Reader: Usually, but in a portentous moment you don't want "Three of Cups" or something. I got rid of everything except "Death" and "The Lovers".
Originally created for European gambling games, the Tarot deck has now become almost synonymous with fortune telling and prophecy. For info on what the cards actually mean, see Tarot Cards.
But what is the point of all that? Isn't it more fun for a writer to use them to hint at terrible danger? After all, most people only know one Tarot card, Death, which makes an unambiguously sinister omen. As audiences grow more trope-savvy, writers instead use The Tower and/or The Hanged Man, which are often illustrated with alarming pictures, for the same purpose. note
Common writer tricks with the Tarot include the introduction of new cards, duplication of existing cards (usually Death), or a "good" card appearing reversed, which the Tarot-reading character will explain means that the opposite will happen (i.e. another bad omen).
- An advert for KitKat bars features a man visiting a Tarot reader. She turns over the Tower, Ten of Swords, the Devil, the Hanged Man and Death. Her customer cheerfully asks her what it all means. All she can do is give the camera a grave look.
- In Aruosumente, the Sage's Trial consists of arranging the first ten cards of the Major Arcana according to the given situation and allocating the right cards to the right people involved. Legna trying to determine who corresponds to each card takes up most of the story.
- In Candy Candy, Anthony's death is predicted by a fortuneteller, who repeats the lecture several times.
- Count Cain has Maryweather, Cain's younger sister, who foretells danger with her tarot deck at various points in the series. Her readings typically reflect events surrounding Cain, both symbolically and, in some cases (such as in The Hanged Man), literally.
- Day Break Illusion has a heavy tarot theme and four tarot-using fortunetellers. So, this turns up. The first episode has things start going to shit after the main character gets "The Tower" in a tarot reading.
- Nozomi in Love Live! reads tarot cards frequently, but this is mostly averted, except for when it's evoked as a joke (e.g. when they're waiting for the results of a round of the competition to come in and they ask her what they cards say and she just gives a gloomy look, but they make it through anyway).
- Sailor Moon:
- In the second episode of the 90s anime, a youma fortuneteller had the ability to make the Devil appear anywhere in the layout she liked and had an unlimited supply of them. Magic is presumably involved. Her tarot divination business was muggle bait; she used the Devil card to brainwash some of Usagi's classmates, including Umino, into becoming delinquents so as to suck their Life Energy. Also a rare instance of the card's proper meaning (temptation) being used, even more surprising considering this is the 90s anime. Those possessed by the card became completely free from society's restraints and did whatever they wanted. This is the infamous episode where Umino flips Haruna's skirt.
- The manga implies Rei is capable of fortunetelling in this manner in addition to staring into her fire. The closest we ever get to seeing her do it on page though is a little goofy sketch on the side and even then it's not clear if the cards are Tarot, but they probably are. In the Stars arc, Rei says she did a reading and the Death card showed up; we see the card afterwards, but not her actually performing the reading. The inaccurate meaning of death is most likely meant as this arc is Kill Em All, but considering Galaxia's ultimate plan, the true meaning of change/transformation could work, too. This is strange considering the mangaka usually does her research, but since the manga was never big on tarot to begin with she probably wasn't all that concerned with getting this aspect right.
- In The Vision of Escaflowne, every episode is introduced with a Tarot card. The episode featuring the Tower card flat out spells doom. The other episodes feature some uncommon cards due to Hitomi using an alternate Tarot deck known as the Merlin Tarot and not the better known Rider-Waite Tarot deck.
- Bakura in Yu-Gi-Oh! reads Pegasus' fortune, using Duel Monsters cards in the same fashion. When he reveals the last card, Doma the Angel of Silence, he kills Pegasus and takes his Millennium Eye.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Saiou/Sartorius predicts several events with his tarot cards, including readings that include The Devil and The Tower. He also uses a deck based around Tarot Motifs. Surprisingly, most of his readings are fairly accurate to actual tarot and make use of a much wider selection of the Major Arcana than you normally see. Death, The Hanged Man, and The Devil are all used correctly (to represent change, suspension, and entrapment, respectively). Even the Minor Arcana show up, though they're reserved to Spells and Traps. His duels also tend to work as tarot readings; for instance, he uses the reversed Knight of Pentacles, upright Ten of Swords, and reversed Hanged Man against Manjoume/Chazz, reflecting that his opponent is a stubborn and lazy person who went through a personal crisis and is now stuck in a rut.
- Hochin Meiru also does Tarot reading in her introductory episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V. As a Mythology Gag, she actually uses the Arcana Force monsters used by Sartorius in GX instead of regular tarot cards.
- Averted when the magician Jack Faust realistically, if improbably, turns up the Ten of Swords, the Tower and the Aeon (a.k.a. Judgment), the three most potentially ominous cards in the deck.
- Averted again in one issue where Promethea receives a lesson in the Major Arcana of the tarot. Alan Moore uses the images and meanings of the cards to illustrate human (or at least European) history.
- An issue of the Justice League of America comic book had them battling the actual characters of the Tarot, summoned by their enemy, Amos Fortune. They curse each hero with a weakness based on his or her respective personality. Of course, in the end not only do they free themselves, but Fortune ends up trapped inside The Tower card.
