Narratives of Work – a tarot exploration

(This post was available a week early to my patrons. My Patreon helps support this work, and I appreciate my patrons more than I can say! This was also cross-posted with my narrative therapy blog, Wayfinding.)

Tarot is an important part of my life, and has been for quite a few years.

I use tarot as a way to think about what’s happening in my life, with tarot spreads acting as invitations to think about situations in specific and focused ways. I have also used tarot in narrative therapy in a similar way – inviting community members to engage with the cards as a visual way to explore their stories. I also use tarot as part of my slowly developing spiritual practice. I’ve written before about how I use tarot as self-care, in this post that introduced my tarot practice, and in this post about how to use tarot as a self-storying tool.

I participated in parts of the Owl and Bones August tarot challenge on Instagram. There was a prompt for each day, and it was an interesting process to notice was came up, what kept coming up, and how I responded to the cards. (I will admit that my participation was a bit more hit and miss while was away, mostly because I was so sick.)

On August 22nd, the prompt was “Where are things out of balance?”

I drew the Nine of Wands.

Image description: The Nine of Wands from The Wild Unknown tarot deck, against a black background.

This card is about stamina and inner strength – it’s about continuing on the long path.

Carrie Mallon, a tarot blogger who has written posts for each of the cards in the Wild Unknown deck (which I’m using here) writes about the Nine of Wands:

“The Nine of Wands shows that sometimes we need to draw on our inner reserves. We need to protect what is important to us, we need to protect our energy. We need to keep going, even though we may feel a little tired from being so on-guard. This kind of perseverance can be admirable, but can also lead to weariness.”

I thought, of course. Work is out of balance! I’m working too much. I’m always on the edge of burnout. I’m too busy, there’s too much going on, there’s too much pressure and stress. Work. This is about work.

But for some reason, I paused before posting the picture and that little response to it on Instagram. Instead, I sat with it for a few days.

I wondered why it was so easy to come to that interpretation.

I wondered about what the effect of having this story so prominently in my mind might be – how does it impact my days to always be framing myself in terms of “the edge of burnout” and “doing too much”?

I was a little uncomfortable with this line of inquiry, because I am always cautious when I feel myself edging towards “shift the narrative.” So often, this is used as a bludgeon against people who are legitimately struggling with injustice.

“Just shift your narrative!”

“Just focus on the positive!”

How about, just bite me.

However, this idea of shifting my own narrative is a theme that’s been coming up for me in a lot of areas lately. I have noticed that I’ve pushed so hard away from weaponized positivity that I sometimes feel like I’ve lost my connection to any kind of positivity at all. It’s easy, lately, to find myself feeling hopeless, trapped, powerless.

Even though it is unjust to demand that hurting people “focus on the positive,” that doesn’t mean there is never a time to re-frame.

In my narrative therapy training, I’ve been taught to “linger with intent” in the problem story – to invite community members to talk about their problems without shame or judgement, and to look for ways to strengthen their connection to preferred outcomes and preferred selves within those stories.

What this looks like in practice is that I listen to the stories that community members bring into narrative therapy sessions with an ear open to “double-storying” – what’s not being said here, but might be present anyway? In a story of anger, for example, there is sometimes a sense of justice that refuses to be silenced. In a story of hopelessness or exhaustion, there might be a cherished belief that things could be, and should be, different.

This means deepening stories of resistance and response, looking for those moments of choice and asking questions that connect people to their own acts of agency and to the ways in which they’ve responded to the problems in their lives. It also means looking for what people are valuing – what they hold to be precious or cherished, what they want for themselves and the world, what they hope for and dream – and working to strengthen their connections to the histories of those values.

This feels different than telling people to “shift their perspective” or to “think positive.”

It’s hard for me to write about this in clear and confident ways because I’m in the middle of the struggle myself.

What I do in a narrative therapy session is try to help people shift how they are oriented towards their problems and their own stories. I try to shift the narrative!

But outside of narrative therapy sessions and the respectful framing that I’m learning in my narrative therapy training, what I see in so much self-help writing is demands to “change your perspective and change your life,” with a subtext that seems to say that people have invited their own suffering, that they’re experiencing the consequences of their own “low vibrations” or “negative thoughts,” or that they have both the power and the responsibility to single-handedly and through the power of positive thinking change their external context. I hate these demands so much.

But what I’ve noticed in myself is that in rejecting the culture of “manifest your best life” positive thinking, I have also rejected a lot of helpful wisdom (wisdom that shows up in narrative therapy, too, and that I love in that context!) In rejecting the idea that individuals are responsible for changing social contexts that they can’t control, I have found myself also rejecting the hope for any change at all. I have focused so much on the harms of individualizing problems that I sometimes think I have forgotten the hope of collective action. I have focused on resisting narratives of “manifestation” and I think that I have sometimes lost sight of narratives of agency and choice.

I don’t know what to do about this.

But I do know this – when I pulled the Nine of Wands, my mind leapt to a very specific narrative of myself. It is the narrative of overwork. The narrative of “the edge of burnout.” It is a narrative I know very well, and anytime a narrative comes that easily, it’s worth questioning.

Because, even though it is a narrative that comes with my critique of capitalism and my feelings of powerlessness in the face of late stage capitalism, it’s also a thin narrative of myself. (“Thin description allows little space for the complexities and contradictions of life. It allows little space for people to articulate their own particular meanings of their actions and the context within which they occurred.” – from What is Narrative Therapy on the Dulwich Centre’s excellent site.)

