Please note: this is not currently a serious project! I am actually working on a tarot deck to go along with a novel series, tentatively named The Clockwork Gothic. It turns out that trying to put together an actual tarot deck seriously changes how you see the tarot. I was journaling one day and came up with a smartass idea for a tarot deck—the Millennial Tarot Deck—and managed to get through the major arcana before I got stuck.
I should also note that I am not a Millennial but a younger Gen-Xer. I’m not here to mock, though. I could have done a Gen-Xer deck, but my initial thoughts on it were kind of depressing. When Paul Ryan showed up as the Devil in my deck…I just couldn’t do it.
So please enjoy this as a smartass mini-project I did to help solidify my thoughts on tarot 🙂
The Millennial Tarot
Tarot is meant to map and organize the great tales of our culture in a way that enlightens us to our common humanity without erasing our individuality, helping us move past ideas that hold us back from a sense of balance and peace.
Tarot points out that we keep doing the same damn things over and over again. It’s the mysterious voice that seems to call from nowhere, saying, “DON’T GO DOWN INTO THE BASEMENT.” Although the tarot is used as a fortune-telling tool, it is always trying to tell us that it isn’t fate that controls our destiny, but our own willful blindness, both as individuals and as a society.
When the cards are upright, read them as generally obvious and straightforward answers: the forces described by the card apply, and you usually not only recognize its existence, and you probably saw it coming—at least in retrospect, you should have.
When the cards are reversed, it’s an invitation to look deeper. Rather than simply reversing the meaning of the card, ask yourself what insecurities may apply to the matter at hand, whether yours or someone else’s. For example, a Fool reversed might mean someone is blaming money troubles on someone else, or telling everyone “it’s all part of the plan” when it isn’t. Or they may become judgy, seeing “fools” everywhere rather than accept their part of the problem.
All you have to do to live a good life, they say, is stop spending money on Starbucks and avocado toast.
At first it may be hard to see how a reversed card might be beneficial. But “good” and “bad” cards are all in how you take them. Nothing stays the same forever in tarot. There are only temporary upturns and downturns, giving us the opportunity to treat ourselves and others with more care, to honor our own choices, to draw healthy boundaries, and to resist the unfairness of the world with a core of inner strength.
Side note, I did find a Buzzfeed article on making the tarot more Millennial-friendly, and it’s cute but not thorough.
The Major Arcana
Note, the text in italics is what’s on the card; the text in regular Roman font is the text that would be in the little book that goes with the deck!
0. The Entrepreneur (The Fool)
A laptop bag on one hip, a latte in the other, the Entrepreneur is surrounded by a halo of icons: lightbulbs, gears, clocks, email, bar graph, wrench. They reach out for a dollar sign, not watching as they step toward the edge of a steeply descending staircase.
Wisdom comes from making mistakes. Just make sure they don’t destroy you after you make them.
1. The Hipster (The Magus)
He stands behind the table, beard flowing, copper home distiller setup on the table before him. He wears a fedora and suspenders. One hand holds an upraised cell phone. His Everyday Carry is on the table: keys, wallet, pocket knife, flask. At his feet and growing up into an archway overhead, are a fecundity of hops vines.
Without the Hipster, there would be no craft beer. But be wary of building a tolerance for bitterness.
2. The Naturopath (The High Priestess)
A dark-haired, young white woman sits cross-legged on a yoga mat on a wooden platform. Two posts stand on either side of the platform. Between them stretch Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind, half-concealing the symbols written on them. A white veil stretches behind her, around her, above her. She, too, holds a phone: is she offering it to you, or taking a selfie? Is she reading the screen as she imparts her wisdom, or recording her message to be passed on?
The doctors said the pain was all in your head. The Naturopath offers different truths—sometimes the wisdom to listen to your body and seek help, sometimes the idiocy of a healing crystal sex toy.
