BY DALLAS ATHENT
With the first debate between Clinton and Trump this evening many of us have anxieties about our future given this insane election. Many also turn to Tarot cards as a way to prepare when they have anxieties about their future. So what do the cards tell us about the front running candidates? Can we predict their motives or outcomes? Probably not, but let’s try! We will examine each of the candidates through Arthur Edward Waite’s Tarot deck.
Before we dive right into it, I want to note a few things about Tarot cards, specifically the Rider-Waite deck for those who may not be familiar. Tarot cards have resurged in popularity in recent years, but they originated in Europe between the 14th-15th century. The symbols they use are older than that however, being passed down from paper makers and manuscript books. Because these symbols have been around so long and stood the test of time, they gain importance by proving their ability to be relatable throughout many different periods in history.
Waite, a devout Catholic attempted to aggregate all we knew across several cultures and religions into one super "rectified" deck so that it would cover all the bases. During such a pivotal election, one where intense changes are nigh for such a young country, looking at such solid, ancient images will perhaps help us better understand our anxieties! Not only that, but it’s fun. Let’s start.
Bernie Sanders - King of Wands
Noble, honest and countryman are words Waite used to describe this fire-y court card in Pictorial Key to the Tarot. You hear that? Wands is the suit of fire, so bern baby, bern. But don’t bern too hard—because sometimes the passion and dogmatism of the King of Wands ideals can be unrealistic when applied outside his house and home. He is a man of modest means, whose aim is to build a solid home for his family.
We can see these principles applied in Bernie as he touted his "$27 average contribution" and refuses to drop the term "Democratic Socialist" even though it scares people. Even so, many of us pictured Bernie in his potential power, building his manorial house (the White House) upon his promised land (Vermont) and spewing his ideals to his family (America) in his old age while we either hail him or wonder if he’s just a crazy old man whose ability to look at foreign policy is diminished by his passion for his own family.
John Kasich - Page of Swords
As the suit of air, swords is an active suit, and in general one that is used to being conniving, manipulative, and not for nothing, getting things done. Sorry not sorry, Kasich! We see what you were doing with that "I’m the moderate guy" schtick. You’re secretly like the rest of the Republicans, and have even said you’d like to defund Planned Parenthood.
The page typically represents power in transmission; those who are passive, and in a scholarly state. Combined, with the manipulation, we get seemingly alright Kasich. While debating Kasich stood on stage while his opponents take each other out, waiting for his turn to strike while he learned from their failures.
Ted Cruz - Knight of Wands
While Kasich sat all studious and dubious, Cruz was actually acting on his insanity. The Knight of Wands forges ahead, sort of haphazardly in a spiral that we’re not really sure will be good or bad. (Actually, in Cruz’s case we know it’s bad). He doesn’t really have a plan other than making a lot of commotion and just going for the gold. In other words, he’s a loud, hot mess, but exists within the suit of wand—a suit that values family, as we saw with Bernie Sanders. So big surprise! Being in this suit, Cruz also values family—it just happens to be a family that’s part of the archaic, patriarchal regime, that is.
Donald Trump - Overturned Hierophant
The Hierophant is everyone’s least favorite Major Arcana card, mainly because he’s an asshole. He represents the doctrine, the rule, power in politics, sometimes the Catholic Church. Donald Trump is also an asshole who is unforgiving and ruthless, but he isn’t all-powerful and definitely not as cool as our current Pope. He’s not elected and so as of now he doesn’t really represent anything other than tacky hotels and failed casinos.
You want to make Mexico build a wall and pay for it? Good luck. But I doubt even if elected, Mexico would succumb to such an absurd request. As overturned cards generally mean that the strength of a card is lessened, the overturned Hierophant depicts a silly jerk, desperately trying to prove influence.
Hillary Clinton - The High Priestess
The High Priestess is an esoteric data dump of symbolic images that shape shift according to what other cards show up in your reading. How can you stand for anything when you stand for everything? Hillary Clinton is constantly on this quest herself, taking tidbits of everything she thinks will get her elected and throwing them into a mass cesspool of convictions. You have to admit, the outcome is pretty impressive.
Special thanks to Stuart Sudekum who taught me the history of images in the Ryder Waite Deck.
Dallas Athent is a writer and an artist. Her work has been profiled in The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Bedford+Bowery & more. She is represented by The Rights Factory who is helping her publish her forthcoming novel, “The Queen of Pentacles & The Grail.” She lives in The Bronx with her adopted pets.