Scary Tarot

Scary Tarot: The Card That Spills the Tea

The Five of Cups serves up a steaming-hot cup of acceptance

Sasha Duncan
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readAug 22, 2019
Photo of the author’s tarot. Deck: The Fountain Tarot

InIn the 15th century, a deck of cards called tarocchi emerged in Northern Italy, the very same region my ancestors descended from. This cosmic coincidence didn’t occur to me when I got my first download in Tarot knowledge at age nine, from a Romani-descended family friend — I was simply focused on learning a new card game, one with much higher stakes than Hearts or Crazy Eights.

Of course, tarocchi — or as it’s now called, the Tarot — isn’t an idle game. The cards help us gaze into our futures and selves. Whether they were introduced to the Italians by Romani (as they were similarly introduced to me) or evolved from Islamic or Kabbalist roots, no one knows. Regardless of their true origin, they remain a favorite divinatory tool of seers, mystics, and witches around the world.

In my two decades learning, researching, and performing readings with the Tarot, I’ve come to identify a subset of the cards as the “Scary Tarot.” Eight cards whose presence tends to provoke a visceral, negative reaction in those I’m reading for, and sometimes even in myself. But with witches waking and paradigms shifting, it’s time to unpack, redefine, and celebrate all facets of the cards — and ourselves. Even the “scary” bits.

This week, as summer slouches into autumn, we examine the Five of Cups.

Illustration: Lisa Sterle | Modern Witch Tarot

A sullen figure moodily gazes downward at three overturned cups, so distracted by their disappointment that they do not see the two perfectly full, upright cups right behind them.

They don’t want to.

If obsessing over what’s going, gone, or even considering stepping out the door were an endorsable LinkedIn skill, I’d have expert status and the job offers would be rolling in.

Unfortunately, it’s not — it’s just the specific brand of neurosis I combat.


And with gusto.



Sasha Duncan
Human Parts

Offering wisdom and ramblings from my own stumbles, bumbles, fumbles and grumbles