3. The Secretary (The Empress)
A Hispanic woman sits at a desk, phone jammed to her right ear, computer monitor and keyboard to the left. Behind her hand two flags: one of them shows the lands of the Earth, and the other shows a field of stars. She’s wearing a businesslike ivory blouse but is showing tattoo sleeves under them: spiderwebs, skulls, and other images of darkness and death. She has a lot of ear piercings.
She might not be the most traditional…but business is good. Let’s keep it that way.
4. The CEO (The Emperor)
He is white, bald, and has funny ears, and sits upon a messy jumble of books, in a cavernous warehouse that stretches backward to infinity. Distantly, robots move boxes. Beside him, what looks like a golden backpack: his parachute.
True power means not having to care whether you use it wisely or not.
5. The Tech Guru (The Hierophant)
He is Black, has a dimple in his chin like it was driven into him with a golf tee, and wears black plastic-framed glasses, plaid shirt, and overlarge striped tie. He is holding a fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher is on fire. Behind him are a number of action figurines on shelves.
In the beginning, there was code. But soon there were help request tickets. Some of which may repeatedly and deliberately get lost. He controls your settings, he controls your passwords. Anger him at your own risk.
6. The Fanatics (The Lovers)
The crowd stands behind a row of crowd control stanchions. They look nothing alike, except that they are all—all!—wearing the same t-shirt, a man’s face on them. Above and behind them rises an enormous man with tousled brown hair, tinted glasses, and kohl-rimmed eyes, wearing a goatee and a blazer over the same t-shirt. It is the same man, and the bottom of his chest is indistinguishable, and inseparable, from his fans.
The love of something or someone can bring us together—or it can blind us and ultimately tear us apart.
7. The Feed (The Chariot)
There is always an old man with a goatee in a gray suit. There is always a platform in a room that stretches out of sight both above and below, filled with monitors. There is always a walkway leading to the man, and he is always waiting for you.
The feed is a never-ending stream of information. It can carry you forward; it can crush you; it can hide any lie underneath the flicker of its images.
8. Self-Care (Strength)
In the apartment is a lounge chair, on the lounge chair are fat pillows. Next to the lounge chair is an end table, and on the end table is a steaming teapot, and a large friendly mug showing a crack. Behind the end table is a fiddle-leaf fig tree. On the wall beside the fig tree is a painting, and the painting is of a woman wearing a green facial mask and drinking tea in the same room, with the same cup, only the crack is sealed with gold. On the table in front of the lounge chair is a plate, and that plate holds avocado toast. Beside the plate of avocado toast is a remote control. On the floor is a rug, and the rug is soft and fluffy. In the painting, the woman has already eaten the toast. The remote has been replaced with a set of keys.
Treating yourself as a precious object can make you strong. Treating yourself as a disposable one will only make you weak.
9. The Basement Dweller (The Hermit)
We cannot see his face, only a silhouette in front of a monitor screen, the rays dimly illuminating shelves, a desk, a washing machine, baskets of laundry. A mug sitting beside the monitor reads, if one peers at it, “World’s Greatest Dad.”
He moved out of his mom’s basement a long time ago, but he still sits alone in the dark, reborn with a different identity, one that feels more like himself.
10. The Hustle (The Wheel)
A fidget spinner with three lobes and an eye in the center, the eye of the Illuminati. On the lobes are the icon of a clock, a dollar sign, and a heart. All three icons are slightly cracked. A car, a bicycle, and a walking figure traverse the outside edge of the spinner. Behind the spinner are stairs.
When we’re on the way up, we say it’s talent. When we’re on the way down, we say it’s bad luck. But whose hand holds the spinner? And when will it come time to rise?
11. Cancel Culture (Justice)
A figure straight out of a Magritte painting has not an apple for a face, but a bullseye. It is a dartboard. In the foreground, a strong arm grasps the handle of a beer mug, with the other hand preparing to throw the dart.
They praised it when the majority was moral. But now they mock it as cancel culture. Generally the darts won’t kill you. But they are always a test.
