House of tarot cards: who will win the election?

‘That’s the card of stress, of anxiety, of things being all over the place’: we ask two tarot card readers how the general election will go

Before there were wonks, pollsters and pundits, political leaders consulted oracles or ruminated on animal entrails. Few do this nowadays (apart from some of the more traditional Fianna Fáil cumann), but that doesn't mean our modern means of prediction are more precise.

In 2005, Philip Tetlock published a 20-year study of political predictions and found that expert prognostications were about as accurate as dart-throwing chimps (sadly a figure of speech rather than a literal control group). This newspaper concurs with Tetlock and, after months of polling and punditry, we have concluded that the old ways are best.

And so we go to two fortune tellers to get the results of the election.

‘They’re going to be annihilated’

Gráinne Ní Mhéalóid has bright red hair, a chatty demeanour and a candle-lit, incense-scented basement room on Dublin’s South William Street. She began having precognitive “feelings” as a child and got her first set of tarot cards in her teens.


A customer drops in while we are there to tell her that all her recent predictions came true. “You’re scary, Gráinne,” she says. “But you’re brilliant scary.”

In 2007, Ní Mhéalóid says, she successfully predicted a Fianna Fáil government. There is some bias there – her mother ran for Fianna Fáil in 1982. But Ní Mhéalóid is no Fianna Fáiler. And she says she hates Fine Gael because of how little they have done about homelessness.

As we are talking about Fine Gael, Ní Mhéalóid cuts the cards and shows me the base of the deck. It’s the “Devil” card. “What did I say?” she says.

Will Fine Gael lead the next government? She deals the cards in to a rough Celtic cross. "No," she says, pointing at the Five of Rods. "That's the card of stress, of anxiety, of things being all over the place."

There’s the Eight of Cups, which features “someone walking away from the situation”; and the Two of Rods, “someone who appears to hold the world in the palm of their hand, but . . . ” She points to the Ten of Swords. It literally features a man with 10 swords in his back. “They’re going to be annihilated,” she says confidently.

How will Sinn Féin do?

She deals again. There’s King of Rods (“that’s Gerry,” she says and laughs), the Queen of Rods (“there’s Mary Lou”) and the Ace of Pentangles (“the card of big success”).There’s the Hanged Man, “the card of being in limbo. It could be a situation where they’re sitting around waiting to see what’s going to happen.”

There’s also the Justice card, suggesting “something legal”, and the Wheel of Fortune, meaning that “everything is going to turn completely on its head”.

The cards also hint at a mysterious young man on the rise. "He's going to be very important." Maybe it's Paul Murphy or Richard Boyd Barrett, Ní Mhéalóid says. "The Three of Rods indicates there could be three [parties] going to get together."

How are Labour going to do? "That'd be interesting," she says and deals the cards.

The Two of Swords indicates “confusion”. The Three of Swords suggests “a big break-up”. The Judgment card means they are “being judged by the public”. But she is also getting “loads of love cards”, suggesting “somebody [in the party] who would have people’s best interest in heart”.

Are they going to be in government? She takes a card from the pack. “No,” she says. “That’s the card of walking away.”

How many TDs will they have? She takes another card. “Five,” she says. “There’s a specific for you.”

What about Fianna Fáil?

She draws the Hermit card, which indicates someone who has “withdrawn to lick their wounds and analyse”. There’s the Death card, which of course doesn’t mean death but “rebirth”. And there’s the Two of Cups, “the partnership card”, which surprises her. Ní Mhéalóid thinks this means Fianna Fáil will be in coalition.

The Emperor also comes up. That’s Enda, she says, who wants to “get into bed” with Fianna Fáil. Still, the cards generally suggest a coalition with Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and a bunch of Independents or People Before Profit. “A three-way thing.”

‘I’d strongly suggest they’re in a coalition’

Colm Dalton has a striking goatee and an office in Dublin's KCR Industrial Estate. There's a small table with candles, four decks of cards, Viking runestones and a dragon-themed incense burner.

Dalton always had dreams that “ended up coming true”. He discovered tarot when a girl he fancied gave him a reading and he “got more interested in the tarot than in her”. He laughs. “It’s not exactly the mystical journey you were looking for.”

His style is different from Ní Mhéalóid’s. He wants me to shuffle each time to get my “energy” on the cards. He starts by giving me a personal reading. You will be unsurprised to hear that “the fool” and “the devil” are among the first cards drawn.

How are Fine Gael going to do? He deals out a formation of cards. There’s the Wheel of Fortune, suggesting “things are very much up in the air at the moment. There’s going to be a big, big change for them.”

The Hanged Man suggests “a lot of contemplation. A decision they have to make. They don’t necessarily want to make it, but they don’t see any alternative.”

The Magician usually signifies “order” coming from “chaos”, Dalton says, which is a good summation of Fine Gael’s electoral messaging. But the card is reversed, meaning “a lot of their message is getting lost”.

Will Fine Gael lead the next government? He gets me to pick three cards from the pack. The three cards are the Lovers (“that’s to do with partnerships, possibly a more equal partnership than they’d like”); the Hierophant, suggesting someone going into something with “the best of intentions; and the Empress, who represents “management”.

“Yes,” concludes Dalton. “They are going to lead the next government.”

What are Fianna Fáil’s prospects? I shuffle and he deals. There’s that pesky Death card. “Death doesn’t necessarily mean ‘death’,” he says, but “the death of an old way of life”.

There are also two “management cards” – the Empress and the Emperor – but they are reversed. They are in leadership, Dalton explains, but “they’re not the ones in control.” There’s also the Fool, which usually means “a big leap of faith”. “I’d strongly suggest they’re in a coalition.”

Whither Sinn Féin?

The Tower card shows a tower being destroyed, suggesting the party must “be destroyed before it can be rebuilt”. The Hanged Man appears. “They have one hand in the past and one in the future. They know the way they want to go but their core is stuck in the past.”

Could that be a reference to the leadership, I eagerly ask (I’m enjoying this). Not necessarily, Dalton says. However, “there are also a lot of strong female cards”. He laughs. “Good old Mary Lou.”

The Charioteer indicates “a very adversarial type of thing. I’d say they’re not in the government. They are the adversary: possibly the main opposition party.”

What about Labour? He surveys the cards. “Their glory days are more behind them,” he says, but it’s not all bad. The Hierophant card suggests someone in the party “trying to bring them back to their core, trying to inspire people”.

Will Labour be in government?

“This one is on you,” he says, like Pontius Pilate, and he has me pick cards from the deck. They include the Hermit, someone who has to go away to “hear his own inner voice”, and the Moon, indicating a party “distracted by illusions and chasing shadows”. No, predicts Dalton, they won’t be in government.

We ask about the smaller parties. There is a split on the horizon for the Social Democrats, People Before Profit will need to regroup, and Renua are possible coalition partners, according to whatever celestial force is guiding my shuffle.

How many weeks will it take to form the government? Dalton suggests I pick a card for each week after the election. Only on the fifth week do we get a card that indicates union.

How long will the new government last? We pick cards for each year. The third card is “Death”, which in this case, he suggests, doesn’t mean rebirth but actual death.

So see you in three years then, when we’ll do this again.