- The original The Books of Magic miniseries featured main character Tim Hunter getting a basic four card spread telling from Madame Xanadu.
- Lucifer goes to get a foretelling done by a Fallen Angel who created the original Tarot set. Unfortunately, they've become sentient and too powerful for said angel to control. The cards escape and begin to wreak havoc by speaking to and manipulating people who correspond to their archetypes.
- Deathlok in ABC Warriors is fond of using the tarot to see the future. As is common, he mostly draws aces and major arcana, but in his introductory duel, he drew the 10 of Swords ("a bad omen") for Hammerstein.
- Michael Cray: John Constantine is introduced holding a tarot reader at knife point, asking him to do a reading on Michael. The guy keeps turning up the Death card.
- Child of the Storm has Trelawney give Harry a ten card reading with a magical tarot deck - the difference being that the faces of the Major Arcana change in response to the subject of the reading - in chapter 66, with the last card, Judgement, causing Harry to freak out spectacularly because it depicts him as the Dark Phoenix. And unnervingly, most of it has so far come true.
- In the MSTing of The Eye of Argon, Crow draws the Death card not one, not two, but nine times (once reversed, which Servo says "pretty much still means death"). And a Tor Giant.
- When Mary Jane Watson visits her former enemy Tarot in prison, Tarot offers to give her a reading. Although reluctant at first, Mary Jane eventually agrees and Tarot performs a card reading for her. A variant occurs in that the results are not deadly but instead allude to Mary Jane's Hidden Depths, which comes as much of a surprise to Tarot as it does to Mary Jane herself.
- In a flashback in Blue Sky, the Oracle Turret gives a Tarot reading for Wheatley when he crosses her path unexpectedly. She dubs him The Fool, and predicts that he will "rise above us all." Her words more or less prompt Wheatley to instigate the events of Portal 2.
- She also dubs Chell "Strength" (a card usually depicting a woman grabbing a lion by the mouth) and GLaDOS "The Empress".
- In Justice Society of Japan, a fortune teller (actually Morgaine Le Fey) gives Milly Ashford an ominous reading that involves Death, The Tower, and the 10 of Swords, properly explaining what each of these cards mean; a metamorphosis in the recent past, a disaster in the present, and complete destruction in the future. This seems to ring true; in a previous chapter, Milly underwent a literal metamorphosis in a previous chapter and gets kidnapped later on in the chapter she gets her fortune read. Only time will tell if that last card will be true.
- Pony POV Series:
- In the Shining Armor arc, a fortune teller does a reading for several characters. For Princess Cadence, she gets three Temperance cards in a row, which freaks out the teller because her deck was supposed to only have one of each card. Cadence is literally the Anthropomorphic Personification of Temperance, Harmony, and Music. For Minuette, she gets The Devil, The High Priestess, and Death. This represents how Minuette used to be the villain known as The Master, but turned into a female pony with no memory of his evil, then eventually made a positive change in her life by completely destroying The Master's personality to stop him from coming back. For Dima, she gets The Magician, The Chariot, and The Hanged Man. This represents how he used to be manipulated, but will perform a Heroic Sacrifice to help defeat Makarov. For Shining Armor, she gets three blank cards in a row, which again freaks her out. Shining is Immune to Fate.
- During Queen Chrysalis' origin story, she went to a teller. The teller does several readings and repeatedly draws The Lust, alternately called The Hunger, which represents how Chrysalis is an Emotion Eater who feeds on love. This freaks out the teller because she had been using an ordinary deck and The Lust came from a different version, and she was sure not to mix them up.
- In Fate Genesis, Amy Rose tries to use her Tarot cards to find Sonic, as the fortune she got helped them meet on Little Planet. However, she ends up getting the same fortune each time she shuffles the deck; That a great mistake is being made. We then cut to Shinji foolishly telling Eggman about the Holy Grail, in the hopes of using the doc's weapons to beat the other Masters.
- World War Etheria: Deconstructed, even in a world of literal magic tarot cards don't have any meaning except what is given to them. In Captivity on the Velvet Glove, Glimmer points out that she's just supplying keywords for a given card and Catra's subconscious is filling in the meaning when she does a reading.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Doctor Facilier reads Naveen and Lawrence's fortunes. Though no cards are named, 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.note 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.
- In the movie version of Live and Let Die, James Bond uses a tarot deck consisting of nothing but The Lovers to seduce Solitaire. Played straight when Solitaire reads of James Bond's arrival in the cards.
Solitaire: A man comes. He travels quickly. He has purpose. He comes over water. He travels with others. He will oppose. He brings violence and destruction.
- The opening scene of Cleo from 5 to 7 is a tarot reading in which the final card drawn is, of course, Death.
- Blink and you'll miss it, but there's a bit in Tombstone where the wife of one of the Earp brothers is having her fortune read soon after the famous Showdown at the O.K. Corral. The fortune has a number of ominous cards being drawn, including Death and The Tower. That same night the Cowboys attempt to assassinate the Earps and attack their wives as well.
- The final segment of the anthology horror film Death 4told is about a fortune teller whose card readings keep ending with a Death card - and not the Death card that is a normal part of the deck (which she finds when she checks), but a new card with art that perfectly predicts the imminent death of the subject. Naturally, the last reading is her own.
