana and are arranged by number (until Death), and the Social Links correspond to an Arcana-based metaphor for life, "The Fool's Journey," which also shows up in the protagonist's allies and enemies, as well as in the fourteen forms of the final boss. Also, each of the Arcana bosses represent each tarot in the reverse position.
      • In Persona 4, the party's Shadows, Mitsuo's Shadow (as The Hermit), and to some extent Namatame (as Justice) as Kunino Sagiri and Adachi (as The Fool) are representative of the reverse form of that Arcana.
    • Incidentally, the protagonist's associated arcana is The Fool, which is sometimes numbered zero, which can represent infinite potential, which is the protagonist's unique ability of the "Wild Card", as only he can use multiple personas.
    • In the first three Persona games, Persona and Persona 2 (Persona 2 was split into a duology), the Persona are manifested through cards symbolizing them. Most of them are from one of the major arcana, but a few are from the minor arcana. They don't take the tarot motif quite as far as Persona 3, though.
    • Persona 4 takes out the Minor Arcana, removes Aeon (which is Judgment in another form) and replaces Universe with World, which is the exact same thing, just in a different deck. This time, however, you can have Personas from all of the Arcana. For The Golden, Aeon is returned (as the Arcana of new character Marie), and adds the Joker as the Arcana for the Social Link with Adachi.
  • Tarot cards are used as magic spells in Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen.
  • Silent Hill contains this trope primarily in the third game, which also introduces a new Major Arcana card, the "Eye of Night". All of the Major Arcana, including the Eye of Night, are also used as page headers in the Book of Lost Memories.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia has an equippable ring for each of the Major Arcana. Some of them just increased stats, while others had special effects: The Sun and Moon rings, for example, increased most stats only during the day or night, respectively, and The World cut your MP consumption in half. The most notable one is Death (found in the Clock Tower, which is appropriately where you fight the real Death), which ramps up your stats in exchange for making Shanoa a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • The Four Masks in Shadow Hearts are based on four Minor Arcana of tarot, and are of the appropriate element for their suit. They're little-developed, so it's hard to say if they have the right personalities, unfortunately. As they're also evil, it features crossover with Four Is Death.
    • Also, Lucia in Shadow Hearts: Covenant can utilize tarot cards as a special attack. True to tarot form, the cards have a chance of being "reversed" and applying their effects in manners that don't favor the party, so it's a gamble to use her tarots in a serious battle.
  • Lisa Punchinello from Max Payne was considered to be a witch. The fortune on the table at one point in the "Angel of Death" stage where you storm the manor has The Tower, The Devil, and Death. Max reads it as such: "The first card was the Tower. Maybe that was supposed to be the manor. It got easy after that. The Devil was the master of the house, and Death was me, coming for him."
  • Primal uses the Tarot motif in its four worlds. It never explicitly states this (except in the concept art gallery, which is laid out in the form of a deck). however, it is fairly obvious which worlds are which. Solum-Snow-Disks, Aquis-Water-Cups, Aetha-swords and knives and blades everywhere-Swords, Volca-Fire-Wands.
  • The online text game Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands has a skill named Tarot which both Jesters and Occultists have. It allows them to inscribe blank cards with tarot symbols and actually use them as weapons; each card's use is based somewhat on the symbol inscribed. For example, Priestess restores health, Magician restores mana, Universe (a different translation of World) lets you move around the world quickly, Hanged Man lets you bind opponents with ropes, Hermit can return you to a room that no one is in, etc.
  • The puzzle game of The Fool's Errand has the Fool working his way through a series of puzzles and minigames based on various tarot cards, complete with illustrations of the deck, a corresponding story, and a card game using the tarot deck. The author has released his game for free download.
  • In Riviera: The Promised Land, the Tarot card item is available. Whichever card that is played is determined by the character and has some connection with it either in terms of appearance or background, so dark-clothed, bat-winged, and scythe-proficient Serene ends up playing The Devil.
  • While tarot cards aren't items in Yggdra Union, fan artist Akihito is working on a themed set of the Major Arcana. The set features Pamela as The Fool, Rosary as The Magician, Mistel as The High Priestess, Emelone as The Empress, Gulcasa as The Emperor, Baldus as The Hierophant, Russell and Flone as The Lovers, Durant as The Chariot, Emilia as Strength, Zilva as The Hermit, Luciana and Aegina as The Wheel of Fortune, Yggdra as Justice, Gordon as The Hanged Man, Roswell as Death, Nietzsche as Temperance, Leon as The Devil, Elena as The Tower, Kylier as The Star, Milanor as The Moon, Cruz as The Sun, Marietta as Judgement, and Nessiah as The World.
