Women’s March, London: VIII – Strength card

QUEER TAROT

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Queer theory and the Science Tarot -one of the queerest decks I know! The Court cards ignore the traditional gendering of their roles: Knights and pages are real historical scientists, and can be wither male or female. So are the King’s and Queens. I am going to write soon on how I practice queering the Tarot.

TAROT CRAFTS: CROPPING CROWLEY’S THOTH DECK

Being homebound with flu, I set to crop my very old Thoth Deck, because I’ve always found these cards huge for my hands. This was my first Tarot deck and I learned all the meanings from it, so I relate to its imagery very strongly. But they still felt physically cumbersome to shuffle. So armed with a large pair of scissors for straight edges, and a cheap 5mm corner punch from Amazon, I did the deed. I like the names given by Crowley to the Minors, so I left them untouched, but removed the unnecessary borders. Ideally, there would be no bands for words pr symbols, so, here is hope that, one day, somebody will publish a Thoth Deck without unnecessary framings or borders. The art is rich and complex enough and doesn’t need anything added to it The results are amazing: it shuffles effortlessly in my hands, and Lady Frieda Harris’ art looks fresher and sharper. This deck is 20 years old and some cards were dog-eared. Now they look as good as new again. I though of covering the backs with gold contact paper, which apparently works very well. The only reason is that I do reverse card readings, and I’d prefer not to know until I turn the card face up. But the artwork is beautiful, and it looks even better when cropped tighter, so I let them as they are. Also, being a deck I’ve been using for so long, I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn it into something that might feel unfamiliar with so many changes.

WHEN I LOSE CONNECTION WITH THE CARDS, SOMETIMES FOR YEARS

I have just turned 50, a momentous age, apparently, and realised that I have been using tarot cards for 30 years. I bought my first deck, the Thoth Tarot, when I moved to London at the tender age of 20 and started buying books and learning the cards’ meanings straight away. I did temptative card spreads for skeptical, curious friends in squats; at druggie parties; in the restaurant where I was working as waitress and for my first live-in boyfriend, who was more scared of them, or maybe, of having a witchy girlfriend, than he let out. The cards’s imagery and metaphors, became closely woven into my journey into and then through, adulthood. They illustrated my life events.

That original Thoth Tarot deck that I bought at Mysteries in Covent Garden with my weekly waitress’ wages, is still with me, and it’s been with me, wherever I’ve lived. However, there have been periods when my involvement with the cards has ceased completely, only to bounce back reenergised and with new insights. It always happens. There were years when i’d forget about the cards, but their powerful images stayed with me, perhaps because I was young and my life was tough, but taking form, and they embedded themselves, with their meanings, into my own personal life narratives.

I have never deliberately put my cards aside, but there have been periods when I didn’t feel a need to use them, so they fell by the wayside because they didn’t fit with my mindset at the time. Normally for months, but I took them with me, wherever I moved to, from house to hose, from country to country. Even if I didn’t unwrapped the silk scarves, they were somewhere near me, in a drawer, in my student digs, in my first flat, even in my suitcase, on my first intercontinental trip.

I have never been a compulsive tarot user, I don’t use them daily, but there are times when they are more present in my life, and times when they aren’t. However, I think of them when events happen, of the three of cards and utter heartbreak and despair, of the Lovers and the need to go forth and multiply (in a symbolic sense)…

Only on one occasion, about 9 years ago, and due to a tragic life event, I felt that I had lost all connection with the cards and wanted nothing to do with them. I couldn’t even look at them and they were forgotten for a very long time.

My belief in the cards is perhaps not very standard. I am an atheist and I have no spiritual beliefs, no interest in the esoteric nor in any New Age stuff. I am not knocking other people’s interests, I respect them all, but I’m not into the esoteric and spiritual stuff that comes often attached to the Tarot. So when my life was turned upside down due to bereavement, I felt that the cards had no place in my life anymore. I felt that they clashed with my rational thinking and with my university education. I wanted nothing with that need to explore my intuition, although I do believe that we are intuitive beings, and that the cards are a vehicle to channel this intuition in our minds. However, i felt very conflicted, specially around issues concerning future predictions, and I never spoke about my studies of the Tarot with anyone.

It was only after years of mourning and healing, that I began to think of the cards again. When my life pulled itself together once again, the cards waved to me from their dusty corner. Very powerfully too.