- In The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, when Sellers consults psychic Maurice Woodruff a tarot reading is part of the consultation; the Fool is the card that comes up for him. As the movie sees Sellers as more foolish than Fool, the filmmakers might not have been aware of the positive connotations of the card.
- In The Red Violin, tarot cards are used to predict the fate of a violin.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Holmes gives Simza Heron a fortune reading with her own cards that ends with a Devil card, to inform her that her brother is working for Moriarty.
- In Henry And June, a tarot reading is in progress at the party where June returns. They turn up the Death card and June quite correctly points out "That could be good luck, too." It's not, though.
- In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the Doctor performs a Tarot reading that includes the Devil (who's currently harassing him in the person of Mr. Nick), the Wheel of Fortune (probably representing the Doctor's new bet with the devil), and the Hanged Man— Tony is promptly introduced in the next scene having been hanged by his neck off a bridge (he gets better).
- In Now and Then, twelve-year-old Samantha Albertson and her three best friends come to believe they have resurrected the spirit of a boy named 'Dear Johnny' they tried to contact during a seance in the local cemetery (through a variety of circumstances, mainly a thunderstorm striking just as they finish the seance and then later finding his tombstone cracked down the middle) and embark on a mission to find out how he died. They visit a local fortune teller who through the use of tarot cards determine he was murdered. They later learn this to be in fact true, as they come across newspaper clippings in Samantha's late grandfather's scrapbooks which tell them Dear Johnny was murdered along with his mother in an apparent home robbery gone wrong.
- In Touch of Evil Hank Quinlan's professional psychic girlfriend Tanya (played by Marlene Dietrich) does a reading for him in the movie's final act. He gets nothing but Death cards.
- In The Last Witch Hunter, Axe and Cross uses Tarot to determine whether the suspect is guilty. In this case, the trouble comes from the fact that they determine him to be guilty, but acting alone, while the latter clearly isn't the case.
- Every time Gloria does a reading on Max in What's the Worst That Could Happen?, she draws the Five of Swords, which depicts a king with five daggers in his head.
- Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: Every time Dr. Schreck draws the cards to show the travellers their fate, the four cards drawn are always Major Arcana. And whenever he turns the fifth card to show then how they may escape their fate, the only answer is always Death.
- In Theatre of Death, Colette does a reading for Nicole at Davras' party. The first three card are fairly standard, but the last two are The Tower (or The Lightning Struck Tower as Colette calls it) and Death. Colette interprets these as meaning violence and death.
- Countess Dracula: The Hot Gypsy Woman fortuneteller gives a tarot reading to Elisabeth. Although she talks in the normal general metaphors of fortunetelling, each of her metaphors is literally true of the Countess.
- In Shredder Orpheus, Linus convinces Orpheus to have his fortune told by an oracle; she divines the Lovers, the Tower, and the Hanged Man and cautions him against unnecessary risks. Being Orpheus, he doesn't listen.
- In White Trash Warlock, Adam and his great aunt Sue are witches who can use Tarot cards to get a feel for what's coming next. The first time Adam gets his fortune told, he gets "Three of Swords", "Lovers" and "Death" which while initially interpreted symbolically, all become very literal as the novel progresses. Later, Adam tries again and comes up with "The Tower," "Page of Swords," "Knight of Swords." He again interprets these symbolically at first, but it becomes clear that the Tower is literally the Guardian Tower he has to visit, and the Knight of Swords is Silver.
- The Trumps in Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber series mostly just look like Tarot cards (they're actually a communication/transportation device), but there are times when one or another of the characters uses them for fortune-telling. It's usually downplayed by the character doing it as something to pass the time or help focus their thoughts ("Oh, Benedict, I hadn't thought about him, I wonder how he will react to my latest Secret Plan") as opposed to something they really believe in, though.
- Cutwell manages to draw several Death cards in Mort, while trying to do a reading for Princess Keli. (And although he makes a point of mentioning that the Death card doesn't necessarily mean actual death, in her case it really does — although not in quite the way you're probably thinking.)
Cutwell: Ah, you see the Death card doesn't mean death in all cases...
Princess Keli: You mean it doesn't mean death in cases where the client is getting over-excited and you don't want to tell them the truth?
- A wise woman does a caroc (the Disc version of tarot) reading on Twoflower in The Light Fantastic, but the cards have the wrong (but plot-relevant) images.
- Cutwell manages to draw several Death cards in Mort, while trying to do a reading for Princess Keli. (And although he makes a point of mentioning that the Death card doesn't necessarily mean actual death, in her case it really does — although not in quite the way you're probably thinking.)
- In Harry Potter, this is done also with the Tower, and pretty instant too. Professor Trelawney draws the "Lightning-Struck Tower", which is what the Tower card traditionally depicts, and interprets it as a bad omen, which is its traditional reading. However, Harry ignores her predictions because A: she's been predicting his death for years and B: he's far more interested in what she says about Snape. Later, there is a chapter called the Lightning-Struck Tower, and a fatal disaster does indeed take place.
- In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Mr. Childermass, servant of the titular Mr. Norrell, and Vinculus, a street magician, do tarot readings for each other and Mr Norrell. Childermass does a competent, if rather orthodox, reading; Vinculus does an astoundingly accurate reading he doesn't know how to interpret; then they both try Norrell and get repeated Emperor cards which look more and more like the Raven King.
