The Greater Arcana & Their Divinatory Meanings Through Frida Kahlo – Katy Granbom


In June of 1907, a hot, humid summer in Mexico City, Guillermo Kahlo, a German-born photographer, goes to a fortune teller to find out about the life of his sixth child, the third by his second wife, Matilde. He is nervous because his third child’s birth in his first marriage brought about the death of his first wife, and he never wants to go through that pain and suffering again. He is scared. For him, the third time is not a charm. The third time only brings chaos and death. He is scared for this child, scared for his wife, scared for his family, scared for himself. 

He enters a dimly lit basement apartment in a large but decrepit old Spanish Colonial house in his neighborhood of Coyoacán. The rich scent of jasmine incense permeates his nose and intoxicates him, stupefies his senses. The walls are lined with old, moth eaten Persian rugs, ornate and regal, yet faded from years of use on someone else’s floor. Statues of Deities, both Catholic and Aztec, appear on alters around the room with drying flowers decorating them.  

Then from behind an old beaded curtain, she appears, the fortune teller. Delfina María Isadora Cienfuegos Cortés was once a glamorous actress, yet now, in her late fifties, she looks like any other older woman with lost hopes and dreams. She wears her long hair, streaked with gray, in a low bun under her turban which she dons only for these occasions. Her shawl is a deep crimson, and her long dress is white linen. She usually wears black, but the summer heat is too encompassing to incorporate her entire gypsy aesthetic every day. Her eyes, black as onyx, lock with Guillermo’s.  

“You want to know about your child,” she boldly states. “Yes, and my wife,” Guillermo replies with a mix of shock and skepticism. “Your wife will live for many more years, you need not fear for her. I feel that it is your child that interests me, she shall be destined for greatness,” Delfina responses. “Another girl…” Guillermo whispers; he already has five girls to raise, he was hoping for a boy to help him with his photography. “Yet she will be so much more than a mere girl, she will transcend men in her abilities. The cards and twenty pesos will tell you more. Please sit. Would you like some tea?”  


THE STAR- Hope, bright prospects in the future, loss. A great painter will be born on July 6, 1907. Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo Calderón will be known to the world as Frida Kahlo. She shall call Mexico City home and by the age of 11, the great artist shall be diagnosed with polio and confined to her bed for nine long months. She shall become your best friend in these years, Guillermo, for you shall understand her pain. You, too, have understood the weight that illness can have on a person. You shall understand her like no one else in her childhood, but others will come along who will understand her more. Her budding artistry cannot be suppressed, she will grow away from you. A long line of great pain and illness in Frida’s life can be foreseen in this card. But also, great success, great love. More shall come from this young painter. 

THE CHARIOT- Providence, war, triumph, vengeance, trouble. A regular afternoon. Frida will try to return home from school on a bus with her boyfriend Alejandro Gómez Arias. Their passionate love affair will have started two years earlier, they have planned grandiose excursions that could only be thought up by teenagers in love. Relocating to the United States, moving far away from Coyoacán, the possibilities are endless. Until the chariot strikes. The bus shall violently collide with a trolley. Alejandro shall emerge unscathed, yet Frida, poor Frida will be broken. A poll that passengers used to hold for support will pierce through Frida’s uterus, rendering her childless and barren. Three vertebrae will jump out of place in sheer fright after the impact. Bones will break. Casts will incarcerate her body. Yet she shall live. She will dedicate her convalescence to painting. She shall overcome.  

1925. Frida lies in her bed. It is all she does these days, lie in her full body cast in her bed and stare at the ceiling. She is depressed and bored out of her mind, staring at nothing most of the day with nothing to do but think about her pain and all the fun she is missing. She’s only 18 and her friends are off exploring Mexico City and the world, making a change and just experiencing life. Her boyfriend Alejandro is going to Germany soon for college. She knows that they will not make it through the distance, but she will try. She is thinking about this inevitable split when her parents walk into her room, hiding something behind their backs. “We’ve brought you a present,” her mother says excitedly as Frida looks questioningly at her. “Probably another bouquet for me to watch die…” Frida morosely thinks while she smiles appreciatively at her mother. “We know how much you loved to paint when you were younger,” her father said as he brought the item he was holding out from behind his back, “so we had a custom easel built for your bed. Now you can paint while you get better and have something to do other than lie there and read.” Frida could not have been more surprised or elated. Her eyes widened and she started up in bed, with just caused her more pain as she sunk back with a smile on her face. “Thank you so much,” she said as her voice broke, tears of joy were running down her face. She knew that now she could finally express her pain and her joy. She could finally tell the world what she didn’t have words for. She would show them through her paintings.  

