Card of the Day – Queen of Swords

Today’s card is the Queen of Swords. The throne of truth.

(It feels like such a Swords month! I drew the Ten of Swords as my card for this month, and it has certainly felt like that energy is present.)

This Queen. In the Next World Tarot guidebook, Cristy Road writes, “If a situation deserves objective focus, intent, and wisdom, the Queen asks to set your heart aside and make a just decision. The Queen of Swords asks you to investigate what is truly healing. She asks you to evade unwarranted sentiments, and empathetic responses that erase your truth.”

This invitation makes me think about discourses of empathy, and of the idea that empathy is always good or preferable. It makes me think about how empathy and justice intersect.

Are there times when empathetic responses erase your truth?

Asking this question, I can immediately think of all the times someone being harmed has been asked to think about the “good intentions” or to empathize with the person who is harming them.

Are there times when sentiments are unwarranted? When they get in the way of what might be healing for us or for our relationships?

Are there times when justice means setting our hearts aside?

How do these questions settle for you? What memories, or stories from your history, come to the surface as you think about this Queen’s invitation? Is there a situation in your life right now where empathetic responses are erasing your truth, or where your heart (your lovely, loving heart) may need to be protected and secluded so that you can make a just decision?

Because of the month that I have had, I see this Queen speaking directly and compassionately to those in our community who have experienced violence and abuse.

I imagine her holding her sword and saying, “Beloved, I know that you understand the trauma of the person who hurt you. I know that you still love them, that your heart will always hold precious the relationship you’ve shared. But take this sword, trust your truth, and cut through the gaslighting, the victim-blaming, the entitlement to your time and energy and space. You know your own truth. You know you have been hurt and you did not deserve to be hurt in this way, no matter what was happening for them.”

 

Card of the Day – King of Swords

Today’s card is the King of Swords. The throne of knowledge.
 
What does it mean to know something?
 
What is the work of knowledge? Does knowing something mean that you have an obligation to do something with that knowledge?
 
Who taught you what it means to know something, and what the work of knowledge might be?
 
What motivates you when you share your knowledge?
 
How do you navigate the difficult path of knowing something and not being able to make other people know it? (We know, for example, that “facts don’t change minds” but where does that leave us?)
 
How do we challenge hierarchies of knowledge from a throne of knowledge?
 
How do we honour the insider knowledges of the people around us, when we see them making mistakes?
 
How do we honour our own insider knowledges when we see ourselves making mistakes?
 
How does the King of Swords access Temperance? How does the King of Swords find balance?
Today, consider this card a gentle invitation to explore the things you know and the things you might not know. An invitation to bring curiosity to your own experience of knowledge, and to what you consider the work of knowing. An invitation to think about which throne of knowledge you are sitting on, and which you want to sit on.
 
In my own world, this means that I am going to resist the urge (which is so strong) to give advice.
I find myself with a frantic desperation to prevent my community from “making mistakes” – I can see their patterns and I can see what they need, so why can’t they?! This is not helpful.
This desperation tells me that I am afraid, that I feel the safety net beneath us to be frayed, that I am overextended and under-resourced. I want to help, but I want to help because I feel frantic, chaotic, restless, afraid. This is not coming from a place of compassion, or from the knowledge that people are the experts in their own lives. It is not in alignment with my strongly held belief that people are always already responding to the problems and hardships in their lives, that every person has skills, values, hopes, and dreams that will help them find their way to their preferred stories, preferred selves.
 
My own insider knowledge tells me that I am so desperate to make everyone else “safe” by convincing them of what I know, not because it will help, but because I am trying to control the outcomes. I am not trusting what I know is true – that people are the experts in their own lives – because I am far away from my own feeling of safety and truth. But I, like everyone else, have choices. I have skills and values and hopes and dreams. I have preferred stories that I can move towards.
The outward focused knowledge, which urges me to convince, cajole, control – this is not the throne I want to be on, today. It positions me as an “expert” in someone else’s life, a position that I actively and intentionally resist!
So, instead, I’m going to turn inward, to my own insider knowledge. What is happening within my own heart and mind? What efforts can I make towards strengthening the safety net, rather than preventing it from being needed? How can I contract, bring myself in, offer myself some comfort?
 
