The Chimerist

Beautiful (but not poetic) Tarot


Beautiful Tarot is an app I delete periodically, by turns out of superstition and rationality, and then restore out of curiosity. I’m told I broke the rules and thus cursed myself by buying my own deck, if indeed this iPad edition even counts as a deck, but that’s okay because I was taught as a child that using the Tarot at all invites demon possession and curses you and your family for seven generations, so I’ll take my chances.

My desire to know the future — however metaphorically, however falsely — trumps both reason and anxiety. And this app is gorgeous to look at, much prettier under glass. It’s also fun to play with.


For cards you can use the full Rider-Waite deck, or the major arcana of the Tarot de Marseilles (above) or the Le Gringonneur. As “paths to understanding” go, you have the option of the Celtic Cross and several others.

Once you’ve chosen, the app shuffles for you and (key for a relative Tarot novice like me) shows you where to put each card and what it will signify (“The Present,” “The Querent,” “What Will Come”) when you flip it over. As you lay the cards out, you can rifle through the deck to select exactly the one you want. 

Interpretation-wise, this is not the complex and nuanced tarot of  Yeats, Eliot, or Kafka; the descriptions, “adapted from Wikipedia and the public-domain work A Pictorial Key to the Tarot,” are awkward and often opaquely archaic.  

I suppose for $2.99 in the Apple Store it’s not fair to expect the poetry and insights of Alexander Chee (aka Rebellitor) or Elizabeth Bachner. One cool thing about the tablet era, though, is that all a good writer with a passion for and knowledge of the Tarot needs is a willing developer. Cryptogram, Beautiful Tarot’s creator, has the skills; maybe they could get together, rope in a designer or take inspiration from the Kimono pattern people, and make a whole new deck…

Anyway, I can dream. 


  • Tags
  • Alexander Chee
  • Art
  • Beautiful Tarot
  • Cryptogram
  • Design
  • Elizabeth Bachner
  • Kimono Patterns
  • Maud Newton
  • Superstition
  • iPad
  • The Chimerist
  • Feb 9th, 2012
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