- "Only the End of the World Again" by Neil Gaiman: The lycanthropic protagonist gets a tarot card reading and the fortuneteller pulls out a Werewolf card (not in the standard deck) and a Cthulhu card (also not in the deck). The rest are plain cardboard.
- Even the "lots of Deaths" version is not always used for comedy purposes. In the Black London books, Jack Winter gets a reading from a gifted reader. She ends up possessed, and that which possesses her makes all the cards some variation of "nothing but your death awaits you".
- In The Darksword Trilogy, Joram's reading reflects the prophecy: Death, King Of Swords, Death reversed. The man doing the reading is confused because this deck shouldn't be the crooked one.
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy talks about tarot for a great length, and discusses the importance of the symbolism.
- An anthology of The Sandman short stories had one character doing a reading involving "The King of Anchors", "Hiroshima", "Little Nell", and the like. Justified because said character was Delirium.
- Made more absurd by the fact that her deck was made up of one card, the imagery of which changed every time it was flipped over.
- Tim Powers's Last Call is all about the power of the Tarot. The main character ends up at risk of losing both body and soul due to a card game from years ago, and goes to Tarot readers at two points for an answer of how to get out of it. The first reader, an amateur, gets three cards in before a sudden rain storm descends on Las Vegas, then says he's quitting the business because he'll never be able to read the Tarot again, as the cards will now be reading him.
- Ravenloft novel Vampire of the Mists features a tragic and remorseful vampire getting an accurate Tarot reading. (True to form, though, it does include the Death card, which signifies his present). The final card is The Sun. This is an extra hard knife twisting, since he used to worship a sun god when he was alive, and has missed it desperately through his centuries as an undead. At the end of the story he willingly walks into the dawn rather than be used and manipulated by the Dark Powers that control Ravenloft. Later materials establish this as a case of Yank the Dog's Chain, as the Dark Powers prevent Jander's death and deposit him elsewhere. They don't like to let go of their toys. Or they don't want their champions committing suicide.
- In The House on Mango Street, in the chapter "Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water", Esperanza has her fortune told by the neighborhood "witch woman." This includes scrying and a tarot reading, although the cards the narrator describes don't suggest any actual tarot cards. Maybe they're Loteria cards instead?
- Warhammer 40,000 prominently features cartomancy on several occasions, typically using a deck developed sometime in the distant future:
- In two Horus Heresy short stories, The Dark King and The Lightning Tower Konrad Curze and Rogal Dorn both get a strangely similar card reading, featuring The Moon, The Martyr and the Monster (this Tarot has a number of unconventional cards), as well as The Emperor and The Dark King (which both take to mean The Emperor and Curze respectively) and finishing with the obligatory Death card for Curze (who believes this means he will die by the Emperor's hand) and the titular Lightning Tower for Dorne - achievement at a high price. For the reader who knows the outcome of these stories, several obvious meanings present themselves.
- In Graham McNeill's The Killing Ground the Grey Knight Leodegarius uses this to predict the character and fate of several people involved in a really messy situation on a planet. Exiled Ultramarine Uriel Ventris also ends up with Lightning struck Tower as his card, and is even referred to as the Sentinel of the Tower on several later occasions. Other cards drawn include The Hierophant, The Sorceror and Justice. No Death card this time.
- T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land features a tarot reading by Madame Sosostris, "the wisest woman in Europe,/With a wicked pack of cards". Eliot makes up most of his (ominous-sounding) card names (the Drowned Phoenician Sailor, Belladonna), and includes a blank card, which Madame Sosostris says represents something "which I am forbidden to see". (Some versions of Death are blacked out, but whether Eliot knew or cared is doubtful.)
- In Patricia A. McKillip's "The Fortune-Teller", Merle uses the stolen cards to fake a fortune. It does not sound like a conventional deck, but then Merle is faking all her knowledge with deliberate purpose to reassure.
- In Susan Dexter's The True Knight, Galvin had been reading swords before Wren found Titch, unconscious in the snow. He tells her that he had just read the nine of swords, suffering and desolation, and the ten, for disaster. (Which is accurate.)
- A major part of The Raven Cycle, since the heroine's mother is a professional psychic. Many of the main characters ask for tarot readings when they're in trouble and need guidance.
- In Pact, the Behaim circle and Duchamp coven use the Tarot as a means of augury to analyze their enemies Rose and Blake Thorburn, the heirs to a powerful diabolist and their enemies. Rose receives the Hanged Man, drawn from the right hand, and the Chariot drawn from the left hand, while Blake receives the Fool and the High Priestess, respectively. A fellow practitioner later explains to Blake that these are symbolic of the way that the two of them go about life, with right hand being most common and left hand being what might come out under pressure and during their darkest moments.
- In Vampire Academy, Rose sits through two tarot readings. Her cards tend to appear ominously reversed.
- In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, Jacob Dust performs a tarot reading for Samael using a special deck with six suites. When Samael questions whether Dust believes in fortunetelling, Dust responds that he believes in stacking the deck.
- The Deck of Dragons in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is this in general, as a two-way mirror that gives insight into the workings of gods and acsendants. An especially intense reading is presented in Dust of Dreams: Fiddler is forced to do a reading of the Deck in the beginning of the book. It is implied that this isn't a simple reading, but more like an active call on ancient gods who promptly mark their players. By throwing the people attending the meeting across the room.