THE HIGH PRIESTESS- Secrets, mystery, the future as yet unrevealed, wisdom, the woman who interests. Frida’s future husband, not yet known to her, will arrive back to his home in Mexico City in 1928. Just recovered from the Chariot and newly single, our young artist will gravitate to him, an older artist, already established in the artistic community. As he works to complete a mural that will be famous in the future, Frida will visit him and show him her paintings, to inquire as one would ask the cards, “Do you actually believe that I should continue to paint, or should I turn to some other sort of work?” He will persuade her to continue, to be his model, and to stay with him. This card predicts that the biggest love of her life is beginning.  

THE EMPEROR– Stability, power, aid, protection. Diego Rivera, a fellow Mexican, a muralist. He will reign over Frida’s life. Her one true love. He will be on her every thought from the time they meet to death, the only stability in their tumultuous marriages. Diego’s stability and power will come from his ability to destroy and revive Frida. His mistresses, there will be many. Frida will be his greatest wife, twice. It is foreseen that love, passion, art, anger, distrust, separation, reunions, and magnetic attraction will dominate their union. Diego will outlive Frida by three long years, despite being over twenty years her senior. Her death will destroy him. Their power will always be together, not apart. They will not be able to function apart. They will destroy and protect and aid each other all in one. 

1930. Frida and Diego sit in rocking chairs on the porch of their lovely, grand house in Mexico City. Neighborhood noises surround them from all sides, birds chirping, vendors selling, neighbors yelling, children playing, music seems to echo from somewhere… But from where? Neither knows, nor cares. Frida stretches out her petite, sickly hand and places it on Diego’s large, fat arm. She looks into him, all the way to his deepest depths. She knows him as she knows herself, yet they have only been together for a less than a year. Their eyes meet. Her knows her, too. Her flaws, her illness, her passion, her artistry. They will conquer this world together, bound by art, love, politics, and destiny. 

THE SUN- Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment. Frida and Diego will marry in August of 1929. They will live for a precious few moments in happiness and bliss. Together in an elegant, large house in a fashionable neighborhood, their days will be spent in passion and painting. Frida shall be drawn to traditional Mexican dress, as opposed to the seductive, satin dresses of Dior that she can now afford. Both shall work, both will be fired. One for absence, one of communist views. But who is who in this marriage? Merging into one. For now, but not for long. Sunlight cannot last forever, especially for the new Señora Rivera.  

THE EMPRESS- Fruitfulness, motherhood, action, long days, unknown difficulty, doubt. The Empress is a mother; the empress is fruitful. Frida shall never be the Empress to anything but her paintings. The Chariot struck down the Empress many years before. Diego and Frida will travel around the continent for art commissions. San Francisco, Detroit, Washington D.C., Havana. It is foreseen that children will be conceived in one place, they shall be lost in another. Isolation, lost children, Diego: these shall be Frida’s only companions in the United States. And Diego, where will he be some nights when Frida is alone in this foreign place she despises? His assistant, Louise, will be the only one to know. Diego’s lust sets the Sun, night will come soon. 

1932. Frida enters Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan on July 4, the American day of Independence. Yet when she enters this bleak hospital losing pint after pint of blood from between her legs, all of her independence is lost. She labors through an operation on a bed made of clean, bleak surgical steel and feels like a car going through an assembly line in this industrial, capitalistic city. Her son, a small alien fetus, is removed from her punctured uterus by a team of doctors and nurses who are sad to miss their Independence Day festivities with their own children. Yet Frida knows that she will never celebrate with hers. They will die inside of her. Diego holds her hand on the Henry Ford Hospital bed. She has been cut open and hope has been taken out of her with forceps and gloved hands. Diego utters, “It was a boy, my son…” and breaks down into sobs. Frida feels nothing, she is numbed by anesthesia and pain. Tears roll down her face as she dissociates. She sees herself from above: broken, painful, and bloody. As she comes back into herself, she buries her pain even deeper and says, “There is nothing to be done.” She imagines a glorious, horrifying painting in her head, it will be her dissociation. This is her reality. 

