For this theory, I decided to look at all of the Street Fighter tarot cards individually, point out the meanings behind them, and speculate what each card is revealing about that character and (sometimes) the impact on the lore in general. I used an image gallery from EventHubs as a visual aid to draw my conclusions. To help you understand what I’m talking about, here is the gallery so you can follow along:
Let’s get started.
Ryu – The World: Aside from the idea that Ryu beat Bison, thus potentially beginning the events of Street Fighter III, it seems odd that Ryu would be the face for The World. Rose herself stated that The Fool card represented the only person that could beat Bison, and Rose believed it was Ryu.
I explained in my previous theory why I believed Ryu was The World, as all of the evidence I found led me to believe he was a revenant. Take a look here for the full theory: https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/07/12/the-truth-about-ryus-parents/
G – The Fool: I’ve written so many theories on G that there isn’t much left to say here. He was represented as The Fool in Street Fighter 5, and the card’s inclusion in the game makes not just The Fool card canon, but the entire set as well. Let’s see where Capcom takes his story….
Dhalsim – The Magician: As Wikipedia states, The Magician “points to the talents, capabilities and resources at the querent’s disposal. Depending on the card’s placement in relation to other cards, the message is to tap into one’s full potential rather than holding back, especially when there is a need to transform something. There are choices and directions to take. Guidance can arrive through one’s own intuition or in the form of someone who brings about change or transformation.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magician_(Tarot_card)
Dhalsim portrays himself as a teacher in Street Fighter V, trying to teach an Indian police officer, Mahesh, the power of yoga. He also aids Ryu in controlling the Satsui no Hado in his fight with Necalli. Dhalsim is also responsible for Sagat’s heel-face transformation, assisting him in controlling his anger and hatred towards Ryu. Dhalsim is the one who can unlock the full potential of the people he aids, and bring them to a higher understanding of their own potential.
Rose – The High Priestess: According to Google, the High Priestess represents “mystery, stillness and passivity. This card suggests that it is time to retreat and reflect upon the situation and trust your inner instincts to guide you through it.” https://g.co/kgs/QnhkHW
This is completely representative of who Rose is as a character. While there are many mysterious male characters in the game (Akuma, Oro, Gill, Bison, and G), Rose is without question the most mysterious female character, as besides her being the good half of Bison’s soul, we know next to nothing about who she is as a person. Also, except when it comes to fighting Bison, Rose tends to sit back and watch things unfold, confident in her predictions for the future.
Cammy – The Empress: One of the easier ones to figure out. As stated by Google, “The Empress is traditionally associated with maternal influence, it is the card if you are hoping to start a family.” https://g.co/kgs/yFbrWL
Gaining a family is Cammy’s entire motivation. For her, The Dolls and Delta Red are the only family she knows, and this is the reason she’s so intent on rescuing her “sisters” from Shadaloo.
Urien – The Emperor: While The Emperor represents safety and stability, working for the Illuminati isn’t exactly either of those. However, The Emperor also means “you are in charge of your life now setting up your own rules and boundaries.” https://g.co/kgs/jJ3HQ8
Urien is certainly doing his own thing to achieve power, but this is a rather weak idea to connect him with The Emperor. However, Wikipedia states it far better: “He symbolizes the top of the secular hierarchy, the ultimate male ego. The Emperor is the absolute ruler of the world.” That’s Urien’s mindset in a nutshell.
Elena – The Lovers: I did a mini-theory on Twitter a couple of months ago explaining Elena’s ties to The Lovers card, as well as explaining G’s ending. Basically, The Lovers represents choices, and Elena, already being one with Earth, is immune to any hypnotic effects G potentially wields. You can read the theory here: https://twitter.com/StevenManeVox/status/1130903989212655616
Zangief – The Chariot: At first, Zangief’s depiction as The Chariot doesn’t seem to quite fit him. The Chariot “[s]ignals decision making, focus and determination. A willingness to take the reins…. Lesson imparted is that of balance in the way in which the Querent uses this new found energy. If already at this stage, that is the card falls in the present, the Chariot calls upon the Querent to tread cautiously and utilise his or her newly asserted power with discipline and care. Paying attention to detail and refusing the temptation to be aggressive in achieving his or her aims.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chariot_(Tarot_card)
Zangief, however, is far from careful. He exudes over-the-top masculinity, aggression, and power, going so far as saying fighting is a cure for anything that ails you. However, his machismo also makes him the definitive Chariot: “The Chariot is a card about overcoming conflicts and moving forward in a positive direction. One needs to keep going on and through sheer hard work and commitment he will be victorious.” https://g.co/kgs/vdStT8
Zangief gained his muscles through sheer hard work, fighting bears in his Russian homeland for fun. He is the epitome of determination, so it’s completely understandable why he believes in “Muscle Spirit” so much – it got him this far in life.