I started wondering, what if the thing that’s out of balance isn’t work, but my narrative about work?

(And, since it’s Sunday when I’m writing this, and Sunday in the Tender Year is when I pick a binary and challenge it, what if it isn’t either/or, but rather both?)

I started asking myself what is rendered invisible when I focus only on the part of my working self that is so tired and overwhelmed?

The answers came slowly, especially because I was sick. But they did come eventually.

What gets erased is the joy I take in my work.

What gets erased are the positive effects of my work.

What gets erased is the support I have in my work (including from my patrons!) and the growth that I am inviting into my life by continuing to do this work.

My choices get erased in this narrative, which is a narrative of work being foisted on me – work that I have to do in order to pay the rent, work that I have to do in order to get where I need to be.

But I do feel joy in my work.

There are positive effects that result from my work.

I have so much support for my work, and I do make choices.

After sitting with this idea of work / narratives of work, I laid out another tarot spread for myself.

Image description: A Wild Unknown tarot spread and a muffin on a wooden table. The spread includes the Nine of Wands, the Four of Cups, the Ace of Wands, the Four of Wands, and the Son of Pentacles. The Father of Cups is also visible on top of the deck.

I pulled out the Nine of Wands, and then laid out my favourite spread with that as the focus.

My favourite spread is the elements – a five card spread with a focus card (or a card that represents the situation or the whole), and then cards for air/mental self, water/emotional self, earth/physical or material self, and fire/creative, passionate, or spiritual self.

In the air position, I had the Four of Cups.

The Four of Cups in the Wild Unknown always strikes me as being a card about feelings of scarcity – that rat is trying so hard to keep control of all the cups, to make sure they don’t tip or get stolen. The Four of Cups is often about feeling like there isn’t enough, and in this deck (more than most others) it makes me think of the way scarcity can invite us into desperation and a desire to control our situation more tightly than we need to, more tightly than we actually can. This card says, “I can’t let go of anything, or I will lose everything.”

It landed like a hammer and I almost didn’t even flip the rest of the spread. This card speaks directly to what I had been thinking about over the four days since originally pulling the Nine of Wands.

Maybe I’m out of balance about this because I am so focused on scarcity. I am so terrified of scarcity. I am terrified of financial insecurity – I have experienced acute financial scarcity in the past, and I am chronically on the edge of it (and have been since my divorce), and those thoughts consume me sometimes. Especially when I think about work, and about throwing myself more fully into my narrative work.

I noticed the moon in both the Four of Cups and the Nine of Wands. That dark crescent in the Four is a rich golden colour in the Nine of Wands – two different narratives of the same moon. Am I working towards that bright sliver of light, or am I clutching what little I can in the shadows? It’s the same thing, but it’s a very different story of that same thing.

So that first position is air, how I’m thinking about the situation.

I moved on to the rest of the spread.

Water – how am I feeling about this situation? Where are my emotions here?

The Ace of Wands. This is a card about new beginnings, and about passion. When I think about work, I do think in terms of scarcity – a lack of time, a lack of money, a lack of resources, a lack of faith in myself. And a lot of that is justified, but it isn’t the whole story. Because when I feel about work, particularly about my narrative work, my community organizing work, my writing work – I feel passionate and excited. I feel like I’m building something! I feel like there’s value here, and the potential to do something new and needed. This card resonated for me, too.

Then across the spread to Fire – where is my passion and creativity here?

The Son of Pentacles. I see the same golden crescent moon as in the Nine of Wands, and notice the pentacle (a symbol of earth and grounding and materiality) centered in it – another narrative of this same story that adds stability to the potential and “enoughness” of that rich crescent.

Carrie Mallon writes about this card:

The Son of Pentacles leans into the card, pressing forward slowly but surely. An orange crescent moon frames a pentacle above him. The background is dark, but lightens where he gazes.

The Son of Pentacles is not one to act with great haste or passion. He is purposeful and careful in all that he does. Once he has decided to move in a given direction, that is simply where he goes. He sticks the course and slugs through the mud to reach his goals. He doesn’t always trust easily, but if someone does earn his trust, he stands by them without fail.

On the positive side, this attention to detail can be essential. The Son of Pentacles is thorough and has unparalleled determination to finish what he starts. On the negative side, he can fall prone to tunnel vision.

…[The] Son of Pentacles is looking down at his chosen path. He is so resolute in his endeavors that he may forget to look up and assess his current surroundings. He may have a difficult time with changes and flexibility.

That also resonates with what I’d been thinking about this whole work/narratives of work thing. I recognize my own determination, but I can also see how sometimes I get focused on a particular idea or narrative and it’s hard for me to deviate from that. I also find this interesting because this card is in the fire position – it’s all about passion. But the Son of Pentacles is not a passionate card. He’s determined, focused, attentive but not passionate. And I am passionate. I am passionate in general but I am especially passionate about my work.

Except, not so much lately.

Lately, I’ve been so tired. I’ve been so fixed on how hard it is, how hard I’m working, how hard I have to keep working, and I haven’t been feeling my fire. I’ve been feeling sad and hopeless lately – climate change, economics, politics. I’ve been doing my work, but I’ve been doing it more like the Son of Pentacles than I would like.

And the lovely thing about that is that I can make choices about whether I continue like this! The cards are not fixed, fatalistic. The cards are a conversation. And I can make choices, make changes. I can invite more fire into this part of my life.

Finally, Earth – where is my physical and material self in this?

The Four of Wands. Where the Four of Cups is about scarcity and lack, the Four of Wands is about celebration and reaching milestones.

