Before I get into the Tarot breakdown, I would like to point out some major synchronicities regarding this film.
First, the most obvious one; The Winona Ryder, Rider/Waite thing.
The character Otho, which most believe is a wync to the O.T.O.
The Black Dahlia woman cut in half seen sitting in the reception room in the Land of the Dead. Big deal, right? Well, keep in mind they went to the trouble to name Catherine O'Hara's character Delia. Also, note that Tim Burton's Batman takes place in 1947, the year of the Black Dahlia murder.
"Sitting on a sofa with a sister or two"
And something I came across the day before I started putting this post together, but after concluding that O'Hara's character was the Empress and a Scarlet Woman resonator. This is from "Understanding Crowley's Thoth Tarot" by Lon Milo DuQuette.
"[The Empress] is more than just the full-color foldout of the Scarlet O'Hara of the gods, however."
I will be displaying both the Rider/Waite and the Thoth cards, but will be using Crowley's sequence.
0. The Fool
One of the only movies I can think of where the main characters die within the first 10 minutes.
On their way home from town, Barbara must swerve in order to avoid hitting a dog (Sirius & yellow sun), causing them to crash through the side of the covered bridge. Invoking the image of the Fool at the edge of the cliff. Here they are held in balance by a plank and the little doggie. But the dog scampers off and our fools plummet into the river and to their deaths. Could this also represent the fall of Adam & Eve?
(Now that's what I call a yellow submarine)
1. The Magician/Magus
In the R/W card we see the Magician at his table, likewise Adam is at his table - the microcosmic model of the town in which they live. The Magician card is linked with the Hebrew letter Beth, which means house. (Their last name is the same as the name of the town, Maitland, but there is no back story provided for this connection). Notice he even has the sun & moon placed above the town, wynking at Alchemy.
Again, like we see in the Magician card, Adam raises one arm straight above his head to retrieve his vacation gift for Barb - roll of wallpaper, resembling that of the candle in the Magician's hand.
And if that wasn't enough, a little later in the movie he uses this white piece of chalk to draw a door with which to traverse to the Land of the Dead through.
2. The High Priestess
Our Priestess is Lydia. As the card which comprises the middle pillar of the Tree of Life, she is the Shekinah - connecting the spirits in the attic (Kether) with the living on the lower floors (Tiphareth, Yesod and Malkuth).
Her opening scene has her admiring a spider web, resembling the net/veil of our Priestess in Crowley's card.
She also wears a veil herself while eating dinner during their first night in the house.
3. The Empress
Here we have Delia, our Empress. In this shot she is in her red & white wardrobe. Also notice the roses on the counter, like the roses on the gown of the R/W Empress. The veggies here resemble the assortment of fruits & vegetables seen in the Thoth version of the Priestess card. It is noteworthy that Crowley connects Daleth, the holy letter of the mother, to Delilah.
4. The Emperor
And (King) Charles our Emperor, sits on his throne during his first scene in the film.
Also, this is the best shot we get, but it seems as though there's a crown on the design on his sweatshirt.
5. The Hierophant
Enter Otho, our Hierophant - through the window, no less. Notice the Hierophant in both cards is equipped with keys. In the film, a point is made that Otho doesn't have any keys associated with the house. He does have his two cans of spray paint, however, which he and Delia use to plot their transformation of the house. Notice the armed Scarlet Woman cohort in the Thoth card. Later in the film, Otho pilfers the book of the unseen world after having broken into the attic.
6. The Lovers
Adam & Barbara Maitland. (I wonder if the name has anything to do with the Garden of Eden?) Also note that their house is atop a hill, and the R/W card features a hill in the center. Solomon's Temple was also built on a hill.
There's an amazing similarity between the receptionist and the angel on the R/W Lovers card.
Here we get to see her, our lovers, and the hole cut into the sliding window resembles the shining sun from the R/W image.
There is also the abstract painting of the man & woman seen throughout the film. (first image very similar to the standard Lovers card).
One could also argue that during the wedding scene, Lydia and Beetlejuice could represent the Lovers card. Especially taking into consideration the myth of Persephone & Hades. Added to the fact that in the Beetlejuice cartoon series, they are the main characters and are best friends.
7. The Chariot
One could arguably consider the Chariot of the film to be Adam & Barb's yellow Volvo (more Alchemy?)
...but one could also think of the house as the official Chariot. After all, Crowley says the Chariot is essentially A temple for the Grail. To drive my point 'home' further, here we see Delia in Black & white much like the two Sphinxes pulling the chariot.
I would also like to add the house as being the metaphoric Tree of Life, itself. The attic being Kether, where the ghosts/spirits reside. The upper hallway where many of the major events take place being the horizontal paths on the Tree which cross the middle pillar, aligning Kether with Malkuth.