Karin – Strength: Next to Bison and Gill, Karin is the most powerful, most influential character in the entire series. She’s one of the wealthiest people on the planet, runs a zaibatsu that deals with military weapons, and can call a satellite to rain down havoc on anyone anywhere in the world. Even though she could control the entire world at the press of a button, she doesn’t. Strength symbolizes the mastery of material desires, and by showing that she has mastered her fighting style, Kanzuki-ryu, Karin has proven that she has mastered her own emotions as well. Her friendship with Sakura is proof of this -she harbors no ill will in their rivalry, fighting merely for the sport of it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_(Tarot_card)
Oro – The Hermit: The most obvious one of all. Oro himself is a hermit, and The Hermit card “suggests that you are in a phase of introspection where you are drawing your attention inwards and looking for answers within.” Oro secluded himself for this very reason – he wanted to find answers from within. https://g.co/kgs/2u4iDQ
Nash – Wheel of Fortune: As stated on Wikipedia, “[a] common aspect to most interpretations of this card within a reading is to introduce an element of change in the querent’s life, such change being in station, position or fortune: such as the rich becoming poor, or the poor becoming rich.” Nash’s character design on this card is of him before he was killed and resurrected by the Secret Society. This, along with the meaning of the card itself, symbolizes Nash’s shift from life to death, and despite the fact that Street Fighter V’s version of Nash is not depicted on the card, we can also assume that this card also covers his return to life, his changing attitude shift as a member of the Secret Society, and his eventual return to death, sacrificing himself to try to take out Bison. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_Fortune_(Tarot_card)
Chun-Li – Justice: I wrote a theory in June of this year that goes over everything you need to know about why Chun-Li is Justice, and what I believe her true purpose to the overall lore is. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here: https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/06/11/the-goddess-of-street-fighter/
Rolento – The Hanged Man: The most conspicuous reason for Rolento being The Hanged Man is that Rolento uses a hangman maneuver in his Take No Prisoners Ultra Combo. However, when you look at the symbolism of The Hanged Man, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to go on. It symbolizes “ultimate surrender, sacrifice, or being suspended in time.” https://g.co/kgs/hoY8oA
While it’s true Rolento is pursuing his vision of a militaristic utopia, and doing everything he can to make his dream come true, he isn’t the one who’s doing any sort of surrendering or self-sacrificing – it’s the people he beats in combat he thinks he can recruit. Overall, Rolento has a one-track mind, and all he pursues is his mission, sacrificing others for his goal.
However, it’s that third part of symbolism that makes Rolento the Hanged Man – he’s suspended in time. He has not changed much, if at all, from his days in Mad Gear, where he first tried achieving his dream. Since then he has continued to pursue it, never resting, always in a combat mindset, always speaking to people as they were soldiers in his army. He is a relic from the past, always fighting a war even when there isn’t one to be fought.
Sagat – Death: The Death card doesn’t usually mean death in a physical sense. Rather, “it implies an end, possibly of a relationship or interest, and therefore implies an increased sense of self-awareness.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_(Tarot_card)
What died within Sagat was his hatred for Ryu. Aided by Dhalsim, Sagat was finally able to control his anger and, with his mind clearer, he was able to break his limitations and become a better, calmer fighter.
Crimson Viper – Temperance: Temperance “indicates that you should learn to bring about balance, patience and moderation in your life. You should take the middle road, avoiding extremes and maintain a sense of calm.” Crimson Viper, as a mother and double agent, has to maintain harmony in all three of her lives for not only her sanity, but for her survival. If the bad guys she works for finds out about her life and the fact she’s a spy, her life, as well as the life of her daughter, are in jeopardy. She must be able to balance her duties with a calm, rational mind to do it. https://g.co/kgs/pxCNcY
Akuma – The Devil: This card represents “[b]eing seduced by the material world and physical pleasures; lust for and an obsession with money and power” as well as “living in fear, domination and bondage; being caged by an overabundance of luxury.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_(Tarot_card)
The Devil as a figure is known as a temptor, promising material wealth in exchange for servitude, but Akuma’s different. Akuma actually shuns material wealth, but what Akuma tempts with is far greater in his eyes: the Satsui no Hado. He wants Ryu to succumb to it so he can finally face a worthy challenger.
Balrog – The Tower: The Tower, considered the worst card to get in a tarot reading, represents “danger, crisis, sudden change, destruction, higher learning, and liberation. In the Rider-Waite deck, the top of The Tower is a crown, which symbolizes materialistic thought being bought cheap.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_(Tarot_card)
All of the Street Fighter tarot cards are based off of the Rider-Waite deck, and The Tower is no exception, with Balrog falling off and leaving the crown behind. The crown represents Balrog’s love of money, and The Tower depicts his ultimate ruin. However, The Tower also represents sudden change and liberation, and for Balrog, Ed leaving him changed his world. He had a genuine friend and protege he could share his life with, and Ed abandoning him cut him deep.