It felt as if during this time in the dark, my understanding of the Tarot had grown richer and more complex, along with my own life experience. I had gained a new understanding of them, deeper, more mature, for sure, but also, aligned with my own values and beliefs. They didn’t clash with them anymore. I had been studying the cards from a young age, and their imagery has become part of my own symbolic understanding of the world. Its images and symbols are very old, that’s why we humans relate to them: they speak in a universal language. I understood that this language was part of me, and that it fitted in my life better than I suspected. How the tarot works, what you get out of it, is entirely subjective and adapted to your philosophy and your needs. The tarot is malleable, it doesn’t impose itself, you mould it into your own instrument. I have found how the cards work for me: for example, I don’t do future predictions, and I refer to my consultations as guidance or coaching. I also incorporate elements of feminist and queer theory thinking, which are part of my “other” work. I question it’s gendering and binary tendencies, it’s sense of class and hierarchy; but I think that these are ideologies imposed by those who write books. You start reading books about the tarot, to learn the basic, traditional meanings of each card. Slowly, you depart from them the more you use them, and off you go, into your own journey. New interpretations and meanings reveal themselves to you, customised for you, that often, only make sense to you and are in position with traditional interpretations. You do with the tarot whatever you like, and if you want to associate it with chakras or with angels, that’s your choice; but if you prefer to think that it’s a form of counselling, that’s perfectly fine too. The cards must speak our language, not the other way round.

I don’t know if or when my exploration of the Tarot might become dormant again, but I know that, as a tarot reader told me many years ago, when i was starting, that they will always call me back when I need them, and each time, I will come back to find richer, deeper meanings in them. We don’t stop processing the symbolism of the tarot when we stop looking at it, even if we put our cards in a box for years. Those dormant periods when the cards stop calling us, are an essential part of the path.

THE MOUNTAIN DREAM TAROT CARDS

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I have received today my new deck, the Mountain Dream Tarot. Designed by artist Bea Nettles in the early to mid 70′s, she saw it in a dream. In it, she recreated the images in the Rider-Waite deck, with real people. Back in the so called real world, she set off to do just that, by asking friends to pose for her camera. She re-enacted all 78 cards on black & white photos, between 1970 and 1975. The result is a strange, enigmatic deck where ordinary people in ordinary clothes, or sometimes, in improvised costumes and props that use everyday objects.

The photos are not beautiful in a conventional sense, but their air of urgency and immediacy is very inspiring. The people reenacting the meaning in cards, look like a group of penniless amateur actors rehearsing for a play, or a70′s avant-garde performance or happening. Kings sit on doorsteps with a table cloth for cloak. Knights wear jeans and the Empress, a cheap flowery thrift store gown. But I love the imagery created, because it defines art and also magic: the act of turning the ordinary, into something extraordinary. Curtains become cloaks; a hilly billy in dungarees is the 9 of Cups; Pentacles are food plates with a star painted on them; the man in the 4 of Swords takes a nap on an old couch. Because the cards are not about fantasy realms, but about our current, present circumstances, for ordinary mortals.

The Mountain Dream Tarot is strangely both contemporary and timeless at the same time. It reenacts the narratives in the Tarot in your back garden. Brings the magic into the everyday, and the everyday into the magic realm of art and endless possibilities. Which, in my opinion, is what the Tarot does: offer choice and possibilities that are no airy fairy dreams, but always within your reach.

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I DON’T PREDICT THE FUTURE: YOUR FUTURE IS YOURS TO MAKE.

Always remember that you, not the cards create your own future. The Tarot is merely a vehicle to show you a picture of your life at a given moment. You decide what to do with the information. Nothing is written in stone and there isn’t such a thing as “fate”. These are all thoughts that absolve us of responsibility and in my opinion, the Tarot is there to take responsibility for your actions, and to improve yourself and your life. If you choose to.

The cards have a habit of showing possible future outcomes, they show us how things may pan out, based on your past and present situation and life choices. After all, we can’t change our past, but we have a lot to say about our future. The Tarot represents life like a path, it comes from the past and develops into the future – but it does not predict it. You are in the path, knowing what you left behind, but incapable of knowing what lies ahead, until you arrive in it.

By showing you your past and present circumstances, the people around you and how you deal with them, a Tarot reading gives you choices to make better, informed decisions; to reflect on past actions and to reassess your habits, the many unconscious decisions that we make without even thinking; to understand why you do what you do and how to shape your own life, your own limitations permitting. I am aware that our lives are limited by family commitments; by our finances; by mental issues, by all the things that make us human.

I don’t believe in those who claim that we can achieve anything in life, if we put our mind to it: the real world affect all of us and it’s naive to think otherwise. We live within our circumstances, capabilities and limitations at any given moment. and this realisation can be overwhelming, but what I do believe, is that we can still do much more than we think and there are often people and untapped opportunities around us. A good Tarot reading might show you where help, support and choice is. It’s then up to you, to tap into it or not.