- There are two readings in The Raven Ring, using the Lyran version of the Tarot deck. One uses the cliche "ominous-sounding cards every time", including a fake "Shadow Mage" card, and turns out to be a mismanaged attempt to magically doom Eleret so the villain can steal her ring. The other is a more informative reading with the intent of learning about her situation, coupled with a scrying spell that gives her dream-like visions about each card's meanings.
- In You Know Me Well, Mark and Kate receive a joint reading that features the reversed World, the Eight of Swords, and the Tower. Both the physical descriptions of the cards and their interpretations are faithful to the real deal. The reader even says, "But after the tower burns to the ground, and you've picked yourselves up off the rocks, and the fire ends and the night passes, it's going to be morning again," possibly a reference to the progression from the Tower to the Star, the Moon, and the Sun.
- Numerous characters in Nightmare Alley are given tarot readings throughout the book and the main character Stan sometimes draws the cards himself, the cards that he draw often seem to have a symbolic meaning. Directly after he speaks to Lilith for the first time on the telephone he randomly draws The Lovers card, foreshadowing his later 'having to choose between two women, symbolizing the crossroads and the need to make a choice' and 'the danger of temptation and desire'.
- Tarot and tarot readings are a huge part of Andromeda Klein, to the point that the cover of the book has the Three of Swords. Andromeda does several tarot readings to communicate with her dead friend, and mentions having a crush on A.E. Waite.
- InCryptid: Both times Fran's friend Juniper reads the cards for her, using nonstandard cards that she invented.
- Played with in "Married in Green": Juniper reads several cards for Fran to predict her possible future if she marries Jonathan, but leaves the last one on the deck when Fran decides she's marrying him no matter what the future holds. One assumes that the last card would have predicted bad things for the couple.
- Inverted in "The First Fall". Fran asks Juniper to read her fortunes and to tell her that her dead child's soul is resting easy.
- The Scholomance: One of the many frustrations caused by El Higgins' Apocalypse Maiden-tier gift for Black Magic is that when she tries to play a tarot card game with her friends, she keeps drawing the Tower and Death cards, even after they take them out of the deck.
- The first episode of Father Ted has several Death cards. The fortune teller lampshades that this shouldn't be possible, since there's only supposed to be one Death card in the set.
- Averted in an episode of Castle, when a Victim of the Week had a song with the lyric "Death, she draws near." After talking with his daughter, who was a fan of the victim, Castle learns that she was into Tarot and using "Death" to mean "change," more specifically, a person who had enabled her to change her life for the better.
- From the TV series Reaper: Villain of the Week tarot reader lady understood that Sam is working for Satan by drawing several devil cards in a row.
- Used in one episode of Degrassi, using accurate descriptions from the major arcana. As with most fortune telling aspects in serials, they're generally true until the end - specifically until they lie about the meaning of one of the readings.
- Drop the Dead Donkey had Dave get Damien to do a reading for him, leading to this exchange (and a possible reference to the Ten of Swords):
Dave: What's that card?
Dave: And that one?
Damien: The Hanged Man.
Dave: I'm not sure I like the look of that one with all the swords, either.
- Of course when Temperance Brennan gets a tarot card reading, the cards drawn include the Lovers and her own name card.
- When Booth does it in the two part series finale, he gets Temperance and Death, which spooks him a lot because of the misinterpretation of the Death card,since theyre trying to catch a vengeful serial killer whos stolen explosives.
- That's My Bush! had the "Gay" card come up in every reading.
- In The Crow: Stairway to Heaven a flashback shows Eric and Shelley at a fair getting their fortune told by a gypsy woman. she has them each choose a single card from her tarot deck. Shelley chooses The Lovers, but the gypsy woman refuses to let them see the card Eric selected, gives them their money back and asks them to leave. It's later revealed that he—of course — chose the Death card.
- Doctor Who:
- "Image of the Fendahl" showed a couple of Tarot spreads in progress: yep, Death and the Tower make appearances.
- In "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy", when Morgana offers to tell the Doctor his future she draws The Hanged Man card from her tarot deck. This serves as Foreshadowing to a later scene where the Doctor is hanged from a rope by his ankles while performing an escapology trick.
- The Last Detective episode "Dangerous and the Lonely Hearts". Dangerous draws the Hanged Man, which the script implies is a dire portent; it's actually associated with transformation (like much-maligned Death) and hard-earned wisdom.
- Captain Jack Harkness gets a reading in flashback in the Torchwood episode "Fragments".
- As part of the bachelorette party in Harper's Island, the girls visit a fortune teller who gives them all Tarot readings. During the preparations for the party, Creepy Child Madison steals the Tower card, which she interprets as "Someone is going to die." During the party itself, the bride Trish is given the Death card, which the fortune teller interprets as "A betrayal by someone close to you."
- The killer in The X-Files episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", who is obsessed with psychics, goes to a tarot-card reader. He's about to leave when the reader informs him there's one card left. He replies "no, that card doesn't belong to me. It's for you", and turns over the Death card before killing him.
