Classification: Magic item

Creator: Ashake with aid from Agamotto, Amun, Huahet, Keku, Nu, Oshtur

Possessors: Ashake, Dr. Stephen Strange, Ian McNee;
the Ancient One (Yao); Balkis, the Queen of Sheba; Caius of LacedaemonZhang JiaoMerlin; King Solomon; the mystic Triumvirate (see comments);
    possibly the Demon Rider (Kushala) and Nina the Conjuror

First Appearance: Secret Defenders#1 (March, 1993)

Powers/Abilities/Functions: The First Tarot is a powerful scrying item, capable of revealing information about the past, present and future to an individual who can properly read the images. Eternal and ever-changing, it appears differently to all those who use it. 

    Linked via enchantments to every living thing on Earth, the First Tarot chooses from amongst all those possibilities the single best representative for each card's archetype. 

    Ashake used the cards primarily for foresight/precognition/prophecy.

    Dr. Strange used it to help him subconsciously choose the ideal Secret Defenders team members for any given mission.

    When Ian McNee consulted the Tarot, the deck seemed to communicate with him. If the being depicted on the card is someone he had met, he knew who it was even before turning over the card. If he had heard or read about the person, the Tarot would trigger certain important memories of his that would help him figure it out. If he had no idea whatsoever who the person was, the deck would give him a few flashes of insight: A song, a color, or a smell. To get more clues, Ian would carefully study the details of the card and then begin reading anything that seemed even remotely related to the clues. This process might take weeks, but eventually, he'd come across an obscure detail in anything from an ancient tome to Entertainment Weekly, and he would get additional flashes, letting him know he was on the right track. The more he learned, the more the Tarot told him.

    The Tarot cards could actually communicate directly with McNee, although whether the beings represented by the cards did the communication or whether the cards did it based on the knowledge/abilities/personality of the archetype is unrevealed. 

    Discussion of the individual cards/archetype's significance is covered under the individual cards as they are referenced in the history.



(Mystic Arcana#1/2 (fb) - BTS) - As foresight/precognition was not her specialty, Ashake created the First Tarot (although she didn't call it that), painting images on flat cards made of bone, which helped her understand the influences/patterns that shaped their lives.

    By observing and recording certain archetypal individuals, Ashake created a set of images that became the Major Arcana cards of the First Tarot.

(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - Although the Tarot archetypes existed as living individuals before Atlantis, this deck was the first instance of those archetypes being recorded and structured in such a way that the patterns they produced could be observed, as the patterns of the Seas or the Seasons, to give clues about the future.

(Mystic Arcana#1/2 (fb) - BTS) - Amongst the forces/powers she accessed via the Tarot were Nu, of the primordial waters; Amun, who rules air and the invisible; Hauhet, whose influence was space and visible matters; and Keku, whose domain was darkness and chaos.

(Supplemental information from writer David Sexton) - Agamotto and Oshtur guided Ashake in creating the First Tarot (aka the Tarot of Marvels) with the goal of reflecting the mystical nature of the universe. Agamotto used the spell that tapped into the four Cornerstones of Creation to manifest the Tarot.



(New Mutants I#32 - BTS / Mystic Arcana#1/2 - BTS) <11th century BC> - Via the newly-created First Tarot, Ashake sensed Heka-Nut's efforts to ensnare Illyana Rasputin (and Dani Moonstar). Learning of their natures via the Tarot, Ashake mystically intercepted them and brought them to her home. Ashake's sorcery (drawing on the power of Ma'at/Oshtur) also taught her their language.


(Mystic Arcana#1/2) - As Dani slept, Ashake used the First Tarot to try to see the future. As Ashake explained the cards, Illyana noted that they resembled the Tarot cards used in her time; Ashake commented that while the cards reflected the future era, like the movement in star and tides, they continued to reveal the patterns of their lives. Ashake further noted that she needed the cards to learn about Illyana, whose mind was closed to her.


