You will die often, and of things you forgot to attend to while you still could.


The Doctor


Placement: The Obscure Arcana


Description: In the most popular depiction of The Doctor card, there is a large man in academic dress, sometimes with a mortar board on his head and the tassel dangling between his eyes, which he crosses to look at, and occasionally wearing a long-beaked mask as doctors did in the middle ages while examining plague victims, although this version of the card is more rare.

The character faces left, carrying a doctor’s bag in one hand and a book bag in the other, which is split open. Two books poke out through the hole, threatening to escape. One has already. Its pages are open. He is about to step on the book and trip to his death. There is a cloud behind his lower back.

The Doctor card is often associated with the Commedia dell’Arte character Il Dottore. Il Dottore is not evil so much as a clueless windbag authority figure who is always in the way. If he manages to bumble through the story, he might not learn his lesson, and afterwards he may cause the deaths of more patients than he saves.

Alternately, in some twentieth century decks, The Doctor card shows an ancient trickster god who, according to legend, repeatedly saves people and then dies. There are at least a dozen conflicting descriptions of that interpretation of the card, however, and some academics believe that these were invented for the purposes of selling scarves and blue house paint.


Right side up:

Doctor, heal thyself. One can do much for others when one puts one’s mind to it, but like hell if one can ever use one’s skills to one’s own advantage.

In another interpretation, you may find yourself misdiagnosed, given the wrong treatment and then die of your actual ailment, which you could have otherwise overcome given the current level of medical technology.


Upside down:

You have learned much from your travels and your studies, but no one believes you and they accuse you of making things up. Your years and years of study are seemingly for nothing but your own sense of accomplishment. You have to live in your head, enjoying an imaginary life because of the constant humiliation of the real world, and that is why you do not notice whatever deadly thing is coming for you.


Classic The Doctor deaths:

  • Slipping on a book and falling and breaking your neck
  • Receiving the death penalty for blasphemy, in one of the regions where one can still earn death penalties for blasphemies.
  • Working towards a cure for an infectious disease but forgetting to wash your hands
  • Interrupting other people’s statements with “Um, actually…” counterarguments until they throttle you.