Today’s review is of the Emotional Arrow tarot spread from Evvie Marin’s Interrobang Tarot ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Change and Resistance. I drew this spread for all of us on the margins who are currently experiencing despair and discouragement over the economic, political, and ecological climate.
This group of despairing humans includes me – I have been following the pipeline debate in this land currently called Canada, where colonial governments are colluding to force Indigenous nations to allow the pipeline in their unceded land… it is a collision of economic, political, and ecological issues that leaves me, and many people in my communities, feeling more despair than usual. And in other places on this hurting world, there are other sources of despair and discouragement. And across all of these spaces, the long shadow of white capitalist colonialism stretches.
So, today, as I came to my table and my tarot and my weeklong review of Marin’s generously shared spreads, I thought – perfect. Let’s see if the cards have any wisdom for this experience of despair and discouragement.
This spread is for us, all of us who are witnessing injustice and oppression, and feeling hopeless.
Image description: A tarot spread, showing the reversed Ace of Pentacles, The Hanged Man, reversed Seven of Cups, reversed Ace of Wands, The Empress, and the Six of Pentacles. The deck is the Steampunk Tarot.
First, I named the emotion: despair and discouragement. Marin suggests not using this spread while you’re in the grip of an intense emotion, so I set my intention early this morning but I didn’t actually pull the cards until this afternoon, after I’d spent some time outside, and after I’d had a good meal.
The source (what prompted this emotion? what lies at the root of it?): Two of Pentacles reversed. When I flipped this card, all I could do was sigh. Yes, of course. This despair and discouragement does come from the lack of balance. Wealth inequality. Power inequality. Racism and white supremacy. Ongoing colonialism. Capitalism. There is no balance here – there’s no honouring of Indigenous sovereignty and land rights, there’s no honouring of marginalized lives and knowledges, there’s no respect, there’s no balance.
The impact (how is this emotion effecting us now?): The Hanged Man. We feel stuck. Helpless. But I also think that this card references the way witnessing these injustices, which are consistently denied and dismissed by people in power or people who are invested in maintaining the current power structures, seems to flip the world upside down. Sometimes this can feel like we’re crazy – the kyriarchy (that complex web of intersecting privileges and marginalizations that impacts each of us) does a good job of gaslighting anyone who tries to speak about injustice. But The Hanged Man here is a reminder that we are seeing things clearly – we are just looking at them from a different angle. We have our Social Justice Goggles on, and it gives us a whole new perspective on the world we are inhabiting and witnessing. Our despair leaves us feeling strung up and stuck, but it also has the effect of opening our eyes.
How to navigate this emotion (how can we better harness, navigate, and channel this emotion?): Seven of Cups reversed. The Seven of Cups can be about wishful thinking, too many choices, confusion. There is a lot of wishful thinking when it comes to economic, political, and ecological despair. The idea that we can “positive think” our way out of intergenerational poverty or the eroding social security net. The myth of bootstrapping ourselves into prosperity. The lie that racism is a thing of the past, or that equality has been achieved. In our despair and discouragement, it can be so tempting to wriggle out of the uncomfortable Hanged Man clarity and dive into all those promising, lying cups. But we can resist that. We can let those cups pour out on the ground, and work towards something better, something more true and more real and more just.
The message (what is this emotion trying to tell us?): Ace of Wands reversed. We don’t get a clean slate. We don’t get to start fresh. There is no shiny new beginning. In our despair and our discouragement is the awareness that we bring our baggage with us – that as we move forward through these difficult times, and as we challenge and resist these many injustices, we will also bring forward the echoes of our own existence within unjust systems. We will bring our internalized bigotry, our toxic narratives, our histories of complicity. But knowing that, we can resist, we can unlearn and relearn, we can change. No clean slate, but that doesn’t mean no growth.
The target (best outcome/goal of working constructively with this emotion): The Empress. The best outcome of our working through (and with) these emotions is renewed creativity and growth. I love the way this works with the reversed Ace of Wands. The Empress is not brand new energy – she’s grown. She knows herself, knows her power, is connected to her creativity. And although I think the naming of this card is a warning – how will we challenge injustice, which is tied to imperialism, when the best available outcome is The Empress?! – I also think that we can queer this card (link is to an article on Little Red Tarot by Cassandra Snow about queering the Emperor and Empress). If we allow ourselves to feel our despair and our discouragement, and we allow these emotions to motivate us to seek change – to use our power to challenge and resist injustice (maybe even to look to women rulers who have resisted anglo imperialism, like Lakshmibai, who resisted British rule in India) – we can connect to our creative, generative power. We can make a difference. We can build something better.
Overkill (how does this emotion mislead us? how might it take us too far?): Six of Pentacles. But our despair and discouragement might mislead us, too. Might have us begging for scraps from the people who already hold too much power. The source of our despair is the lack of balance, and if we try to survive these feelings of scarcity, lack, and precarity by appeasing those in power and hoping they’ll share some of their wealth… well, we’ve tried that. And it doesn’t work. And it always leaves the most vulnerable more vulnerable.
Our despair is real, and valid. What we are feeling is based in a true experience of injustice, and we despair because we want justice – we want balance and a more fair world. Our despair can leave us feeling trapped, unable to move forward, but it can also motivate us to create new ways of being. We don’t have to beg for scraps from systems that have always been built to oppress. We can build something better.