so this is the new year

…and what a year it’s been. today is my one-year anniversary of tarot, exactly 365 days since i purchased my first deck and began learning a new language. what drew me to tarot was a desire to feel more connected with the world, to find a method of relating to things bigger than me, to overcome my difficult relationship with the church and find a new way to connect spiritually with the world. tarot has helped me reclaim that part of myself, learn to see beyond what’s in front of me, and forced me to grow and challenge myself in ways i never expected.

i’ve been searching for a new spread, something to help me celebrate and reflect, but in the end i decided to use an old one – the reader’s reading, a spread i did when i first purchased my deck, and again six months ago, when i started this blog. i love the continuity of it, having a spread i do each year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. one of my favorite things about tarot is that while we can continue to gain knowledge and experience, even those that have been reading cards for decades still find new lessons, new interpretations, new ways to learn and grow. it’s a beautiful language, an incredibly powerful tool, and one i’m constantly challenged and amazed by.

1. About you in general: what is your most important characteristic?

seven-of-pentacles

the seven of pentacles is a curious card to get in this position, but it feels like a little wink, an acknowledgement that i’ve done this spread several times before. this is the report card of the deck, a chance to stop, evaluate, and consider if a change of direction is needed. it’s so easy to set a course and then just find a groove, settling into that path and following it. but sometimes it’s essential to pause in the middle, to recheck that compass, and make sure that we’re still heading the right way.

of course, this is exactly what i’m doing right now – stopping to consider, remembering where i started and looking forward to where i’m going. i’m not a person that sets strong goals for my life, or has huge ambitions, but i do enjoy the process of introspection and assessment. the journey is what matters to me, and in tarot, that could certainly be a strong and important characteristic in my readings.

2. What strengths do you already have as a reader?

IMG_0296

it’s hard to imagine any other position or spread where the dreaded nine of swords would make me smile, but in this case, i couldn’t help it. nightmares, the mind attacking itself, dark visions, anguish, despair – this is not a card anyone wants to see. and yet, in some ways, this card absolutely represents my strength: it doesn’t frighten me.

as someone that battles severe depression, idiopathic insomnia, a lifetime of feeling isolated, and more run-of-the-mill (but no less crippling) self-doubt and self-loathing, this card really hits home. it speaks to my inner demons, my worst fears, my darkest moments. but in this position, the card also represents what i already know to be true: that the mind is a difficult, twisted place, and that it is capable of true darkness. even when i do readings to find courage or strength, i often get “scary” cards in places of personal power. i know what the darkness is, but i don’t shy away from it. traditionally scary or fear-inspiring cards like the tower, the devil, death, or the ten of swords don’t frighten me, because i can see that they have purpose and meaning and value. loss can lead to greater findings. change may be hard, but it’s not inherently bad. and transformation can lead to greater beauty, even if the process is painful.

i truly believe that as a tarot reader, it’s my job to unflinchingly see the messages that the cards hold. those might not always be pretty or shiny or happy – sometimes they are difficult, brutally honest, or unwelcome. but i have to be able to honestly interpret their lessons, even when i don’t receive the answers i’m hoping for. and being able to see the darkness for what it is, and remember that there can be light at the end? that’s a strength, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

3. What limits do you feel as a reader?

IMG_0359

the chariot is a card of strength, willpower, confidence, control, and overcoming adversity. it’s a beautiful, inspirational card, but in this position it indicates limits that i feel as a reader, which makes it a bit more difficult to read. this card speaks to control, determination, someone that’s a force of nature. as a limit, it’s easy to see how this could go awry – someone is so focused on their goal they push past other potential options, become too forceful or stubborn, need to be in complete power and control over everything and everyone in their path.

i’m probably on the other side of this card – i rarely feel in control of anything, and don’t usually seek it unless i’m scared or uncomfortable. sometimes i want to steer the ship, chart the course, but most of the time i stay focused on little challenges, taking things day by day, and seeing how things go. this can certainly be a limit or weakness for me, as i’m resistant to looking too far ahead, or setting long-term goals. and for tarot, only pulling cards for a single day or the short-term or for small questions could be limiting my abilities to grow as a reader. perhaps it’s time to start pushing myself, asking bigger questions, to stop being afraid of what i might see farther ahead.