I’m interpreting this card as an invitation to notice successes as they happen, rather than constantly watching for upcoming failures or challenges.

The fact is, some things have gone really well in the last while! I have First Class Honours in my first course of the Masters program. My birthday offer of $37 narrative therapy sessions has been popular, and I only have 25 of these sessions left. (If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, get in touch! I’d love to work with you.) I have a lot of ideas for posts and projects, and lots of people are interested in participating in these projects. The next zine is almost ready to be printed!

I’m going to try to notice those things when they happen, and to let myself linger in those stories of success and hope.

It’s really difficult looking at our narratives and allowing them to shift (or even acknowledging that a shift might be possible or desirable).

I appreciate the way that tarot invites me into these difficult and rich conversations with myself and with my stories.

Onward!

Moon and Salt Water

On the eve of my 37th birthday, on this hottest recorded day in my city, on this new moon – a tarot spread and a candle and a crystal and a mirror for reflection.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Isak Dinesen quote, ‘the cure for everything is salt water; sweat, tears, or the sea.’

I’ve been thinking about ecological grief. How we sweat in the new temperatures, how we cry for what we’ve lost and will lose, how we are killing the oceans. Not the cure, but a necessary invitation into knowing the illness. Naming it. Making space for it. Salt water selves. Salt water solace. Salt water sadness.

Stasha pointed out how Tahlequah and her dead baby are all three, also. The effort, the grief, the ocean and the ocean of loss.

I am usually all about my birthday. In the past, I’ve planned a whole week of adventures and joyful connections. I’ve gone on retreats, or hosted theme parties, or booked a hotel room, or gone out to a club.

I haven’t been feeling it this year. I didn’t have any plans until this afternoon, when my sister pulled together a little dinner. I’ve been sad. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

But today I had a tender conversation with my beloved Stasha, and another with my beloved Nathan, and with my sister, and with Scott, and spent time with Joe and with other humans of various sizes, and I am ready for my birthday now. I’m ready for this coming year. 

Nathan and I talked about how powerful it is that the moon is new, and there is a lunar eclipse, and the moon is so strong in my chart – so I’m thinking about how to focus on the moon this year. How to invite that energy in, and find my way through it.

I’m looking forward to this.

I am ready for my Moon and Salt Water year.

My birthday spread. (The spread is from Beth Maiden’s Little Red Tarot Spreads, and the deck is The Darkness of Light.)

1. What to leave behind. Ten of Blades. The melodrama, maybe even the martyrdom, but also the crushing despair.

2. A lesson learned last year, to carry into the next. Five of Cups. I love this card, and its invitation to mourn what needs to be mourned, to recognize what needs to be grieved and to honour it, and also to recognize what cups are still full.

3. The next thing you will learn. Eight of Wands. Energy, forward movement, action! Endings, and also beginnings.

4. The theme for the year ahead. Ace of Coins. I find this card so hopeful, particularly when I read it through Cassandra Snow’s lens. “[W]ith a queer Ace of Pentacles we see an aspect of the card that we haven’t before: healing from past trauma and moving forward confidently, even if the manifestation of that is material and worldly.”

5 and 6. Something to celebrate, something to do. Page of Coins and La Stella. Begin! Strike out on an adventure! Bring hope to the beginning!

7. A message from ancestors. Three of Cups. I need community. And specifically, I need community when it comes to my magic and spiritual practice.

Monday morning reading for advocates and activists

I woke up feeling the weight of injustice heavy on my chest this morning. Yesterday was Canada Day, a complex and emotional day for so many folks, and a painful reminder of ongoing colonialism and violence.

I spent my day yesterday at Camp fYrefly, an amazing camp for trans and queer youth, facilitating narrative conversations.

Today I wondered, where can we, as advocates and activists, and as marginalized communities, and as people struggling to find ways forward through increasingly terrifying political, economic, and ecological climates, focus our energy?

In the centre, the core of the question, Courage. The 7 of Wands. In the guidebook, Cristy C. Road says, ‘You recently had a vision – you are a priestess, a leader, an energetic plea for peace and justice. You have what you need – the resources, the knowledge, and the revolutionary intent to create something both educational and breathtaking – but a community, an individual, or a system unwilling to comply sits beside you… The 7 of Wands cultivated a force field that surrounds the space she creates her elixirs, makes her arts, and strengthens her intuition – away from the claws of the oppressor. She asks you to do the same; strengthen your magnetic field, strengthen your core beliefs, and realize that you have this.’

To the left, an invitation to turn your energy inward and look for Intersection. The 2 of Pentacles. You do not have to choose ‘right brain’ or ‘left brain’. You do not have to adhere to binaries and false narratives of mutually exclusive paths to the same ends – there are many true stories, and there is value in learning them. ‘The 2 of Pentacles asks you to consider every intersection. Educate yourself of the truths that exist beyond your reality. Judge them, excavate their roots, disregard their inaccuracies, and take the chosen path with total awareness.’

To the right, an invitation to turn our energy outward and work towards Safety. The 10 of Cups. ‘Within true family, whether blood or chosen, there is safety and connection… The 10 of Cups asks you to redefine family, security, wealth, and community on your own terms. The terms that honour your individual story and your definition of safety.’

So, today, how can you find the courage at your core? How can you protect your core, and your magic?

How can you invite inner reflection on intersections? Where can you find new stories and engage critically with received knowledge?

And how can you seek safety in your connections with others? How can you redefine family in ways that honour your needs?

