cutting through

much like the ace/two/three of wands, i feel a bit of anxiety when i pull the ace of swords in a daily reading. clarity is coming, the truth will be revealed, and whether i like it or not, honest insight is on its way. i pulled this card just a few weeks ago, in the wake of charlottesville, and it forced me to continue to acknowledge my privilege as a white woman in a liberal city, even as i wrestle with my struggles as a queer woman whose identity is often lost or erased. what will this fearsome blade cut through today?

ace-of-swordsperhaps it’s natural as a water sign to be uncomfortable with the air, to worry about what that brilliant blade of light and truth will uncover. i’m in such a difficult place, trying not to drown in depression and working hard to not completely isolate myself, and the idea of facing the ugliness of my emotions, gazing unflinchingly at my mistakes and pride, forcing myself to acknowledge things long buried – it sounds like too much to bear. this sword has a sharp point, that zeroes in on its mark and does not miss. it lights up the darkness, offers flashes of brilliance and power and clarity, cuts to the heart of the matter. like all aces, it embodies all the strengths and challenges of the suit, harnessing the power of the air.

and it makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide in the darkness.

but what else can this card represent? the fountain tarot features a brilliant sword that looks to be made of glass, diving straight down into all the colors and tangles to cut a clear path forward. there’s no hesitation, no flinching, no fear – simply force, IMG_1861determination, and power. this sword cuts through everything, clearing the way for truth and strength and success. sometimes we have to clear away all that bullshit to see the soul inside. nothing about this is easy or simple, but it’s not meant to be. clearing through tangled emotions, complicated justifications, excuses and perceptions and all the ways we explain away and struggle to understand our current reality – it’s a painful process, but a necessary one. this sword demands that we assess ourselves, force ourselves to sift through everything to find the truth, and take the time to understand what lies at the heart of these issues. it also suggests powerful new ideas, flashes of insight, fresh approaches to old problems, ambition and strength and determination to see things through to the end. and those are satisfying, appealing ideas, especially in my current state.

a difficult card, to be sure. self-reflection can be a miserable process, revealing things we’d prefer not to see. and the idea of charging forward with that brilliant blade, fearless and strong, feels impossible. but after yesterday’s reading and all of its encouragement to mourn the past and then set it free, this feels like a harsh but necessary reminder to start that challenging, ultimately rewarding work.

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shadows & surrender

i love my deck, but lately i’ve been itching to explore some new interpretations. since i’m still pretty new at tarot, i don’t want to become so attached to one specific set of cards that i can’t open myself up to new readings, new possibilities, new understandings of these archetypes and images. the only way for me to grow is to connect with new decks, new artistry, and look to find the deeper meanings that i might miss with my current cards. today’s reading was done with the fountain tarot, and is a perfect card for my state of mind: the moon.

IMG_1828illuminating the dark waves and casting luminous shadows over the world, the moon glows in the darkness, gentle light that teases and tricks the eye. the card is beautiful, evocative and layered, with gorgeous monochromatic blues and greys. i love the ghostly wolves standing on the piers, the ropes and beams playing with lines, the richness of the night sky. the moon is a card of mystery, trickery, imagination – we can easily get lost in those dark shadows, our feet and minds confused without the brilliance of the daylight. there’s a wildness to this card, a sense of temptation, a longing to stay trapped in that beautiful darkness, howl at the sky, get lost and refuse to be found.

the creators of this deck call it a surrender to darkness, and write, “…there is nowhere to anchor, and everything feels confusing and deceptive, though slightly seductive and familiar. even time seems to be disappearing, but there is an urgency for you to move, or risk being lost here forever.” that resonates with me so strongly, it took the breath right out of my lungs. there’s nothing lovely about depression, no hidden benefit or secret silver lining – it’s just darkness, ugliness, a horror that paralyzes. depression takes, and takes, and takes. but the moon reveals beauty in that darkness, creates new murkiness where before there was only clarity. the moon lets us journey through those shadows, find hidden truths, and explore the depths of our own souls – good, bad, and ugly.