4. What key lesson can you learn on your developmental journey?

son-of-cups

the first card in my spread to show any real color, the son of cups is quiet, peaceful, introspective, and intuitive. he represents the extremes of the suit, shifting between poetic and insightful and dark, brooding, moody. this card really speaks to me as a lesson, since as a child of the water, i’m very susceptible to difficult, changing emotions. some days i don’t feel like i can handle what the cards may say, and other times it’s hard for me to cut past my own feelings and be honest with myself about the messages in the deck.

sensitivity is key when reading tarot, but it’s important to not let it get the best of me. i have to be able to separate myself from the deck when i’m reading for others, and it’s essential to be able to look past my swirling emotions and complicated feelings and see the heart of the matter, the reality that the cards are bringing to my attention.

but i think this card is also a reminder that emotions are not a weakness, and that they are not something to fear or avoid. the cards challenge me in so many ways, but one of the biggest lessons i’ve learned this year is that powerful emotions can make us strong, can push us forward, can reveal what we truly care about. they can take us to dark places, but they can also remind us what matters.

5. How can you be open to learning and developing on this journey?

seven-of-swords

a card of secrecy and self-protection is an interesting one in a position of openness and development, but the seven of swords is a card that i’ve learned to love this year. i think it’s often seen as a card of deception, lies, trickery, of fooling those around you for your own gain. but for me, this card tends to pop up when there’s danger around, when i need to be on my guard, when protecting myself is key. sometimes you’ve gotta hide, and other times you have to grab a blade and be ready.

similar to the first card in the spread, i think this could be a little wink to me – a reminder that cards can be open to interpretation, that leaning heavily on books and blogs and resources to understand every single nuance isn’t always the answer, that the cards can mean different things at different times. when i first began reading tarot i was eager to memorize meanings, wanted to be sure i was aware of all the traditional implications and histories of each card. but now, i’m learning to rely more on my own intuition, to trust my inner voice and my first reactions to cards, rather than simply opening books and websites and leaning on the wisdom of others. everyone might not agree with my understanding of the seven of swords, but that’s perfectly fine.

but taking this card at face value, i think it challenges me to be aware of secrets i’m keeping while reading. it’s so much easier to just take what you want from the cards and run, rather than honestly assessing meaning and pushing yourself to understand what the cards are truly saying. i think the seven of swords can serve as a reminder to be open with myself, to not fall into the trap of self-deceit, to keep my eyes open.

6. What is the potential outcome of this journey?

IMG_0305the most vivid and colorful card in my spread, the three of wands is a card of confidence, moving forward, stepping into a bright future. this card shimmers with possibility, and it’s an incredible card to have in the outcome position.

i’ve written a lot about how the first few cards in the suit of wands often bring me anxiety, a weight of expectation that i never feel prepared to bear. but the three is about clarifying that vision, opening our eyes wide, solidifying intentions and following dreams. and while i’m not someone that necessarily has a crystal-clear vision of my future, or even an understanding of what my aspirations truly are, this card is both soothing and empowering for me. there’s such opportunity, such potential, and yet the world is wide and the possibilities are many. tarot has expanded my vision, helped me view my days through a different lens, and by continuing to follow this path, perhaps my future will also find some clarity.

IMG_1728.jpg

this is a very black and white spread, in more ways than one. i see definite progress here, learning and growing, leaning into challenges and understanding my own limits. and while the three of wands isn’t a card i typically like, in this position it gives me hope – i’m on the right path, and the future is colorful.

thank you for a beautiful year. now, onto the next.

let’s go

today’s card is one that always brings me a bit of anxiety, and a lot of expectation: the two of wands. and while this is not a welcome card for me, there’s so much to unpack and sort through as i consider the why.

traditionally, the two of wands is a card of determination, IMG_0304willpower, potential, embracing power, taking a big step forward. horizontal lines indicate stability and power, but all those colors of the rainbow remind us of the limitless promise here – all that energy can be focused just about anywhere. there’s so much possibility here, taking the fiery energy and opportunity present in the ace and harnessing it into something concrete. having the fire and the passion to get excited about something is a great start, but without channeling that energy into something specific, it can fizzle out, fade away, or simply get lost. we have to be willing to reach out and grab those wands, point that colorful, vibrant energy towards something, and get going.

