Create Your Own Tarot header
The Chariot, ready for the parade.

The Trumps

Now, let’s take a closer look at the cards. If you’re like me at the start of any project, you probably have some great ideas for certain trumps… and nothing for others.

The important thing that separates a tarot deck from just a collection of artworks is that the cards are in sequence – they are all related to one another. This is great news for you as a designer, because if you zoom out and look at this sequence, your ideas can fall into place, and the missing pieces become apparent.

The Fool, the Magician, and the High Priestess are shown in sequence, connected by arrows. The Magician and Priestess look expectantly at the Fool who walks toward them.

Some readers connect the sequence of trumps with a story, the “Fool’s Journey,” wherein the Fool meets each of the other characters and perhaps becomes a bit less foolish along the way.

Sequences and Groups

Besides the numerical sequence, different traditions have ways of grouping trump cards together. For example, the trumps of the Waite-Smith deck can be placed in rows of seven (cf. Pollack, 1997), while the Marseille trumps are usually paired in two sequences of ten (cf. Jodorowsky & Costa, 2004/2009). In these arrangements, you can compare cards within both rows and columns.

Within each group, you can find similarities that make the deck feel more cohesive, and can deepen your interpretation of each character. One clear duo is the Magician and Strength, from the first column of both the Marseille and Waite-Smith arrangements. Some similarities (based on Jodorowsky & Costas, 2004/2009) are highlighted in the image below – click on the hotspots to read more.

Connections between your trump cards can be immensely helpful. Once you have one card planned out, you no longer have to start from scratch with its partners.

Planning Your Trumps

Take some time now to plan how you might group your trump cards. Are there any specific cards that stand out to you as related?

If you’re having trouble, try looking at two cards from a favorite deck as an example. Where can you find similarities and differences? Think about the composition, the meanings, the colors, or even facial expressions.