- An episode of Tales from the Darkside focused on a tarot reader unexpectedly being tricked into owning a set of cursed cards that always make grim, inevitable predictions. The woman finds the previous "owner" who explains the only way she can get rid of the deck is to have some other reader take possession of them. So she goes to another fortune teller and switches decks. However, the woman should've waited until after her reading was done to make the switch. She ends up dying, and now some other unfortunate woman is stuck with the cursed cards.
- Murdoch Mysteries: In the episode "Blood and Circuses", Murdoch is investigating the death of a lion tamer and is particularly frustrated by the fortune teller's refusal to answer questions directly. The woman prefers to communicate using her cards and refers to their predictive power, despite Murdoch's objections that he doesn't believe in such things. Crabtree insists her prognostications are valuable, and eventually Murdoch goes along with her conversational style to get information out of her. Interestingly, her cards sometimes need to be taken literally: as the deaths continue among the circus performers, she produces first the magician card and later the Queen of Swords, which refer to people involved in the murders. Murdoch also gets two contradictory predictions about his love-life, which the fortuneteller explains away by saying the future isn't fixed.
- Parodied in the M*A*S*H episode "Hawkeye Get Your Gun". Klinger, in yet another attempt to get discharged, pretends to be a gypsy and at one point offers to give BJ a Tarot reading on the fates of Hawkeye and Col. Potter, who are both currently MIA. He draws five cards from an ordinary Poker deck and lays them out with a flourish... then realizes that he just drew a Straight and breaks character in excitement.
- In the Endeavour episode "Harvest", Morse is given a Tarot reading that turns up the Fool, the Lovers (inverted; he's unlucky in love), Judgement, the Tower and Death.
- Charmed: Shortly before Phoebe and Cole's wedding they give Paige a tarot deck as a bridesmaid's gift. She does a reading for them and draws The Lovers, "Despair" and Death. Despair appears to be a subtitute for the 3 of Swords, the image shown is of a man with three blades piercing his chest. Unfortunately the series proceeds to play the Death card as a portent of doom. In the following episodes the sisters learn Cole is evil and Phoebe turns her back on good to be with him.
- Schitt's Creek has Twyla give Alexis a grim tarot reading involving drowning and a funeral, but she later admits that the deck predicted that fate for multiple people before also mentioning she flipped the ten of cups and predicts prosperity and happiness for Alexis and her family.
- In Swamp Thing (2019), Madame Xanadu is said to have performed readings for Dan Cassidy and he always gets the same three cards - The Fool, The Hanged Man and the Wheel of Fortune. The meaning of these cards is never explained, but when she performs another reading she gets the same cards but this time they are reversed. This is a relief to Cassidy, despite cards being reversed rarely being a good thing.
- The video for Poets of the Fall's "Carnival of Rust" has Zoltar, the fortune-telling automaton at a Carnival of Fear, give his gas-masked customer a tarot reading via a pair of trivision-style prismatic signs flanking his case. He considers her "The Star," a good-hearted Messiah Figure, but the second card he pulls (complete with electric guitar Scare Chord) is one of its opposites, The Nine of Swords, symbolizing anguish, despair and being trapped. On doing this, he begins the song's chorus, a blatant demand that she love him or he'll be stuck there, all but confirming he's tainting the reading with his desperate Wishful Projection.
- The rest of the reading also seems to follow in similar vein: The High Priestess, 8 of Cups (abandonment), 9 of wands (exhaustion), Ace of wands, the Magician, Strength, Ace of Cups, then back to 9 of swords and the Star.
- The Dungeons & Dragons Gothic Horror setting Ravenloft liberally uses the Tarokka, an expy of the common tarot. It has a different major arcana known as the High Deck, and a Low Deck (minor arcana) consisting of the courts of Stars, Swords, Glyphs and Coins. Many adventures using the setting will start with a tarokka reading that may influence the events of the adventure.
- Everway makes extensive use of a quasi-tarot system called the "fortune deck", which is referenced when defining a PC's personality, used to determine the results of significant actions, and exists within the game world for use in magic and fortune telling. Readings can be good or bad, so the usual ominous implications are averted.
- The Tarot is used extensively in 7th Sea.
- In-universe, it is popular with the aristocracy of all nations, but in Vodacce (a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Renaissance Italy), the Tarot is a key tool used by the Fate Witches as part of their magic.
- As part of character creation, players are encouraged to have the GM do a Tarot reading for their characters. Cards that determine the past and present are used to flesh-out character background (sometimes giving the character bonus advantages as part of that) while the "future" card gives the player and the GM ideas for future stories involving that character.
- Warhammer 40,000 has the Emperor's Tarot, which uses a similar deck structure to modern day tarot but with different cards. In-universe belief says that it's possible for anyone to use the deck to generate accurate predictions (with their faith in the Emperor allowing him to guide their hands) but in practice only psykers have been shown to actually provide semi-accurate (although not always clear) predictions.
- Wraith: The Oblivion: Mediums: Speakers with the Dead has a sidebar about the vampire Antonio Giovanni, who decided to perform one of his infrequent Tarot readings... and drew nine copies of the Hanged Man from a deck he knew only had one, scaring him senseless. When he was subsequently invited to be a candidate for the Ebon Bench, governing body of the necromantic Orphic Circle, he refused the invitation, suspecting the reading foretold doom for the nine members of the Ebon Bench, and practically wore out his deck seeing if it would happen again - which it hadn't, by the time of the book. (According to later Old World of Darkness books, things indeed didn't go well for the Orphic Circle - albeit not in the way Antonio had thought.)