for some, i imagine this is a really exciting card. new ideas! a call to action! potential for greatness! but for me, i simply see pressure. there’s so much expectation when starting something new, so many challenges to get things right, that i’m afraid to even start.

i’ve written before about the stories that we tell ourselves, the way that we view our personalities and strengths and experiences, and how that often looks very different than the way others perceive us. i think that’s a fundamental part of the human experience, that no matter how self-aware we strive to be, we will always see ourselves in a specific way that may not align with the way we appear to the world around us. my view of myself has always been fairly specific, both in terms of what i am and what i’m not: hardworking, but not ambitious. creative, but not a creator. passionate, but not goal-oriented. interesting, but not unique. i am someone that can help people achieve their goals, craft their art, support their dreams, but i don’t have lofty ambitions or life-long objectives of my own. i’m artistic, but i’m not my own artist – i can contribute and complete, but i don’t have enough ideas to actually start something.

…which makes a card like this, that’s all about learning and building and focusing, feel impossible. what could i make, say, create, that hasn’t already been done a hundred times? why would my struggles, my lessons, my thoughts matter to anyone? how could i express myself that wouldn’t feel redundant, or simply ridiculous?

the answer is that i don’t know. i’m more comfortable in a supporting role, but this card is not about comfort. this card is about taking all those swirling ideas, those niggling fragments of inspiration, those random scribbles in notebooks and hastily-written, half-finished stories, and channeling them into something real. whether or not anyone sees it is not the point – the purpose is to actually make or do or say the thing, to craft it into something that matters. the point is the process, the journey, the attempt. simply making the effort isn’t the first step, it’s the third or fourth in an long series – and it can be the hardest one.

i’m not sure where this is going yet, but what’s clear is that it’s time to get started.

eyes wide open

i’ve been having a lot of strong, positive conversations regarding tarot lately – with both friends & strangers, experts & beginners. it’s challenging sometimes to hear what the cards have to say, to openly and honestly assess their message rather than working to twist it around, trying to make it fit in with desires and needs. and yet, seeing beyond what i want to see, forcing myself to sift through my emotional responses and truly honor the wisdom of the cards, feels like an important exercise, a way to grow and learn and continue to be open.

ace-of-swordstoday’s card is a flash of brilliance, illuminating honesty, a bright but challenging truth: the ace of swords. and while this card isn’t always an easy one for me to see, it seems to reflect my introspective mood, and my desire to continue expanding my knowledge of these cards. the sword itself is sharp and strong, confident in its potential, ushering in the beginning of this powerful suit of air and clarity and knowledge. there’s a decisive nature to this card, a choice to acknowledge what the lightning illuminates, to look beyond the darkness and clouds and rain to what is truly real. the sword is almost waiting, giving us a moment to consider if we’re prepared to wield it. are we ready to reach for that strong, unerring blade? can we handle what it may make known? or are we too afraid to grasp it, unsure of what may follow its revelations?

sometimes, we have to shield ourselves a bit. there are times for boundaries, for safety, for self-care, for acknowledging that we must remain hidden. we all have periods in our lives where the best thing we can do is protect ourselves, stay guarded, keep secrets. i don’t consider this weakness – indeed, sometimes it takes more courage than not – but there is a certain type of strength required to look directly at something scary, something ugly, something dark. uncovering truths, being brutally honest, forcing ourselves to accept something we don’t like – that’s a different kind of courage. and while some of my recent spreads have been savagely truthful, and while forcing ourselves to acknowledge the deep hatred and racism in our country is both painful and horrifying, ignoring the realities around us is not the way to find answers, or to move forward. refusing to look at what’s real and present is a huge part of what has gotten us here. i barely know how to fix the problems in my own life, let alone the institutional racism in this country (that i absolutely benefit from) – but there are people and powers out there that are far smarter than i am, that can give us ways we can help and remind us to listen to and learn from those that are disenfranchised, those that are frightened, those that are systematically oppressed.the-emperor