One thing that can be said about this story is that there is no justice. The innocent young Maitlands die by falling ten feet into a creek because they didn't want to run over a dog. Their house gets ravaged by a psycho. They have to wait 135 years before they can rest in peace. Their big scare-off plan doesn't scare anybody, in fact they end up getting exploited. They get exorcised and are nearly annihilated completely at the hands of a buffoon. Delia ends up getting a book offer. And Beetlejuice doesn't even get the marriage he was promised.
I suppose like most stories, it seems the only bit of justice in the film comes at the end when balance is finally achieved. In this case, spirit and matter are reconciled... or brought into balance
Perhaps the moment of justice is when somebody finally sees Adam & Barbara. Lydia being the catalyst which will bring about balance in the home, is living in the manifest world, yet is able to perceive the eternal. She essentially serves as the scales in this story.
The very next thing to happen is Jane, the real estate agent, gives Lydia a skeleton key for every door in the house. Lydia immediately goes upstairs to try to enter the attic (Kether). Adam & Barbara thwart her attempts, but she eventually does get in. While inside she reads from the Book for the Recently Deceased, and obtains knowledge of the spirit world, but leaves the attic intact. Later, when the adults enter the attic, they plunder it's riches for their own gain.
9. The Hermit
The Hermit of the film is Juno, Adam & Barb's case worker. She is always holding her lit cigarette resonating with the Hermit's lamp. Interesting that Juno is the Mythological daughter of Saturn. Noteworthy, since the sandy Nowhere Land that Adam & Barb find themselves in is referred to in the film as Saturn. Juno of myth legend is also associated with Isis - interesting, since The Hermit card is ruled by Virgo.
Also note that Crowley states it is the Hermit that is conducting the wedding on The Lovers card. What's really interesting is that in his Book of Thoth, Crowley not only mentions Persephone's connection with The Hermit card (Persephone & Hades/Lydia & Beetlejuice), but also the prominence of Mercury in the card and his role as Psychopompos, the guide of the soul through the lower regions, which is accentuated by the dog Cerberus on the card.
10. Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel represents change, and things begin to change for all the characters of the film when Adam & Barbara travel to the Land of the Dead. Which, by the way, was shot by revolving the camera around them in a 360 degree spin-shot. They then enter through this revolving door.
While here, Adam & Barbara also find themselves having to answer all kinds of bureaucratic questions, much like the riddles the Sphinx atop the Wheel of Fortune asks sojourners into the land of Thebes.
We do seem to have both aspects of the Atu in the film. Barb seems to resonate with the standard Strenth motif, and Delia the Lust motif of Crowley's deck for the new Aeon.
When the Maitland's both enter Saturn, they are accosted by a nasty sandworm. As it lunges towards Barb with malicious intent, what does she do? She socks it in the nose, which bought them just enough time to escape back into the house.
Near the end of the film, when Beetlejuice banishes her back to Saturn, she manages to tame and ride atop the sandworm and save the day.
Now, when Beetlejuice first encounters the Deetz's, he slides between Delia's legs. She then covers her crotch and runs into her bedroom. Later, at the dinner party, they make a point to hold this shot of her holding her chalice up for a toast.
Interesting that Beetlejuice morphs into a serpent here, as the Strength/Lust card is associated with the Hebrew letter Teth, which means serpent.
12. The Hanged Man
I could go into something philosophical here, but I will instead just point out the hanged men clerks from the Land of the Dead.
The Death card is also a card of change, but I will first point out that Barbara illustrates to Adam that they are dead, by moving a horse around in front of a mirror, to which Barbara & Adam cast no reflection.
After Lydia unveils the hidden knowledge of the ghosts under the sheets, she comes to realize that she really is living in a house haunted by ghosts.
This is the part in the film where Adam & Barbara decide to really put their ghostly talents together and try to finally scare the Deetz's away for good. The image in the Thoth Art card symbolizes this synergy of male & female energies.
And their art of choice is forcing the Deetz's and their guests to dance against their will to Harry Belefonte's Banana Boat Song. The Maitlands are beginning to master their ghostly arts, just as the figures in the Tarot cards have mastered Temperance and Art respectively.
15. The Devil
The Devil of our film is obviously Beetlejuice.
The intro to Tartini's The Devil's Trill is even heard during his first on-screen appearance, when he is at home reading the paper.
If the above shot didn't resemble the R/W card enough, here he lifts Babs' dress with a stick, which to me, makes it look a little bit like she has a tail.
Instantly enflamed with lust, he can't keep his hands or eyes off Barbara. Which offends them to the point of leaving without employing his services.
There's also the scene where he lures a fly into his hole. Beelzebub means "lord of the flies".
Batwing ears, much like the batwing... wings of the R/W Devil. (2 years later Michael Keaton would star in Tim Burton's Batman)
16. The Tower
The Tower comes in to play when Adam & Barbara decide to call Beetlejuice, and he first terrorizes the Deetz's in the upper hallway. (The Tower card is associated with the horizontal 27th path on the Tree of Life, crossing the central pillar and connecting Netzach with Hod). This is the same scene in which he slides underneath Delia.
