A Very British Tarot

So the other Saturday I got into a random conversation about a Very British Tarot (VBT) with the criteria seemed to evolve out of the conversation naturally, and while never quite pinned down seemed to be “Epic people of the commonwealth, sort of in the last 100 yearsish, some exceptions”. We pinned down most of the Majors and at lunch in the week we got a few more suggestions, but there are still holes and other places to suggest alternatives. What say you people of LJ?

0 The Fool – Michael Palin
1 The Magician – John Dee
2 The High Priestess – Doreen Valiente
3 The Empress – Maggie Thatcher or Elizabeth I
4 The Emperor – Winston Churchill
5 The Hierophant – Alistair Crowley
6 The Lovers – John & Yoko
7 The Chariot – Francis Drake or Charles Darwin
8 Justice – Clement Attlee or Robert Peel
9 The Hermit – Alan Moore
10 Wheel of Fortune – Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu the corkscrew thinkers
11 Strength / Fortitude – Monty
12 The Hanged Man – Alan Turing
13 Death – Cromwell or Black Rod
14 Temperance – George Fox
15 The Devil – Mohamed Al-Fayed or Peter Mandelson or Rupert Murdoch
16 The Tower – Neville Chamberlain
17 The Star – Britannia
18 The Moon – Diana, Princess of Wales
19 The Sun – King Arthur
20 Judgment – David Starkey (have I got the right person?)
21 The World – Victoria I

So The Empress is a bit dodgy, the suggestions lack some of the mothering nature of the role perhaps. Judgement, Justice and possibly Wheel of Fortune I consider up for serious debate. The Moon may be a bit Invisibles.


17 thoughts on “A Very British Tarot

  1. mr_jez

    I like some of your suggestions, but not all of them, so here’s an alternate version, for your entertainment…

    0 The Fool – Norman Wisdom
    1 The Magician – Dr John Dee
    2 The High Priestess – Queen Elizabeth I
    3 The Empress – Maggie Thatcher
    4 The Emperor – Winston Churchill
    5 The Hierophant – Peter Cushing
    6 The Lovers – Edward and Mrs Simpson
    7 The Chariot – Stephen Hawking
    8 Justice – Charles Darwin
    9 The Hermit – Lawrence of Arabia
    10 Wheel of Fortune – Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic
    11 Strength / Fortitude – General Charles George Gordon
    12 The Hanged Man – Alan Turing
    13 Death – Dr Beeching
    14 Temperance – Emmeline Pankhurst
    15 The Devil – Uncle Sam
    16 The Blasted Tower – The Millenium Dome
    17 The Star – Britannia
    18 The Moon – Diana, Princess of Wales
    19 The Sun – John Lennon
    20 Judgement – Aleister Crowley
    21 The World – Queen Victoria, Empress of India

    1. almighty_weasel

      I’m curious – some of these choices seem a bit strange to me (although they may be plain as day to someone with a bit more tarot knowledge, I don’t know). Specifically, numbers 5, 8, and 20. Why those people specifically?

      1. mostlyfoo

        I suspect because Jez is moving off the Thoth tarot attributions and not the RWS thats more common, in which case 20 is “The Aeon”.

        I can tell you that we picked Darwin for his travelling and also motion of ideas, his bringing of the holy grail of evolutionary ideals that have enabled us to understand the world a lot clearer, achieving victory over other theories.

      2. mr_jez

        I generally tried to blend the traditional meaning of the cards with the underlying core principles of ‘Britishness’ that I was raised with.

        The Hierophant (or the Pope in older decks) represents a conservative and traditional spiritual presence, so I chose my personal exemplar of ‘Britishness’, the very civilised gentleman Mr Peter Cushing.

        Justice (or Adjustment in the Thoth deck) represents a balancing principle beyond that of humanity. I chose Darwin for his Theory of Evolution, which is a justice that binds us all.

        Judgement (The Aeon in the Thoth deck) means what it says, mostly, but also refers to second chances and redemption. Crowley’s entire life’s work can be seen as a judgement on the traditional Britain of the Victorian and Edwardian age, along with the promulgation of his recipe to make everything better!

  2. senerity

    I think the Empress would be better as Queen Victoria. Especially considering some of the contemporaries you have also listed.
    I agree with Charles Darwin as the Chariot over Francis Drake really,or, leave Francis Drake as the Chariot and Change Darwin to the Wheel of Fortune, when you consider how significant his influence has been.
    If Queen Victoria became the Empress, I would recommend that the world would then be someone like John Reith, perhaps. Or some figure strongly associated with the British Empire.
    A more cynical view would be to go outside the limitations of people and to use a British place for the world card. There are several I can think of in descending (worsening) levels of cynicism:
    British Museum
    Houses of Parliament
    Covent Garden
    Trafford Centre

    1. mostlyfoo

      I quite like Brunel for that, his driving of the industrial revolution was a change of fortune, where chance favoured us well and we prospered because of it.

      I quite like Boudica over Thatcher a bit, but both still lack a lot of the mothering imagery.

      1. mr_jez

        But this is Britain, and we love the underdog!

        (Well, that’s why I opted for Scott of the Antarctic who was pretty screwed by Fortune back in 1912!)

        1. caerwiden

          There is also the element of her story involving her daughters.

          I did have another idea for The Empress too, Audrey Hepburn. Though I’m less convinced, but it feels nice.

          There are so many variants available in this concept, it’s great fun!

          1. mr_jez

            Boudicca is a fascinating case, but somewhat far out of the historical and cultural bracket for Britain and the Commonwealth over the last couple of centuries.

            Maybe we should do a historical Britons tarot too? … :o)

  3. almighty_weasel

    I guess the notion is that as the cards are sticking with people then Victoria, who ruled a decent chunk of The World, is more suited to that card than to The Empress. But yes, if a better representation of The World could be found, then she would be ideal to replace Maggie Fucking Thatcher.

    1. mostlyfoo

      Indeed, Victoria was empress of the whole lot, and considered a goddess in parts of India, hence seemed more fitting for the world, although she would comfortably do double duty symbolically.

    2. mr_jez

      I rather like the suggestion of Maggie as the Empress, because in so many ways she exemplified the ‘mother knows best’ view so common to British motherhood over the last couple of centuries. Much of the point of the initatory journey of The Fool is to grow up, and thus leave Maggie behind!


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