in search of more, i drew a major arcana card, both as a companion card and also to help kick off my week 3 exercises focusing on the major cards of the deck. the emperor is strong, practical, reliable, calm, structured, focused, grounded. he deals with problems clearly and firmly, with logic and order. and while he can be a challenging card for many, in this context he seems like precisely the type that would be able to carry the ace of swords, that could look calmly into difficult truths. the light around him is bright, the sun is burning, and his shape is bold and clear. the emperor’s strength is in his consistency, discipline, and ability to offer protection. he can teach us so much, but right now he seems to speak to my need to help, my desire to understand, my wish for those in power to actually care for and protect those that need the most protection. i’m not sure how to be the emperor today, but perhaps by grabbing the handle of the ace of swords, i can begin to learn.

IMG_1711these are huge ideas, powerful messages, and strong directives. there’s so much to be done, and i feel incredibly ill-equipped to do it. but while my little deck of cards feels like a feeble tool against such huge enemies and obstacles, today’s reminder to shine light in the darkness, to gaze unflinchingly at what’s in front of me, to refuse to cower in fear or hide behind those that are louder or shy away from the difficult conversations – that feels like a powerful place to start.

on the three of cups

IMG_0334i’ve written before about stalker cards, and this past month i have a new one – the three of cups. it’s not hard to pinpoint why, exactly – i’ve been struggling with changing relationships, feeling left out and misunderstood, battling my loneliness and trying to learn to reach out and ask for help more often.

the three of cups is a card of friendship and community, a safe space of honesty, love, and openness. this is a beautiful, comforting card, one that represents those that truly allow us to be ourselves. and while for most it’s a very welcome card, for me it’s come to represent a particular relationship that’s shifting, and other relationships that are lost. it feels like it’s mocking my feelings of doubt, isolation, and rejection. seeing it again today, reversed, feels very pointed. rather than letting this card stand alone, it seems like time to do a stalker spread.

 

1. What is the importance of this card in my life right now?

IMG_0315the mother of wands, a card of fierce loyalty, vibrant energy, and incredible passion. strong-willed, determined, and independent, this is a card that has shown up when i’m pushing myself, and when i’m scared – she tends to reveal herself when i need an extra boost of confidence and clarity, when i’m hesitating, when i’m doubting myself. she’s a reminder to fight for what’s right, to stay true to ourselves, to practice gratitude and focus on what matters.

in this reading, the mother of wands feels like a reminder to keep reaching for what i want. i’m afraid of relationships falling apart, i don’t want to push people away that i care about, and i don’t want to be alone with my troubles – but at the same time, i hate feeling vulnerable, asking for help, sharing my feelings. it may take a lot more effort on my part, and i may need to push myself to keep being honest and working through my issues, but it’ll be worth it to get what i want and need. i can’t keep bottling everything up, hoping that the people in my life will somehow magically know what i need. my friendships and communities matter deeply to me, and right now i need to fight for them, and to make an effort to connect with friends both near and far.

2. What is preventing me from hearing the message of this card?

strength, a card of gentle courage, personal power, and true patience. this card is a reminder to tap into that well of inner strength and mastery, to learn to walk in tandem with our inner demons rather than always engaging in battle, to exercise patience and IMG_0360love when working with others. it’s a beautiful, encouraging card, but a challenging one in this position.

while strength is generally considered a positive thing, something to aspire to and work towards, the cards seem to be saying that in this case, it’s become a hindrance. i’m clinging to a specific idea, mistaking my refusal to change for patience, perhaps not taking enough responsibility for my own feelings and actions. i keep ploughing ahead with the same view of the three of cups, sure that it alludes to my sadness and isolation, that it keeps popping up to taunt me. but there are plenty of cards that represent loneliness, depression, loss, grief, discouragement, rejection. is it so hard to take this card at face value, to believe that i have a community that cares about me? can i be strong enough to see this card for what it truly is? do i truly believe that showing vulnerability and feelings is a weakness, or can i embrace it as a true strength of will?

it’s time to stop seeing stubbornness as a synonym for fortitude. sometimes, strength comes in knowing when to shift, when to regroup, when to stop and breathe and reconsider. strength can be honesty, openness, admitting weakness and fear and brokenness. and rather than clinging to old ideas, calling it patience while i wait for things around me to change, perhaps it’s time to adjust my own attitude.

