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 'TArroh')
is a very popular motif in the Urban Fantasy
, Ontological Mystery
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 games they were (and still are) used to play, i.e. "French Tarot" and "Tarocchini" among others
, 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. The original games are mostly trick-taking games in the same vein as bridge and whist, and are still played in France, Italy, central Europe, and occasionally Canada. (Tarot decks used for divining, however, are seldom suitable for gaming purposes, being rather hard to read when fanned out in a hand rather than spread on the table.)
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 Ten of Swords actually means (which is far more symbolic of actual literal death than Death).
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.
As any magician worth their salt will make up a personalized tarot out of whatever symbols they prefer, 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 Fantasy Land
, 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.
For more details on the traditional meanings see Tarot Cards
For actual Tarot readings, accurate or not, see Tarot Troubles
. See also / compare Astrologer
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Anime and Manga
- 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.
- The 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 1980s 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.
- They're a real archetype in the trading card game, called Arcana Force.
- 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 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: Death
- 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 Gundam00, 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, Stardust Crusaders, has a group of characters that all have astral-projection based superpowers called "Stands" themed and named after the Major Arcana. After using up the tarot, other Stands were themed after the Egyptian pantheon. Later series installments opted to use the same naming scheme for the character names - late 20th Century pop and rock music, starting with Part III's resident Dragon, Vanilla Ice and his Stand, Cream.
- 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 doesn't understand the cards 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 Thores Shibamoto, who also worked on the novels.
- Hyouka has the main cast discussing which cards represent them best after dealing with a fellow student with the nickname 'Empress'. Eventually they decide that Chitanda is The Fool, Satoshi is The Magician, Ibara is Justice and Oreki is Strength.
- Rebuild of Evangelion had as well it's own tarot set. Most notably, it had Rei as The Fool although this one was shared with Rei I and III, The Star, and The World note ; Kaworu was The Hierophant, The Moon, and Death note ; Shinji was Justice and Asuka was The Empress note
- Il Sole penetra le Illusioni is a tarot themed Magical Girl Warrior series. The main character is a Tarot-reading fortune teller, and the series has Shown Their Work as far as the Major Arcana are concerned (mostly, some small errors may still appear in the post-credit explanations). Note that it's also Darker and Edgier than the standard show of it's genre.
- Black★Rock Shooter has the characters Chariot (who rides a Spider Tank with Spiked Wheels and has wheels for feet herself) and Strength (a powerful little girl). While not as obvious, Black★Rock Shooter represents The Star, Dead Master represents Death, and Black★Gold Saw represents The Devil. Also, the plots of each episode can be represented by the Major Arcana going in order. The first episode is represented by the Fool, the Magician, the Emperor, the Empress, and the Hierophant. The last episode is represented by the Judgement and the World.
- Nobunaga The Fool titles and themes every episode after tarot cards. Once per episode, Da Vinci has someone draw a card as a sort of divination and it is invariably the title card, sometimes reversed.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, hidden numbers are scattered within the artwork. These correspond to the Major Arcana, while certain characters are heavily associated with a certain card.
- Kaneki Ken - The Hanged Man (XII), The Chariot (VII), Temperance (XIV), The Hermit (IX)
- Juuzou Suzuya - The Fool (0), Death (XIII), The Hanged Man (XII)
- Touka - The High Priestess (II)
- Hide - The Magician (I)
- Itori - The Lovers (VI)
- Seidou Takizawa - The Devil (XV)
- Arima - Justice (XI), Wheel of Fortune (X), Death (XIII)
- CCG - The Hierophant (V)
- Sasaki Haise - Strength (VIII)
- "Torso" - The Empress (III)
- DVD sets of Umineko no Naku Koro ni contains tarot cards (Major Arcanas of course) of the characters. Good luck getting all of them.
- In Neil Gaiman's The 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 doesn'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.
- The Tarot spreads for The Books of Magic were done by Rachel Pollack, in whose Doom Patrol run, immediately after Grant Morrison's, Tarot imagery recurs frequently. She has published numerous books on Tarot, and collaborated with Gaiman and Dave McKean on 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 Marvel 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 every time), 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."
- In Cerebus the Aardvark, the cover art for the issues in the Reads arc as well as the cover for the phonebook featured Tarot themes.
- Trinity War has Madame Xanadu foresee those involved in the eponymous war via tarot cards. However they are not your typical cards. For example, Superman is The Hero, Shazam is The Boy, and Pandora is The Hostage.
- Deathlok in ABC Warriors commonly reads the future in tarot cards, and his favourite weapon is a blade called the Ace of Swords.
- Fan made Tarots are occasionally created in fandoms.