12. The Scapegoat (The Hanged Man)
A door opens onto a dark room, casting light across a dark-haired woman in a blue dress bent backward over a desk, hair hanging loose, a silk scarf tying her hands together as they dangle toward the floor. She is caught in the light between pleasure and humiliation. The man on the other side of the desk is not revealed by the light.
Some truths are more easily revealed than others. Often the truth is that someone needs to be thrown under the bus…and it won’t be whoever is in power. But all is not lost. Often, it is only “normality” that is overturned.
13. Black Friday (Death)
The faces are grotesque, pressed on the other side of a locked glass door, zombielike. In reverse, letters on the glass read the magical incantation ELAS, ELAS, FFO FLAH ELAS, OGOB. The crowd has been summoned. A woman in a polo shirt with full-sleeve tattoos showing spiderwebs and skulls approaches the door from the inside, preparing to open it.
Working shit jobs changes you. It may seem like you have been changed for the worse—but think of the people who have never worked a shit job. It shows.
14. Store Bought Is Fine (Temperance)
A friendly, apple-cheeked woman with a dark bob cut, wearing a blue denim shirt and an orange scarf smiles at you with nothing but kindness. In one hand, she holds a slice of red velvet cake; in the other, a prescription bottle.
A chosen life is the best life. But be wary of constantly making choices using nothing but Google and your drug dealer’s advice.
15. The Alternative (The Devil)
The enormous figure of a clean-cut white man, his hair longer on top and shaved on the sides, wearing a black trench coat over a dark, three-piece suit. He stands over a mass of figures giving a Heil Hitler salute. Churches burn in the distance.
The best way to brainwash someone is to make them believe they’re the exception to the rule. To release yourself is to admit an ugly truth: in most ways, you’re just like everyone else.
16. The Leak (The Tower)
Lightning strikes an oil platform rises above a stormy ocean, dark oil spreading over the surface. Swimmers struggle in the water in the foreground, desperate for help. The platform is on fire. Honestly, the oil had already leaked, the fires started, and swimmers fallen before the lightning even struck.
Sometimes the best of all possible outcomes is when that which is “too big to fail” actually does.
17. Britney (The Star)
A gorgeous woman in a silver dress stands backstage, towel around her neck, holding out a coffee mug to be refilled from off the side of the card. A peep at the stage shows flashing lights. The coffee mug is marked with a hand flipping you off. The woman is bald. A techie watches the stage via a monitor, showing the crowd being addressed by a man in a gray suit.
Behind the spectacle and illusion, there is a pure light that must be nurtured and protected.
18. Beyoncé (The Moon)
The Black woman floats underwater, her hair a swirling halo around her head. Around her is an abandoned apartment, a lounge chair and a painting floating in the current. Below her are tendrils of shadow; above her is the full moon. In the distance, stairs lead upward to the surface, where a line of Black women are emerging, with strength and power.
When we are pulled down into the depths, past all sanity, we can never return unchanged. Some might call that madness or delusion—but we did what we had to do, in order to return at all.
19. Lady Gaga (The Sun)
A woman in a revealinng gold “women’s fantasy armor” bikini with molded shoulder plates and thigh-high boots sits astride a white horse, her white hair flying behind her, turning to a rainbow as it leaves the card. A pile of hospital robes lies beneath the horse’s rear hooves. The front hooves plunge upward, as the horse rises from the edge of a cliff.
Our bodies and minds might burn from the inside out, but our souls stay bright.
20. Activism (Judgment)
A crowd wearing white masks holds up hand-lettered cardboard posters. One shows an upraised fist with rays coming from it. Another reads, “Justice now.” Still another, “There is no Planet B.” In the background, one woman yawns.
Don’t let things to go back to normal. Don’t go back to sleep.
21. Universal Basic Income (The World)
A team of robots builds a staircase, which a crowd ascends. At the base of the staircase is a collection of abandoned spinners. At the top the crowd have begun to help build the staircase: they are wearing space suits. Beyond them, the stars.
There is no “winning” at life, only building a path ahead for others to take.
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