So a question along the lines of: “What’s going to happen to me in the future?” is not a great way to ask for advice. Such questions assume that the solution to your problems will come from the outside, without any input or effort on your part. They also assume, often, that you are solely responsible for your outcomes, and this may bring a sense of guilt, of not being good enough, deserving, etc. We all do all we can, within our limited circumstances.

A Tarot reading may help you choose better options and improve your own relationship with yourself and others.It’s so much more rewarding when you ask: “How can I make my future better? “ “What changes can I introduce?” What/who can help me? “Is there anything/anyone I can’t see, but who represent help or support?”

Another problematic question that I don’t deal with, is when a querent asks on behalf of other people (consensually or not). The Tarot tells you about you and of course, the people in your life that have an influence in it: they always crop up in a reading if you should know about. But you can’t ask for a reading to find out about others. Like: “Does Xyz love me?” – The answer will always be about your relationship with this person, not theirs with you. In this sense, seeing your own hopes and fears, your dynamic with other people may prove very useful when deciding how to engage with them in the future.

I hope this note doesn’t sound prescriptive, specially since I claim that the Tarot is not. So I hope that this guide to how to think of your questions and how to formulate them, is just a guideline to also, see your life as something evolving now, where your own agency and decisions are the thing that will really change or determine your future – not spooky oracles that claim to dictate your future – because the future isn’t written in stone, you are moulding it with the soft clay of your current and past actions!

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HOW DO WE READ FOR THE UNCONVENTIONAL, THE ONES WHO RAN AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS?

HOW DO WE READ FOR THE UNCONVENTIONAL, THE ONES WHO RAN AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS?

How does a reader’s own preconceptions, often based on society’s expectations of family, marriage and home ownership, impact on a Tarot reading’s accuracy?

When I was in my early twenties, my older sister and I went to a Tarot reader who was famous for her uncanny future predictions. To this day, my sister still talks in wonder about that reading. I always shrug my shoulders and reply: “she got it completely wrong about me”. And this is something that’s happened to me several times.

Twenty odd years on, and a whole lifetime lived, I think I can see the issue: I think that some tarot readers have a mental blueprint of what people want to hear and of what most people’s lives are like. Chances are that you will end up in a relationship, move in together and having children. I’m not saying these tarot readers are lying, specially when I’ve seen their predictions becoming reality for others, but my theory is: that oftentimes, our own perception of what life is about, what querents want to hear about, or how the world works, is clouded by a propensity to choose the relationship escalator type of template, and describe other people’s lives along these lines.

My Tarot readers of readings past, were very accurate when dealing with people who follow the relationship/mortgage/family path. They described relationships, your future home, how many children you were likely to have: what most people do. But what about people who do not conform to this template? I’ve always wondered, because, well, I didn’t follow it. My life has followed a very different path, and no tarot reader in my past saw it. They did, however, describe the husband and children I’ve never wanted to have. Back then, I was aware that I was young, and that even if it didn’t really sound like me, I conceded that I could change my mind in a few years time. After all, more people get married and have a family than not.

These cartomancers of my youth, were following an age old, revered template that most people follow, often blindly and unquestioningly. Chances are that you won’t misfire if you stick to it. But what about the queer, the non-conformists, the disenfranchised, the rebellious and the misfits of this world? When I do a taro reading for a total stranger, now that I’m older and I don’t know if wiser, but certainly more pissed off, I’m daunted and excited at the prospect of jumping into the deep end, head first, into a stranger’s unsuspected life and dreams.

I feel, however, that some readers, specially those who do a lot of professional readings for a lot of different people, use stabilisers or inflatable armbands, to save themselves the embarrassment of misfiring. After all, you can always say to an unconvinced querent, no matter how old or how young: “you will change your mind when you meet the right person”. Being a cartomancer gives you, after all, a certain authority of infallibility. I know that from the way my own querents look at me: they want to believe.

I’m not calling these card readers charlatans so please, don’t rush to assume that they were that, or just crap tarot readers: as I mentioned earlier, they gave other people accurate visions of their future, often uncannily so. I was a witness of their talent – but only as long as their querents were fairly conventional in their life choices. Any straying from the norm went over their heads. What I think I’m trying to say, is that we are human. We have our own preconceived ideas and mental templates. Our prejudices. A tarot reading works when all this mind noise is put aside and we are channeling the message without any “filters” modifying the message we give our querents. Ultimately, it’s a life long learning thing, to conduct the unbiased information, intuitively, without leaving our human, rational mind get in the way. May we all master it one day.

I have been told on a handful of occasions, that my reading did not resonate with my querent. Some people are definitely hard to read, while others are like open books. But my musings are about something else: it’s about how conventions, assumptions, prejudices, get in the way of seeing and understanding a client’s individuality. If I go a bit further, it also makes me wonder, how do we condition others to follow the path of least resistance? We live in a society where people are expected to get in a relationship, move in together, have children. Even LGBTQ people do it, getting a huge sense of validation from following the norm.