- In the Pony POV Series, the Major Arcana are used to represent the Alicorns — Celestia and Luna are, obviously, The Sun and The Moon, while Cadence, surprisingly, isn't The Lover (that's actually Venus) but Temperance (since she represents harmony, not love, in this interpretation). Their Mother and Father are The World and The Hierophant, respectfully, while their various siblings fill out the other titles. The Minor Arcana are apparently used for ponies that ascend, as Fluttershy's Alicorn form, Princess Gaia, is referred to as The Queen of Cups. The only exception to this is when Dark World!Twilight fuses with her potential Nightmare self and takes up the vacant spot of The Magician.
- In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and many of its sidestories, tarot cards play a heavy part in the idea of fate and deciding fate. These include:
- Who Decides? Ryusei is given a fortune regarding whether or not Jiro will be saved. The most notable card is the Nine of Rods, representing how he needs to keep at it to save Jiro, despite the obstacles (ie Gentaro) in his way. In the extra chapter, Why Decide this is reversed as it states that his need to help fix everything he's done is going to end in failure. Which is true seeing as he's now brainwashed and configured into a cyborg...
- Month of Sundays: Yayoi Tokuda carries a special Four of Swords card on her representing her need to rest and heal. This is in regards to her failure to save Haruto from death and her relentless pursuit to save him.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction Jericho features a deck of unique cards mixed with traditional ones. The Oracle, a demoness who offers prophecies to a 15-year-old girl in exchange for essentially being allowed to rape the girl, offers to tell Jericho's future with them in exchange for him sparing her life.
- There are seven in all, The Sorceress, The Gun, The High Priestess, The King, The Murderer, The Liar, and lastly The Hanged Stallion, the last one seemingly representing Jericho.
- However, later on, the Blue-Eyed Mare notes that he is not the Hanged Stallion, despite calling him by that name earlier. Using only gestures and two tarot cards, she indicates that Jericho is, in fact, The Fool.
Film — Animated
- 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.
- John Sandford's Kidd series of novels all feature tarot motifs in their titles.
Film — Live Action
- One modern deck, often marketed as the Tarot of the Witches, 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 loss and sorrow).
- 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 Gambit 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".
- Now You See Me: The Eye first contacts the horsemen by giving them tarot cards — The Lovers (Daniel), The High Priestess (Henley), The Hermit (Merritt), and Death (Jack). This extends to Dylan, the "fifth horseman", who Thaddeus repeatedly calls "The Fool" — particularly right before the big reveal. His actual card is the King of Swords. This represents him being a man with an idea, and not being afraid to hurt his victims.
- Piers Anthony
- He 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 his early Tarot trilogy.
- 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.
- Arguably, the items of the Four Founders could be a reference to Minor Arcana: Hufflepuff's cup, Gryffindor's sword and Slytherins's locket. However, Ravenclaw's tiara does not correspond with the wand arcana.
- 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 Gunslinger, the Man in Black tells Roland's future (and foreshadows the plots of the next two books) with a tarot deck.
- Used prominently, correctly and cleverly in Mercedes Lackey's Phoenix and Ashes as a training tool for the female protoganist, as she studies magic and wanders a dream world encountering special beings that masquerade as the tarot cards. Heavily implied to be something her mother arranged so that, if something happened, her daughter would still get the knowledge and experience she needed to control and use her fire magic.
- Last Call by Tim Powers runs on this (combined with a poker motif). The central conflict of the book is a contest to either become or remain The King, and probably every named character represents a card.
- The Chronicles 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, Droma, 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.)
- Several Stravaganza books involve one of the characters making a tarot reading, the meaning of which becomes clear by the end. Notably, the Talian decks have different suits: Serpents, Salamanders, Fishes and Birds.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- Carnivŕle 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/Coinsnote , Chalice = Hearts/Cups, and Leangle = Clubs/Wandsnote . Furthermore, it could also be said that each of these characters' respective Character Arcs correspond with their Minor Arcana. To wit:
- Blade begins as something of an Idiot Hero. Over the course of the series, he learns to start thinking a little and making his own choices, rather than doing what he feels he has to.
- Garren is Blade's (and later Leangle's) Big Brother Mentor for much of the series, but his mental (and later physical) health being manipulated by material means is the primary source of his early-series Face-Heel Turn. An emotional shock prompts him to Heel-Face Turn again, and he spends the rest of the show helping the other Riders attempt to maintain their own health while fighting to save humanity.
- Chalice is the only one of the Riders to not actually be a human at all, instead being a shapeshifting primordial creature who is only able to assume human form because he defeated humanity's ancestor before the show began and assumes said ancestor's form. As such, learning to understand and reciprocate emotion is the major crux of his development.