THE MOON- Hidden enemies, danger, darkness, terror, deception, error. Frida and Diego will return to Frida’s native Coyoacán. Distrust will cloud their previous passions. Yet they will still be drawn to each other like magnets. Frida will miscarry again, Diego will move on to another mistress. A cycle that will seem to repeat throughout their ruinous relationship. Yet this time, it is night. The Moon will place enemies in plain sight, it will plunge Frida into Darkness. Diego’s affair will be with Frida’s closest sister, Cristina. Frida’s darkness shall cause her so much despair that she will be blind to right judgement. She will blame herself for this affair, plunge into depression, suffer from anorexia, and barely paint. Trouble will encase her. Yet, she will ultimately forgive them both and move past this obstacle, but she will play the same games as Diego in the Future.  

STRENGTH- Power, energy, action, courage, magnanimity. Frida’s health will rebound. Her depression will fade. She will begin to paint even more than before. The painter will focus on her work, not her husband’s infidelities. She will grow as an artist and become more than simply the wife of the great Muralist Diego Rivera. She will become her own entity. The card shows Frida’s paintings displayed in museums and galleries around Mexico and the United States. Strength foresees great success for her, her courage shall be rewarded, she shall create beautiful art. 

THE WORLD- Assured success, voyage, emigration, flight, change of place. Strength will lift Frida into the World. She shall go to Paris and be acclaimed and embraced by the most famous artists of the time. Picasso shall say to Diego, “Neither Derain, nor you and I are capable of painting a head like Frida Kahlo.” She will be loved. She will be successful. Her changing place will cause separation from Diego. The Moon is still cast over her marriage. It shall stay cast for quite some time as she and Diego divorce. She, then, will flourish artistically. Painting two of the most important and famous pieces of her life. Paintings the world shall know. Lo que el agua me dio, What the Water Gave Me. Las dos Fridas, Two Fridas. They will be spread around the globe. Her image shall permeate classrooms, galleries, and pop culture.  

1939. Frida is in a gallery in Paris, France. All around her, male painters drink champagne in their tuxedos with glamourous models at their sides, all wearing Chanel, Dior, or Givenchy. Frida stands with a wine glass near her paintings, speaking to Picasso or Dalí or whoever else is drawn to her surrealist masterpieces. She magnetizes the artists, she is so different from anything that they’ve ever seen before. She stands very straight, reaching a height of five feet two inches. Her long, dark hair is in braids with flowers at the top of her head, like a crown. She wears long, colorful skirts and shawls to match. A well-dressed Frenchman walks up to her, he says, “You’re the wife of Diego Rivera, aren’t you?” She smiles politely but, in her eyes, there is fury. She says, “I am divorced. I am a painter, not a wife. I am Frida Kahlo.” He stares down at her for a second, then looks up at Frida’s paintings on the wall. Frida watches him intently, studying his face as he looks at Las dos Fridas and Lo que el agua me dio. “I will buy the one with two of you,” he states, looking at Frida as if he is doing her a great favor. Frida looks him directly in the eyes, her spirit touches his soul. He squirms with discomfort. “No,” she calmly states, “They are not for sale. They will never be for sale. They are my children.” He mutters, “Okay…” and scurries away, turning back a few times making sure she’s not following him. She strikes him as a witch: strong, magical, terrifying. He is the grandson of a French Nobleman. He has never been told no by a woman before.  

THE LOVERS- Attraction, love, beauty, trials overcome. Affairs, marriages, flings, reunions. The card transcends time in the life of Frida Kahlo. His affair? Hers? What does it matter now? Diego and Angelina. Diego and Guadalupe. Frida and Alejandro. Frida and Diego. Diego and Louise. Diego and Cristina. Frida and Isamu. Frida and Leo. Frida and Dolores. Frida and Nickolas. Frida and María. Frida and Chavela. And finally, Frida and Diego, again, overcoming all others, always.  