 

A Monday morning spread

Image description: A four-card spread, using the Wild Unknown Tarot. At the centre is the Ace of Swords, crossed by the Father of Swords. On the left is the Father of Pentacles and on the right is the Six of Wands.

Good morning!

I’ve been dealing with a lot of indecision in my own life, and I know I’m not the only one. When we’re dealing with persistent primary and secondary trauma, as many of us are in this current political, economic, and ecological climate, it can be incredibly difficult to make decisions.

So, this is a spread to help guide decisions this week!

At the centre:

What will be helpful in guiding decisions, and what is crossing it? 

The Ace of Swords will be helpful. What new knowledge or insight can help you make decisions this week? What have you learned? What do you know? What have you become aware of in the last while that can help with the decisions that are in front of you this week?

Looking at this card, I am particularly struck by the rainbow infinity snake wrapped around the sword. Unlike the rainbow sword in the Father of Swords, which crosses this card, this symbol looks, to me, like an invitation to complexity and intersectionality. Justice and liberation does not happen in a linear fashion, and our struggles are linked. We must maintain an awareness of those members of the community who are more or differently marginalized than we are ourselves. The community is more important than the sword – the sword is a tool, and we wield it.

Crossing this helpful card is the Father of Swords. Is old and established knowledge getting in the way of making decisions based on new knowledge? Are you being invited to let go of a sense of expertise or mastery, and be a beginner again? Are there ways in which established knowledge is hindering your ability to make decisions this week?

On the left:

Something to move away from or be aware of

The Father of Pentacles is so tempting right now. Security, stability, material sustainability. Where are you making decisions out of the fear of scarcity? Where are you trying to control your material world, to master it and keep it stable? Can you loosen your grip, let yourself be something other than “in control”?

I get it, bbs! I feel it, too. So much. This card speaks directly to the heart of my financial instability and the way I make decisions right now with one eye always on the money. Capitalism, scarcity, shame, fear… I want to find Father of Pentacles magic to banish my fear and my feelings of precarity.

In this position, I see this card as a reminder that making decisions from a place of fear and scarcity can lead us away from justice rather than towards it. Our fear is so valid, and the scarcity is so real. We are not obligated to harm ourselves for “the cause”, so I do not read this card as an exhortation to “be selfless” or any of the discourses that get so weaponized against us.

Rather, I see this as a gentle reminder that sometimes clinging tightly to a false sense of security based on materiality can actually get in the way of finding a deeper security based on justice and community.

And on the right:

Something to move towards

The Six of Wands. Can you let your decisions be guided by what helps you feel free? What gives you a sense of spaciousness? What moves you towards liberation? What moves you towards transformation? Where do you have the ability to rise above the sharp thorns of the tangled wands below – where can you spread your wings?

I see this card as an invitation to keep our hearts tuned to collective liberation and justice.

We all have so many decisions to make.

Will we speak up to the racist at the rally or in the grocery store? Will we make space for the people of colour around us?

Will we reach out to our friends who are struggling?

Will we reach out when we are struggling?

Will we pay attention to the news, witnessing the injustice in the world?

Will we take care of ourselves, witnessing our own needs with the same compassion we bring to what we witness in the world around us?

Will we confront our own biases? Will we allow ourselves to learn?

Will we take up anti-colonialism, anti-oppression, anti-ableism?

How will we move through the world this week?

Can we move away from those Father cards – can we move away from patriarchal, hierarchical, established ways of being, doing, knowing?

Can we be butterflies, allowing ourselves to dissolve and transform?

Can we be aces, allowing ourselves to be new, to be beginners?

Yes.

I believe in us.

We can.

Solistice Magic: Justice and Hope

Image description: A three card spread. Knight of Blades, La Stella, Six of Blades. The Darkness of Light Tarot deck is in the top right.

Yesterday, in the northern hemisphere, where I am, it was Litha – the Summer Solstice, the longest day. It was also Indigenous People’s Day.

I live and work on Treaty 7 land, with white and settler privilege. Yesterday, I travelled through Suquamish and Duwamish land, and arrived on Nisenan and Plains Miwok land, where I’ll be staying for a week. When I travel to the teaching blocks in my Masters of Narrative Therapy program, I stay on Kaurna land.

All of these lands are Indigenous lands. All of these lands are colonized and the project of colonization is ongoing. We are all part of this project. We all have a duty to resist the ongoing project of colonization, to bring an intentionally anti-colonial lens to our work, to be willing to fuck it up and be called out and learn and do better. Indigenous liberation is necessary.

Indigenous people have been resisting colonization since it began. They have persisted despite the incredible violence and injustice that they’ve suffered. Colonization is not merely historical – it is ongoing and happening now – but that is also true of Indigenous resistance. It is ongoing, and happening now.

I am so thankful for the Indigenous writers, activists, and organizers who have helped me learn. And I have so much more to keep learning.

This spread is adapted from the Solstice questions in the Many Moons Workbook. The questions are:

1 – In what ways am I magic?

2 – How can I fold magic into my everyday life?

3 – What am I manifesting with my actions and intentions?

I pulled these cards thinking about both the Solstice and Indigenous People’s Day. I was thinking about justice and injustice, and about hope. I chose the Darkness of Light tarot for this spread because of the ongoingness of the struggle – that there is always some light in the darkness, and there is always darkness present.

In the first position is the Knight of Blades. How are we magic? From the deck guidebook – “[T]he Knight of Blades represents survival.” The keywords are: Survival, necessity, focus, travel, preparation, protection, reality. In this card, I can see the survival and focus of communities who have resisted injustice for generations. I also see an invitation to find our own internal connection to this Knight’s energy, and work for the survival of ourselves and each other.

