Which cards in tarot would make great villains?
Other than the obvious ones in major arcana such as The Devil, The Tower, and Death, a.k.a. the Big Three, or the heratbreaker 3 of Swords, the cunning 7 of Swords, or the bitchy Queen of Swords (seriously, what is with the swords?), what other tarot cards would make fascinating villains with a worldview that challenges our expectations, social norms and moral values? This was a topic of discussion raised in the group I help moderate, Tarot Nerds, a few days ago and it got me thinking about how people can be bad in the world, and how their bad behaviours can be represented by tarot.
Some people suggested the Hierophant would make a great villain because of his dogmatic views, and some suggested that nobody would suspect the 10 of Cups. For me, I started thinking about the court cards. Of course, they are already the “characters” and “personas” in tarot–what would be the type of “villainy” that they uphold? This got me thinking about exploring their potential evil nature by examining their elements or their suits, and I had a blast figuring out their despicable ways.
The Swords, or Air Villains: Dystopian, totalitarian mind-control
Swords are always immediately recognized as potential villains. They are cuttingly edgy, brutally and sometimes damagingly honest, and they don’t give a shit as long as they think they’re right. Pretty dangerous combination that makes them easy villains. Air villains would have extreme ideologies and often warped philosophies or views about how the world should function. Sounds utterly dystopian and totalitarian, does it not? I think that’s exactly what it is. Air villains are good at mind-control, spreading propaganda and implementing rigid and excruciating laws that restrict or stunt one’s freedom to think for themselves. Their primary objective is to induce obedience and eliminate anybody who challenges their ideals.
The Wands, or Fire Villains: Violent, Self-Centred, and Manipulative
When fire burns for all and burns for good, it provides warmth, light and energy. When fire burns for itself or is misused–it is both violent and destructive. My first thought is that Fire Villains are either warrior types or abusive figures that never take pause to consider the consequences of their actions, and the impact that their actions may have on the people around them. It is always about the moment, which makes them quick to anger and quick to act. On second thought, fire villains also have the potential to become very insidious, perhaps if their fire tendencies are coupled with the cunning and intelligence of an air villain. If the effects of the fire have enough self-restraint to not act in the fervor of the moment, they can be very dangerous indeed–setting up schemes and attracting followers using their incredible charisma and forward motion. (This is sounding incredibly dystopian again!)
The Cups, or Water Villains: Depressed, Self-Absorbed, Dramatic, and Supernatural
At first glance, the suit of cups doesn’t seem like they are capable of becoming villains at all. At least, the effects of their “villainy” are more to the detriment of themselves. When they are overcome by their emotions or crippling social needs, it’s more of an “imploding” situation, unlike the fire villains that seek to destroy by extending outwards. But since we are talking about fictional depictions–we don’t have to follow the constraints of our reality, do we? I think the suit of cups will make excellent supernatural villains. Vengeful ghosts or paranormal entities whose existence is fueled by their powerful emotions and memories. Their strong hatred, sadness or desire for revenge become a diabolical flood that seeks to overtake and drown those who come near. Perfectly watery, isn’t it? But coming back to the “human realm”, this makes me think of individuals that become psychotic and ruled by their powerful emotions as they seek vengeance on another: e.g. heartbroken lover seeking vengeance on their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, or social disruptors that destroy relationships through seducing, cheating and playing the victim etc.
The Pentacles, or Earth Villains: greedy, cultish, and materialistic
Earth villains are definitely greedy motherfuckers that will do anything to obtain the object or resources of their desire–be it money, land, or a person. They objectify everything and sees everything as currency to be manipulated, exchanged and collected, obsessing over wealth, status, and physical signs of power. The Earth Villains can also be very vain as they judge everything by their surface value. This really reminds me of the Roman Empire because it is an empire formed on the backs of slaves, objectified human beings that are “collected” through various Roman conquests. The ancient Roman society is also extremely stratified and confines people to the status of their birth and treat them accordingly. Having that said, this is the impression that I have gained from watching Starz’s Spartacus (television series), which, by the way, despite the gore and the excessive sex, has a brilliant story line and intriguing, dynamic characters that develop in unexpected ways. If you like Game of Thrones and all its glory and sensationalism, I strongly recommend this show.
These are my thoughts on how the court cards can manifest as villains–I know I didn’t really talk about the specific courts like pages or kings, but elementally speaking, these are the traits and attitudes that I think are attached to each tarot suit when it comes to villains. What do you think?