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i never quite know if it’s better to surrender to the darkness, to give in to the inevitable, and try to ride it out with grace – or if i should fight to the bitter end, using every last muscle to keep the monster away for as long as possible. i’ve tried both; neither works. the shadows always come, the fog always covers me, the upside-down always traps me. there’s no escaping the darkness, merely delaying it. but this time around, i’m trying to just let it be, but stay open. i’m trying to keep talking, keep blogging, keep reading my cards. i’m forcing myself to connect, to share, to seek out those who may understand and try to build something.

scary stuff, to be honest. forcing myself to be introspective, to write, to share, to connect with others honestly and openly – it’s hard, and doesn’t come naturally to me. but my hope is that if i can keep a little crack in the door, if i can focus on that softly glowing celestial beauty in the distance, if i can find ways to keep my dimming creativity alive, then maybe this descent into the shadows won’t be quite as deep.

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.

looking for a way out

it’s been a difficult few days. after worrying about shifts in a particular relationship for months, i finally spoke up – and didn’t get the response i was hoping for. my fears about losing this relationship feel like they’re mine alone, dismissed and overlooked. and rather than experiencing love and reassurance, i feel abandoned. perhaps this relationship isn’t what i thought it was. is there any solution to this problem? is it time to walk away? can i resolve this without losing myself?

time for the way out spread.

1. the matter at hand

six-of-cupsthe six of cups, a card of memories, stories, roots, and experiences. this card popped up in a spread just a few days ago, where i was thinking about the same situation – but here, it’s a perfect representation of my concerns. the beginning of this relationship was so lovely, felt inclusive and honest and raw in a beautiful, soothing way. i could be myself, share my fears, receive love and support no matter what. this relationship helped me find myself, helped me come out, helped me develop confidence. and while the affection is still there, while there is certainly still love and caring and support, it doesn’t feel the same anymore. intimacies have shifted, other relationships have eclipsed us, and i no longer feel the same unconditional companionship. i miss the past, though i know it’s impossible to rewind. the root of the relationship is still there, but we’re in a new season, and i’m having trouble with the change. i remember how things started, how we grew together, and i’m mourning the loss of it. i want to go back.

 

2. the blockIMG_0326

this card may seem like a strange one in this position, but it makes sense for me. the nine of pentacles is a card of satisfaction, comfort, plenty – a happy, healthy home. there’s safety, togetherness, a sense that all needs have been met. and while this is a card of contentment, for me, that’s the problem – i’m not part of it. it sounds selfish, but the relationship in question formed in part because we each craved something. we needed each other, needed support, love, someone to listen. we gave that to each other, loved each other, provided unconditional comfort and support. but work and living situations have shifted, and what brought us together now separates us. needs are being met on a daily basis, which is wonderful – love is provided, problems are solved, everyone is safe and happy and healthy and satisfied. except that i’m not helping, and i’m not heard. i’m outside the unit, living far away, working nowhere nearby, having to put in so much effort to be involved with anything. that wonderful happy job, the great home life, the parties and inside jokes and mutual friends – i’m not part of it anymore. and it breaks my heart to be so left out, especially when others are so content.

that barricade of feathers, keeping the pentacles safe and warm, clustered together, intimate and safe? i’m outside of it. 

3. the hidden jewel

eight-of-cupswhat’s the underlying truth here, the piece i don’t see? it might be time to walk away, and that’s terrifying. the eight of cups represents moving on, seeing what’s broken and leaving it behind. it’s an incredibly difficult card in this position, because this relationship is one of the most important ones in my life. it’s given me such joy, such comfort, such a beautiful feeling of belonging and love that i’ve rarely experienced in my thirty-one years. and yet… things have changed so dramatically. i’m uncomfortable in ways that are new, unsure of my words and actions, unclear if i still belong. those cups are shattered, irreparable, but i keep trying to put them back together and make them functional. is it time to set them aside, find cups that work the way they should? is it possible to leave the broken bits of the relationship behind, without abandoning it completely? my emotional energy is so drained, i feel despondent and heartbroken, unsure of my place. is it time to find a new path forward? this card seems to say so.