    • A few cards haven't been finished yet, but those that are complete can be found here.
  • In the Japanese version of Xenogears, the Gears used by Elly's squad are named after the suits of the Minor Arcana. Only Sword Knight and Wand Knight kept their names in the English version, with Shield Knight changed to Aegis Knight and Cup Knight changed to Claw Knight.
  • In Mana Khemia, Roxis fights using tarot-like cards, both as flung projectiles, stringing them together like a whip, and by channeling their power.
  • The Meta-Beings from Baroque are based on each arcana with The Chariot change to The Tank and The Strength changed to The Power. Only major aracana can be encounter for most of time, the minor arcana appear as boss and only by beaten them cause them to spawn in bonus dungeon.
  • Final Fantasy XI has the Cardians - magically animated soldiers used to defend Windurst, though a number of them have gone rogue. While the loyal Cardians use the standard suits from a deck of playing cards, rogue Cardians instead use the Minor Arcana suits. Also, considering that rogue Cardians may drop their namesake card when defeated, it is possible for a player to collect a full set of the Minor Arcana (though doing so is both time and inventory consuming, especially considering that the high rank cards are notorious monsters of frightening power.)
    • Several of the Major Arcana cards are represented by the Taruit cards used in a sidequest in Jeuno.
  • The 'Magic Pack' optional minor expansion in City of Heroes includes a special power allowing players to give other players a random, long-lasting Tarot themed buff. Not all of the Major Arcana are represented, but all of them use existing characters, objects and organisations in the game to represent the cards.
  • Dragon Quest IV has Meena, a fortune-teller who can use a deck of Tarot cards in-battle for various effects. The only negative one, though, is The Fool, which results in a Total Party Kill.
  • Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean had the major arcana appear as a usable magnus. One magnus, received as the reward for completing the star map, would cycle between all 22. It makes sense seeing as how cards were the impetus for all battling in the game, anyway.
  • Lunar Knights has several Major Arcana cards as consumable items.
    • Its spiritual predecessor, Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django, also featured them. There were also several Tarot cards needed to progress through the game.
  • In Valkyrie Profile, a particular dungeon's major puzzle is based around the various tarot cards.
  • Ge.ne.sis, a flash game, has tarot motifs as summonings.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, all but four of Luxord's twenty-four weapons are named after the Major Arcana. The two that are missing are "Judgement" and "Wheel of Fortune." The four non-Tarot cards are Fair Game (his weapon in Kingdom Hearts II), The Joker, Finest Fantasy 13 (Called Ultimate Illusion XIII in Japan), and High Roller's Secret.
  • Tarot readings figure into small events in two Sierra FMV games, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery and Phantasmagoria.
  • Ditto in the game Fahrenheit (2005 video game), which actually features the reading as a Schrödinger's Gun.
  • In a popular mod for the fourth installation of the Civilization game series, Fall From Heaven II, there is a funny on-the-side minigame, Somnium, which is played with a deck of 54 cards; 3-7 in ten suits (Angels, Devils, Pentacles, Staves, Suns, Moons, Towers, Dragons, Swords and Cups) as well as three "Fool" cards and a "Death" card. The objective of the game is to gather cards so that your set of highest-of-each-suit sum beats that of your opponent, and you and your opponent each takes one turn at a time at drawing cards; You turn one card at a time and can "bank" the cards at any time, but if you hit the "Death" card or turn up two of the same suit, all drawn cards are discarded. The "Fool" cards allow you to steal a card from the opponent.
    • You can win a minor diplomacy bonus towards leaders by besting them in a tournament game, but will suffer a likewise relation penalty by losing such a game.
  • Ib features only one tarot card —the Hanged Man— but it's fairly important for the development of Garry's character, especially in the ending where he lives up to the card's meaning of self-sacrifice by giving up his rose (i.e. his life) to the resident psycho to save Ib and the Hanged Man painting in the gallery is replaced by a portrait of his dead/sleeping body in an evocation of the card's alternate meaning of entrapment.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Not Quite Daily Comic repeatedly employs Tarot imagery, and has one reading.