In the second position: La Stella, The Star. Hope. Renewal. Caring. Healing. How can we fold magic into our everyday lives? We can cultivate hope. We can focus on renewal – ourselves and each other. In the guidebook, the creator of the deck says that the eight points on the Star gesture back to the eighth card in the Major Arcana – Strength. There is strength in hope. To quote Rebecca Solnit, “Do your best to encourage, not with false cheer but with fierce commitment.” This is a kind of daily magic that is hopeful, healing, caring, compassionate, but does not demand that we pretend things are easier than they are. Fierce hope. Strong hope.

In the final position, the Six of Blades. Travelling to a new space. There is not a lot of certainty in the Six of Blades; the guidebook says, “The Six of Blades represents the exploration of a new frontier… The birds guide her from their vantage point, but simultaneously circle looking for death, symbolizing the consistent specter of danger in the unknown. The mountains ahead are mysterious and dense, and, due to their obfuscation, could harbor either a positive or negative future. Escape, evacuation, travel, exploration, danger, transition.” But what we are manifesting with our hopeful survival magic is the movement forward.

I think that we can help create a positive future by staying connected to our strong sense of justice, by remaining conscious of power and how it operates in our lives and through our actions, by listening to those people who are more or differently marginalized than we are ourselves.

In this land currently called Canada, we are all treaty people. Across this globe, we are all tangled up in this project of colonization, and we make choices every day about how we sit within the tangle.

Let’s use our Blades to cut through it.

Let’s use our Starlight to illuminate the path.

Let’s stay focused on justice.

New Zine available!

Yesterday I had a table at the Spring Spirit and Soul Fair here in Calgary – my first fair!

It was fantastic.

I also created a zine for the event!

The very first Fox and Owl Tarot zine is 16 pages and includes four spreads (one for grief, one for parenting – ourselves, our kids, or our projects, an elements for self-care, and a description of face-up narrative tarot).

You can buy the zine online, too!

It costs $5 for the zine, in either physical or electronic form, and I would be happy to mail it out.

Just email me to order!

A Spread for Parents

Parenting is challenging.

Sometimes we’re parenting a child. Maybe we are biologically connected to the child that we’re parenting. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe we adopted them. Maybe we fell in love with one or both of their parents. Maybe we’re in their extended family (biological or chosen).

Sometimes we’re parenting ourselves. Maybe we didn’t get the kind of love we needed as children. Maybe we did! Maybe we’ve lost a parent. Maybe we just know that we continue to need parenting throughout our lives, and we’ve chosen to take on that sacred role of caregiving for ourselves, within ourselves. Maybe we are extending the loving parenting we received, and maybe we are healing trauma.

Sometimes we’re parenting in some other way – bringing a project or an idea or a dream into the world and then nurturing its growth.

Parenting is challenging in all of these contexts.

Here is a spread to offer some guidance as we parent!

Image description: A drawing of a 5-card spread (described below) and a small purple flower with a green stem, brown roots, and blue water lines.

I designed this spread from the perspective that parenting is both something we are (a part of our identity), and also something we do (a set of actions the result from that identity), and that when we are doing parenting, we are working towards the highest good of the life we are caring for.

This is certainly not the only way to view parenting, and I am particularly conscious of the fact that not everyone views parenting as part of their identity – so the first card, “Being a Parent,” can also be interpreted as the way you are viewed in your parental role.

I designed this spread on Mother’s Day, because I wanted to create something that could reflect my own experience and orientation to the idea of parenting – I am a non-binary person in a nesting relationship with someone who has two kids half the time. I’m not legally any kind of parent, but I’m functionally a stepparent.

Alright, let’s dive into this!

As always, I fully support choosing these cards intentionally or drawing them after shuffling, and I also think that there is so much room to draw further cards, swap cards out, and otherwise engage in a conversation with your cards. Parenting is, in my experience both parenting myself and parenting these two stepsquids, in a constant state of flux. It is always a conversation between dreams and reality, between conflicting needs and resources, between the self and the other, the self and the young self, the self and the echoes of our own parents. Let that complexity and flux be present in this spread!

1 – Being a Parent. This card represents you as a parent – either your interpretation of how parenting is part of your identity, or how other people perceive you because of your parenting role. If you want, you can draw two cards – one for the internal sense of identity, and one for the external perception.

2 – Doing Parenting. This card represents how you are doing the actions of parenting, and offers an invitation to consider the impact of those actions. What are you doing as you parent? This is another position that invites a second card – one for what you are doing, and one for what you might consider doing.

3 – Nurture. What are you invited to nurture in the child in your life, in the child in yourself, in the project or idea you are bringing up?

4 – Validate. What are you invited to validate? This is so important for those of us parenting children or parenting ourselves. What is present in the experience of this person that may be hard to see or believe? What are they/we feeling, noticing, experiencing that is not finding validation elsewhere? Allow the person you are parenting to be the expert in their own experience.

5 – Witness. Part of parenting involves witnessing the growth that results from our nurturing and validating actions. Especially if we are parenting a child or a project, witnessing how they operate in the world and allowing ourselves to hold a decentered role – to be on the outside of that, witnessing it – is so important. And even when we are parenting ourselves, releasing our own desire to control the outcome and witnessing how we move through the world can be such a healing step.

Let me know if you try this spread out!


Here is the spread that I drew for parents on the margins on Mother’s Day this year.

