In the wake of the terrible news from Orlando I’ve had to step away from media a little bit. I’ve allowed myself a few exceptions for places I thought would help. And Asali Earthwork had a beautiful helpful post yesterday about how to take care of yourself in the wake of something like this.
I’m resharing the post here, I encourage you to take a look at her blog. It was just what I needed.
Heart is still weighed down but here is some of what has been helping. I share it with you and hope you find some heart ease. Take care.
As you may have noticed, I do my best to avoid unnecessarily assigning gender where it doesn’t need to be. I like to remind people that just because the card the Emperor is a depicted as a man, that doesn’t mean the energy in the reading is coming from a man. Men can assume the role of the nurturing empress just as women can assume the firm leadership role of the emperor.
However, I was working on a review of the Prisma Visions tarot deck (stay tuned for that at a future date) and I was writing about the court cards of the Wands suit. They’re beautiful and the figures depicted in the court cards are androgynous humanoid figures without any obvious physically gendered characteristics. As I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the progress of the wands energy in the Page and the Knight I simply referred to them as ‘they’ which is a gender-neutral pronoun that I’ve heard many gender nonconforming people use. And that felt very correct for those cards. But when I got to the Queen and started using ‘they’, it no longer felt correct to me. Not because a queen figure has to be a woman, but because if I didn’t use she and her, it felt like I was stripping something away. It felt like I was trying to erase women and that made me stop immediately.
I wasn’t sure how I could balance those two desires. I have no problem queering the figures in the tarot cards. I do my best, and I know I don’t always succeed, to question the gendered assumptions I am making about my readings. My approach, as an able bodied white cisgender woman, has a lot of limitations. I’m trying my best to broaden my understanding and to make my tarot as inclusive and empowering as I can.
So, although I’m sure there’s plenty of room to grow in this interpretation, I think where that leaves me is that the Page and the Knight will be ‘they’ but I’ll talk about my Queens and Kings as “she” or “he”. This doesn’t at all mean that women can’t be Kings and men can’t be Queens. Because they sure as heck can be. All I mean when I talk about these cards are the depictions on the cards and what I get from them. The Queen of Wands in the Prisma Visions deck told me that she is a woman. She didn’t flash her breasts in my face or talk about what was between her legs, because that isn’t what makes her a woman. Especially when we’re talking about a representation of an embodiment of energies, her physical body doesn’t define her.
This is much more about the role that the card is playing. The reading of these cards is also heavily steeped in gendered expectations of being too. Call into question the assumption that the empress is nurturing because she’s a woman. The empress is nurturing because that’s the energy that the card represents. Being nurturing and caring isn’t a gendered attribute, but that’s what our culture teaches us. Our culture says women are caring and nurturing and it’s their job to raise children and manage the emotional soft side of things. My job as a tarot reader, is to try to pull apart those gendered assumptions when I find myself making them.
The cards are representatives of energies. These energies are not essentially male or female energies, they just are. Assigning gender to them has helped us to conceptualize these energies and fit them into our framework of understanding. The goal we should be striving for is that we create a more just and fair culture that serves the needs of all participants in it.
Working towards that goal, it’s very important to acknowledge that gender, like sexual orientation, is not binary, it exists on a spectrum and people can move around on that spectrum. I want to make sure that the spaces that I’m in are inclusive and welcoming to everyone. That means that I’m going to question the assumed gender of the figures in my cards and respect that traditionally assigned gender roles are hopelessly outdated and need not apply. But, I need to make sure that I’m not erasing women at the same time.
Sound complicated? It is, but that’s the reality if you want to be inclusive. And that’s okay.
Want to read more about tarot and gender? Check out this post by The Tarot Lady: Gender Bending the Tarot. Also I completely recommend you spend some quality time with Beth at Little Red Tarot. Her Alternative Tarot Course is an AWESOME resource for Queer tarot stuff. And wander over to the Queer Tarot Project.
I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! Feel free to leave a comment or share an article or post you found useful on this topic.
I read a lot of tarot blogs, and I’d love to read more (hint hint, I’d be delighted to hear your recommendations!), and I love to share good things that I find with the blog as well.
I want to start my post by saying that I really like Biddy Tarot a lot. I think Brigit puts out a lot of great information and she’s informative and accessible. I think you should definitely be reading her blog if you aren’t already.