  • Parodied in Sluggy Freelance, where Alternate Universe Gwynn uses "Tarot for Dummies." When she lays down three cards they say, in order, "Death" "Is Close" "Oh No!"
    • Recently the Sunday bonuses started showing the characters as cards. Though The Hanged "Man" is given the standard interpretation of death.
  • One of the muses in Girl Genius has this as her main means of communication. She is very accurate but under-appreciated.
    • Later on, as Tarvek is retelling his run-ins with Gil in Paris, we're shown Tarvek hanging from the ankle a la The Hanged Man.
    • "High Priestess" pop up regularly, both In-Universe fiction and witness mentions. It's fitting. They are more and more transparently implied to be "orphaned" keepers of memory archives[6] of Ancient God-Queens, most of whom got killed around five thousand years ago. An unabridged, millennia-long log straight from the mind perpetually in a state as far above Sparks as active Sparks are about normal people (they are more stable, but they give "common" mad scientists opportunities to invoke Clarke's Third Law) is hell of a "hidden knowledge" indeed.
  • In Housepets there's a psychic dog named Tarot. In one comic she clarifies the meaning of the death card.
  • The Midnight Crew from Homestuck seem to be based off of the four minor suits, in name and actions.
    • Spades Slick relates to Swords, as the violent, cunning leader of the crew. He is frequently seen coordinating their actions and committing ghastly murders. His "real" counterpart Jack Noir is a Knife Nut.
    • Hearts Boxcars relates to Cups, which can be seen when he urges Tavros (as his exile) to kiss Vriska.
    • Diamonds Droog mostly relates to the wealth aspect of Coins - he considers himself the most well dressed and civilized of the crew, having several finely tailored suits and several backup hats.
    • Clubs Deuce relates to the staves suit. He wields a Bull Penis Cane, and is the demolitions expert of the crew. He also takes simple tasks very seriously, with intent to follow them through to completion.
      • The Trolls use playing card symbols for their various, complicated relationships, all of which are a form of romance: Hearts is "Matesprit" or romantic love (extreme pity from the troll's POV), diamonds is "Moirail" or friendship (one prevents the other from going over the Moral Event Horizon), clubs is "Auspistice" or mediator between two people, and spades is "Kismesis" or Foe Yay.
      • The Kids at various times also have a card deck theme: As children Dave and John wore heart and spade shirts, respectively (this caused Karkat to believe John was his fated nemesis); Rose wears a Gritty Reboot of the Squiddie logo that looks like The Punisher's shirt crossed with a club (club = wands, and Rose is a magic-user), and Jade recently alchemized a Felt/Midnight Crew gun with a diamond on it.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Shows up in The Simpsons, one of the episodes about the future. The Simpsons go to a Renaissance fair, and Lisa gets a tarot reading. Even plays with the Death card, listed above.

Lisa: [gulp] The Death card?
Fortune Teller: No, that's good: it means "transition, change".
Lisa: [relieved] Oh. [the fortune teller draws "The Happy Squirrel" card] Oh, that's cute!
Fortune Teller: [gasps] THE HAPPY SQUIRREL!

    • An alarming number of real-world Tarot decks have begun including an optional Happy Squirrel card.
    • Also a Couch Gag showing Tarot card versions of Homer (King of Cups), Marge (Queen of Cups), Bart (The Fool), Lisa (The Princess) and Maggie (Death).
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy credit sequence, although not named as such, we see the three main characters as what are clearly Tarot cards. Billy is The Fool (fittingly enough), Mandy is The Hierophant, and Grim is... well, I'll let you figure that one out.
  1. For those of you wondering: The Fool, in the trick-taking card games the Tarot deck was derived from, is a special card; it always loses, but it's also always a legal play if you're not lead. In other words, worth nothing tactically (always loses), but invaluable if used strategically (you can save your better cards for later).
  2. as well as just about any other bad Religion of Evil
  3. Name derived from "Galleon"
  4. A liangle is a kind of staff
  5. Well, some might rank the Nine or Ten of Swords as worse than the Tower, but it's a fair assessment.
  6. for one, Albia's current archivist Lady Astarte is called "High Caretaker of the Sacred Well" and her outfit clearly resembles that of a "High Priestess" depicted in Heterodyne stories