- Leangle was an Ordinary High-School Student until he was forced to become a Rider. The problem is that the monster he fuses with to assume his Rider form has a nasty habit of poisoning his mind to manipulate him into doing what it wants him to. Thus, he requires great spiritual strength to be able to break the monster's hold on him and break free of the Heel-Face Revolving Door he had been stuck in.
- Father Ted used the ominous misinterpretation 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 '80s or '90s, 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!note " Very refreshing to not see Death automatically (and incorrectly) used, for once.
- In the Castle episode "Famous Last Words", while investigating the murder of rock singer Hayley Blue, Castle and Beckett listen to a song that she wrote and recorded one week before her death. One of the lines was "The cards we're dealt will never disappear/Death she draws near." Alexis observes that Hayley was into Tarot, and Death in the Tarot doesn't mean actual death, but transformation and change. This clue turns out to be a key to uncovering the killer.
- An episode of Kommissar Rex featured a Serial Killer who would "use" a Tarot deck to choose how to kill his victims. "Use" since he would not use any of the cards' actual meaning and instead just interpret them in the most literal way possible: Three of Swords? Stab victim three times. The Tower? Toss the victim off a tall building. The Chariot? Run the victim over. And so on.
- 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.
- The music video for Poets of the Fall's "Carnival of Rust" contains references to various Tarot cards.
- The Nativity in Black Black Sabbath tribute albums featured tarot cards based on the songs in the liner notes.
- "I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died." - Steven Wright
- In Exalted, the Raksha have their Graces modeled on the four suits instead of the typical Exalted stats: the Sword (Valor), the Stave (Conviction), the Cup (Compassion), and the Ring (Temperance).
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Had 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.
- The 2nd Edition supplement Encyclopedia Magica Volume 1 listed a complete set of instructions for magical effects based on all cards, upright and reversed, in the "Tarot Deck of Many Things". 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 RPG, 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. Noticeably, while quite a few of the numbers are absent, and two new ones were created (EX - The Light Ruler and EX - The Dark Ruler).
- After the "Arcana Force" archetype, there is now the "Prophecy" archetype ("Magical" in Japanese), also based on the major arcana. Their Japanese names are based on the Swiss Troccas deck, and follow the journey of the Fool of Prophecy as he opens a spellbook that unleashes a dark power that transforms him into the Reaper of Prophecy. He's later purified by the Spellbook of Judgment and becomes The World of Prophecy.
- The Villains And Vigilantes sourcebook Opponents Unlimited included the villain team 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 The Pentacle Plot, 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.
- Call of Cthulhu The Fungi from Yuggoth campaign, section "Castle Dark". The PCs can encounter a Gypsy Fortune Teller and her son. The woman attempts a reading using Tarot cards but it foretells only death and disaster for the PCs.
- Anima Beyond Fantasy uses the Tarot cards as summons. You must first make a contract with them, and you can summon them in their normal or reversed state (although making a contract with the reversed Arcana forbids you from doing it with it's counterpart and vice versa. Due to their high cost, they can fall anywhere between Awesome but Impractical at early levels or with summoners not specialized in Invocation to simply Awesome with medium-to-high level summoners.
- Cirque du Soleil's ZED was built around these motifs, starting with the titular protagonist representing The Fool.
- Charles Ludlam's experimental play The Grand Tarot is not only is peopled by characters from the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck (the High Priestess and the Magician are the main romantic couple, with the Beta Couple of the Emperor and Empress), but the play has a number of scenes that correspond to the cards in the deck, which in the first incarnations of the play would be shuffled to determine the order of the scenes.
- Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai has a brief scene where most of the extended cast is assigned a specific tarot card. For example, Capt is assigned the Fool in relation to his free spirited protagonist like attitude. Kokoro is the Moon, emphasizing illusions and trickery. Everyone dreads getting the Death card, but the two characters who do draw it are largely unconcerned and the intended meaning for the pair is not elaborated on.
- 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.
- 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 "Matespritship" or romantic love (extreme pity from the troll's POV), diamonds is "Moirallegiance" or friendship (one prevents the other from going over the Moral Event Horizon), clubs is "Auspisticism" 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.
- A Homestuck-themed tarot deck was one of the prizes in the Kickstarter project. Previews here◊, here◊, and here◊.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the necromancer Razravkar encounters the witch Befana who reads his fortune from her tarot cards.
- 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.
- Parodied in the Homestar Runner flash Jibblies 2, in a scene with Strong Sad and Pom Pom.
- In the credits sequence of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy's earlier seasons, 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.
- 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).