Collage by Cathryn Virginia | Tarot Cards by Jennifer May Reiland, Photos by Tim Graham and blackred via Getty Images
Where were you when Princess Diana died? I was on vacation with my mom, the same weekend I got my first astrology book. I write horoscopes now, so the significance of that time for me is twofold. Back then, I wasn’t familiar with Diana’s story beyond the newspaper headlines. But, after her death, just as I’ve consumed every bit of astrology content I could get my hands on, I’ve found myself drawn to each book and documentary about Diana that came my way. Diana’s heartbreaking personal life and her compassion and commitment to humanity inspires so many of us, and, for many people, she has become a spiritual figure—if that describes you, Jennifer May Reiland’s new tarot deck, The Diana Tarot, may be exactly what you’re looking for.
When I think back to the summer Diana died, New England blues and grays appear in my mind, and these are the first colors I noticed in Reiland’s new deck. The Diana Tarot is a deck in the fashion of the classic Rider Waite Smith Tarot: 78 cards, made up of 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana divided into four suits. Each watercolor card is a window into Diana’s life: The Hermit shows Diana sitting on a diving board while casting a look over her shoulder, the one that actresses try to emulate when they play her on film. Diana happily holds a baby in her arms on The Sun, and the 5 of Swords shows Reiland’s imagining of a frustrated Diana, waving a vase in the air as Prince Charles walks away from their home to go hunting. Betrayal is portrayed in the 8 of Cups, where Diana is seen outside of a window while Prince Charles and Camila embrace, and Diana’s struggle with bulimia appears on The Devil. Because each zodiac sign is traditionally associated with a card in the tarot, I thought it would be interesting to ask Reiland about the tarot cards that align with Diana’s sun, moon, and rising. According to astro.com’s Astro Databank, Diana’s sun is in Cancer, and she has an Aquarius moon and Sagittarius rising.
Cancer is associated with The Chariot, giving the sweet, sensitive sign its credit as a force to be reckoned with. Chariots are vehicles of war, symbols of mobility and strength, and in the tarot, of tenacity and achievement. Diana’s loving heart and courage are typical of the nurturing water sign Cancer, and her determination and will to thrive after all she endured in her marriage and in the spotlight are symbolic of The Chariot. Cancer, the crab, had a hard outer shell, and chariots too are symbolic of cover in the face of danger: They are vehicles through battle. In The Diana Tarot, Reiland illustrated The Chariot with a scene from Diana’s life where, during a joint interview on television, a journalist comments on their being in love, and Prince Charles replies, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” There’s a moment after he speaks when Diana laughs nervously, but like the crab or The Chariot, she guards herself, remaining cool for the camera. As Reiland and I discussed this scene, she explained: “They did [this interview] when they first got engaged where she was all openness, heart, kind of typical Cancer—caring, nurturing. And he came off very differently. So for me, this sort of also describes the Cancer’s public versus private persona, with a soft interior that’s more emotional and a public version that's much tougher. So this interview was this moment where you saw the inside.”
In Andrew Morton’s biography, Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words, Diana says, "I always felt very different from everyone else, very detached. I knew I was going somewhere different but had no idea where. I said to my father when I was aged 13, ‘I know I’m going to marry someone in the public eye,’ thinking more of being an ambassador’s wife—not the top one, very much so.” Aquarius, Diana’s moon, is associated with The Star card, the card of hopes and dreams, and is symbolic of the sense of greatness, of “difference,” Diana foresaw in her life. Aquarius, of course, is also concerned with the progress of humanity: Diana is famously known for her commitment to humanitarian causes, and she used her time in the spotlight—the different and great reach she had as a public figure—to do good in the world. Fittingly, Reiland’s The Star features Diana walking in a live minefield in Angola in an effort to raise awareness on banning landmines, an action which Reiland describes as “a very iconic moment [that] made people see her in a totally different light.”Astrologers like to describe the sun, moon, and rising (also called the ascendant, like this: The rising is the first impression we give off, the sun radiates a large part of our personality, then, finally after we get to know someone, we reveal the moon. With Diana, this seems to be true: We saw her as a caring nursery school teacher’s assistant, then bride, then mother, as typified by the Cancer sun archetype. Then, after she settled into the public eye and took on royal responsibilities, her humanitarianism was revealed, as symbolized by her Aquarius moon. Before any of that, what were the public’s first impressions? Her Sagittarius rising: educated, courtly, and generating a lot of buzz. The ascendant, or rising, symbolizes a surface part of ourselves, and throughout her life, Diana was photographed in sporty Sagittarius-style college sweaters and biker shorts, or pushing the envelope—Sagittarius is all about pushing the envelope—in dresses rarely seen at royal events. In true fun-loving, Sagittarius style, she hopped on stage at the Royal Opera House with Billy Joel, surprising everyone in the crowd. In the tarot, Sagittarius is associated with the Temperance card, which in Reiland’s deck shows Diana working out. The mood is upbeat, dynamic, and creative, but its deeper meaning in The Diana Tarot is not one that we associate with the beginning of Diana’s journey in the public eye, but rather a lifelong process. Temperance in the tarot is a symbol of alchemy, and in Reiland’s words, this card shows Diana’s “journey to body acceptance and self-acceptance.”Another notable card in The Diana Tarot, of course, is the Death card. The Death card is one of the most charged in the tarot, and it’s commonly explained as an omen of transformation by tarot practitioners; however, death is not just a metaphor in real life, and this fact cannot be ignored in the Diana Tarot. When I asked how she approached The Death card, Reiland shared, “I don't know how much it's reflected in this deck, but in my larger artworks, my art practice, I'm really inspired by medieval art. We're not used to dealing with death, in this world, [but] medieval art has a very frank but beautiful relationship with death. Because Diana died in Paris, I was inspired to use a background of gothic architecture, to put her in a context of medieval art.” Reiland continued to explain that the pose Diana is in on The Death card was inspired by the pose Fra Angelico painted Christ in the Deposition from the Cross, a painting of the Deposition of Christ, where Christ was taken down from the cross after having been crucified—a common theme in medieval art. August 31, 2022, is the 25th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Diana’s life and death left a spiritual impact on many of us. Since her death, Diana has often been elevated to a goddess-like status, but she was a real person with real pain, children, hopes, and struggles. The Diana Tarot seems to tap into the mundane, the unique, the terrible, and often extraordinary aspects of both her daily life and celebrity, making this a beautiful addition to your tarot collection if you feel inspired by or connected to Princess Di.