Tarot Cards

A Tarot Deck consists out of 22 Major Arcana Trump Cards, and 4 Suits of 14 Minor Arcana. The Suits are Swords, Staves, Pentacles, and Cups. Each suit has pip cards, which carry the numbers 2 to 10. Furthermore they have five Face Cards, which are the Jack, Knight, Queen, King, and Ace. All Major Arcana have individual names, except for one card that is entirely nameless. Some call it Death instead.   Long before people officially began connecting special abilities to the Tarot deck, Tarot cards were already used as both playing cards and divination tools. Various different interpretations exist, but nowadays general Tarot Lore follows a single set of meaning. There is still some wiggle room, but that is mostly applied to combinations of cards, not single ones.   While Tarot abilities are linked to Tarot cards, it's not the case that specific cards connect to specific abilities. While some researchers claim so, for every researcher or academic that claims a connection, at least two more deny it. Research does suggest some form of connection, but mostly at Suit-level, not at specific card-level.   For those with fervent faith in card-laying, it is common to have a soothsayer lay the cards for every grand decision and born child. Though prejudice against this kind of beliefs keeps them from doing so publicly. On the other hand, general Tarot Lore is relatively accepted by many. People may state they don't believe in it, but they're careful enough to not go against it, just in case.

Major Arcana

Each of the Major Arcana has 3 to 5 phrases attached to its interpretation. During a reading, one or more of these phrases may apply. When laying cards to describe a person's personality, a single Major Arcana card is meant to represent their overcompassing personality. When using upside-down cards as well, this will mean the reverse.  

Minor Arcana

Each of the Minor Arcana has a single phrase connected to it. Face Cards have the same meaning for each Suit, where their meaning has to be interpreted in the context of the Suit itself. In simple terms, Swords are often associated with physical offense, Staves with physical defense, Pentacles with mental offense, Cups with mental defense. Personality readings include a negative, a neutral, and a positive character trait.  

Suit Connections

The four Suits are often connected to various other aspects of society and the world. Only the Elements have a provable connection: Those talented in Tarot Abilities of a specific Suit, often are also talented in its element.
Swords
Alternative Suit
Quills
Element
Air
Class
Nobility & Military

Staves
Alternative Suit
Arrows
Element
Earth
Class
Peasants

Pentacles
Alternative Suit
Flames
Element
Fire
Class
Merchants

Cups
Alternative Suit
Roses
Element
Water
Class
Clergy


Cover image: Tarot Cards by Mira Cosic

Comments

Author's Notes

Originally put together for an rpg campaign of Amber: Diceless in 2009, this set of Tarot meanings is based on the Thoth Tarot for the Minor Arcana their meanings. The Major Arcana were based on a list of meanings where you could establish your own in advance. My exact source I cannot recall, but there is this list where almost each bulletpoint has exactly 1 term match the list of meanings in this design.


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30 Dec, 2020 07:27

It's interesting what you chose to keep from traditional interpretations, and what you chose to change. I'm a little biased, having been a professional Tarot-reader for several years, so I find myself resisting the changes, but there's no reason you can't make them. :)   You have referred frequently to Tarot-magic in the articles for this setting. My one critique of this article comes from that. I was hoping that some explanation of how that works in your universe would come with this article -- and it has not. Nothing I have read yet tells me why your people are so concerned about the Tarot, or whether it has any effects at all in-world. You speak vaguely of links to "abilities," but do not flesh out what those links are. I think this might be important to your setting and would like to learn about it in more detail. :D   If you want to consult with someone for real-world Tarot info, I'm happy to help. That said, again, there is no reason why Tarot in your world must be anything like IRL Tarot, so perhaps you have no need, and that's totally valid!   I appreciate the detailed breakdown with the table. I might suggest adding an image or two. Finding public domain Tarot images is not that difficult, although finding images of the Thoth deck, since the OTO claims copyright over anything associated with Aleister Crowley, might be.   Overall, despite my nitpicks, I think this is well done, and it deserves my Like. :D