How can we be useful to the ones who ran away with the circus? Because I did run away with the circus, in a big, big way. I was already pointing in that direction, even then. Yet no Tarot reader saw this coming. All they described, was the woman they thought I’d become: with the same goals and dreams as most women around me, in that time and place.

Actually, it was when I heard the very wonderful Becky Walsh, Intuitive Coach, telling me during a consultation: “you aren’t a relationship type of person”, that I thought I’d found somebody who could understand people like me. But maybe it’s because we are Londoners and we are so used to the weird and wonderful in every day life…

HOW DO WE READ FOR THE UNCONVENTIONAL, THE ONES WHO RAN AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS?

How does a reader’s own preconceptions, often based on society’s expectations of family, marriage and home ownership, impact on a Tarot reading’s accuracy?

When I was in my early twenties, my older sister and I went to a Tarot reader who was famous for her uncanny future predictions. To this day, my sister still talks in wonder about that reading. I always shrug my shoulders and reply: “she got it completely wrong about me”. And this is something that’s happened to me several times.

Twenty odd years on, and a whole lifetime lived, I think I can see the issue: I think that some tarot readers have a mental blueprint of what people want to hear and of what most people’s lives are like. Chances are that you will end up in a relationship, move in together and having children. I’m not saying these tarot readers are lying, specially when I’ve seen their predictions becoming reality for others, but my theory is: that oftentimes, our own perception of what life is about, what querents want to hear about, or how the world works, is clouded by a propensity to choose the relationship escalator type of template, and describe other people’s lives along these lines.

My Tarot readers of readings past, were very accurate when dealing with people who follow the relationship/mortgage/family path. They described relationships, your future home, how many children you were likely to have: what most people do. But what about people who do not conform to this template? I’ve always wondered, because, well, I didn’t follow it. My life has followed a very different path, and no tarot reader in my past saw it. They did, however, describe the husband and children I’ve never wanted to have. Back then, I was aware that I was young, and that even if it didn’t really sound like me, I conceded that I could change my mind in a few years time. After all, more people get married and have a family than not.

These cartomancers of my youth, were following an age old, revered template that most people follow, often blindly and unquestioningly. Chances are that you won’t misfire if you stick to it. But what about the queer, the non-conformists, the disenfranchised, the rebellious and the misfits of this world? When I do a taro reading for a total stranger, now that I’m older and I don’t know if wiser, but certainly more pissed off, I’m daunted and excited at the prospect of jumping into the deep end, head first, into a stranger’s unsuspected life and dreams.

I feel, however, that some readers, specially those who do a lot of professional readings for a lot of different people, use stabilisers or inflatable armbands, to save themselves the embarrassment of misfiring. After all, you can always say to an unconvinced querent, no matter how old or how young: “you will change your mind when you meet the right person”. Being a cartomancer gives you, after all, a certain authority of infallibility. I know that from the way my own querents look at me: they want to believe.

I’m not calling these card readers charlatans so please, don’t rush to assume that they were that, or just crap tarot readers: as I mentioned earlier, they gave other people accurate visions of their future, often uncannily so. I was a witness of their talent – but only as long as their querents were fairly conventional in their life choices. Any straying from the norm went over their heads. What I think I’m trying to say, is that we are human. We have our own preconceived ideas and mental templates. Our prejudices. A tarot reading works when all this mind noise is put aside and we are channeling the message without any “filters” modifying the message we give our querents. Ultimately, it’s a life long learning thing, to conduct the unbiased information, intuitively, without leaving our human, rational mind get in the way. May we all master it one day.

I have been told on a handful of occasions, that my reading did not resonate with my querent. Some people are definitely hard to read, while others are like open books. But my musings are about something else: it’s about how conventions, assumptions, prejudices, get in the way of seeing and understanding a client’s individuality. If I go a bit further, it also makes me wonder, how do we condition others to follow the path of least resistance? We live in a society where people are expected to get in a relationship, move in together, have children. Even LGBTQ people do it, getting a huge sense of validation from following the norm.

How can we be useful to the ones who ran away with the circus? Because I did run away with the circus, in a big, big way. I was already pointing in that direction, even then. Yet no Tarot reader saw this coming. All they described, was the woman they thought I’d become: with the same goals and dreams as most women around me, in that time and place.

Actually, it was when I heard the very wonderful Becky Walsh, Intuitive Coach, telling me during a consultation: “you aren’t a relationship type of person”, that I thought I’d found somebody who could understand people like me. But maybe it’s because we are Londoners and we are so used to the weird and wonderful in every day life…