An Interpretation of Auntie Banu’s Tarot Cards in The Bastard of Istanbul

In The Bastard of Istanbul, Auntie Banu was known for her practices as a soothsayer and her ability to tell the future by the use of tarot cards and coffee cups.  On Asya’s 19th birthday, Auntie Banu turned over the 3 cards, one of which was The High Priestess, the other The Tower, and finally one about an unexpected visitor (pg. 71).  By including this presentation of cards, the author has foreshadowed events to come and given the reader an opportunity to predict the outcome.

The first card, The High Priestess is “the symbol of unconscious awareness – an opening to imagination and hidden talents but also to the unknown” (pg. 71).  This reference could pertain to the knowledge presented to Auntie Banu by her djinni that sits on her shoulder.  Mr. Bitter has unlimited knowledge that he is willing to share with Banu, if she indeed wants the information.  Later in the novel, Banu gives in to Mr. Bitter, and he presents information pertaining to Asya’s father and Armanoush’s past (pg.225).  Upon Armanoush’s arrival, the family is also enlightened about the Armenian genocide from an Armenian perspective and is able to hear about the “injustice” they continued to experience.

The second card, The Tower, is “a symbol of tumultuous changes, emotional eruptions, and sudden downfall” (pg.71).  This description corresponds with the arrival of Armanoush, and continues to include the arrival of her stepfather Mustafa.  After not hearing from Mustafa for about 20 years, the Kazanci family discovered that he married a non-virgin and had a stepdaughter (pg.148).  His stepdaughter, Armanoush developed a close relationship with his “real” daughter, Asya, and they had emotional discussions about their pasts and identities.  Although she was a Turk, Asya was naïve to the genocide situation and played the provoking role in both Café Kundera and in the chat room when invited by Armanoush (pg. 212, 260).

An extreme “emotional eruption” came with the arrival of Mustafa as he was forced to return to Istanbul and face his horrendous past.  Those who knew about Zeliha’s rape were cautious around Mustafa, while those who did not were excited to see him after nearly two decades.  Zeliha was nervous for Asya and her first encounter with her father that she never knew and would not ever know as a parental figure (pg.302).  Mustafa’s arrival was the most emotional for Zeliha and Banu for they both knew of the horrible act he had committed and of his desire to forget his own crime.  Zeliha does not refrain from mentioning Mustafa’s risk of death due to his age, and it is clear that she would not have much sympathy if he did in fact die like the other men in their family (pg.332).  This scene also foreshadows the downfall of Mustafa at the hands of Banu and the poisonous pomegranate.

Lastly, the third card predicts the arrival of a “visitor from beyond the ocean” (pg. 71).  This card could either be pertaining to the arrival of Armanoush or Mustafa for they both came to Istanbul from America and travelled “beyond the ocean”.  Also, these arrivals were significant and led to the emotional outbursts and tragedies predicted in the two previous cards.  In the end, the author used the tarot cards to foreshadow and outline the future events to come.  By including this scene, the author encourages the reader to complete the novel and discover the meaning behind the predictions.