What I (think I) know about everyone else is so loud. This tells me I need to find some quiet, and figure out what I know about myself.

The Ten of Swords and Intimate Partner Violence

I am tired of watching the people in my life suffer at the hands and words of people who claim to love them.

And it does not escape my notice that it is more often the femmes, the women, the disabled, the neurodivergent, the vulnerable who are experiencing violence and abuse from their partners.

I am overwhelmed with listening to people who consult me for narrative therapy, and who consult me as a friend, talk about what has been done to them, talk about what has been said to them, talk about what has been said about them, and to hear them questioning themselves with the oppressive voices of our culture.

Was it really so bad?
He didn’t mean it.
Am I too needy?
He was drinking.
They were having a panic attack.

Everything I say makes her angry.
He really tries.
Maybe it’s not so bad.

Maybe it’s not so bad.

Of course they doubt themselves! Our culture chronically gaslights marginalized communities. Marginalized communities are often operating within transgenerational trauma, poverty, scarcity (if not in our families, then in our communities). Marginalized communities may also have to contend with other structural and systemic issues that make naming abuse and violence more challenging – Black and Indigenous communities are at such increased risk of violence from any system. Seeking help often means finding more violence.

There is so much normalization of violence in our culture. And although it is not an issue that only impacts women, or is only perpetuated by men, there are patterns. They are painful patterns to witness.

One of my friends recently posted this open letter to men:

Dear men,

Just wanted to let you know I am so over it. I talk to your partners every day. I see their tears and listen to their self flagellation in the effort to make you happy. I watch them cram themselves in tiny boxes so they don’t threaten you. I fume as they suggest, gently, kindly, if it’s not too much trouble, that you consider their needs, but your wants are more important. Men, I watch you casually ask for sacrifice as if it were your due. I seethe as your partners ask for the simplest things of you, and you just don’t even bother. I see you go through the motions and call it love, when it doesn’t even pass the bar for respect. And then, as it all falls apart you claim you need a chance, as if you haven’t been given dozens, that you didn’t know, as if you hadn’t been told relentlessly, and that you can change, as long as you won’t be held accountable.

Men, I am so over watching your partners unilaterally trying to fix relationship problems that are yours. I am tired of knowing your partners better than you. I am exhausted having to buoy them through the hard times because you cannot be bothered. I am tired of you cheapening what love means by buying the first box of chocolates you see (not even their favourite) and calling it an apology but changing nothing.

Don’t hurt my people. Men, do better or go home.

And still, the questioning. Maybe it wasn’t so bad? Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Because each incident on its own might not be so bad. Might be a bad day, a bad choice. Might be a bad moment. It’s not the whole story. Maybe it’s not so bad.

And on its own, maybe it isn’t.

Image description: The Ten of Swords from the Next World Tarot.

From the guidebook by Cristy C. Road:

This is the final straw, and the 10 of Swords is exhausted from counting. They have lost themselves, over and over, in the name of love, self-worth, trauma, post-traumatic stress, healing the body from abuse, healing the mind from manipulation, and unwarranted, non-stop loss. The 10 knows healing, they studies it and have been offered power, candles, bracelets, and messages from their ancestors through local prophets who run their favorite Botanica. They are listening, but they are stuck. Proving to their community that while they have known power, they have known pain they don’t deserve.

The 10 of Swords asks you to trust your pain, own your suffering, and don’t deny yourself of the care you deserve from self, and the validation from your community. That validation is the root of safety. The 10 of Swords believes now is the time to ask your people for safety.

I pulled this card after another conversation with a beloved member of my community about an incident of misogyny in an intimate relationship.

I had brought this question to the deck – “How do we invite accountability into our intimate relationships?”

I wanted to know –

How do we create the context for change without putting the burden of emotional labour onto the person already experiencing trauma from the choices and behaviours of their partner?