- In Carmen, Frasquita, Mercedes and Carmen tell their fortunes with cards. The cards for Carmen spell death. She says that no matter what the cards say, you can redraw and get a different fate, as long as it isn't death. If the cards say death, you're certainly doomed. This may be what makes her decide to meet her Yandere alone - if You Can't Fight Fate, might as well look it right in the eye.
- The Curse of Monkey Island has Guybrush Threepwood draw five Death cards in a row, which terrifies the fortuneteller so much that she begins screaming he's a devil; Guybrush, meanwhile, is more confused than anything, saying how there should be only one and asking if she's dealing from the bottom. Sure enough, in as foretold in the voodoo prophecies, Guybrush dies on Blood Island... for the purposes of insurance fraud. He later uses the cards themselves to cheat at poker.
- Tales of Monkey Island has The Voodoo Lady do a Tarot reading at the start of most chapters to recap the story so far. However, she pulls cards that aren't actually in standard tarot deck. For example, in recapping Episode 1, she draws "The Transformation", "The Scientist", and "Disease", among others.
- In Max Payne Max finds a hand of tarot cards on a table in Don Punchinello's mansion: The Tower, The Devil, and Death. Max interprets The Tower as representing the mansion, The Devil as Don Punchinello, and Death as Max himself.
- Of course, after the Punchinello Manor, we meet Nicole Horne, and the final fight takes place in her gigantic Mega-Corp tower of doom, with Nicole being more of a devil than Punchinello ever was. Max still might count as Death though, being the change card. The only problem is that he potentially changes the world for the worse.
- Although Max's reading is amateurish and inaccurate, the real meaning of these cards for him is also true. The Tower card is his past, with all the dead family and ruined life. The Devil is his present, a fight with his enemies. Death is his future, meaning an epiphany and finally getting rid of his massive guilt complex (at least, until the second game).
- In Fahrenheit, Carla and an old friend break out a tarot deck for fun. The entire event is scripted, rapidly becoming a total mood-killer as Carla's predicted future becomes more grim with each card turned over.
- If you walk into the event with a low Sanity Meter, this might well kill Carla - she loses twenty points over the course of the reading.
- At the end of Ripper, Jake Quinlan has to set a series of tarot cards in the right order to activate the weapon he can use to kill the titular villain. The solution is to match them to the lyrics of the game's theme, Don't Fear The Reaper playing in the background.
- Averted in Quest for Glory IV, which actually had pretty accurate Tarot readings (It even used some of the Minor Arcana cards!). However, it did create a fictional Void card to show the influence of the Dark One, which becomes more and more common as the game progresses, to the point where the gypsy is drawing nothing but Void cards near the end. From the Let's Play:
Gypsy: At the moment, every card I draw is the Void, and I can get no clear answers.
Hero: Why do you have so many Voids in your deck?
Gypsy: I don't.
- Averted in Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5, where tarot cards are a central motif and always depicted accurately. There's even a series of school lectures in the former running down the meaning of each card. What's also interesting is that at the start of the 4th game, Igor does a brief tarot reading drawing the Moon and the Tower card. He basically tells you of an impending catastrophe and if you want to find out what the hell is going on and why, you're always going to be one step behind on your search for the truth.
- The Room 2 features a tarot deck illustrated in a Gay 90s/Steampunk style. You actually have to solve several puzzles with the tarot cards, laying them down on a table to conduct a Spooky Séance. Since the cards are designed specifically for the game, the deck includes a card for the Null Entity, the Big Bad of the third game.
- The Binding of Isaac features the Major Arcana as fairly common items and a rarer deck of cards you can find and then draw from as a special move. Remembering the effects of each card is tricky, as they are usually only tangentially related to the card's associations. For example, Death is obviously a Smart Bomb, but The Hermit teleporting you to the floor's shop is a bit unexpected.
- The Repentance expansion adds the Reversed Tarot Cards, most of which are unlocked by beating Ultra Greedier as one of the tainted characters.
- Street Fighter Alpha 2: In Rose's ending (also remade for her Alpha path in V), not convinced that Bison has been truly defeated, she busts out her cards and draws an unrevealed one that causes an image of Bison to flash, and promptly burns away in her hand.
- Tarot readings figure into small events in two Sierra FMV games, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery and Phantasmagoria.
- In the Dishonored DLC The Knife of Dunwall, player character Daud doesn't actually get a reading, but an optional objective sees him messing around symbolically with a Tarot deck. He must draw The World, place it on an altar to the Outsider, spatter the card with his own blood, then burn it in the hearth of an ambitious and avaricious man. In other words, Daud places a symbol of his future/ultimate reward at the feet of a strange god, coats it in blood, then allows it to be destroyed by greedy flames. Incidentally, Daud killed the Empress and threw the city into chaos using powers given to him by the Outsider on the orders of a paranoid noble trying desperately to claim control while plague ravaged the population. You might say the whole thing's been on his mind since then.
- A tarot reading in Curses turns up Death, The Fool, and The Drowned Sailor.
- While it is unclear just what cards turned up in her reading, Sonic CD has Amy discover that Sonic will be on Little Planet via tarot cards.