3. How can I release any blockages?

the ten of wands, a card of burnout, exhaustion, scattered energy and emotion. the suit of fire and passion, enthusiasm and opportunity, has reached its natural conclusion: feeling overwhelmed and utterly depleted. there’s a sense of burden and even shame here – too many things going on, feeling stretched in every direction, unsure of where to go next or how to succeed.

IMG_0312

this card is a reminder to focus on what truly matters, to strip away the distractions and all the extra, to remember where joy lives and to seek it out. and right now, that feels pretty damn impossible – i can see the fog of depression creeping over the horizon, my own sadness is at higher levels than usual, my therapist is out of town, i feel lonely and strange, everything is wrong but i’m doing my usual song-and-dance that everything is fine. i don’t want to fight through this tangle of branches, choosing the one that matters most – i want to use them for a bonfire, burn it all down, start over. and perhaps this is a reflection of how i feel about the three of cups: so many tangled feelings, making something that seems so simple and lovely into something utterly complicated and dark.

the ten of wands itself is a card that demands release, that advises us to let go of all those extra burdens and instead find the joy that started the whole mess. and the joy of the three of cups is so simple: feeling understood, feeling valued, feeling heard. knowing that you mean something to the people in your life, both those you see all the time and others that take more effort to stay connected with. i am lucky enough to have both, a community of friends in my city along with old friends i’ve known for years, though they’re much farther away. and while sometimes i’m stumbling in the dark, feeling utterly lost and alone, i have a family that i’ve chosen, that somehow has chosen me right back.

IMG_1692.jpg

i knew this spread would be a difficult one, and it is. i clearly have trouble accepting love and friendship, leaning on others, admitting when i need help. i’m much better at reaching out to friends that are in pain than i am at reaching out when i’m in pain. i struggle with believing that people truly care about me, especially when i’m battling my demons. but the three of cups keeps popping up not to mock me or insult me, but rather as a constant reminder that i matter to someone. it’s a difficult lesson for me, but it’s one i need to take to heart, particularly in this time of challenge and change.

daily lessons

it’s been a very introspective week, as i adjust back to life in the city, try to get my bearings with my friends and family, and work to keep my depression at bay for as long as possible. i haven’t really felt strong enough to hear lessons from the cards, but today’s daily draw is a strong, passionate message that gives me much to consider: the hierophant.

the-hierophantbefore i knew much of tarot, i thought of the hierophant as simply a teacher or mentor, someone with wisdom to impart and the patience to help others expand their worldview. but there’s a weight to this card, a feeling of expectation, tradition, structure and system that makes me bristle. i grew up in a very religious household and church, and there’s so much fervor, such intensity of belief and rigidity and absolutes, that i felt completely smothered. there’s a sense of that overconfident preacher here, a fanaticism – only he holds the key, only he can wield it, and to understand the truth you must go through this messenger.

there may not be a strong presence of organized religion in my life right now, but i do have faith, and beliefs, and connections to things and energies greater than myself. my roots include so much of that structured, specific way of thinking – do this, not that; good and evil are opposites and never overlap; to be holy you must act this way and be this way. there’s so much fear in that way of thinking, a constant paranoia that you may do something wrong and not even know it. and when you’re secretly queer and growing up in the church, everything takes on new meaning. it’s impossible to be yourself – you learn to hide in plain sight, to not rock the boat, to not ask too many questions.

in addition to the more traditional meanings, this card is reminding me of a recent difficult conversation with a family member – someone with very different views than i. what could’ve been constructive and illuminating quickly became toxic and harmful, simply because we had trouble understanding each other. this family member reminds me of the hierophant in a very negative way – so convinced that his perspective is the only correct one that he’s unable to even consider any other way, any other truth. it frightened me, and it broke my heart.

but perhaps the hierophant is more than a stuffy, threatening, religious figure, desperate to convert and control, or someone with rigid, fanatical views based solely on his own experiences. perhaps instead i can take him back to that original meaning – a teacher, a mentor, or simply a way to dig deep and find meaning and truth and honesty. i feel strongly that we have to develop our own beliefs, find our own way to navigate the world and relate to the god/dess that we feel around us, and give weight and meaning to the perspectives that we have. faith is such a personal experience and expression, and sometimes the person speaking the loudest can overshadow that quiet inner voice that speaks our own truth.