How do we deepen the connection to values of justice, compassion, and ethical action, for people who have been recruited into acts of violence and abuse?

How do we resist creating totalizing narratives about people who use violence and abuse? How do we resist casting them as monsters? How do we invite accountability while also sustaining dignity?

How do we, to use a quote by one of my fellow narrative therapists, “thwart shame”? (Go watch Kylie Dowse’s video here!)

In moments of distress, I often turn to the tarot. When I don’t know how to ask the right questions, and I don’t know what to say or do, I turn to the tarot. Tarot cards are excellent narrative therapists.

I flipped this card over and the image moved me immediately. These acts of intimate partner violence and abuse do not occur in a vacuum. It is not just one sword in the back.

A misogynist comment from a partner, directed towards a woman or femme, joins the crowd of similar comments she, they, or he has received their entire life.

A racist comment from a partner, directed towards a racialized person, joins the pain of living an entire life surrounded by white supremacy and racism.

An ableist comment from a partner, a transantagonistic comment, a sanist or healthist or fatphobic or classist comment – these comments join the crowd.

And so, how do we invite accountability while preserving dignity? How do we resist totalizing narratives of either victims or perpetrators, resist recreating systems of harm in our responses to harm?

See the whole picture.

Even though it is so painful to look at, see the whole thing.

Rather than locating violence and abuse as problems that are localized to a relationship, individualized and internalized to a single person making choices, recognize that these things happen in context. And for many folks, these contexts are incredibly painful.

It will take time, and patience, and compassion, and gentleness, and a willingness to do the hard work of both validation and accountability. It will take community to find safety.

We need each other to say, “it is that bad, even if this incident might not be.”

When the victim-blaming, isolating, individualizing voices start clamoring, we need each other to say, “this is not your fault.”

We need something more nuanced than “leave,” “report.”

We need to show up for each other, with each other. We need safety. We need validation.

Can we do this by asking questions like:

How did you learn what it means to be in relationship?

What examples of making choices in relationships have you seen around you? What was being valued in those choices?

Does what you’ve learned about being in relationship align with what you want for yourself, and what you value for yourself?

Do the actions you’re choosing in your own relationship align with your values or hopes?

Who has supported you in your values and hopes?

Do you share any hopes or values with your partner(s)?

What have you learned about violence and abuse in relationships? About who experiences violence and abuse? About who enacts violence and abuse?

When did you learn this?

Does this learning align with what you’ve experienced in your own relationship?

What insider knowledges would you add to this learning, from your own experience?

Have you ever taken a stand against violence and abuse in your relationship?

What enabled you to take this stand?

When violence or abuse shows up in your relationship, are you able to name it? Have you ever been able to name it? What supports this ability?

What have you learned about what it means to be accountable in relationship?

Do you have supports available to you that invite accountability while sustaining dignity?

Who can support you in being accountable for the actions you’ve taken when you’ve been recruited into violence or abuse? Who can support you in asking for accountability from a partner who has been recruited into violence or abuse?

Here are some resources if you’re looking for ways to respond to intimate partner violence:

The Stop Violence Everyday project.

Critical Resistance’s The Revolution Starts at Home zine.

The Creative Interventions toolkit.

(This post has been cross-posted to my narrative therapy blog. You can find it here.)

Card of the Day: Eight of Swords

Image description: The 8 of Swords in the Next World Tarot.

Today’s card is the 8 of Swords. Restriction.

There are so many things that I love about Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot, but perhaps my favourite is that the deck offers something liberatory and strong in each card. It’s a deck that welcomes reflection, accountability, and the acknowledgement of how even our “maladaptive” coping strategies are born from inner knowing and self-preservation.

In the introduction to the guidebook, Road writes, “When we’re up, the system wants to tear us down. When we’re down, we sink in an act of resistance or self-preservation that comes from the horror of exhaustion. How do we hold each other up in a world where oppression can be louder than self-love?”

“We sink in an act of resistance.”

