by Gareth-Michael Skarka
November 21, 2000
Last week, I promised that I'd go into more detail about my idea for using the Tarot symbolism as an organizational structure for the secret society of werewolves, calling themselves the Arcana.
I figure that the structure of the Tarot lends itself to the following style of organization: The majority of the group align themselves into four divisions, corresponding to the four suites of the Tarot. Each suite fulfills a specific role in the society.
Each suite has been called different things, depending upon the time period of the deck, or the culture in which the deck was used. The names that I decide upon are: The Cups, The Swords, The Staves and The Coins. I will go into the individual roles of each of the suites in future columns.
The rank and file members of the suites would correspond to the numbered cards. This is not something that players need concern themselves with their characters will be more important members of the Arcana: the face cards. Each suite has a number of highly placed members, who hold the following ranks: Page, Knight, Queen and King. For the purposes of the game, each suite has only one King and Queen (who direct the efforts of the members of the suite), but any number of Pages and Knights (amongst whom will be the starting characters).
Operating outside the structure of the suites are the Major Arcana. These special operatives are the most powerful members of the Arcana, and are given a title corresponding to one of the major arcana of the Tarot (the Fool, the Heirophant, the Tower, etc.). As each of the positions becomes available through attrition, a new member from one of the suites is promoted to become the new embodiment of that office. Appointment to the Major Arcana serves as a perfect goal for the player characters, for with that appointment comes additional power (both within the structure of the organization, and certain magical accoutrements that come with the position as well).
So, this organization was originally created by the Romany, who, as world travelers, were best able to keep an eye on what was occurring everywhere. They used the symbolism of the Tarot not only as a method of divination, but a way to send secret orders and communication back and forth between members. The Romany had a close connection with the werewolves, often offering those cursed souls comfort and solace that they could not find elsewhere. It did not take long for them to realize that despite their cursed nature, the werewolves were better prepared to combat the forces of the Devil than mere mortals. The lycanthropes became the front-line troops in the war for reality.
Eventually, the immortal werewolves themselves became the sole inheritors of the tradition.
In 1692, a Livonian man named Theiss was interrogated by the inquisition in Jurgensburg. He described being a werewolf, and performing activities markedly similar to those described by the Italian Benandanti that I mentioned last week. He said: "The werewolves were the dogs of God, armed with iron whips." Iron, naturally, is a powerful weapon against magic. These werewolves not only fought against warlocks and devils, but actually, Theiss claimed, traveled to hell itself and brought the fight there. This opens up all manner of possibilities for the game. You have immortal werewolves, which allow you to set the game at any time throughout history, and you have the possibility of having the battle taken into hell itself.
More next week, on the various roles of the suites, and maybe a little bit about the forces on the other side the real darkness.