Tarot and Doctor Who - Introduction
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Oct. 20th, 2012 | 10:36 pm
Tarot is a deck of playing cards with four suits (wands or staffs, swords, cups, coins or disks or pentacles) with a 22 card trump suit. The deck with four suits is called the Minor Arcana. The 22 card trump suit is called the Major Arcana. The decks were mainly used for playing games like modern playing cards. However, the cards are rich in mythic imagery and began to be used in mystical or esoteric systems. Some believe that the Major Arcana tell a story similar to the Hero’s Journey called The Fool’s Journey. There are many, many different decks. Some based in specific myths, some fandom related. The “standard” deck is the Rider-Waite deck and is the deck I’ll refer to most often. I’ll sometimes refer to other historical decks. The Judgment card from the Rider-Waite deck is pictured at the end of this introduction.
We start with the number 0, the number of the Fool and end with 21, the number of the World. Each card is an archetypal character in our journey through life. The Fool is a child, she grows, goes to school, goes on a quest, and meets many teachers along the way. She falls in love and builds a family. She has old beliefs shattered and reforged. She emerges as a whole person in the end. And you’re back at the start again. You realize that you’ve gone home. The process may be more or less metaphorical and she may continue this process many times throughout her life. The Tarot is sometimes thought of as a wheel that circles right back around to the beginning to begin the adventure anew.
How does this relate to Doctor Who? Well, Amelia Pond is just such a character like the Fool. She is a child-like spirit and ready for adventure. Others and I began discussing Tarot imagery halfway through season 6. The whole Demon’s Run plot is very reminiscent of card 16, The Tower which depicts two figures falling out of a burning tower. The card represents a deconstruction of the ego and we see this in the Doctor who “rose higher than ever before and fell so much further”. We then went back through season 5 during the season 6 hiatus. We began to discover direct parallels to images on the cards as well as indirect parallels such as dialogue, clothing, props, and plot points.
We began to see Amy’s complete Fool’s Journey in all the adventures she went on and the people she met. For example, The Empress and Emperor are Liz X and Winston Churchill. Vincent van Gogh cast as The Hermit. Her own daughter and son-in-law cast as The High Priestess and The Magician. We saw this imagery through to Amy’s very last episode.
Here we see Amy and Rory waking up in a graveyard just after jumping off a building. They are, in a sense, rising out of their own graves, rising from the dead. An angel appears and takes Rory, giving Amy a choice, go with Rory or go with the Doctor. She chooses Rory. The episode ends where season 5 began, with a little girl ready to go on an adventure.
With that said, I honestly think this is purely incidental. I think Moffat intentionally pulled from many different mythologies to form his version of Who. But Tarot also pulls from many different mythologies. They are both melting pots of sorts so crossover potential is high.
Before I begin, I have some people to thank. Screencaps are from http://doctorwho.sonicbiro.co.uk/. Transcripts are from jpgr. I have to thank goldenmoonrosefor her analyses of season’s 5 and 6 which got me thinking of Who in a whole new way. I’m a graduate student in Mathematics so I was never one for English or Literature. That is, until I read her essays. promethia_tenkhas written some awesome meta as well, got me thinking of the Doctor and River’s duality. elisiis well known for her analysis of The Wedding of River Song. janie_aireis responsible for the thread at Gallifrey Base in which I cautiously suggested we look at Tarot imagery. She has also written some meta. Most of all, lonewytch, for her meta and beta’ing.>>To The Fool