Being a parent: The Devil. Text on the card reads ‘Justice is not blind’ and ‘when silence equals profit.’ Being a parent in this time of ecological, economic, and political collapse and injustice means seeing and fighting against this. Cristy C. Road writes, ‘how do we evade systems of oppression in eras of destitution?’ That’s the question for us as parents. 

Doing parenting: Wheel of Fortune. ‘Keep spinning until you feel totally safe.’ In the *doing* of parenting there is a push for change, to turn the wheel, to make choices, to think twice, to ask the hard questions. 

To nurture: Page of Wands. Nurture the bravery and power of whoever it is we are parenting. 

To validate: Revolution. Validate the rage and energy of whoever we are parenting. Validate their/our truth, and the the refusal to continue to support systems of injustice. Text on the card reads, ‘defend the sacred.’ Validate that. 

To witness: King of Wands. Nurture those first steps in bravery and power, and then witness the results. The King of Wands ‘doesn’t fear the journey toward enlightenment and global security; he is present for every step of the ride.’ 

Parenting on the margins can feel exhausting, overwhelming, isolating, terrifying. I found this spread encouraging and demanding. This work, however we do it, whoever we do it for, is good work. Hard work. Revolutionary work.

Project Kindling Spread

I’m still working my way through Evvie Marin’s fantastic ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Resistance and Change. Today I’m taking the Project Kindling Spread out for a spin!

I’ve been holding off on this spread because I’ve been getting some ducks in a row. Fox and Owl Tarot launches officially – official official! – next weekend. I’m going to open up the shop and start offering readings professionally.

This has meant some behind-the-scenes technical work, and some behind-the-scenes shadow work. (I really love Northern Light Witch‘s Shadow Work Spell Kit, and highly recommend it. I’ll be posting a review, with some snippets from the work I’ve done over this last while, next week.)

I needed to figure out how I feel about money, and about tarot, and about bringing the two together in this way. I needed to figure out how tarot fits in with my other work, because in my non-tarot life, I’m a narrative therapist and I believe deeply the narrative practice of decentring the practitioner and bringing people fully into the centre of their own story. If I believe, and I do, that “you are the expert in your own experience,” then how does tarot fit with that? (It fits beautifully, I think! But I just really had to sit with that for a while and make sure I was fully grounded in my ethics and my focus as I get ready for this launch.)

But this evening, I finally let myself try out this spread!


Focusing on Fox and Owl Tarot as the project I am kindling, I got a reading that is strongly influenced by the work I’ve been doing over the last week and a bit.

Image description: A spread from the Steampunk Tarot deck, with King of Pentacles, Ten of Swords, and Seven of Cups at the centre, The Sun to the left, The Tower to the right, Page of Cups below, and Queen of Pentacles above.

Cards 1, 2, 3 – The sparks: King of Pentacles, Ten of Swords, Seven of Cups. There are the elements that will spark the project into life.

I laughed when I saw the Ten of Swords. It’s true, I am an Eeyore. I bring my despair and my outrage at the injustices so common in our world into this work. I reallly appreciated uncaged-tarot’s recent thread about social justice in tarot, and when I saw this ten, that’s what immediately came to mind. Exhaustion at the many cuts that marginalized communities face. Existential dread. Even a bit of melodrama. But this is not a negative in this context. This is a spark! This is the sharp awareness of injustice and the crushing effects of the kyriarchy on the people I work with.

The Seven of Cups made me pause and think. In this card, I see my indecision, my daydreaming self, my pie-in-the-sky imaginings of what Fox and Owl might end up being. For a moment, I felt myself sinking into judgement and discouragement, but then I thought about how daydreams are beautiful when the spark action. In the moment of imagining so many potential outcomes – will Fox and Owl take off and become a major part of my work life? Amazing! Will I write a book about narrative therapy and tarot? Maybe! Will I develop an entire tightly connected community of fellow Social Justice Mages? I hope so! – and I thought, fuck the judgement. These daydreams are perfect, and they are sparking this project. When they burn down over time, I’ll be left with the glowing coal of whatever lasted. The heart of this will stay, and in the meantime, the daydreams are perfect kindling.

And then the King of Pentacles. I struggle with the King cards in most decks – I am working on a series of posts about how the Next World Tarot queers the kings and gave me my first truly comfortable engagement with that energy. I have found Siobhan’s post on Little Red Tarot about the Kings incredibly helpful, and I came back to it in interpreting this card. Given my interpretation of the Ten of Swords – that this work calls me to be conscious of the cuts and exhaustion of living under marginalization – the presence of a King (with all the privilege that is brought in there) challenges me to be present with balance, to honour my own intuition and wisdom, to be grounded in my own practice just as much as I centre the wisdom and knowledge of the person I am reading for. Sioban writes, “Power is a practice, a pose, a reciprocal biochemical signature that we can share with other humans or experience alone; it’s a privilege that we’ve taken for granted (and which we can use for good). Work with it. Acknowledge its misuse and, also, reclaim it.” I can bring this power into my work. And, in fact, I must bring that power into my work, or the spark won’t kindle into flame.

Card 4, Internal influences: The Sun.

What do I bring to the table? A fuckton of energy, is what. Joyful energy. Generative energy. Hot, bright, Leo Sun energy. I don’t associate myself with The Sun (or with my Leo sign) very often. I feel more Moon, more Cancer-rising. More dark, more watery, more gloom – there is a reason my alter ego is the Gloom Fairy. But there are moments when I know the fire in myself, and I know that this card is accurate. This project was deeply influenced by my energy, my desire to create and to be part of nurturing growth. I bring that fire to this project.

