Learning the Tarot of Escaflowne - Anime Jinsei

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Learning the Tarot of Escaflowne

"They're tarot cards. They can tell you your fortune." 

-Hitomi Kanzaki 


hitomi kanzaki's tarot deck

The true origins of tarot cards remain a mystery. According to popular belief, it was invented by Egyptians. Others say it was the gypsies or even the Knights Templar. At any rate, the cards found their way to Europe by the mid-1400s where wealthy families like the Visconti and Sforza clans of Milan had personal decks designed for them. 

Several formats of the deck exist, but all are composed of 78 cards divided into the 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are the cards that appear at the titles sequence of Escaflowne, like "The Tower" from Fateful Confession (Episode 1) and "The Lovers" in Eternal Love (Episode 26). 
escaflowne la torre tower tarot card

The Minor Arcana are composed of four court cards — king, queen, knight and page — as well as 10 numbered cards in  each of the four suit: swords, cups, staves and pentacles. These suits represent rational and strategic thinking, emotions, creativity and material concerns respectively. 

The Minor Arcana actually is the origin of the ordinary deck of playing cards with the knight and page combined into the jack and the suits transformed into spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds. Incidentally, Star Wars fans will also notice that Han Solo's favorite gambling game of sabacc is a complete rip-off of the tarot. 

Selecting a Deck 

Hitomi's deck in Yuzuru Yashiro's shoujo manga version is identical to the modern tarot set, with the crest of Fanelia on the reverse. It was apparently a memento given to her by her grandmother. The deck designed by Kimitoshi Yamane for the series, however, differs slightly from the modern format popularized by the Rider-Waite set

hitomi kanzaki tarot cards

The Major Arcana still follows that of the ordinary decks, but the Minor Arcana suits are patterned after the Merlin Tarot, where the swords correspond to birds, the staves to serpents, the cups to fishes, and the beasts to pentacles. Plus, the design on the back was changed to a gold pentacle on a blue background. Hitomi's grandmother had bought this particular deck in Yokohama and presented it to Hitomi as a young girl. 

Some say that a good reading can be made using only 22 Major Arcana cards, but most think that using all 78 cards gives a more complete picture. The more traditional practitioners of the tarot always turn reversed cards upright and interpret them as such. 

More recently, however, reversed cards have acquired a meaning of their own, usually the opposite of the original interpretation. Hitomi prefers to follow the latter school of thought, but the choice lies with the reader. 

Ask a Question 

The first step in doing a reading is to ask the question. The cards are then shuffled either by the reader or the questioner and laid out into a pattern or "spread". There are several choices of spreads open to the reader. 

Meanings from Tarot Cards and their Positions 

The simplest is the three-card tarot spread, with the cards representing past, present and future. 

The slightly more complex "horseshoe" has seven cards laid out in a V-formation, with the fourth card in the middle and three cards on either side of it. 

The first three cards are past, present and the immediate future. The fifth card represents environmental influences, the sixth shows the obstacles facing the questioner and the last card is the final outcome. The middle fourth card indicates the best course of action for the person to take; whether or not this advice is followed is indicated in cards three and seven. Others include the yin-yang spread and the 12-card astrological spread. 

hitomi kanzaki tarot card reading

Hitomi's favorite is the popular 10-card Celtic Cross. Card 1 shows present circumstances, 2 the opposing factors. Note that the second card is always interpreted using its upright meaning, since it is neither upright nor reversed, but rather "crosses" the questioner. Card 3 is the distant past, fourth the recent past, fifth the person's goals and sixth is the immediate future. The seventh card represents the questioner's personality, eight the environmental factors, nine the person's hopes (fear is reversed), and ten the final outcome. 

A good interpretation takes note of how the different factors influence the result. 

Now for an example, taken right from a reading Hitomi did in the series. 

In The Blue-Eyed Prince (Episode 12), Allen Schezar requested her to do a reading on Miguel Lavariel, the Zaibach soldier they had captured. Using the Celtic Cross, these were the cards she got: 1 - three of birds, 2 - five of beasts, 3 - three of serpents reversed, 4 - Warrior of Dragons, 5 - The World, 6 - Death, 7 - blank card. 

escaflowne hitomi kanzaki the world tarot card

According to her, these meant that "a great power is guiding everything towards an end". In particular, she interpreted the first two cards as "Danger, Conflict", the three of serpents as "Tension", and the Warrior of Dragons/Serpents as representing Van. She's pretty accurate. Distant past — the World — can mean the harmony of the Gaea then. 

The recent past and present circumstances indicate the turmoil brewing, while the 3rd card — aspirations — show that someone is stirring things up. On top of all that, Van was partially responsible for everything that was happening (but this wasn't mentioned by Kanzaki-san). 

escaflowne hitomi kanzaki death la morte tarot card

All these led to the immediate future, Death, a sudden and irreversible change in circumstances. This was borne out by the series, which showed that Van and the Escaflowne, along with Hitomi, were the only ones who could stop Zaibach Emperor Dornkirk's ambition of recasting the future in his image. 

When she got to card 7 - representing the Dragonslayer Miguel - she got a blank; sure enough, the guy had broken out of his prison cell and was slugging his way towards his guymelef. Sadly for this exercise, she never got to finish her reading; Hitomi and the gang were arrested in mid-reading after being implicated  but the doppelganger agent Zongi. 

Practice Reading Tarot Cards 

With a little practice, tarot cards are fairly easy to master. The most difficult parts are memorizing the interpretation. The best way to learn is really by doing as many readings as you can. Heck, there are a lot of potential volunteers out there, so that's no problem, ne? 

Another reason to take up fortune-telling as a hobby — the cards are collectible. There are literally dozens of different decks, ranging from the traditional Rider-Waite set, the genuine Merlin tarot, and even a Lord of the Rings tarot set/card game, all with different art designs to suit your taste. 

If you still can't let go of your anime obsessions, not to worry. There are actually cool anime tarot decks out there, ranging from Escaflowne the series, Escaflowne the Movie, Sailor Moon and Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Keep them around just in case you encounter a pillar of light and get transported to Gaea — they'll come in real handy. 


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