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BIG FLUFFY DOG
Feb 16, 2011

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

I recently finished Persona 5 Royal which has tarot as one of its defining aesthetics/gameplay mechanics and someone mentioned in the P5R thread that characters in the Moon arcana are always enormous assholes and this might be because Moon is one of only two major arcana that's purely negative in the upright position.

This made me realize that I really don't know anything about tarot despite the fact that I have an old set and that it seems to be coming back in a big way along with astrology.

What's with the major arcana?

How do you tell fortunes?

How do you tell if its upright or reversed?-

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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



BIG FLUFFY DOG posted:

I recently finished Persona 5 Royal which has tarot as one of its defining aesthetics/gameplay mechanics and someone mentioned in the P5R thread that characters in the Moon arcana are always enormous assholes and this might be because Moon is one of only two major arcana that's purely negative in the upright position.

This made me realize that I really don't know anything about tarot despite the fact that I have an old set and that it seems to be coming back in a big way along with astrology.

What's with the major arcana?

How do you tell fortunes?

How do you tell if its upright or reversed?-
How do you mean "what's with the major arcana?"

You tell fortunes broadly speaking by holding a quiery in your mind, shuffling the cards until they feel "done," and then dealing them up in a particular pattern. There's a bunch of different ones. I'm fond of just slapping down two, one crossing the other, and reading it as "this, interfacing with that."

Usually it's pretty obvious if it's upright or reversed from the art.

BIG FLUFFY DOG
Feb 16, 2011

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

Nessus posted:

How do you mean "what's with the major arcana?"

You tell fortunes broadly speaking by holding a quiery in your mind, shuffling the cards until they feel "done," and then dealing them up in a particular pattern. There's a bunch of different ones. I'm fond of just slapping down two, one crossing the other, and reading it as "this, interfacing with that."

Usually it's pretty obvious if it's upright or reversed from the art.

What are the meanings of each and are they just normal cards like the suits or do they have a special meaning because they're "major"

Mr Enderby
Mar 28, 2015



BIG FLUFFY DOG posted:


What's with the major arcana?


Tarot was an elite gambling card game in late medieval Europe. It consisted of four suits, just as there are in the modern 52 card pack, and also a number of trumps. These are equivalent to the modern joker card, but there were more of them. These trump cards could have all sorts of designs on them, and often included classical references, astrological symbols or allegorical images.

I wouldn't say the meaning of these cards weren't occult, because in the 15th-17th century if you were interested in classicism or astrology you were into the occult almost by definition, but they weren't considered esoteric paraphernalia. They were playing cards for gambling.

After printing technology spread so did cards, and a wide range of cheap sets were available, with countless regional variations. Various forms of tarot are still a popular game across much of continental Europe.

At the same time as the game spread, so did the practice of telling fortunes by drawing cards. The potential for esoteric interpretations in the images on the trump cards may well have encouraged this practice, but it's also part of a wider set of divination traditions based in interpreting chance occurrences (like reading tea leaves or throwing knuckle bones).

As far as I know this use of tarot cards wasn't really practiced in academic occult circles in the early modern period, but I might be wrong about that, because certain occultists did pay attention to folk magic and popular divination (like John Dee getting into scrying).

Anyway in the 19th century occultists started to get super into tarot. They really liked the idea that it was both a form of folk magic, often done for money by cunning people and Romany fortune tellers, but it also had these clear references astrological and esoteric symbology. They particularly liked the trump cards in the tarot deck, because these were both the most iconographically dense.

So at some point in occult circles people started to call the suited cards the minor arcana and trumps the [i]major arcana[i]. The trumps also get redrawn to emphasise occult interpretations. The devil starts to look like baphomet, the popess is renamed the high priestess, the juggler becomes the magus.

Cephas
May 11, 2009

Shape Shift With Me


There's a Jungian trend to attribute the Major Arcana to a kind of symbolic journey of self-growth. You start with The Fool who looks like they're starting on a journey. They get initiated into the mystical by the Magician and High Priestess (think Luke meeting Obiwan or Bilbo meeting Gandalf), learn about the orders of the world through the Empress, Emperor, and Hierophant, gain personal prowess in the Chariot and Strength, and so on, until you reach the mystical higher powers of Judgment and The World, which often have explicit Christlike imagery.

Along with Persona, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure uses that "tarot as journey" motif as the basic plot structure of its Stardust Crusaders arc. Persona very explicitly takes a Jungian approach to Tarot--the Major Arcana are something like your inner Anima; enemies are Shadows; and in Persona 4 you literally have to go into your own psyche to come to terms with your Shadow.

I don't know the history of Tarot-as-mysticism, but I am willing to bet that its ubiquity in modern culture comes from folks like the Theosophists in the late 1800s and the Jungians in the early 1900s (I don't think Jung himself had that much exposure to Tarot cards but they play right into his hand). Like Mr Enderby said, there was this big occult revivalism thing going on in the West during that era, so I wouldn't be surprised if the more codified version of Tarot reading and things like that came from a few specific organized groups. For instance, the whole weird "Tulpamancy" internet subculture comes straight from the Theosophists, specifically from a female European opera singer/adventurer (yes) named Alexandra David-Néel who traveled to Tibet and wrote a book full of her misunderstandings of Buddhist ritual practices. I'm willing to bet our modern fascination with Tarot cards comes from a similar place.

Orcs and Ostriches
Aug 26, 2010



The Great Twist

The major arcana are mostly just their own suite, and they trump the minor arcana. It probably comes from the days of just being playing cards, but they can be taken as outranking or having more impact then the minor arcana when reading a fortune or whatever.

When it comes to telling fortunes, the deck is usually shuffled, and then a certain number of cards are drawn and put in a specific spread, like a cross or diamond. Each position refers to some part of the query, like what to focus on now, what strength to focus on, what difficulties might come, etc. The card in each position can then be interpreted based on the symbolism on the card, compared to what the position is in the spread. Interpretation is based on the base meaning on the card itself, but details can also be taken from the art as well- colour, items, directions, etc.

Reversed cards are literally just upside down when you reveal them, which is generally pretty obvious based on the art.

There are a bunch of different decks. Persona uses the Rider-Waite arcana, with its own art. I don't know how familiar you are with the series, but 3 and 4 use different designs on the cards. 5 specifically uses art that is in opposition compared to the normal meanings on the major arcana.

They also bring in cards from other decks or sources on occasion. Judgement is the 20th card in the RW deck, but in 3 FES they also use Aeon from the Thoth deck for Aigis. I don't know where 5's Faith and Councillor come from, but I'm not the most knowledgeable about the topic.

Orcs and Ostriches fucked around with this message at 21:21 on May 4, 2020

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SoR Blaze
Apr 12, 2006


There are a couple of other cards that tend to be read as big negatives, notably The Tower, 10 of swords, and 3 of swords. Tbqh though tarot is so interpretive that any card can be read in any way. The Tower, for instance, represents a major shakeup in your life and often comes with the feeling that the world is crumbling around you, that every structure in your life is failing you, but it's also about halfway through the "journey" represented by the Major Arcana, culminating in The World, which takes apocalyptic imagery to represent the finish. Neither are really bad or good cards and there's positive ways to read The Moon, and it's very much up to the querent and the reader to make their own interpretation.

Tarot in general, like a lot of other forms of divination, is about looking at your own reflection through the prism of impactful, but kind of vague symbols.

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