Rowling Talks Tarot on 60 Minutes (1999)

“[I don’t believe in magic] in that sense. I find [magic] fascinating and I find it fun and I could read your cards for you now and I would hope we would both find it amusing but I wouldn’t want either of us to walk away believing in it.” [Grim face of determination]

We already knew  from Sean Smith’s 2001 biography of Rowling that Jo Rowling read tarot cards with her friends at the Wyedean Comprehensive where she was Head Girl as a high school student.

One [of her friends from school] recalls, ‘Jo would entertain us with her brilliant wit and colorful stories. She was very inventive and clever at reading tarot cards and palms and weaving a story around it which was pure make believe but had us alternately gripped and then laughing’ (Sean Smith, J. K. Rowling: A Biography, p 62).

She claimed fluency in this art in one of her first American television interviews in 1999, too, seventeen years after graduation. As Beatrice Groves noted in her LeakyCauldron piece about the History of Magic Exhibition, from which series of articles I first saw the video clip above, the first of the books that she discusses with Stahl is Fortune Telling by Cards. “I know a lot about foretelling the future without, I have to say, believing in it.” Troubled Blood shows that she is still more than familiar with the Wicked Pack of Cards.

Do you think she was coached before this 1999 interview to be sure she said she didn’t believe in magic? That look she gives Stahl after saying she wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about her ability to tell fortunes with tarot cards is unusual. I suspect that, if the coaches existed, they weren’t delighted she brought up divinatory cartomancy!

Here’s the thing — the clip above was never aired on television, at least not in the United States. You can read the transcript of the show that was broadcast at Accio-Quotes; there’s nothing about her not believing in magic, Fortune Telling by Cards, or her reading Lesley Stahl’s future from the tarot card deck in her purse. There is this important bit in the transcript I was delighted to find:

ROWLING: But I don’t really think of these [new stories] as sequels. I see this as one huge novel that has been divided for the reader’s convenience into seven.

But magic? And tarot cards? That part of the 60 Minutes interview had to wait for a website called to post in 2007 and Beatrice Groves’ posts with same in 2018. Where got it, who knows? And, no surprise, only Professor Groves picked up on the tarot card reference after this site put the clip up on YouTube — and that only eleven years later.

Imagine the differences in the conversations during the Potter Panic if 60 Minutes in 1999 had aired the interview with the tarot cards segment and Wikipedia had not decided in 2010 to block the posting of information about Rowling’s skills in astrology on her Wiki page. Perhaps we should just be grateful.


  1. This show, it turns out, has quite the history!

    The interview, as you can tell from Rowling’s appearance as well as from the given date, was filmed in 1999. The transcript of the program as it was broadcast is in the post above, the link taking you to

    Accio-Quote, though, has transcripts for “ten video clips, about two minutes each” that were broadcast in October, 2002, I’m guessing on 60 Minutes, as part of a “Publicity Tour for Book 5.” Order of the Phoenix did not come out until June, 2003, so I’m skeptical about the “publicity tour” bit. I think that 60 minutes realized it had Rowling material it hadn’t aired in 1999, she was a hot commodity in the fall of 2002 and not giving interviews, and they decided to edit the material they had into short clips.

    How they broadcast these short clips, if they aired all of them or only some of them, as part of a 60 Minutes program, I have no idea. Perhaps nobody in the US ever saw the ‘Does JKR Believe in Magic?’ piece discussed in the article above until it was picked up overseas for YouTube by The Accio-Quote page says the clips were “re-edited in 2006.” For a ratings bump before HP7, that came out in 2007?

    Again, more questions than answers. Enjoy the 2002 transcript at of the ten missing interview pieces that weren’t broadcast in 1999!

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