- Twisted Metal Black has tarot cards show up in Raven's story. Complete with a slow-motion close-up of the Death card absolutely loaded with Narm.
- In a Basic Instructions strip, Rick goes to a tarot reader for advice. He got the death card and the ten of swords. Scott tries to assure him those aren't necessarily bad, but it's the "unmarked shallow grave" card - which even the card reader didn't know about - that convinced him he was doomed.
- In Girl Genius, Tarvek chats with a fortune-telling robot (one-sidedly; she's mute), and she draws a "Whirlwind" card in response. Tarvek notes different possible interpretations of the card — and all of them immediately wind up becoming true in some way or another.
Tarvek: Huh. The Whirlwind. "Great power at great risk." — Or possibly, "Beware of things underground." — Or "Expect an unexpected friend." — Or even "Learn a new piece of music." Thank you, O Muse of Mystery.
- In Happle Tea, someone manages to draw 7 death cards while reading their tarot. Despite the fact that the deck normally only contains one of that card.
- Housepets! lampshades the common use of the Death card in this strip, then uses the trope straight with the next card being The Tower.
- At the beginning of the Jenny Everywhere story Makeshift Multiverse, Jenny meets a fortuneteller who somehow has five World cards.
- In Oglaf, a man is invited to draw from the "Portentous Moments" tarot deck, consisting of only two cards — "The Lovers" and "Death". The tarot reader's explanation is that "in a portentous moment you don't want 'Three of Cups' or something." Inexplicably, the Three of Cups is exactly what the man draws. The fortuneteller confusedly gives the man three cups, as she doesn't know what the Three of Cups actually meansnote .
- In an alternate Sluggy Freelance universe, alt-Gwynn offers to read the "main" Torg's fortune. She gasps and declares that "Death is near!" before revealing the spread: The "Death" card, followed by the "Is Near" card. Later, they attempt to play blackjack with the deck (which prophecies that Gwynn's robes will chafe forever) This actually turns out to be a Cerebus Retcon. Near the climax of that arc, Gwynn's robes start chafing... and the story takes a very dark turn.
- In Weak Hero, when Gerard uses a personalised tarot deck to read for Rowan, the result reads that Rowan is going to have a tumultuous life at Eunjang High.
- After failing to use a crystal ball, Jackson Adler tells Nicholas Thomas' fortune with these in The Wretched Ones (while slightly drunk). When Nicholas does not know how to reply to the fortune, Jackson tells him to keep drinking wine.
- In Yokoka's Quest, Blinky uses a deck of tarot-like divination cards to determine Yokoka's and Grace's elemental edges and flaws. Each card in the deck represents one of Cisum's 12 elements or 12 sub-elements, and is filled with aura of its respective element.
- In the Whateley Universe, Gypsy (her codename) tries to do a reading for Carmilla with Gypsy's ancestral Tarot deck, which is alive in some way. It reacts very badly to being asked to give a reading to someone who is actually a baby Great Old One.
- In one of LoadingReadyRun's Crap Shots, Alex just can't catch a break, no matter how much benefit of the doubt fortune-teller Kathleen gives his very disturbing sequence of draws.
- A Tumblr meme story has a fortune teller turn over the Death card, and as she's trying to explain that it's not particularly bad flips over the Tower, followed by the Ten of Swords, and she thought she'd taken out the minor arcana.
- The Simpsons:
- Averted in the episode "Lisa's Wedding": when the Death card comes up, Lisa is terrified, but the gypsy calmly explains that Death just means change and isn't automatically a bad thing. Then she freaks out after drawing The Happy Squirrel. Some modern tarot decks now include a Happy Squirrel card as a bonus Major Arcana.
- In the Treehouse of Horror "Hex and the City", Homer destroys the room of a fortunetelling gypsy who asks herself: "Why didn't I see it coming?" Afterward, she draws the Bumbling Fool and Ruined Gypsy cards from her Tarot deck.
- This was the basis for a Couch Gag where the family appears as tarot cards, with Maggie as the death card. It then turns out the gypsy from the above-mentioned segment is handing them to Grampa, who then turns the card towards her and kills her.
- Rose in episode 21 of Street Fighter uses her tarot deck to determine why disaster threatens the world. She draws The Fool, The Devil, The Tower, and Death; she determines the first two to refer to Ken and Blanka, treating them as enemies at first, but they help her learn about the real problem — Bison.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "I See A Funny Cartoon In Your Future" has the girls looking for a crooked fortune teller. Blossom finds a tarot card, which she then announces that the crime is the work of a "tarot-ist."
- In the Craig of the Creek episode "The Curse" Tabitha does a tarot reading as her friend Courtney talks about going to college. Tabitha pulls an upright The Lovers (a relationship and the tempting choices in it), an upright Three of Swords (heartbreak from a relationship breaking), and an upright Death (the ending of one phase in life for the fruitful beginning of another)- in short, it's pretty blatantly hinting that she's worried her and Courtney's relationship is going to go south.
- In the The Owl House episode "Yesterday's Lie", a goth girl gives Vee a tarot reading using Eda's old Hexas Hold'em cards. Despite the cards not having any magic left in them, the reading is scarily accurate, applying to both Luz and Vee. One of the cards is, of course, a Grim Reaper looking type, though it's only used for shock and doesn't actually read as death.