In this scene, Beetlejuice also kicks Otho down the stairs, and drops Charles from the upper hallway. Remind anyone of the R/W card? Too bad there's no lightning during this scene, but that will come later, during the seance.
Interesting that he takes on the form of a snake here, being that a serpent is displayed in the Thoth Tower card. Also note that the light fixtures (behind Charles' head) somewhat resemble a dove descending downwards - which not only signifies the dove also seen in the Thoth Tower image, but the dove in the O.T.O. logo. The light could also be seen as the eye of the Thoth Tower card.
(Interesting to note that Juno says Beetlejuice used to be an assistant of her's. The Hermit is always seen carrying a staff. God told Moses to through down his staff, and it turned into a serpent. In this scene Beetlejuice possesses the banister rail and morphs it/himself into a serpent).
This series of events plunges Lydia into her dark night of the soul, which we will get to in the Moon card. Which seems to come next in the film, but I will stay in sequence.
16. The Star
The Star card is about hope. After Adam & Barbara send Beetlejuice back to the Microcosm town, they are whisked away back to the Land of the Dead, where Juno insists they get rid of the Deetz's themselves. They agree, but then quickly decide between themselves to...
18. The Moon
As hinted at before, this card represents the dark night of the soul. First, we can see that the beetle has risen from the depths of the waters and is dwelling amongst the landwalkers. In fact, his tirade with the Deetz's upset Lydia so much that she composed a suicide note. (Notice she is once again wearing a veil).
She then happens upon Beetlejuice, and is about to summon him until Barbara stops her.
She then tells Barbara that she wants to be dead.
During the seance, a not-so-pleasant experience for Adam & Barbara, our bride & groom appear as two pillars as seen in the Moon card. The candle on the table could be the sun pushed by the scarab. The observers could be the dogs.
All in all, it was during this dark night of the soul that Lydia learned the name of Beetlejuice, which came in handy when she needed his help to save the Maitlands.
19. The Sun
Resonating with the R/W Sun card, here we see during the denouement, a flag in the sky, and Lydia on her bike could represent the child on the horse. The school bus could represent the yellow sun.
The Sun card represents reaching one's full potential and new beginnings. At this point in the film The Deetz's and the Maitlands are coexisting in peace, while a happier Lydia is getting As on math tests.
20. Judgement/The Aeon
This one was a little tough. However it is Beetlejuice that saves Adam & Barbara from oblivion, thus raising them from the dead-dead. And for a bit of a stretch, Crowley's card features Hoor-Pa-Kraat, the child form of Horus, who always has his finger to his mouth as he is also the god of silence in Greek myth as Harpocrates. During the wedding scene near the end of the film, Adam & Barbara are trying to banish Beetlejuice, and he continues to silence them with his magic.
21. The World/The Universe
Now at the end of the story the Great Work has been accomplished; spirit and matter, the infinite and the finite have been reconciled. We see Lydia dancing while being levitated by the Maitland's spiritual magic. The four football player ghosts being the four Kerubim seen in the corner of the card. Also notice the embroidered wreath on her jacket, much like the wreath and the 'stargate' seen on the Tarot cards.
Interesting that Delia is Lydia's step-mother and no explanation is given to the whereabouts of her birth mother, could it be she died? Also, early in the film it is hinted at twice that the Maitlands have at least been trying to have children but for one reason or another do not have any. It also becomes apparent that Barbara thinks of Lydia as the daughter she will never get to have.
(In this film I believe Adam & Charles represent the Yod, and Barbara & Delia both represent the First Heh. With Beetlejuice as the Vav. Actually there are a few possible interpretations; The Yod could be Charles & Delia, with the first Heh being Adam & Barbara. One could also see Lydia as the Vav and the Maitlands as the final Heh).
Da'at/Knowledge/The Veil of the Abyss
I would also like to make an entry for the Da'at portion of the Tree of Life. The Abyss of Knowledge along the center column which is veiled.
While in the upper hallway of the house, Lydia photographs what she thinks is her parents engaging in a kinky sex act. But while viewing the photo, she obtains the knowledge that what she photographed was actually the ghosts which she suspected were cohabitating her house. She then proceeds to unveil them, and quickly befriend them.
Of course, the Scarlet Woman has her eyes closed to true spiritual knowledge. Even though, as she comprises the path of the Empress card and the Lust card, hovers just above and below Da'at.
Another interesting tid-bit.
from Mask of God blog
(and thanks to Mask of God blog for additional insights into this film)
I would also like to add a bit about the Queen of Cups. Notice the woman gazing down at her reflection in the water. Bringing to mind the Divine Mother of Binah seeing her reflection in Malkuth. Resonating perhaps with Barbara, the creek, and Lydia.