    Ashake further explained how swords marked Illyana as one loyal to Ashake's patroness, Ma'at (another name for Oshtur), grey goddess of balance and order, and that Illyana ruled, though her kingdom was barren (aptly describing the limbo realm Otherplace). She continued that Illyana had learned hard lessons in her short life and that she believed she could only trust herself and that her past would only destroy her future if she would have it thusly.

(Supplemental information from writer David Sexton) - Both eternal and ever changing, following Ashake's travel into the modern era, the Tarot has been passed from Sorcerer Supreme to Sorcerer Supreme (see comments). 


(Secret Defenders#1 (fb) - BTS / Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - As his powers waned following severing ties with the mystic principalities whom he had long invoked for power, Dr. Stephen Strange resolved to enlist fellow heroes into his service, using the legendary First Tarot deck to predict threats and to select members to confront each crisis.

(Fantastic Four I#374 (fb) - BTS) - As Strange made a house of cards with the First Tarot deck, Strange sensed that Spider-Man (Peter Parker) would be coming to seek his aid to help convince the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) to surrender to authorities after inadvertently setting fire to Empire State University.

(Fantastic Four I#374) - After Spider-Man’s arrival, Dr. Strange placed the Death/doom card, which caused the house of cards to collapse. Strange noted that this indicated that the Human Torch's current woes have far greater cosmic scope than was readily apparent. '

     At Spider-Man's behest, Dr. Strange gathered Ghost Rider (Dan Ketch/Noble Kale), the Hulk (Bruce Banner), and Wolverine (James Howlett/Logan), all three of whom had previously served with Spider-Man as members of a substitute Fantastic Four) to help him confront the Human Torch (Johnny Storm). This led to a confrontation with the Torch and his Fantastic Four teammates (Invisible Woman/Sue Richards, Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards, Thing/Ben Grimm), during which Wolverine badly wounded the Thing's face with his claws.

(Secret Defenders#1) - A tarot reading led Dr. Strange to choose Darkhawk (Chris Powell), Nomad (Jack Munroe), Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), and Wolverine (James Howlett/Logan) to confront the threat of Zusommin, an extradimensional (Zusom) viral swarm that had possessed and empowered a number of agents to facilitate its goal of feeding on humanity.

first_tarot-secdef4-cards(Secret Defenders#4 (fb) - BTS) - Via the Orb of Agamotto, Dr. Strange learned of a series of grisly murders in the south-central USA (perpetrated by Roadkill). Using the First Tarot, Strange's unconscious mind determined that Namorita, the Punisher (Frank Castle), and Sleepwalker/Rich Sheridan would be ideal to oppose this threat.

(Secret Defenders#4 - BTS) - Strange gathered Namorita, Punisher, and Sleepwalker, and he then explained the threat, showing him the Tarot he used to select them.

(Secret Defenders#4 - BTS) - Sleepwalker initially refused to work with them, but Strange took the others to investigate.

(Secret Defenders#5 - BTS) - Sleepwalker joined the others in ultimately stopping Roadkill.

(Secret Defenders#6 (fb) - BTS) - Learning of a threat involving Xandu, Strange used the Tarot to select Ghost Rider (Dan Ketch/Noble Kale), Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff), Spider-Man (Peter Parker). Strange's own card was inverted, indicating folly or a wrong choice.

(Secret Defenders#6 (fb) - BTS) - Dr. Strange gathered Scarlet Witch and Spider-Man, but he was unable to reach Ghost Rider, who was apparently occupied with "Midnight Sons" business.

(Secret Defenders#6 (fb) - BTS) - Dr. Strange, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man encountered Captain America (Steve Rogers), and while the latter two were eager to recruit Captain America to aid them and/or replace Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange advised against this, as he had not been selected via the Tarot cards.

(Secret Defenders#15) - Via a tarot reading, Dr. Strange identified the threat of Malachi, who sought the Moebius Stone to resurrect her lover, Korahn. He further identified Luke Cage and Deadpool (Jack/"Wade Wilson") as the heroes needed to oppose this threat. Lacking the time to continue to deal with such missions in his condition (having been nearly slain by Salome' and trapped in his extradimensional Forge Canal), Strange decided he needed to choose a replacement, and he -- presumably aided by the tarot cards -- chose Dr. Anthony Druid.