 

4. a shift in awareness

seven-of-swordsthat clever fox, always keeping one eye open – the seven of swords represents a needed change in perspective, adjusting my point of view in order to break through and see the way forward. this card speaks to secrecy, trickery, self-preservation, deceit, hiding from threats. it’s a card that reminds us to act consciously, to be aware of our thoughts and actions, to assess who and what we’re protecting.

i tried to act consciously a few days ago, bringing up my concerns and honestly confessing my fears. but when i didn’t get an immediately supportive response, i retreated, held back, stopped talking. my instincts for self-preservation, my fears of being hurt further, my desperation to hold onto this relationship almost certainly made things worse – without even necessarily revealing everything i needed to say. did i say enough? were my concerns even clear? was i as honest as i could’ve been, or did i hold too much back?

i’m my own worst enemy. i’ve been dreading this shift for months now, worrying and stressing, sure that my intuition was right and that my predictions would come true. and it feels that way right now, absolutely – but is this simply a self-fulfilling prophecy? am i truly trying to protect myself from further harm, or am i making things seem worse than they are?

so many questions. so how do i escape them?

5. the way out

IMG_0290representing heartbreak, betrayal, and sorrow, the three of swords is hardly the card i’d hope for in this position. the only way out is pain? must i abandon this relationship completely, leave it behind, accept the despair and regret as my due? does every way out include suffering?

this card is a still-bleeding wound, a scar that has not yet healed – but it’s also a reminder that pain can shape us, make us stronger, force us to grow. to suffer is to be human, but we can learn from the pain. in this position, it’s hard not to see this card as instructing me to just lean in – embrace the misery, accept it, find a way to get through it. abandon the relationship, try to heal, move on.

but perhaps, this card could simply be telling me to stop obsessing about the change, and instead accept it for what it is. relationships evolve, people grow closer and apart, and most friendships don’t actually last a lifetime. there are seasons for everything, and perhaps the door is closing on this particular connection. it may not be necessary to completely end everything, but i do need to accept the changes that have come, and mourn appropriately.

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this is a painful, challenging spread. reality is cruel. friendships are not easy. my mind is a dark place, and has made a difficult situation even worse. but the cards are wise, and while they haven’t pulled any punches, i don’t think they’re wrong. what’s done is done, and being sad won’t change anything.

the only way out is to accept where the relationship is, and try to stop obsessing over where it was. perhaps then i can build something new, and look forward.

embers & flames

my letters are written, and i’m sending them in just a little while. i’ve been awake for hours, full of crackling energy and nervous anticipation. it’s pride, and i’m about to finish coming out. i asked for a card to meditate on, to give me energy and strength, and was given one of my favorite cards in the deck: the mother of wands.

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i’ve loved this card since i first started with tarot, but she took on new meaning for me a few weeks ago as i was gathering the courage to come out on social media for the first time. most of the people in my life already knew, but making that public declaration felt like such an important step, and helped to pave the way for me to finish coming out to my family. she represents charisma, confidence, passion and strength and ferocity. she knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get it. she is so powerful and fearless, and she inspires me to be brave.

fire is such a beautiful, changeable element. it can flare up quickly, burn low and slow, spread so fast it’s unstoppable, smolder and spark. it has many faces, can sometimes show instantaneous energy and flash, but other times creep up and spread until it’s out of control. this queen knows when to let the embers build slowly and when to let it rage with smoke and flame, and loves all of its forms. i think i’m slowly learning that it’s okay to shine brightly, to let myself crackle and glow, to embrace the heat even when it’s scary.

and as i prepare for my first pride celebration, even as the rain comes down, i know it’s okay to burn.

confidence & courage

i’m still struggling with writing letters to my family, and i’ve been obsessing over it all week. i decided today to do a larger spread to help me find confidence and courage, in the hopes that i can finally finish this difficult task.

this spread is from beth at little red tarot, and while it was designed to help build personal confidence on a more general level, i’m going to use it for my specific situation.

