It's to Near we return, time and again, to see how tarot is used in Death Note.
Death Note Near's Tarot Deck
Anthony Rester's tarot purchase on behalf on Near was first revealed in the manga: Death Note Chapter 78 Prediction. Those scenes later appeared in the anime: Death Note Episode 30 Justice.
Near's Tarot Spread in Death Note Manga and Anime
While I can't claim to know every single tarot card spread in existence, this one is a new configuration on me. It's difficult to know how it would - or indeed could - be read in a predictive context.
The question being - for whose?
Themes and Motifs in Death Note's Tarot Scene
In the manga, this is Chapter 78 - there are usually 78 cards in a tarot deck. The chapter is entitled Prediction. Fortune telling is how tarot is most famously employed, though by no means the only way in which they might be used.
Moreover, in Death Note 13: How to Read, author Tsugumi Ohba claimed that he chose the title based upon the predictions given by Near and Light respectively. Namely that there is a fake rule (Near) and that Mello would contact the Japanese Kira Task Force (Light). No mention of tarot in this context at all, though it would seem the obvious source.
In the anime, the scenes in which Near reads tarot cards occur in Episode 30: Justice. There's nothing particularly meaningful about the number 30 in tarot, but there is a card usually labelled Justice.
Death Note Near's Tarot Card Reading - Death
Unfortunately for the storytelling plot, the Death card in tarot rarely means actual, physical death for any individual uncovering it.
As an aside, a group of us tarot readers once challenged ourselves to come up with a configuration of cards which would genuinely denote an imminent loss of life. As in unequivocally could not be read in any other way. It was hard work, with much toing and froing and debate, but we eventually arrived at something. Every card was one of the minor arcana. They did not feature the major arcana card Death.
So how did Death Note do with its use of the tarot Death card?
At least not in isolation.
Though, of course, Near could just be using the Death tarot card as a symbolic prop and not reading it at all. In which case, it very nicely indicates a Death God, an instrument of death and a vigilante brand of enacting capital punishment upon his erstwhile foster brother.
However, that's not precisely how and when Near links events with his Death card.
Near doesn't turn over his card until the moment when he's found a rule which can't be proven true given the known facts of the Kira case. Unless, of course, Light Yagami really was innocent, which Near doesn't believe.
Therefore the appearance of the Death card in Death Note marks a watershed moment whereby Near's investigation genuinely threatens Kira's security, and Light's previously watertight alibi. It's also the first fruits from the beginning of a new arc, in which Mello and Near (not entirely willingly) work together to defeat their mutual adversary.
Death Note's creators may have employed this tarot card in a purely symbolic way or not, but it also fits the plot.
Death Note Near's Tarot Reading - The Devil
It could also be seen very symbolically without recourse to knowledge of tarot cards. If Kira is Death, then he was tempted into it by a supernatural force, i.e. the Death God. (Who was no doubt seen as demonic anyway, especially in the Western mind, amid all that Christian imagery dotted throughout Death Note.) Who better then to represent Ryuk in tarot than The Devil?
If you're reading from an Abrahamic background (Jew, Christian, Muslim etc.), then please put aside all you know of The Devil/Satan. This tarot card skirts about the edges of that persona, but it isn't an exact fit. For that you need to reach further into the inspiration for the modern Devil - Pan, Bacchus/Dionysus etc. This is a deity/demi-god who exists for hedonistic pleasure. He will grant your every desire and give you tools to satisfy your greatest craving. Thus teaching the individual the meaning of the old adage: be careful what you wish for, it might come true.
You only have to see the addict in thrall to their next hit, or those crushed beneath debt because they really couldn't afford all those things that they bought, in order to see how instant gratification and receiving all that you wanted might go badly wrong.
In the case of Kira, it was that Ryuk presented him with power usually beyond the scope of any mere human. Light Yagami's wish for a better world made him reach for the Death Note. His use of it ultimately controlled him, rather than the other way around. Ryuk has frequently stated that he's on nobody's side. He's there for the lulz, as it were. But here he is providing Light/Kira/2nd L with the lie required to continue satisfying his need to remain in power.
That is The Devil of the tarot, and the Death God of the manga/anime alike. At any time, Light could have stopped. Ryuk doesn't force him into this course of action. He just facilitates it.
That Near turns over The Devil card at the point whereby Ryuk lies on Kira's behalf is exactly right. That was the moment of facilitation, not merely that of being present.
How Near Uses Tarot Cards in Death Note
If he'd merely picked those cards at random from the tarot pack, then they really were worth the $250 in precision, and Near is undoubtedly the most intuitive character in manga history.
But he didn't pick either of them at random.
Look again at how the sequence with The Devil tarot card in the Death Note anime plays out to witness how Near selects his tarot cards quite purposefully.
Psychological Profiling with Near's Tarot Deck in Death Note
Analysis: Near hasn't yet reached a firm conclusion upon what's occurring with the Second L (Light/Kira). Each tarot card in his hand represents a possibility.
Analysis: Until now, The Devil card has symbolized one of a final handful of strong contenders for what's going on. Near has promoted it to most likely scenario, but cannot acknowledge it as fact until he's tested his theory.
In that pose, Near clarifies that there is indeed a shinigami present, and confirms that the answer was that all Death Note rules are truly stated.
Analysis: Near has already deduced that there should be a shinigami present, as he suspects that Light Yagami is Kira. What he was testing was whether the relationship between Kira and Ryuk is akin to that state of affairs governed in tarot by The Devil card. Near knows there is a fake rule, so Ryuk's denial of the fact confirms Near's favoured theory.
From a pack of 78 tarot cards, Near has now homed in on one - The Devil - to describe Kira's inner sanctum and mindset, and Ryuk's position within the scenario too. This sets the tempo for what will later play out in the Yellow Box warehouse. In short, Near just nailed Light Yagami's psychology; Ryuk's facilitative indifference; and his own end game. All with a single tarot card to provide context.
Whilst speaking, Near throws down The Devil card, so it lands upturned upon the Death card.
Moreover, Near's just shown that the Death God will lie for Kira, inserting fake rules to provide him with an alibi. Therefore Light Yagami's innocence is no longer proven. He could still be, and almost certainly is, Kira.
He never once mentions The Devil, though Hal, Anthony and the unseen Stephen would be able to see Near deal his tarot card. Nevertheless, Near has tripped Light up by triggering the weakness inherent to all in that state of being highlighted by The Devil in tarot.
Conclusion: Near uses the tarot in Death Note as psychological profiling tools. Not fortune-telling at all, just props for his own thought processes and theory categorization.
~ Tarot Mikami