Updated: Jul 3, 2020
Each new tarot deck delves into the archetypes, or major symbols, of the cards in an innovative way. While there’s no official deck celebrating the iconic mid-2000s satire Mean Girls, this guide is finally here to answer Regina George’s question: “Why are you so obsessed with me?” Well, because you, Regina, have as much to teach us about the tarot as you do about Girl World. (Spoiler alert: Regina is the Devil we love to hate.)
The Major Arcana is the Fool’s Journey
The hero’s journey is a narrative framework popularized by Joseph Campbell to compare stories. You’ve probably heard of it, or at least some of the more famous examples of this journey—think Star Wars or The Odyssey.
In the Major Arcana of the tarot, the hero’s journey is the Fool’s journey. Just as we can apply the hero’s journey to Cady Heron, the last great Lindsay Lohan protagonist, we can also call her the Fool to show how the Major Arcana represents her maturation from innocent homeschooler to self-aware senior.
If you have difficulty with card meanings, studying how they reveal a familiar plot (like Mean Girls) can help you commit them to memory. Many topics in the card summaries below come from the Major Arcana tarot keywords found here.
0. The Fool: Cady Heron
The “zero card” of the tarot, the Fool is a figure of beginnings and maximum potential. Imagine Cady on her first day at North Shore High School after a childhood of homeschooling in Africa. Before she enters the school, she does not yet belong. Her choices may soon align her with complex forces, but at the beginning she is strangely empty.
It may seem to us, the viewing audience, that she is destined for folly in her ignorance. She doesn’t know the rules of Girl World. She thinks Ashton Kutcher is a band. But she is also intelligent, friendly, and possesses the innocent faith a hero needs to begin a journey in an unjust world.
I. The Magician: Damian
Early in every Fool’s journey, she encounters magical helpers. Damian may be what Gretchen Wieners calls an “art freak,” but like the freaky Magician he uses his many powers to belong in almost every corner of North Shore High. He self-describes as a “star on the rise” to open the Winter Talent Show. He controls who’s nominated for Spring Fling King and Queen. He even hangs out in the girl’s bathroom.
Traditionally, the Magician is a form of active masculine creative energy and conscious awareness. Indeed, Damian’s actions influence every event of the plot. In the Rider-Waite deck, the Magician holds a staff high above his head, in full ownership of his power, just as Damian wields the Candy Cane Gram that ultimately cracks Gretchen Wieners.
II. The High Priestess: Janis Ian
To balance the expression of the Magician, the High Priestess is the intuitive feminine creative energy that represents the mysterious unconscious. Janis Ian, as the High Priestess, bears the burden of knowing the truth that others cannot see. Like Damian, Janis positions herself as an artistic outsider. However, she’s less interested in influencing the school culture and more interested in creating space for resistance.
We see this in the film when she devises a plan of sabotage that’s mostly enacted by Cady and Damian. While Damian is an out gay man, Janis’s identity, and the rumor Regina George started about her, is shrouded in mystery. The two make a good pair: they understand and protect each other. They are easy friends to the Fool.
III. The Empress: Mom & Dad
After the High Priestess, we meet cards that represent external forces—rather than internal awareness—in the Fool’s life. The Empress is the first maternal card, a nurturing influence who introduces the child-like Fool to the world of nature and sensation. In Mean Girls, Cady’s biological parents have given her a world of unique experiences outside of suburban Chicago, and they nourish her sense of curiosity. Yet their rules are out of touch with wealthy suburban teenage culture. Cady’s father, after all, doesn’t know what “grounded” means.
IV. The Emperor: Ms. Norbury & Principal Duvall
As Cady acclimates to her new environment, the representatives of structure and authority are not her parents but her teachers at North Shore. Like the paternal Emperor, Norbury and Duvall inspire growth by holding Cady accountable to rules that protect students from various high school plagues: bullying, “girl-on-girl crime,” failing classes.
These restrictions can be frustrating, as we see when Cady lashes out by calling Ms. Norbury a “drug pusher” in the Burn Book. But through the patient direction of the father, the Fool begins to understand her purpose.
V. The Hierophant: Cady’s Map to North Shore High School
Cady is initiated into the wider world of belief systems and belonging at her new high school when Janis gives her the map of cafeteria cliques. Recall the Sexually Active Band Geeks, Desperate Wannabes, and of course the Plastics. Each operates according to a set of codes—we all know that on Wednesdays, the Plastics wear pink. Cady as the Fool learns to identify with a group and conform to its requisite customs.
VI. The Lovers: Aaron Samuels
Cady Heron’s second crush stokes the Fool’s desire to participate in a relationship of equals. Along with the difficulty of putting aside the ego to love another, the Lovers ask the Fool to live by her own values, even if these contradict the powers-that-be.
