The Tarot, commonly believed to have been designed by the Emperor Himself before the Horus Heresy, is used throughout the Imperium as a form of divination.
Imperial Tarot Readings
To read the Tarot, the cards are first laid upside down and then turned, one at a time. As they are turned they are read and interpreted by the reader. The second and fourth cards drawn are signifiers, bringing clarity to the ones preceding them.
While universally constituted of 78 cards, the Tarot will not be exactly the same in the Calixis Sector as it is in the Sector Solar. While some variants such as the Wolarii Deck, the Bone Cards of the Three Priests of Exorandis or the Solar Deck are fairly common, other regions of the Imperium have developed their own, unique variants of the Imperial Tarot.
The Emperor's Tarot is believed to be one of the few ways remaining for the Emperor to directly communicate with Mankind and is held by the Ecclesiarchy and the devout of the Imperial Cult to be a sacred tool used by Him to warn of impending dangers now that He is in his Ascended state (i.e. interred within the Golden Throne).
The Emperor's Tarot can only provide a truly precognitive reading if it is used by an individual who is a trained psyker, and even these powerful individuals usually chose to work in small groups or at least in pairs when drawing the cards.
A non-psychic individual who uses the cards will only produce a random reading with no more deliberate predictive value than the original deck of Tarot cards from Old Earth.
To further complicate the readings, the cards themselves react to the psyche of their reader and may show some permanent or temporary variation of their primary design when drawn, including an object appearing or vanishing in one figure's hand, the posture of a figure dramatically changing or a shadow appearing where usually there would be none.
These unexpected changes can add a further layer of interpretation to any individual Tarot reading.
Known cards of the Emperor's Tarot include:
- The High Priest
- The Emperor / The God-Emperor
- The Harlequin (of Discordia)
- The Inquisitor (of Mandatio)
- The Assassin (of Adeptio)
- The Space Marine
- The Squat
- The Daemon (Major Arcana)
- The Hulk (Major Arcana)
- The Warped Renegade (of Discordia)
- The Galaxy (Major Arcana)
- The Star (Major Arcana)
- The Knight (of Mandatio)
- The Sword
- The Emperor's Throne
- The Eye of Horus
- The Great Hoste
- The Shattered World
- The Galactic Lens
- The Great Eye
- The Despoiler
- Guilliman's Wrath
- The Blind Seer
- The Extinguished Star
- The Nova
- The Lords of Terra
- The Young Warrior
- The Dishonoured Scion
- The Fortress of Faith
- The Silver Door
- The Crone
- The Pilgrim
- The Lightning Tower
- The Ragged Fool
- The Executioner
- The Candle
- The Supplicant
- The Lord of Swords
- A human body, brown with age and blackened in death, sits locked within a great throne of gold, steel and brass. The corpse's mouth is open, projecting a silent scream that echoes through the unseen layers of the universe. Before the howling cadaver, a legion of angels kneels, crying violet tears.
- When drawn from the deck, this card speaks of Warp travel, of discovery, of hope in the cold depths of space.
- Inversed, when drawn upside down, it foretells of the Warp's malign touch infecting the servants of the Imperium. A hopeless war. Death from the far reaches of space.
The Great Eye
- An eye. The Eye. A wound in reality, an open scar in space where the bruise-purple and blood-red eye of Chaos leers into the galaxy. The stars die around the Eye: some fading into cold blackness, others bursting in white hot torment. The Eye stares dully, little emotion beyond distant hate. But the nebula flares, tendrils spreading across space. The Eye has opened.
- To draw this card it to foretell of war against the Forces of Chaos as the Eye is often interpreted to be the Eye of Horus, the Warmaster who betrayed the Emperor and unleashed the terrible Horus Heresy upon the galaxy.
- The galaxy burns. A figure stands in ancient Power Armour, wreathed in a billion screaming souls that encircle him like mist. In its right gauntlet, Holy Terra blackens and crumbles. A demigod's blood drips from the talons. In the dim reaches of the vision, almost an afterthought, a distant howling light fades into darkness and silence. The figure smiles for the first time in ten thousand years.
- When drawn, the Despoiler card is the bane of life, the truest indicator of coming loss and unavoidable bloodshed for the Imperium of Man, usually at the hands of Chaos.
- Inversed, the card represents a rival for the Despoiler. Someone destined to stand against the machinations of Abaddon the Despoiler, the Archenemy of Mankind, and those of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos.
Some Interpretations of the Tarot
The combination of the Eye of Horus with the Great Hoste, the Shattered World above the Emperor's Throne reversed, and the Galactic Lens reversed is known to be a very bad portent. It signifies the gathering of the powers of Chaos and the death of many worlds, usually a warning of another Black Crusade from the Eye of Terror or a similarly devastating campaign by the Imperium's many enemies. An inverted Fortress of Faith is also a sign of death and destruction and therefore a portent of doom.
The Lightning Tower below the inverted trio of the Crone, the High Priest and the Pilgrim signifies a difficult journey lies ahead. If the Silver Door is drawn atop this combination, this signifies that the coming journey may be one from which there will be no coming back. This reading is generally considered to be a cautionary warning of great danger and not an absolute prediction of death to come.
- Baneblade (Novel) by Guy Haley, pp. 205-207
- Cadian Blood (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Inquisition War (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Resurrection (Novel) by John French, pg. 216
- Incarnation (Novel) by John French, pp. 51-62
- Rynn's World (Novel) by Steve Parker
- Space Wolf (Novel) by William King
- The Last Chancers (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- The Horusian Wars: Divination (Anthology) by John French (Cover)