(or maybe the cards are just reminding me to stop slacking on my tarot course and get back to work!)

either way, i want to be more open to the lessons of the hierophant. there is always more to learn, more to absorb, more to understand. and without challenging ourselves to find new perspectives, without continuing to read and listen and explore, we can never grow past our own limitations. i don’t want to be stifled, but i don’t want to stunt my own growth either.

keeps on turning

back in the city, back to real life. today’s card is a perfect reminder that everything is connected and the world keeps on turning: the wheel of fortune.

IMG_0362this is a card i’ve only worked with once before, but it’s one that i find very appealing. there are so many colorful threads, so many knots and tangles and loops that connect everything together. we can’t always trace the lines, don’t always see how one thing impacts another, but everything is linked. in the middle of the mess, it’s hard to see why things are happening or how it could possibly end well, but with time and perspective we can see the whole picture, learn valuable lessons, gain fuller insight into our world. and even when the wheel spins on its head, when we flip from the top to the bottom without warning, there is still a sense of something greater than ourselves, a power bigger than our own small selves.

change is inevitable. control is fleeting. most days, the world can look like nothing more than beautiful, terrible chaos. the world can be upended in an instant – whether we recognize that change or not. and this card encourages us to remember humility, to not get too high-and-mighty, to stay aware of our actions and our contributions to this world of ours. we can only do so much, control so much, change so much.

IMG_0304major arcana cards are the theme of my next week of exercises through beth’s course, and in the spirit of continuing to learn i drew a second companion card. a perfect reminder to not surrender all of my power, the two of wands is a card of willpower, determination, decisiveness, and potential. rather than cowering in fear at the wheel of fortune, seeing it as a symbol of inevitability and fate and destiny, i need to also remember that i still have agency and independence. the world may keep turning whether or not i’m here, but i still have opportunities to make my mark. i have a role to play in this life, things to create and speak and do. one of those colorful threads represents me, and what i do with my time and energy and spirit can matter. i don’t want to get too big, too arrogant, too confident – but i shouldn’t let the power of the wheel crush me either.

back to the water

something about being by the sea always calms me, makes me feel grounded and whole. and though i’m still having trouble coming to terms with the huge changes in this relationship, am still drowning in regret and embarrassment over speaking up, it’s comforting to be able to go for long walks by the ocean. there’s something freeing in just walking on the beach, no destination in sight, no plan or obligation or schedule to follow. this week is a chance to escape, to recuperate, to try to heal before i have to back to the real world.

the cards are right there with me, giving me the daughter of pentacles as my card for the week. her peaceful energy, her love of exploration and nature, and her ability to accept where she is and not struggle against her mistakes is exactly what i need.

IMG_1611

i often struggle to remain present, instead dreaming of the past or the future. i get lost in regret, in mistakes, in missed opportunities. or i consider what i could do next, how i could get there, and what it would look like. actually just being where i am isn’t always easy – except by the water. there i can simply be, smell the tangy air, enjoy the sand in my toes and the sun in my eyes and the spray in my face. i never tire of the sea. and now that the storms have passed and the clouds are gone, i plan to be outside for as many hours as possible. i don’t want to stare at my phone, hoping for messages that aren’t coming. i don’t want to keep reading the news, seeing how the terrifying monsters that are running our country are trying to tear it apart at its very foundation. i don’t want to stress about the future or obsess about the past.

this week is for me, to unplug and find a way to live in the quiet for a bit. all too soon i’ll have to head back to the city, to difficult situations and complicated relationships and challenging professional decisions. but if i can focus that pentacles energy, let myself simply be here for a bit, hopefully i’ll go back a little stronger, a little more confident, a little more peaceful.

being a water sign is not easy, and my affinity for cups can be a daily challenge. but at times like this, i wouldn’t have it any other way.