Will Cady submit to Regina’s possessive “rules of feminism” or act on what she truly feels? Just as “grool” is Cady’s lovestruck hybrid of two affirmations, the Lovers must strike a balance between honoring the self and others.
VII. Chariot: Regina’s Convertible
By the time the Fool matures, she has a visible control that allows her to command a scene and emerge in victory. In her early days among the Plastics, Cady fakes it until she makes it, learning how to shop at the mall and critique her own body. When Regina pulls up with her famous invitation—”Get in, loser, we’re going shopping”—we’re pretty confident that Cady will infiltrate the Plastics successfully.
VIII. Strength: Gretchen Wieners
What does it mean to be strong? Powerful figures and philosophers have pondered this since the advent of social contracts, and Strength is the tarot’s card of contemplating the ingredients of resilience and endurance. Often, Strength encourages the Fool to value patience and tolerance as part of a softer power.
Gretchen Wieners, whose father invented Toaster Strudel, lives with her head in the lion’s mouth of Regina George, placating her to receive the benefits of association. Ironically, it’s the gentle, indirect approach that Cady, Janis, and Damian take that breaks Gretchen’s own veneer. When her authority begins to slip, Gretchen considers the power of a more violent method, culminating in her English report: “We should totally just stab Caesar!”
IX. The Hermit: Kevin Gnapoor
As Plastic drama unfolds, an alternative choice always exists: the Mathletes. Kevin Gnapoor represents the Hermit because he is passionate about knowledge and offers Cady the pursuit of a more reflective search for answers. The Hermit often seeks solitude away from society, and, as we learn from several characters, joining the Mathletes is “social suicide.”
However, the choice to disengage from popular stereotypes makes the Hermit a respectable guide. Though Cady’s choices keep her from hearing Kevin’s advice until nearly the end of the film, he eventually tells her, “Don’t let the haters stop you from doing your thang.”
X. Wheel of Fortune: Aaron’s Halloween Party
Oh, the two-faced coin of fortune! Every opportunity you crave secretly carries knowledge you may find difficult to bear. For Cady, Aaron’s invitation to his Halloween party is part of the vision she has for her participation in the world’s great design. It’s destiny.
The problem, of course, is that Regina has hidden her motives. The Wheel of Fortune spins, but it does not land where Cady expected. Instead, she watches her friend kiss her crush across the room, inspiring her to concede to Janis’s plan. The Wheel is always a turning point in the story. The Halloween party gives Cady a new purpose, but the Fool never knows where that purpose will take her.
XI. Justice: Man Candy, a “Hot” Body, & an Army of Skanks
Justice is a plan. It’s a decision that determines a course of action. It requires the Fool to take inventory of the causes of the current situation and their consequences. Because of the treachery she perceives, Cady decides to position herself as an agent of sabotage to deliver a punishment she and Janis believe Regina deserves.
As the team works to deprive Regina of the status symbols of teen royalty, Cady’s choices will deliver her to a place of greater self-awareness. How much is her own ego involved in this justice project? Does she act with integrity, or is she slipping into an existence that enables her own destructive and divisive impulses?
XII. The Hanged Man: The New Queen Bee
The Hanged Man is the culmination of a long period of waiting. The plan of sabotage takes time and at first, as Janis laments, only succeeds in making Regina’s face “smell like a foot.” But Cady persists, until she becomes unrecognizable even to herself. By sacrificing her identity, the Fool finds that things begin working in her favor.
When Regina is dethroned, Gretchen and Karen recognize Cady as their new queen. This was not the goal, nor is it expected, but Cady lets go and leans in. She finds joy and confidence in her role. The world we knew is turned upside-down, but this apparent new order isn’t the whole story. There are larger forces of transformation at play.
XIII. Death: The Burn Book
People tend to fear change and so resist this card. But tarot readers know that Death has the greatest capacity to end what isn’t contributing to growth and make room for new life. It’s true, too, that the Major Arcana cards tend to represent forces beyond our control, and Cady certainly can’t control Regina’s devious plan to photocopy the Burn Book and broadcast it around the school.
When Cady emerges from Principal Duvall’s office, everything is changed. Girls attack each other like safari animals, just as she imagined them doing to settle their scores. But when Cady blinks, nothing goes back to normal… and perhaps that transition is for the best.
XIV. Temperance: Trust Falls in the Gym
To address the rampant bullying, Ms. Norbury devises an exercise for the girls to confess their anger. After conflict resolution sessions, the girls read apologies aloud and trust fall into a crowd of their peers. This card, like this exercise, is about finding balance between competing forces.