1. the root of my insecurity & fear

four-of-pentacles

the four of pentacles, a card of possession and control. this is not a card i’ve worked with before, but its themes are clear: brilliant threads hold the pentacles in tight formation, letting nothing else in. energy from the outside bounces right off, closing off the spaces between. the lines are so rigid and stiff that they do create a lot of security and protection, but perhaps this is simply an illusion. everything cannot be controlled – no one has that much power, even when we think we do.

it made me nervous to only have one card in this first position – after all, coming out as bisexual to my conservative brother and religious in-laws isn’t exactly a simple scenario, and there are many reasons for my fears and worries. but ultimately, control is a big part of this – i have to give them part of myself, hand them my heart with trembling hands, and hope that they don’t crush it. i have no control over their reaction, their feelings, their potential for anger or fear or sadness or betrayal. it’s taken me a long time to get this point, and they deserve space to think and feel and react too. but once i reveal my truth, all i can do is trust them not to destroy it.

2. how to overcome these feelings

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a colorful card of harmony, light, and positivity, the ten of cups radiates energy. every cup is giving and receiving, sending out beauty and taking in love. this is a card of completion, of balance, of wholeness, and it reminds us to stay open and joyful, sharing our blessings with those around us and seeing the good everywhere.

i’m not typically known as a positive beacon of colorful light (my power cards below back me up on this), but the sense of karma and balance here is impossible to deny. and remembering how much i love the people in my life, how i try to offer kindness and support to those that need it, makes me hopeful that if i can continue to be positive and loving, i will receive that back. with only a few exceptions, when i’ve come out (which for me is always scary, every single time, to every single person) i’ve been accepted with open arms. friends and strangers alike have made me feel like i belong, and remembering their generosity gives me strength too.

3 & 4. my main sources of personal power

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seeing the devil and the hermit as my cards of personal power is, frankly, hilarious. these are some big, powerful cards, and while i imagine plenty of others might be horrified by them, these boys feel just right to me.

let’s start with the devil. i think it’s easy to recoil at the sight of this card, but i’m not afraid of his energy. as a scorpio and a water sign, there’s always a bit of darkness, mystery, wickedness present in me. i don’t seek out evil, but i definitely live in the grey areas, trying to see all sides, working the angles. and the devil can help us to challenge our assumptions, look at things differently, try to avoid snap judgements. temptation doesn’t have to be bad, as long as you understand it. making your own choices can be a strong path, one that may look wrong to others but feels right for you. and indulging can be a beautiful thing, as long as it doesn’t take over.

i can also see this card as a reference to difficulties in my life, from my very conservative, religious upbringing to my severe depression to my challenges as a married bisexual woman to my unusual sleeping problems. i’ve definitely had my feet in the fire, had to resort to deception and denial in order to keep myself safe, had to make impossible choices that weren’t always the right ones. but it’s made me stronger IMG_0361and more powerful than i was before. and while no one chooses to go through difficult things, the end result can be something wonderful.

my second strength is the hermit, a card i love. i’m definitely an introvert, someone who prefers intimate gatherings to giant parties, someone who prefers a book and a glass of wine to a loud venue, someone who needs a lot of personal time to recharge and consider. the hermit trusts his own inner light, relies on it to reveal the path he should follow. and while i do need the love and support of others sometimes, i’ve had to face most of my challenges alone. no one can make me sleep, or not hurt myself, or change my identity to something more “acceptable.” no one can take away my past hurts or my present fears or my future challenges. just like now – no one else can come out for me. i have to do this myself, on my own strength, in my own way.