Card 5, External influences: The Tower.

Just like the Ten of Swords, when I flipped this card I immediately laughed in recognition. Fox and Owl Tarot is the product of a few things, one of which was a friend identifying a lack of queer, trans, and polyamory-friendly tarot readers in Calgary. But it is also the product of my ongoing search for ways to participate as a healer and support for people as we go through this calamitous time. Climate change, global economic and political turmoil, the resurgence of overt fascism… These are Tower times, and that external context is a huge influence in how I view this project and what I want to bring to my readings.

Card 6 and 7, Let go of and Move towards: Page of Cups and Queen of Pentacles.

These two cards came out together, so I am reading them as interchangeable in these positions. I think they both have insight to offer in both positions.

Page as card 6 – I’m not a newbie to the cards. This is not the beginning of my journey. I have a strong connection to my cards and to the practice of tarot, and to my narrative practice and my work as a community organizer. I can let go of my imposter syndrome and my anxiety that I don’t have anything worthwhile to offer yet.

Page as card 7 – I will always be a student of the cards. There is always more to learn, and embracing that fact and moving towards it will be a benefit to my work with Fox and Owl Tarot.

Queen as card 6 – Don’t worry so much about the money. I struggle under capitalism, especially right now with the costs of grad school and the challenges of launching my counselling business. I am constantly stressed about money. In this position, I see the Queen of Pentacles as an invitation to let go of some of that stress when it comes to Fox and Owl, and to just let the work evolve how it evolves.

Queen as card 7 – Move towards valuing my work. Recognize that my work with tarot is work and that it does have value. Don’t be afraid of bringing money into an interaction, especially if I maintain my commitment to sliding scale and accessibility. (This has been a bit focus of my shadow work – money shame and anxiety! I am actually putting together a zine on this topic, so if you’re interested in participating, let me know!)

I really loved this spread! The cards challenged me to think, connect to my stories of myself and my hopes for this project, and tie into the wisdom that already exists in the tarot community.

I feel hopeful, optimistic, and ready to launch.

Onward!

Eight Useful Tarot Spreads Day 5: Snowflake spread

Today’s reading uses Evvie Marin of Interrobang Tarot‘s Snowflake spread from her ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Change and Resistance. This is the fourth spread in the book, so we’re half-way through this little tarot challenge I’ve set myself!

I did this reading for myself. I’ve had a challenging couple days (which is why you didn’t see this blog post yesterday!) and I’ve been feeling a bit down on myself. I’m “too emotional.” I’m “too busy.” I’m “too focused on my work.” I’m “too stressed out.” I “don’t have good boundaries.” And on and on and on – all these stories about myself that come swarming in when I’m low on spoons and high on stress.

I opted to draw all of these cards, rather than intentionally selecting any of them, though I can definitely see the benefit of doing this spread with a chosen card, too.

Image description: A seven card spread. At the centre is the Queen of Cups. Clockwise from the 12 position are: Three of Wands reversed, King of Wands, Wheel of Fortune, The Lovers, The Hermit, and Two of Wands. The deck is the Steampunk Tarot.

The positions, as described by Marin.

0. My Center: How is the weather in my core?

  1. I Spy: A pet weakness. Something I perceive within myself as troublesome or flawed.
  2. I Listen: What does it have to tell me? What is the hidden strength in it?
  3. You Spy: A trait others see as one of my weaknesses.
  4. I Adapt: How can I best adapt and turn this into a strength? Is it truly a weakness at all?
  5. Vulnerability: The nature/expression of my softness and vulnerability.
  6. Power: The nature/expression of my fortitude and personal power.

I laid the cards 1-6, and then 0 at the centre last, but I flipped them 0-6. (I was also, for some reason, so trepidatious with this spread! Even though I always approach tarot from the perspective that if it feels wrong, we can add cards, flip cards, switch cards – it is our story, and tarot helps us tell it. I don’t believe that the cards ever force us into a story that feels wrong or bad for us, though I do believe that often the cards invite us to consider things from different perspectives. Anyway, despite that approach, I still felt hesitant. Afraid that the cards would confirm everything my insecurities have been telling me over the last couple days.)

So, 0. The weather in my core. Queen of Cups. I am feeling all my feelings. Yes. Indeed I am.

1, my weakness. Three of Wands, reversed. What am I trying to do? What are my plans, what are my goals? Why can’t I see through the fog? In this deck, the Three of Wands is looking out across a foggy bay, three lights to illuminate the gloom and a spyglass to help map out next steps. Upright, this card is so adventurous, optimistic, hopeful. In fact, I pulled this card earlier today, upright, and it felt like a lovely invitation to plan! But pulling it reversed here, I absolutely recognized my own belief that my lack of “good planning” is a weakness. If I just had the right plans, I would have solved my financial insecurity. If I had the right plans, I would have a more balanced life. If I had the right plans, my chronic pain would be better managed and my health would be solid. Although I bring an awareness of systemic and structural issues into my therapy work and my activism, there is a persistent intenralized belief that I am somehow creating all my own problems by not planning well enough.

2, the hidden strength. King of Wands. In all my anxiety about not having “the right plans”, I obscure the fact that I am accomplishing a lot regardless. The fog may be heavy, but I’m still moving forward. In the guidebook for the Steampunk Tarot, the quote for this card is, “If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.” – Edith Wharton. And the core meaning is: “Someone who is driven by will, inspiration, and passion.” I may not have all the plans, but I do have will, inspiration, and passion.