I really appreciate this framing of what it can mean to sink in response to feeling down. This is so counter to narratives of positivity and positive thinking, which push us always towards rising, growing, freeing ourselves. There is so little space for contraction, constraint, restraint, restriction. This leaves us with a thin narrative available for this card – it’s something to get rid of, get out of, get past.

Michelle Tea writes, in Modern Tarot, “When the Eight of Swords arrives, you are so deeply stuck that you have given up any hope of fixing the situation. Or maybe you delayed fixing a situation until it swallowed you whole and now you’ve lost hope… If you did allow yourself to see, you’d have to acknowledge that this miserable situation is at least partly your own doing. You have tremendous personal power, but for some reason you are choosing not to use it, or you have handed it over to someone else.”

This is a common interpretation of the card. And sometimes it’s true! But other interpretations are possible. I’m thinking of the cocoon in the Wild Unknown, and the idea of restriction as being about the moment before growth and the painful period of transformation.

Image description: The Eight of Swords in the Wild Unknown tarot.

But I’m also thinking about the Next World Tarot, and this interpretation – “The 8 of Swords was burned once and refuses to be burned again. She hides from the possibility, but knows deep inside that she is greater than her triggers. The 8 of Swords is self-imposed limits for her own protection. She embodies a moment of validation. She asks you to name your needs. What do you need to heal? What do you need to avoid? She asks you to choose your limits and trust your body is the foremost guide for your healing… She asks you to unearth your truth and your personal accountability in order to begin crawling through the exit wound.”

How different is this interpretation!

So, an invitation to explore the discourses we have internalized about restriction.

What has your experience of limitations or restrictions been? What is the difference between self-imposed limitations and externally-imposed limitations? Is there any overlap between the two?

Who taught you about limitations or restrictions? Were these framed as a positive or a negative? Have you had experiences that stood against or challenged this framing?

What are the limits you have imposed on yourself?

What wisdom informed the setting of these limits? What were you valuing for yourself when you set these limits?

What do these limits make possible in your life? Now, or in the past?

Do these limits still align with what you value for yourself? Do they feel necessary? Is there a way to shift your relationship to these limits?

This card is richly, beautifully, complexly multi-storied. There are many true stories that coexist and contradict each other without overwriting each other. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to explore, so if you have had a relationship with this card and would like to talk about it in a narrative session, let me know!

Card of the Day: Seven of Swords

Image description: The 7 of Swords from the Next World Tarot.

Today’s card is the 7 of Swords. The escape plan.

It’s an interesting card to read in the context of Valentine’s Day, a day that has so many of us feeling that the world (or at least today’s dominant narratives) is against us.

Today there’s a wheedling little voice in many of our heads. This voice might say,

“Are you in love? I mean, the right kind of love. Two of Cups love, obviously. And no queer, trans, extended kinship networks Two of Cupsiness, no way. Romantic and sexual love. Head over heels love. Chocolate and flowers love.

No?

Dang. What are you doing with your life?!

Suffering in misery, probably! Is it because you’re broken? Is it because you don’t love yourself, so nobody else can love you either? Is it because you’re in the wrong body? I bet it is.”

Even those of us who have found our way into counter cultural spaces and stories of anti-oppressive love are deeply aware of how this day, and its dominant narratives, cooperate with white cis hetero patriarchal norms in ways that hurt so many people.

And for those grieving a loss – a loss to death or to the unchosen loss of a relationship or even to the *chosen* loss of a relationship – there is little space for grief in this day.

For those of us operating within scarcity, or on the margins, this day highlights all the things that hurt and feel precarious.

No wonder we need an escape plan.

Cristy C. Road writes, “After reading the instructions, she still believed she knew a better solution… The 7 learned how to evade disaster – she questioned her actions multiple times, and multiple times came to the same conclusion to do it her way. The 7 of Swords asks you to do the same, but be mindful.”

Isn’t that what we all do as we become conscious of the cultural stories of heteronormative, cisnormative, amatonormative, mononormative love, and as we start to question, to challenge, to find a better solution.

Today, for all its fluffy marketing, is a sharp day for many of us. Good thing we’re also sharp.