 

5. how to tap into that power to build confidence

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the fool, another card i haven’t worked with before. represented in the wild unknown as a baby bird, eager to take his first steps away from his secure nest, and speaks of new beginnings, spontaneity, potential, and inexperience. this bird is excited but naive, with no idea what is ahead. she exists entirely in the present. the future is limitless, sparkling with possibility. as carrie mallon says, “this card speaks of pure, unbridled potential. in order for that potential to take shape, risks are required. taking a leap doesn’t necessarily guarantee a favorable outcome. but if you never leap, you remain stuck on the precipice, never fully immersing yourself in all that life has to offer.”

there’s a lot to unpack here. but something that i immediately noticed is that the devil and the hermit are both stationary, whether standing in flames or retreating into a shell. they’re self-aware, sure of themselves, sometimes to their detriment. the fool, however, is moving forward, even if it’s into a completely unknown place. she’s about action, taking that big leap, being open and ready and saying yes. she may be young and inexperienced, but she also isn’t shackled by fear or expectations. if i can look to that trust and love and beauty from the ten of cups, and channel the strength and assurance from my power cards, perhaps it’ll give me what i need to take that big step forward.

6. something i can do right now

ace-of-pentacles

so what do i do? the ace of pentacles is all about new beginnings and growth, planting a seed and letting it take root. this card reminds us to stay grounded and consistent, to commit to the process, to activate the resources we have and the ones we may have forgotten.

aces are always brimming with potential. and this ace of the earth, with its stable growth rings and blooming branches and tough outer layer, speaks to me of strength and balance. i need to remember that my letters are the start of something, rather than the end – i’m beginning a conversation based on truth and honesty, and need to keep faith in the process. i have resources – supportive friends, a wonderful therapist, an online community, and my beloved cards. they can give me strength and courage, and help me remember why i’m doing this at all.

this is a fascinating, complicated, challenging spread. but it reflects so much of who i am, what i need, and why i’m pushing myself to come out to my family. i’m grateful for the wisdom here, for the honesty and difficulties presented by the cards.

time to write some letters.

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keep your head down

today’s card is all about focus, determination, craftsmanship, and innovation: the eight of pentacles.

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confident and skilled, the spider is constantly pushing herself to create new, intricate webs, never giving up. if a web is broken or damaged, she fixes it. if it’s destroyed beyond repair, she creates a new one, that’s stronger and more beautiful than the one before it. she is constantly honing her skills, seeking mastery of her craft. detail-oriented, determined, focused, and devoted, she is constantly challenging herself to do better.

this card is all about balance and devotion, understanding that hard work and drive can achieve so much. there can be joy in every stage of a process, learning to embrace every single aspect of a project or craft. and while there’s always plenty of things to distract us, sometimes the best thing we can do is keep our heads down, stay focused, and put all of our energy into making something strong and beautiful.

this is a challenging card for me today, as i have a quiet work week planned. my to-do list is completely finished, every task that’s been wiggling in the back of my head completed – all that’s left is writing difficult letters to my family, which i’ve been putting off for weeks now. pentacles are so connected to the earth and possessions for me, all about stability, material things, wealth and careers and property. but eights are goal-oriented, all about achievement, getting things done.

son-of-wandsmy clarifying card is the son of wands, a card that’s been popping up a lot lately. this son has no fear, no self-doubt, but pushes forward with confidence and strength and passion. i don’t want to force the cards or miss something, but this feels like it could speak to my still-unwritten letters. after all, finishing coming out during pride month was the goal that i set for myself, and while i’ve taken the first step i have stumbled over the others. the son has such purpose, such fire, and he and his mother have appeared so many times this month. it feels like the court of wands is pushing me to push myself, to finish the journey i started years ago.

yes, it’s scary. i might destroy the fragile webs i’ve been building all these years, damaging relationships that are so important to me. but if i can keep my head down, focus on the task at hand, use the skills and intuition and empathy that i’ve been developing – perhaps i can build something even stronger.