View Full Version : WOT and Tarot

Zombie Sammael
05-20-2011, 09:57 AM
One for the "sources and influences" crowd, which I don't think has been all that widely discussed.

I've noticed a lot of the imagery in the Wheel of Time seems related to images from the major arcana Tarot cards, particularly the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Some specific ones:

Mat\The Hanged Man card - Mat gets hung from the Tree of Life, in order to gain "wisdom", often regarded as one interpretation of this card.

Egwene's Dreams\The Tower - Egwene has a dream of the White Tower beset by lightning called down by the Damane. The Tower card, which represents folly and destruction, shows a dark tower beset by lightning bolts.

Moridin\Death - Moridin means "Death" in the old tongue, but the death card does not represent actual death, but rather change. Moridin is actually the second body the soul of Elan Moran has possessed, and as a chaotic force, he has been responsible for much dramatic change, including the Breaking, the Trolloc Wars, and the War of the Hundred Years.

The High Priestess\Aes Sedai, The Amyrlin Seat - In some older versions of the Tarot deck, this card is entitled "The Papess" or female pope. The Amyrlin Seat fits this role well, but it's also appropriate to associate Moiraine and various other AS with it at different times.

Wheel of Fortune\Wheel of Time - The Wheel is responsible for everyone's fortune (this is basically two ways of saying the same thing, it seems to me!)

The Devil\The Dark One - The Devil card is taken to represent slavery, or imprisonment, which fits the role The DO plays in the series quite well. The card shows a monstrous being holding a male and female in chains; possibly related to the way in which the DO enslaves his followers.

I was initially looking at the deck to see if I could fit some of the characters to the major arcana, but some of the images seemed so obviously associated to me that I was very surprised there didn't seem to be much discussion of it as a potential source or influence. Even if there's no evidence RJ was influenced by Tarot cards, it's still interesting how closely some of the imagery matches.

05-20-2011, 10:02 AM
One for the "sources and influences" crowd, which I don't think has been all that widely discussed.
It's discussed in some detail at 13th Depository (see sig link).

Zombie Sammael
05-20-2011, 10:11 AM
I looked there before posting but I'm still struggling to find anything. It's a great resource but I think the blog-like nature of the site works against it. But then, so does the message board format work against us. In any case, I wanted to talk about it, not just read about it.

05-20-2011, 11:45 AM
I think the Tower is a pretty good link, and the Hanged Man, but the rest of them seem a little weak. The Major Arcana are vague/archetypal enough to fit a lot of situations, but you can generally tell when they're being referenced on purpose. Harry Potter, for example, is full of deliberate Tarot references.

Going back to the ones I thought work:

The Hanged Man represents indecision as well as wisdom, and also the process of transition from one to the other. Mat ended up in Rhuidean because he couldn't decide where to go from Tear. The cathartic/transformative nature of his suspension was made literal by the acquisition of new memories.

The Fool also fits Mat like a glove, especially in terms of his adaptiveness and the way he became a sort of blank slate after losing his memories.

I think Nynaeve fits the Queen of Cups pretty well, but I don't know if that happened on purpose or if it's just the vague archetype thing I mentioned.

05-20-2011, 12:08 PM
I looked there before posting but I'm still struggling to find anything.
The search field top left is most useful.


Zombie Sammael
05-20-2011, 12:11 PM
There's obviously some sort of Nynaeve/Cups link, because when I was trying to assign the Major Arcana to characters, I had her down for "Temperance" (I personally use the Vertigo Comics Tarot deck, so all of my associations are a little... off), which also normally depicts cups. Nynaeve is a good choice for self-control, as well, because that's something she's had to learn. It is interesting, however, that she is the female he's not in a relationship with who he trusts the most, and explicitly connects as his female counterpart during the cleansing.

To promote discussion, below is as far as I got with assigning characters to cards:

one (0 or 22)
The Fool - Rand
The Magician - Perrin
The High Priestess - Moiraine
The Empress - Tuon
The Emperor
The Hierophant - Taim
The Lovers
The Chariot
8 or 11
The Hermit - Elyas Machera
Wheel of Fortune - Wheel of Time
11 or 8
Strength / Fortitude
The Hanged Man - Mat
Death - Moridin
Temperance - Nynaeve
The Devil - The Dark One
The Tower - The White Tower
The Star
The Moon - Lanfear
The Sun - Galad
The World

I did manage to find some of the research on 13th Depository, and I agree that Rand is quite a good fit for the magician as well. I chose Perrin because of his role as blacksmith, which links to the identity of the card as an alchemist, being as he is also involved in the making of power-wrought weapons.

Moiraine was a fit for the High Priestess because although she is not the head of the Aes Sedai, in the earlier part of the series she is the most important Aes Sedai we encounter.

Taim made sense for the Hierophant as a card that represents male mysticism; within WOT this is explicitly corrupted, and Taim himself is also corrupt.

05-20-2011, 01:29 PM
Rand as key 0? Interesting choice. I'd have him as the Chariot before Veins of Gold. Not quite sure where he fits in after his epiphany.

Zombie Sammael
05-20-2011, 01:44 PM
Rand as key 0? Interesting choice. I'd have him as the Chariot before Veins of Gold. Not quite sure where he fits in after his epiphany.

Rand as 0 because o is really the hero of the Tarot deck, much as Rand is the hero of the series; it's the card most related to the querrant, after all, much as Rand is the character the readers most root for. Mat has also had some pretty explicit fool imagery, as he had for the Hanged Man; I've heard it said that the Hanged Man and the Fool are one and the same.

05-20-2011, 01:47 PM
All the keys are one and the same with the Fool, at least according to the books I've read. The Fool represents undifferentiated potential. It fits pretty well with Rand at the beginning of Eye of the World, but he gets locked in to a more limited path pretty quickly.

Zombie Sammael
05-20-2011, 03:07 PM
I know it's not quite the same thing, but Rand does have unlimited potential so far as his use of the One Power is concerned. Not quite the same as undifferentiated potential, certainly.

If anyone is the Fool, it's us, the readers, in a sense. Any in-series character fits better to another trump.