(Secret Defenders#15) - A subsequent tarot reading showed Druid as the Fool.

(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - Ian McNee inherited the First Tarot from Dr. Strange.

(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - Ian McNee consulted every scroll, book, or stone tablet about the First Tarot.

(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - Ian found that the Tarot communicated with him during readings and helped him identify beings he did not recognize.


(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) <June 21> - A reading of the First Tarot led Ian to the conclusion that the nature of magic was broken.

(Mystic Arcana#1 - BTS) - Posing as Oshtur, Chthon appeared before Ian McNee at dusk and instructed him to gather the Cornerstones of Creation to restore the ancient sorcerer Heka-Nut in order to save the Mystic Realms, which had been badly damaged by the War of the Seven Spheres.

(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - Ian checked the First Tarot a dozen times, but repeatedly found the face on the Fool card to be blank, and he did not receive any flashes of insight to help his discovery. At that point, Ian was unable to remember the Fool ever having a face. Nowhere in his research into the First Tarot had he come across anything like this.

    Ian put together his
Catalogue of Correspondences.

(Marvel Tarot#1 (fb) - BTS) - Ian repeatedly (at least 10 times) performed a reading of the First Tarot...


     Nine times out of ten, the Magician card was Dr. Strange...
...but one out of ten times, the Magician card was Ian McNee.
    The Priestess card (linked to Oshtur) featured Agatha HarknessWanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch), and Ororo Munroe (aka Storm), each one out of three times.

Ian further noted that the Magician in the Tarot was always shown at the center of a crossroads, trying to determine which direction he should travel

   Ten out of ten times, the Empress card (linked to Gaea) was Morgan Le Fay. Ian noted that he would need her aid to find the second item on his quest (the Ebon Rose).    The Hierophant card (aka Priest, linked to Chthon; symbolizing traditional values and associated with  bringing the spiritual down to Earth to create harmony) was consistently Modred the Mystic.The Emperor archetype was linked by ancient pacts to Set. Ian initially believed the scaled figure to be Naga, but as Naga was apparently dead, he rightly suspected the figure might represent Naga's great-great-great granddaughter, Nagala, although he had never known the Emperor card to choose a female subject.One out of two times, the Emperor card was drawn to Dr. Doom, who had at the time been venturing further into the sorceress legacy of his Gypsy mother, Cynthia von Doom.


   The Lovers card was consistently represented by Cloak (Tyrone Johnson) and Dagger (Tandy Bowen).    The Chariot card (indicating discipline and/or destruction) was consistently represented by Devil-Slayer (Eric Simon Payne).    The Strength card (symbolizing inner strength) was consistently represented by the Golem (although Ian initially mistook it for It the Living Colossus).    The Hermit card (which was partly about isolation) was consistently represented by N'Kantu, aka the Living Mummy.

Ian further noted that Cloak and Dagger were not romantically linked but that the Lovers card was about more than the physical manifestation of love.  He further speculated that the First Tarot's choosing them may indicate that they may have a mystical nature to them, bridging the gap between science and sorcery.

The Wheel of Fortune Card, built around the idea of a trio, showed Margali Szardos (past), Amanda Sefton (present), and Irene Adler (aka Destiny; future).The Justice card was represented by the Valkyrie (Brunnhilde) ... ...and Magik (Illyana Rasputin), each one out of every two readings.    The Hanged Man card (signifying willing sacrifice) was Brother Voodoo (Jericho and Daniel Drumm).

Ian further considered that the Justice card showing two alternating subjects was a sign that the deck was damaged, and he wondered if it was a bad sign that both subjects were both seemingly dead at the time.