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
30 Dec, 2020 11:57

Tarot Abilities and Tarot Cards are mostly two disjoint lines, with only a few characters fully understanding the actual links, being able to effectively lay them for others. Unfortunately I am lacking time to write both down in WorldEmber, though I'm pushing myself. I went with cards first so I can start writing down some of the characters, for who I did the personality-lay like described here, written down years ago.   The short summary would be most Tarot Abilities are basically materializing weaponry, elements and such, and even users tend to claim it's not actually tied to the cards. Then there's some of them laying cards, and they can quickly paint a person in rough lines through those, and even pinpoint what Suit abilities a person is most-talented in, so there's definitely more to it than researchers can find.   I will keep writing articles on Worldbuilding Monday even after WorldEmber, so fingers crossed I can properly cover the disjunction in the near future. For now the priority is writing down the main five.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
30 Dec, 2020 23:33

Why does the number 13 major arcana not have a name? Is it superstition about calling it Death?   I know little about Tarot, but I really like your tables. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
30 Dec, 2020 23:46

I don't know much about it, but I think it in part is to avoid the negative connotations of Death. Because it is not about ending, but about new beginnings. From Wikipedia: "Some decks, such as the Tarot of Marseilles and Visconti Sforza Tarot omit the name from the card, calling it "The Card with No Name", often with the implication of a broader meaning than literal death. There are other decks that title Death as "Rebirth" or "Death-Rebirth"."

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
30 Dec, 2020 23:55

Ohh interesting. That makes a lot of sense. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
31 Dec, 2020 00:00

As a sidenote, I once had to rebuy a Tarot set, because I had lost exactly 1 card of it: The Card with No Name.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
31 Dec, 2020 00:21

It's always neat to see how different decks give different interpretations of symbols. Arrows, for example, I usually associate with Swords (air) when reading cards, but here they're an alternate for fire, which is intriguing! Once you've made your associations, what does your world do with that information? Does a result change the way someone grows up, or how they're treated by neighbors, strangers, churches, or the law?   I have SOOOOOOOOO many questions.   When a reader in your world draws cards for a newborn, does that tell the parents what kind of personality and ability they will have? When is the ability expected to kick in? Are there ways to 'change destiny'? Do the cards tell them anything else? "Long before people officially began connecting special abilities to the Tarot deck" makes me wonder what abilities are in your world that the cards can detect. Are some abilities more common than others? Or instead of an innate ability, do you mean that people in your world invoke a tarot aspect somehow to make something happen...and if so, how does that work?


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31 Dec, 2020 00:34

I still have to write down most of how Tarot abilities themselves work, but the easiest one to describe is Summoned Swords. Basically, imagine Unlimited Blade Work from the Fate-universe. That pretty much is how a duel between two excelling Swords users would play out, constant summoning blades and clashing those against each other, either with manual wielding or directing flying swords at each other.   With nobility, the card layout may indeed influence what skills they focus their teaching on. For the card-characters I've been writing down, I also am writing down what value people assign to it. High Priestess? Push them into becoming a bookworm. Which makes faulty layouts especially harmful in the hands of those fervent believers.   The main thing with connecting Tarot abilities is that originally, they were kept hidden. So Tarot existed, but Tarot abilities were a secret. Only when the Church began to officially acknowledge the abilities, did formal Tarot Lore begin to form. (https://www.worldanvil.com/w/the-wild-cards-michael-chandra/a/scrolls-of-the-high-priest-document)   As for soothsaying: Those with actual abilities to really lay down cards, know very well that the more precision you try to work into your prediction, the more likely you are to miss the mark. And 'changing destiny' is definitely possible, since a person's experiences form them. The cards will only indicate the potential, not tie down exactly how people will turn out. In fact, it's perfectly possible for even a true laying to change over time as someone grows up.   As for the characters I'm writing down the card layouts for: Those are from their time at the Academy, at which point their personalities are already mostly in place. At that point, the cards are a proper observation that will stand solid for a lengthy while.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Grandmaster Teyvill
Andrew Belenkiy
31 Dec, 2020 11:33

Ooooh, I do love Tarot cards. I don't remember a game I didn't use them in some capacity. Once it was a small riddle in a dungeon, the other time I made a whole subplot with them, and now I'm using them as meta in place of Inspiration system.