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The MCU is Getting a Tarot Reading Character and I’m Conflicted

Will this show make me want to 10 of Cups, or 3 of Swords?

Agatha Harkness floats above the street in Westview, wearing an evil smile.

More details have come out about the upcoming Marvel series Agatha: Coven of Chaos, thanks to Patti LuPone’s recent interview with The View. In the interview, LuPone revealed that she’ll be playing a 450-year-old Sicilian witch named Lilia Calderu.

In the interview, she also mentioned that Lilia’s “power is divination,” and her “trial is tarot.” That makes perfect sense, for a witch—but as a professional tarot reader myself, I have mixed feelings.

Let me start by saying that it’s not clear how prominently tarot will feature in Agatha: Coven of Chaos. By “her trial is tarot,” LuPone might mean that we get a two-second reference to something that happened long ago. On the other hand, tarot could be a major plot point in the series. They haven’t even finished filming yet, so who knows?

The reason I feel ambivalent, though, is because divination practices like tarot are so often sensationalized and ridiculed in film and TV. Think, for instance, of the psychic Tish in Ted Lasso. Even though Tish’s predictions are coming true, she’s portrayed as an exorbitantly expensive kook, and Rebecca ends the scene by calling her dangerous and storming out. Then there’s the fortune telling professor in Harry Potter (which, of course, has no end of problematic characters), who’s widely regarded as an utter charlatan, and only makes real predictions when she’s not aware of it.

In real life, though, a reading by a skilled tarotist can be a beautiful, meaningful experience. The client starts by telling the reader what’s on their mind. The reader might work with the client to come up with a useful question to ask the cards, and then lays some out. Together, the client and reader look at the story the cards are revealing, and figure out how that story answers the client’s question. The process—at least, when I do it—usually isn’t so much a matter of cut-and-dry predictions, but of empowerment. What do you need to know about a situation? What factors haven’t you noticed yet? How can you take control of what’s within your power to change?

Of course, all that changes in a universe in which witchcraft means shooting energy bolts from your fingers. And that’s okay! I definitely don’t mind if Marvel jazzes up the art of tarot with some VFX. I’m already wondering which deck Lilia might use. The classic Marseille Tarot from the 15th century? The Thoth or Smith-Waite, for a more modern flair? Or maybe she actually uses the lesser-known Lenormand cards, or even playing cards! I love identifying decks I spot on the screen. Sometimes I can even pinpoint which edition of a deck someone is using, based on the designs on the back of the cards. It’s fun!

Plus, Marvel has actually handled tarot pretty well in some of its recent comics. In Defenders and Defenders Beyond, both written by Al Ewing and drawn by Javier Rodriguez, the story starts when a character draws cards from a modified Smith-Waite deck that reveal the members of their impending team-up. In both series, it’s clear that Ewing is actually familiar with each card’s meaning, and that familiarity adds authenticity to the story that you can’t get otherwise.

So, my one request to Marvel Studios is this: please don’t make tarot out to be ridiculous. Please don’t use it as a negative character trait. Take some time to research the cards. Hire a consultant if you need to. Divinatory tarot is a rich practice going back generations, and depicting it as such will make Agatha: Coven of Chaos so much better.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at