The Death card (signifying transformation and major change) was represented by Nina Price (aka Vampire by Night).The Temperance card (signifying healing) was consistently represented by the sorceress Topaz.The Devil card (signifying one's darker side) was represented by Satana and ... ...Daimon Hellstromeach one out of every two readings.

The Tower card (signifying disaster and devastation) was consistently represented by Patsy WalkerThe Star card (signifying faith/hope) was consistently represented by Jennifer Kale.The Moon card (signifying dreams, intuition, and confusion) was represented by Sleepwalker and......Dream Weaver, each one out of every two readings.

The Sun card (signifying optimism) was consistently represented by Janus (aka the Golden Angel), the son of Dracula.The Judgement (signifying choice and/or judging or being judged) card was consistently represented by the Pale Horseman / Cadaver.The World card was consistently represented by the Man-Thing (Ted Sallis).
Per Ian McNee, the World card is about coming full circle: As the World ends one journey, the cycle begins again.

The Ace of Swords was represented by the Sword of Bone, created by the Elder Goddess OshturThe Ace of Cups was represented by the Serpent Crown, created by the Elder God SetThe Ace of Wands was represented by the Black Mirror, created (at least in part) by the Elder God ChthonThe Ace of Pentacles was represented by the Ebon Rose, created by the Elder Goddess Gaea

These last four items were the four Cornerstones of Creation.

(Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm#1/1 - BTS) - Ian McNee had a dream that he kept drawing cards from the First Tarot, but the deck was "stuck," and he only drew the Fool over and over again. first_tarot-mystic_arcana4-commune

(Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm#1/1) - Seeking answers in his mission to gather the Cornerstones of Creation, Ian drew three cards from the First Tarot: Justice (Magik), which/who called him a Fool and asked him to consider when Oshtur, Bright Lady of Dawn had appeared to him; the Empress (Morgan Le Fay), which/who asked if he had accepted his quest with a pure heart or if he was forced?; and the Emperor (Nagala), which/who told him that Set had not cast him into the Serpent's Sea and asked Ian who else had such power?

(Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm#1/3 (fb) - BTS) - After consideration of what he had learned from the Tarot, Ian realized that the Dark Mirror was not a literal mirror, but rather a reflection of Chthon's dark soul: The Darkhold. He further realized that the answers to the questions asked indicated that he was being duped by Chthon.

(Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm#1/3 (fb) - BTS) - Aided by Ashake, Morgan Le Fay, and Llyra, Ian McNee escaped Chthon's trap and thwarted his plot. 

Comments: Created by Roy Thomas, Andre Coates, and Don Hudson.

According to David Sexton (who wrote Marvel Tarot and Mystic Arcana):

    Following Ashake's encounter with Magik in the 11th century BC (1100-1000 BC), she was brought into the present and stayed their to help Ian McNee in his efforts to repair the fabric of magic. The First Tarot was then given by Agamotto to Sorcerer Supreme King Solomon, and it was subsequently passed on to Solomon's successors. 

    Solomon was succeeded by Balkis, the Queen of Sheba; the mystic Triumvirate; Caius of Lacedaemon; Zhang Jiao; Merlin; the Ancient One (Yao); (possibly the Demon Rider (Kushala) and Nina the Conjuror); and Dr. Strange, who passed it on to Ian McNee.

    In Marvel Tarot#1, Ian McNee notes that he has had the First Tarot for almost a decade. That's a topical reference, as the Tarot was published in 2007, and he received it sometime after Secret Defenders#15 (1994). However, due to the sliding timescale, which indicates that Fantastic Four I#1 took place less than 15 years ago (notably, Peter Parker was 15 when he became Spider-Man, he's still in his 20's), only a little over 2 years occurred Marvel Time between those issues. 

    Also, per David Sexton, the art of using cards for clairvoyance and precognition is known as cartomancy.

    This profile was completed 05/01/2021, but its publication was delayed as it was intended for the Appendix 20th anniversary 's celebratory event.

Profile by Snood, with technical assistant by Markus Raymond and clarifications/supplemental information by David Sexton.

