Never was there anything more mysterious than the Tarot cards. Their air of magic tinged with the apprehension of what fate has in store, their storytelling capacity, are some of the qualities that lend themselves to our dark, dramatic themes.
I am revisiting the stories of Angela Carter these days. She was the first author I read who inspired met o get serious about writing. her use of language lavished on themes of werwolves and vampires gave me permission to compose the kind of Gothic tales I enjoyed reading while indulging in the lush, poetic writing style we call “literary”. These were the first Gothic tales since Poe, that really moved me and took my imagination to new heights and depths.
The Visconti Tarot, shown above, is the oldest complete Tarot in existence. It red-brown and gold hues suggest royalty, spell casting and dried blood. These are the cards of the vampires.
Carter uses the Tarot cards in full force in her short story, The Lady of the House of Love.
Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors. each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful, posthumous existence, she she counts out the Tarot cards, ceaselessly construing a constellation of possibilities as if the random fall of the cards on the red plush tablecloth before her, could precipitate her from her chill, shuttered room into the country of perpetual summer and obliterate the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and maiden.
Love and Death
Of course the Death card always puts in an appearance in these tales. This is the fate we all fear, especially combined with The Lovers, for who can bear the death of love? Of course the Grim Reaper always smiled up from her blood red tablecloth. When, at last, the Lovers appear, this is not a cause for joy.
The bride is also a powerful Gothic persona, for marriage is a kind of death for woman. In the days of arranged marriages, when love had nothing to do with it, when a girl could be sold to the wealthy old man, or the cruel aristocrat, when she never knew how the beast would treat her, appearing in ghostly white veils was the most resonant attire. She grips the cards, desperate to know: is she safe, or not? Is this love, or not?
Her great Aunt is Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, a figure who seems to haunt us all. How many actresses have played the role? This lost bride, this ghost, sitting alone in the dark, high house with the long table gone to rot, is a kind of vampire who feeds on her ward, Isabelle,draining the girl’s emotions, killing her love, cosigning her to s symbiotic death in life.
I don;t think most people think of Charles Dickins as a Gothic author, but he’s one of the best. Like Shakespeare.
Stories with Tarot
When I found the Angela Carter book, Tarot Readers were few. I was one, so I was drawn in to this story of the lady in the House of Love. I also have incorporated the cards into stories.
Now there are many authors employing the Arcana!
Here is a Goodreads list of novels that use Tarot as a theme. As you can see, they all have a dark, Gothic feel to them.
Out of 530 books, I am sure you will find something to enjoy.