1945. It is very early in the morning. Frida lies in bed with Chavela by her side, as she sleeps. She feels fulfilled, loved, feminine, and strong. Chavela is a beautiful Mexican singer who, unlike Frida’s previous mistresses, does not hide her sexuality from the world. Chavela understands Frida, almost as much as Diego, maybe more on some levels, less on others. While Diego can tend to ignore and overlook Frida’s emotions, Chavela understands the emotions before Frida even knows what she’s feeling. While Frida paints, Chavela sings to her, but Diego offers advice and challenges her further. And the history… the history… Diego has been through so much with her. She has bled in the battle to give him his children. She has moved around the United States for him, time and time again. Yet Chavela loves Frida so much, in the kindest way Frida has ever known love. What will she do next time she sees Diego? She hopes she will not see him for a long time, yet she wants to, to love him and to flaunt Chavela in his face the way he has with his mistresses for so many years. Yet, she knows, all this must end. There is no hope for her and Chavela. She wants hope, but there never is for homosexuals in this fucking Catholic country, as she said to Chavela during their last fight. What are they to do? Frida knows the monotony will drive her insane. Secrets and secrets forever. Could she even tell her father, her best friend? How would people like her art if they knew it was about lesbians? How could she paint about her reality if her reality was against the law and more faux pas than even her communism? Frida loves Chavela and is scared because she knows Chavela loves her tenfold. She turns over in bed and kisses Chavela, yet again. Chavela awakens groggily yet smiling. And she is pulled into Chavela, laughing.  

THE HIEROPHANT– Marriage, alliance, servitude, mercy. They will always come back to each other. They will always be one. Only one year of divorce. Frida and Diego shall remarry, but this time it will be a marriage of equals. They shall share household expenses and stop sexual relations. The domestic partnership of Frida and Diego will continue as so- through sickness and health. Each will serve the other when needed. Each will be a nurse. Each will be a confidant. Each will be a friend. The Moon has waned into nothing. 

THE HANGED MAN- Wisdom, trials, sacrifice, intuition, divination. Guillermo Kahlo, you will die in 1941. Your faithful daughter will suffer greatly for your loss and will move back to her home in Coyoacán. Our painter will have a difficult time with money. She will sell pictures, though it will break her he art to part with pieces of herself. So personal, so moving, so provocative. To generate wealth, Frida shall work as a painting teacher, her band of students will be named “Los Fridos.” They will work hard at her direction, yet it is foreseen that they shall be robbed of their namesake teacher very soon.  

THE MAGICIAN- Skill, sickness, pain, loss, disaster, self-confidence. Our painter’s health will yet again worsen. But she will keep painting. She will paint forever, it will continue to be her only solace, her only escape, from the pain. Frida shall undergo two more intensive surgeries. Her bed shall be her prison once again. Museums will want her paintings. The card tells that as her popularity grows, her health shall decline. Doctors will place a piece of her pelvis into her spine. She may recover. She also may not. Frida shall become sicker and more depressed by the day. To ease her mind, she shall start a diary. She will suffer for what seems like an eternity.  