The First Tarot should be distinguished from:

images: (without ads):
Secret Defenders#1, pg. 1, panel 1 (Ace of Wands);
            panel 2 (Devil);
            panel 3 (Death);
            panel 4 (Six of Wands);
            panel 5 (Hermit);
            panel 6 (Knight of Wands);
            panel 7 (Queen of Pentacles);
            panel 8 (Knight of Swords);
            panel 9 (Magician);
        pg. 2 (Dr. Strange with house of cards);
    #4, pg. 9, panel 3-5 (Strange with High Priestess, Justice, and Hermit cards);
    #15, pg. 1, panel 1 (High Priestess);
            panel 2 (Lovers);
            panel 3 (Death);
            panel 4 (Judgment);
            panel 5 (Strength);
            panel 6 (Hermit);
Fantastic Four I#374, pg. 2, panel 1 (Dr. Strange with house of cards);
Marvel Tarot, pg. 44, panel 1 (Ace of Swords);
            panel 2 (Ace of Cups);
            panel 3 (Ace of Wands);
            panel 4 (Ace of Pentacles);
        pg. 45, panel 1 (Fool);
            panel 4 (High Priestess - Scarlet Witch);
            panel 5 (High Priestess - Agatha Harkness);
            panel 6 (High Priestess - Storm);
            panel 7 (Empress - Morgan);
        pg. 46, panel 1 (Emperor - Naga);
            panel 2 (Emperor - Doom);
            panel 3 (Hierophant);
            panel 4 (Lovers);
            panel 5 (Chariots);
            panel 6 (Strength);
            panel 7 (Hermit)
        pg. 47, panel 1 (Wheel of Fortune);
            panel 2 (Justice-Valkyrie);
            panel 3 (Justice-Magik);
            panel 4 (Hanged Man);
            panel 5 (Death);
            panel 6 (Temperance);
            panel 7 (Devil);
        pg. 48, panel 1 (Devil - Hellstorm);
            panel 2 (Tower);
            panel 3 (Star);
            panel 4 (Moon-Dreamweaver);
            panel 5 (Moon-Sleepwalker);
            panel 6 (Sun);
            panel 7 (Judgement);
            panel 8 (World)
        inside back cover, panel 1 (Magician-Strange);
            panel 2 (Magician-McNee);

Secret Defenders#1 (March, 1993) - Roy Thomas (writer), Andre Coates (penciler), Don Hudson (inker), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Fantastic Four I#374 (March, 1993) - Tom DeFalco (script, co-plotter), Paul Ryan (penciler, co-plotter), Danny Bulanadi (inker), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Secret Defenders#4 (June, 1993) - Roy Thomas (writer), Andre Coates (penciler), Don Hudson (inker), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Secret Defenders#6 (August, 1993) - Roy Thomas (writer), Andre Coates (penciler), Don Hudson (inker), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Secret Defenders#15 (May, 1994) - Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Jerry Decaire (penciler), Tony DeZuniga (inker), Craig Anderson (editor)
Marvel Tarot (August, 2007) - David Sexton (writer/designer), Doug Sexton (technical consultant), Jeff Christiansen (continuity consultant), Michael Short & Cory Levine (assistant editors), Mark D. Beazley & Jennifer Grunwald (associate editors), Jeff Youngquist (editor)
Mystic Arcana#1 (Magik) (August, 2007) - first and third story (McNee) - David Sexton (writer), Eric Nguyen (artist), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor)
    second story (Magik) - Louise Simonson (writer), Steve Scott (penciler), Kris Justice (inker), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor)
Mystic Arcana: Black Knight#1 (September, 2007) - third story (McNee) - David Sexton (writer), Eric Nguyen (artist), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor)
Mystic Arcana#3 (Scarlet Witch) (October, 2007) -
first and third story (McNee) - David Sexton (writer), Eric Nguyen (artist), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor)
Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm#1 (January, 2008) - third story (McNee) - David Sexton (writer), Eric Nguyen (artist), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor)

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

First posted: 09/05/2021
Last updated: 09/04/2021

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