3, what others perceive as a weakness. Wheel of Fortune. This one gets me right in my insecurities. The idea that people see me as flighty, fickle, unreliable. Flailing around – up today and down tomorrow.

4, adapting, turning this into a strength. The Lovers. Embrace my passionate self (echoing part of the King of Wands), and also trust the people around me, trust the connections that I’ve cultivated. I am a passionate person. I do spend a lot of time deep in my feels. It’s true that I can be up today and down tomorrow. But is that actually a weakness, or is that part of my hidden strength? The Lovers suggests that with the right people, it’s a strength. And those are the people I want to have in my life, and the people I want to be working with.

5, my softness and vulnerability. The Hermit. Too much time alone and I end up lost in anxiety, self-doubt, spiralling out into catastrophizing. The old stories about “always ending up alone” creep back. Too little time alone and I also end up lost in anxiety, self-doubt, and spiralling thoughts, dealing with newer stories about “always ending up a failure.” I need time alone. I need to bring softness to my solitude. And I also need to be aware of the difference between solitude and isolation, and my own vulnerability to old narratives about loneliness and rejection.

6, my fortitude and personal power. Two of Wands. The guidebook suggests asking, when this card comes up, “What feels bold? What ignites your passion? What connects to you to your spiritual roots?” Even when I’m not sure how to see the way forward, I’m able to access the bold, enthusiastic, passionate will that is such a strong part of me.

I found it interesting that the top half of the spread was all wands, the bottom was all majors, and that big cups energy in the centre. (Back when I was tarot blogging just for myself, I was over at Queen of Cups.) This tells me there’s a lot of movement and energy in my life right now, and a lot of that energy has to do with big, foundational changes. And I feel uncertain and off balance – which makes sense! This is a lot happening all at once.

I appreciate that this spread offers me a way to reframe what has felt like a weakness (my inability to handle all this swirling energy) into a strength (the ability to ground myself in connection and rely on my passion and inspiration). It’s storming out, but I’ve got plenty of fire.

Eight Useful Tarot Spreads Day 4: Toolkit spread

Today’s post is a review of the Toolkit tarot spread from Evvie Marin’s Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Change and Resistance.

I stayed with the theme of navigating despair and discouragement. The spread is meant to help the reader recognize, utilize, and uncover tools and resources.

So let’s jump into the toolkit and see what’s available to help us build our way out of the discouragement.

First of all, I really love this spread. I appreciate all the variations that Marin’s post offers, and I love the way it brings three separate spreads together and allows for reading them together or individually.

I also loved this reading. Sometimes the deck is just so gentle and helpful. I hope you find some help (and some hope) here too.

Image description: A nine-card spread, laid out in three rows of three. The top row is Page of Pentacles, The Emperor, Five of Swords. The middle row is Five of Pentacles, Six of Swords, Six of Cups. The bottom row is Two of Cups, Knight of Cups, Four of Swords.

The top shelf (row) of the toolkit:

To Fix: Page of Pentacles. We can mend our sense of hopeful movement towards stability and a more just material world. The Page of Pentacles here invites us to repair and renew our curiousity, our willingness to try something new, and our enthusiasm for resisting injustice and building something better.

To Break: The Emperor. Oh, how my heart loves this. Break that pattern of imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy. Break the habits of control and power being privileged over justice. Break the systems of privilege that harm us all.

To Measure: Five of Swords. Assess where we are at risk, where we are under threat, where we are in conflict. And also assess where we are not. Where we can resist conflict, where we can choose collaboration.

The middle shelf (row) of the toolkit:

A Talent: Five of Pentacles. The Five of Pentacles is about scarcity, material lack, necessary resources that feel out of reach. For those of us on the margins, struggling with despair and discouragement and with scarcity and lack (especially the intergenerational poverty faced by Black and Indigenous folks), we have been learning how to live within scarcity our whole lives. We are able to weave safety nets out of the thin threads available to us, and that’s magical. But I also think that this points to a talent for seeing things as they are. We can recognize where the scarcity is artificially imposed.

A Resource: Six of Swords. This position in the spread is about external resources, and this card is also about accessing help and external resources. Other people (other communities, other folks within our communities, perhaps even accomplices outside of our communities), may be able to help us build our way out. Who has insight we could benefit from? Who has energy, time, space, or material resources that could help us? This card invites us to ask.

A Skill: Six of Cups. We have such deep roots in our communities. We have strong connections to our joy and our dreams. Holding onto those dreams is a skill. It is something we have had to develop over time. Every survival strategy, every coping mechanism that we have cultivated over our lives, has roots and we have tended to those roots. We have built these skills. And now we can draw on them to help us build our way out of discouragement.

The bottom shelf (row) of the toolkit:

What’s Hidden: Two of Cups. There is connection available to us. Balanced, wholehearted, joyful connection. Relationship. Friendship. Community. Sometimes it’s hidden – despair and discouragement leave us feeling isolated and alone. The connection available to us sometimes ends up hidden. And I think that sometimes call out culture contributes to this, too (and ties this card to the Five of Swords).

How to Unlock It: Knight of Cups. We can unlock that connection and community by going after it, pursuing it, turning our focus on it and keeping it as a goal for ourselves. Fight the isolation of discouragement by actively pursuing connection.

Where to Apply It: Four of Swords. Ah, friends. Can we rely on our communities to enable us in resting and renewing ourselves? Wow. What a beautiful invitation. Working together, leaning on each other, feeling safe together – it can allow us to access peace, rest, renewal.

I love this spread.

And I really love reading tarot.