The other day she put out a podcast called Coming out of the Tarot Closet. I liked the article and I think it had a lot of great advice about facing your fears and living your authentic truth. But it always gives me some pause when I see people using ‘coming out of the closet’ in ways that don’t relate to queerness. I’m uncomfortable when that phrase gets co-opted. I’ve always had a little trouble expression why that bothers me so much. I was talking about it with my wife this morning and she just hit the nail on the head. The difference between telling people that you read tarot cards and telling people that you’re gay is the systematic discrimination that queer people face.
I am sure that some tarot readers get a lot of flack from other people who don’t understand what tarot is really about. Especially with the rise of a lot of really fundamentalist religious groups that we’re seeing lately. So I won’t say that telling other people that you read tarot can’t get you some nasty reactions. It could possibly even cost you some relationships if things were really bad. I don’t doubt that there are young people who could face abuse if their parents found out they read tarot. But the difference is that tarot readers don’t face the systematic discrimination and disenfranchisement that queer people living in our culture do.
When was the last time that you heard about a tarot reader being murdered for having their tarot cards on them? Queer people, especially trans people of color, are killed every single day in America and places all over the world. In most places queer folks can’t adopt children, they can’t be married, they can’t inherit their partner’s pensions, and there are plenty of places where it’s completely illegal–you can be killed for being gay.
I just want you to read that one again.
I’ve been pretty lucky in many ways. My workplace allowed domestic partner benefits long before my state finally allowed legal same sex marriage. But, before marriage was federally recognized, the portion of our medical insurance that covered my wife was regarded as extra income. Which meant that I had to pay extra taxes on that coverage. We did the math, it worked out to an extra $1,000 dollars every year because my spouse was a woman and not a man.
And I get it, it’s just a phrase, just some words. But words are powerful things. And when they get co-opted for everything from tarot cards to coming out as liking a certain TV show, it cheapens their impact. It makes it seem like these events are the same. And they’re really really not.
So, please, the next time you’re tempted to say that you had to ‘come out’ as a _____, please pause and think of some other way to talk about it.
I’d love to hear some other perspectives on that issue since I’m sure there are aspects I haven’t considered. Please feel free to leave a respectful comment below!
Today’s card comes from the Wild Unknown Tarot deck (first edition). When it was first coming out I knew that I wanted it right away but I couldn’t find anywhere local. We were visiting Salem, MA to see this adorable little shop our friends recommended, Haus Witch, and boom, there it was. Katie and I each bought one and we were scarcely out of the shop before we were shuffling through the cards.
The Wild Unknown has such a beautiful aesthetic and that’s definitely evident here. One detail that you’ll often find the the Wild Unknown cards is watercolor rainbow look, it shows up here in the thin border around the card. So, even if the Moon card is dark and shows only a sliver of the moon, you can see that it’s bounded by the entire spectrum of light. This card is all about turning ideas about knowing, daylight ideas, on their heads. In a sunset trees can look like black silhouettes against a brightly colored sky, but in this card the trees are starkly white against a black sky lit by just a fraction of the moon.
In some ‘traditional’ readings the Moon card can indicate fear and disillusionment and other negative things about operating in the dark, but as a witch and a queer person I find there’s a lot of meaning to be mined and understood in that dark. The moon is a card that I am very fond of. The moon is a huge symbol to witches, representing the goddess who is often associated with the moon, and huge volumes of moon magic as well.
In the dark we can’t see as we’re used to seeing in the day, we must rely on other senses, touch, hearing, and other methods for finding our way around. That’s the message of the Moon. Use those senses that aren’t made for the daylight. Trust your inner wisdom and your intuition. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve felt like you’ve ‘just known’ something that you couldn’t rationally have known, that’s the energy of the Moon card. Intuition, Magic, and Shadow Work are her hallmarks. Rational knowledge isn’t what’s at play in this card. It’s an intuition. At the risk of going a little too Obi-Wan, trust your feelings.
The moon also represents that feeling of being lost in the darkness, where it’s all too easy to let fear of the unfamiliar take over. This interpretation of the moon is very much about stillness, it’s the feeling of being lost in the forest on the side of a hill. There’s a clear view of the moon and the comfort of knowing that if you can sit a while in that stillness and still your mind with all its racing thoughts, you’ll find that inner knowing and you’ll be able to find your way out again.