Modern Tarot & Pop Culture
The Rider-Waite-Smith deck has appeared in many mediums of modern culture. If you’re an old hippie and you went to see the musical Hair in 1968, you might have been lucky enough to be given a ‘Lovers’ Tarot card souvenir by the cast during, or after the show.
If you’re an old rocker, you may remember the legendary appearance of The Hermit on the inner sleeve of a Led Zeppelin album. Jimmy Page was one of the first commercially successful artists to champion the imagery of the Waite-Smith Tarot and the band used this same image in the musical odyssey they created, called ‘The Song Remains the Same’. In this concert-film, Jimmy Page is filmed climbing up the face of a snow-capped mountain. This part of the film showed Page on a quest for enlightenment, where he sought The Hermit for guidance.
Another famous film depicting the RWS cards is the James Bond film, Live and Let Die (1973). In this movie, a fortune teller called Solitaire helps her crime boss keep ahead of the law through her predictions with a custom deck designed by Fergus Hall. This deck is based on the RWS deck and the original pack appears in the film alongside the 007 version. Tarot played a central role in the film’s imagery and plot development.
In a visually stunning manner, the RWS deck also appears in the video for Roseanne Cash’s song ‘The Wheel’ (Sony BMG, 1993). There are live-action versions of many Minor Arcana cards from the RWS deck. It’s beautiful!
In 1998 the characters from the Major Arcana appeared in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. The episode is in the form of a musical called ‘The Bitter Suite’, and Xena appears as the High Priestess and also as Death.
The Major Arcana had animation treatment and was used as the backdrop for Madonna’s song ‘Hollywood’ during her Re-Invention stage tour (2004). Check out this video clip that shows the RWS imagery coming to life.
More recently, Vance Joy’s mega-hit ‘Riptide’ features The Fool, 8 of Swords, The Moon, and The Hanged Man. These cards are placed into a sequential spread about half way through the music video.
Tarot has been used in many television episodes (even The Simpsons) but they are not often the RWS version. If you think of any other movies, music videos or TV shows that feature the Waite-Smith cards, please let me know!