Principal Duvall declares that Ms. Norbury is “a successful, intelligent, caring, graceful woman.” The very characteristics of the Angel of Temperance.
“I am?” she replies.
You are, Tina Fey. And if Cady could follow your example, she might find a way to heal.
XV. The Devil: Regina George
Frustrated by Aaron’s loyalty to Regina, Cady asks him, “Why do you like her?’
He replies, equally frustrated, “Why do you?”
Cady’s answer to this question is the key to her story. Why does anyone fetter themselves to the Devil? Although the Devil appears to exist outside us, this card urges us to examine our internal ignorance and insecurities. As long as these exist outside our purview, we will see our own faces reflected back to us in other people.
So, to say that Regina George is the Devil is not to say she is evil, but to suggest that Cady is bound to her by her own choices. That their stories are intertwined, and that they must both learn to be accountable for themselves.
XVI. The Tower: “And that’s how Regina George died.”
Nothing is so shocking in Mean Girls as the bus that blindsides Regina George (along with the audience). The Tower is the most feared card in the Major Arcana for the same reason: it’s sudden, unexpected, and there’s no going back. After the rumor spreads that Cady pushed Regina, neither Cady nor Regina is envied anymore. Once proud rulers, they’ve lost their crowns.
Although Regina does not die, the accident forces both of them to confront their shadows, the unconscious aspects of their personalities. The lowest low finally smashes the Tower walls of Cady’s ego, bringing a revelation that releases her from the prison of herself.
XVII. The Star: The Limit Does Not Exist
The Star initiates a series of celestial objects that bring hope following the chaotic shakedown of the Tower. Taking responsibility and delivering genuine apologies let in the light. After the rigid structure of the Tower comes down, new vistas appear for Cady.
Ms. Norbury’s punishment for Cady is the Mathletes State Championship, where Cady has the opportunity to take home the trophy by solving a calculus problem about limits. In the tense moments of competitive pressure, Cady finds faith in herself again. When the other team answers a question incorrectly, Cady swoops in with an inspired answer: “The limit does not exist.” This moment is larger than the championship—it restores some of the potential the Fool feels at the start. The limit to her potential truly does not exist.
XVIII. The Moon: Inner Mean Girl
When I watched this movie for the first time, it was hard not to feel a twinge of righteousness on Cady’s behalf when she owns up to the Burn Book. Why does she have to take all the blame for something created almost entirely by other girls?
But the Moon is all about bringing our shadow side to light, not buying into the illusions of the material world. Cady believes her own bullshit for a while. Her official narrative is: “I know it may look like I’d become a bitch, but that’s only because I was acting like a bitch.” Janis calls her on this when Cady misses her art show. Cady is no longer faking. She is a bitch. She is a mean girl.
Once Cady accepts her inner mean girl, she knows what she’s capable of. While the fact may inspire fear and anxiety, no person is all bad or all good, not even our heroic Fools.
XIX. The Sun: Spring Fling Queen
The night brings the moon and stars, but these are followed by an even brighter day. Cady almost skips the Spring Fling, and when she makes an appearance, her parents are there to usher her home. But before she reaches them, the spotlight finds her in the crowd. The hopefulness of the Star is now a complete assurance of Cady’s vitality and importance. The Sun is a gift: Cady can use this platform to spread an enlightening message.
XX. Judgement: Breaking the Crown
The votes are in, and Cady is queen. Rather than the queen bee she once was, however, our Fool uses the stage to cast a new kind of judgement. She does not critique anyone in the crowd but challenges the system they all follow. Cady sheds her persona and is reborn through forgiveness. She heeds a calling from her higher self when she snaps her crown into pieces and shares them. Everyone in this new status quo must know their worth.
XXI. The World: Actual Human Beings
In the new North Shore, cliques dissolve and “actual human beings” emerge. Cady and the other girls have integrated the many facets of themselves to find an unprecedented fulfillment. Regina still has anger, but she channels it into lacrosse. Janis is still artistic, but she doesn’t define herself as an outsider. Cady no longer needs to control everyone around her in order to belong. Our Fool has found a way to participate in the world with purpose.
Of course, the world spins madly on. Eventually the cycle will begin again for Cady, who will discover higher levels of understanding. At the end of the film, the cycle we’ve just witnessed in Cady is beginning for the younger girls. We want to scream at the Junior Plastics what Cady’s learned—making fun of someone won’t make you happier, and “all you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you”—before they step into the path of a bus.
Maybe Cady’s next journey is mentorship, and she will guide these Fools into Human Beings. But she (and we) must also trust that every Fool finds her own way.
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