The Emperor's Tarot (also called the Imperial Tarot) is a pack of 78 psychoactive liquid-crystal wafers that are linked to the psyche of the Emperor of Mankind in the Warp. 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. The cards are laid upside down and then turned. 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. 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. 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.
Known cards of the Emperor's Tarot include:
- High Priest
- Emperor / The God-Emperor*
- Harlequin (of Discordia)
- Inquisitor (of Mandatio)
- Assassin (of Adeptio)
- Space Marine
- Daemon (Major Arcana)
- Hulk (Major Arcana)
- Warped Renegade (of Discordia)
- Galaxy (Major Arcana)
- Star (Major Arcana)
- Knight (of Mandatio)
- Emperor's Throne
- Eye of Horus
- Great Hoste
- Shattered World
- Galactic Lens
- The Great Eye*
- The Despoiler*
- Some of the better known cards listed above are further described in their own sections below.
- 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.
- Inquisition War (Novel), Ian Watson
- The Last Chancers (Novel), by Gav Thrope
- Space Wolf (Novel Series)
- Cadian Blood (Novel), by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Rynn's World (Novel) by Steve Parker