1953. Frida thought she knew what it meant to suffer. She thought that the bus accident would be the most suffering she would ever have to endure again. She was wrong, so terribly wrong. Now that she is not eighteen and her body does not want to recover, she cannot stand this constant pain. The doctors have just amputated her foot and some of her leg. What will she do now? Diego walks into her room as she lies in bed trying to paint at her easel, but she can only muster up the energy to cry instead. “Diego, mi amor,” she says between sobs, “will you please take me into the gardens? I cannot lie here in misery for another second.” “Always, Frida,” He says and picks up her frail body from the bed and gently places her in her wheelchair. As he wheels her into the courtyard of La Casa Azul, she stops crying and tells him to stop pushing, immediately. “Get my diary. Now!” she demands. Diego stops and rushes into the house for her precious diary that has been her most faithful companion for the last few years. He brings her paints with him, so she may draw in it too, as she desires. “Thank you Diego, I had the most wonderful thought…” she trails off, smiling for the first time in days. A few minutes later, she tries to wheel herself deeper into the courtyard, to her favorite flower, the marigold. It was early October, the beginning of a beautiful bloom which she had not been well enough to see yet. She manages to wheel herself about three feet over the cobblestones before Diego notices her panting and pushes her the rest of the way. “You must tell me when you need help,” he scolds her gently. “Diego, of all people, you are myself, you know me. We are one body. I cannot live like this any longer. I need to regain my strength, or I would rather die. I cannot have everyone doing everything for me. Are you to paint my next portrait? I need to be independent…” she breaks off into sobs. Diego crouches down and holds her, softly as not to hurt her weak body. They stay like this for 35 minutes.  

THE DEVIL- Ravage, violence, force, fatality, that which is predestined but not for this reason evil. The Devil will come to Frida through the sickness and pain that has troubled her for so many years. This time, He shall come to fully possess her. He will stop her from painting for periods of time, her output of work will decrease dramatically. It is foreseen that he will consume Frida’s right leg and force the doctors to cut it off. He will push her down, no matter how hard our great artist will try to overcome the pain, through painting, pills, drinking, anything to stop Him. One of the only antidotes to the Devil shall be Diego, but only for periods of time.  Diego will only be able to fight him off for so long. He will fail soon. The Devil is consuming Frida whole, despite her attempts to stop Him. She will try twice to take her life out of His hands and put it back into her own. She will not succeed. Painting will soothe her. Painting and Diego. They are the cures. The Devil will want her to live and suffer through this. Frida will crave death more than anything else, even Diego and painting. 

DEATH- End, mortality, destruction. The antidotes will soothe, but they will never work. The Devil will not win, Frida will. The card shows that our great painter will die of pneumonia on July 14, 1954. She will be 47 years old13. She will be happy to die. Happy to go. Happy for an end of pain. Frida Kahlo’s last diary entry will read, “Espero alegre la salida – y espero no volver jamás,” or in English, “I hope the exit is joyful- and I hope never to return”. 

As the reading ends, the fortune teller looks up from her cards, her turban slightly askew. Guillermo and Delfina lock eyes. Delfina smiles, adjusts her turban and says, “That will be 40 pesos.” Guillermo is shocked out of his stunned state, “I thought we agreed upon 20?!” Delfina rises, both hands on the table, and says, “Yes, well, that was one of my better readings.” 

I, Katy Granbom, made the artistic decision to document the life of Frida Kahlo through Tarot Cards. I did this because I thought that Frida had a certain magical quality to her life and her being that I find to be ethereal and long-lasting. Similarly, I find tarot cards to be a very interesting medium because so many people rely on them for advice and the future.  

End Notes 

All Tarot Card Descriptions: Waite, Arthur Edward. The Key to the Tarot (Connecticut: U.S. Game Systems, 2014), 13-17. 

The Star and the Chariot and 1925 Vignette: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 244. 

The High Priestess: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 246. 

The Emperor and 1930 Vignette: Monsiváis, Carlos. “Frida and Her Friends,” in “The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 187-88.  

The Sun: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 246. 

The Empress and 1932 Vignette: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 248-50. 

The Moon: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 248-54. 

The Lovers: Monsiváis, Carlos. “Frida and Her Friends,” in “The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 189.  

1945 Vignette: Raskauskas, Stephen. “Was Frida Kahlo the ‘Greatest Love’ and Muse to This Iconic Lesbian Chanteuse?” 98.7WFMT, 3 May 2018, 

Strength:  Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 250-54. 

The Hierophant and The Hanged Man: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 256. 

The Magician: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 258-9. 

1953 Vignette and The Devil: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 259-61. 

Death: Billeter, Erika. “Chronology,” in The Blue House: The World of Frida Kahlo, ed. Erika Billeter (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), 260-61. Kahlo, Frida. The Diary of Frida Kahlo, ed. Carlos Fuentes (Austin: Abrams, Inc, 1995), 247.