Rainbow Mika – The Star: As stated by Google, “[w]hen the Star card appears, you are likely to find yourself feeling inspired. It brings renewed hope and faith and a sense that you are truly blessed by the universe at this time.” https://g.co/kgs/BEBfwp
Mika’s entire persona is about being an inspiration and a model for her fans, and her Mic Performance is the most prevalent example of this. By giving a speech to the crowd, she not only gains power, but for her audience it’s also supposed to give the crowd energy as well. It’s the same thing as someone doing a promo in real-life pro wrestling.
Vega – The Moon: I found Vega being The Moon to be quite interesting. The Moon “is a card of illusion and deception, and therefore often suggests a time when something is not as it appears to be.” https://g.co/kgs/vFqySU
Vega has always been very forward and very aggressive with what he wants, especially when it comes to beautiful women like Cammy and Chun-Li. However, Vega does hold a few secrets of his own. Aside from his true intentions (mainly wanting to keep his beauty alive forever and being the who likes screwing with Bison’s plans (since it was him who set Cammy free in the first place)), there is one other secret Vega knows: what really happened to Chun-Li’s father. https://youtu.be/C8cXBKQAOwg?t=391
He never tells her, but in Street Fighter Alpha 2, Bison admits to being the one who killed Chun-Li’s dad. That being said, while it’s implied Dorai was killed, Vega merely states that he knows how he met his end. It’s entirely possible that Dorai is still alive, and one of the biggest fan theories is that Dorai became Q. In fact, in Udon’s comics, there was a segment that showed Dorai getting Q’s mask placed on him. This is non-canon, but it would explain why Vega, Gen, and Bison won’t tell Chun-Li anything. Vega wants Chun-Li to keep coming for his own pleasure, Gen is trying to protect her, and Bison wants Chun-Li to leave him alone.
Sakura – The Sun: The Sun, considered the best card in tarot, “is said to reflect happiness and contentment, vitality, self-confidence and success.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sun_(Tarot_card)
Basically, Sakura is the embodiment of happiness in the game, and The Sun is the perfect card for her to be depicted on. In Street Fighter V, she does wonder if she’s on the right path, but The Sun shows that she is, as “[i]t represents the universe coming together and agreeing with your path and aiding forward movement into something greater.” https://g.co/kgs/kcm7UQ
M. Bison – Judgement: Google states, “[t]his card is referred to as a time of resurrection and awakening, a time when a period of our life comes to an absolute end making way for dynamic new beginnings. https://g.co/kgs/oueEjh
Bison being on this card may seem to be a bit off, but the truth is that Bison himself is a symbol of resurrection, having died and been reborn again every time his body is destroyed. However, on the original Rider-Waite card, it’s an angel who raises the dead. On the Street Fighter version, it’s apparently Bison himself who has the power to raise the dead. This may be a clue for what Capcom is planning in the near future….
That concludes my theories for the Street Fighter tarot cards…. Oh wait, there’s one left, isn’t there? No, I didn’t forget about it: I saved the best for last.
Guile – The Hierophant: I couldn’t figure this one out! The Hierophant “stands for tradition and convention. It can represent marriage in an arranged setup.” https://g.co/kgs/NSgmWz
None of this screamed Guile! You can argue that maybe as a military man, he upholds the traditions of the United States of America, but he went against protocol to find his best friend. He left his wife and daughter behind to not only find Nash, but to fight and kill Bison. When he tells others, “Go home and be a family man,” he’s being a major hypocrite!
The Hierophant on the Rider-Waite card is symbolic of the Pope. Moreso, he “is seen seated on a throne between two pillars symbolizing Law and Liberty or obedience and disobedience, according to different interpretations. He wears a triple crown, and the keys to Heaven are at his feet.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hierophant
The argument could be made that Guile is about both Law and Liberty or that he skirts the line between obedience and disobedience. However, this argument isn’t that substantial. A few other cards, like Oro’s Hermit and Sakura’s Sun are painfully obvious, which didn’t require that much thought at all. With others, I had to do some digging, like Ryu and Chun-Li’s, but my conclusions made sense at the very least.
For me, Guile’s depiction as The Hierophant made no sense. He wasn’t a papal figure, went against convention, and left his family behind. Was he supposed to be the inverse of The Hierophant?
Fortunately, the answer was no. Guile was The Hierophant for a reason.
Much like Bison’s card is a possible clue to the future story of Street Fighter, so is Guile’s. There was one more thing that the Hierophant represents: “[i]t can also mean a teacher or counsellor who will help in learning / education of the querent.”
Now, Guile doesn’t teach anyone anything in the game (even though Nash was the one who taught him), but last year, I wrote a theory that Guile did teach someone as a surrogate father – Remy. https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/02/20/remy-and-his-sonic-boom/
This is why Capcom made him The Hierophant. He is the one who teaches Remy how to do the Sonic Boom, and his backstory will be expanded with Remy as his nephew.
The tarot cards are (mostly) hints as to what Capcom is planning in the future lorewise. Having the lore printed on merchandise was a genius way to sneak plot points out in the open without actually revealing anything.
Capcom is a lot smarter than you’d think they are.