A spread for May 1, 2019

A tarot spread. Two cards at the top from the Next World Tarot; Knight of Swords and 6 of Swords. Three cards in the middle from the Wildwood tarot; Four of Vessels, Forest Lovers, Page of Vessels. Two cards at the bottom from the Next World Tarot; 6 of Pentacles and 9 of Cups.

It’s taken me a while to come back to posting. The election results in Alberta cut deeply, and I needed a bit of time.
But it’s May 1. A new month, and an important day in many traditions and in the labour movement. It’s a good day to come back to this practice of sharing cards with my community.

So, I put this little spread together. One of my favourite ways to engage with tarot is as narrative prompts – the spread following from the cards, rather than the cards fitting into a spread. I wanted to find a narrative for the next little while, a story that could invite a rich and fertile growing season, something to speak back to the scarcity and unease of this current time.

First, I sat with all my cherished decks. There’s something powerful about surrounding myself with the tools I have collected, and reminding myself of the reasons for each one. I pulled out all the decks that felt right. Then I shuffled each of them, and felt for that little tug of resonance. I put a few back, and kept out the Wildwood and the Next World.

I shuffled the Next World, and pulled the Knight of Swords. The escape plan. I thought – yes. Start with the escape plan. But where are we going?

I shuffled the Wildwood, and drew the Four of Vessels. Boredom. I thought about my beloved person, Nathan, and the conversations that we have had about how profoundly boring oppression is. It’s all the same tired old shit. And how boredom is a step forward from dread. Once we become bored with the horror, then we can start to daydream other possibilities. What can we imagine when we get bored with this current hellscape?

I pulled another card. The Forest Lovers. Ah, yes, I thought. Imagine falling in love with this world. Imagine being in this world and being in love. Imagine forests. I had coffee with my good friend Andrea today, and they said, “I think our work has to come from love, not hope, right now.” What if we find our way to love? What if we find each other, and we find the world around us, and we connect? I thought this was particularly resonant on May 1.

I pulled another card. Page of Vessels. Otter. And then what if there is playfulness?! What if there is boredom and connection and then playfulness? What if there is joy?

Then I came back to The Next World, and pulled two cards – The 6 of Pentacles, Redistribution. And the 9 of Cups, Happiness. It is not the end of the road yet. There are ways forward. There is enough wealth, there is enough food, there are enough homes, there is enough knowledge. We just need to share it more fairly, to care for each other. To think of lifting each other up, holding each other safe, being together. This is reparations and the radical reimagining of economies and priorities. That’s the way to happiness.

And then I pulled another card, and it slid into the top of the spread. The 6 of Swords, Passage. This is a long journey. The escape plan is only the beginning – the passage will take time. There are a lot of swords at the beginning. And a lot of cups in the middle – we’re going to feel so much, my friends. This time is absolutely bursting with Feels. But then, finally, Pentacles and Cups. Grounded and wholehearted. Feasting together.

I don’t think tarot sets the future, but I do think tarot can help us imagine possible futures.

And I’m thankful for this imagining.

I’m thankful for these cards, at this time.

It’s a good welcome back to this practice of public reading.

If you’d like a spread, my inbox is open and my rates are always sliding scale. <3

Card of the Day – Four of Cups

Today’s card is the Four of Cups.

Yes! Again! All these cards, and all that shuffling, and here she is again.

When I pulled it, I almost put it back. What is the value of these daily cards if I keep pulling the same card? Does it reduce the value of this work? Does it make me less interesting or insightful as a tarot reader, or my work less meaningful?

Then I thought about narrative therapy sessions, and how often issues surface again and again. I thought about how growth is never linear, about how the best stories loop and loop back and loop again.

So, here we are, with the Four of Cups again.

Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot guidebook says, “It feels as if she has been in the middle of this argument for centuries.”

There’s a feeling of monotony to this card, especially today, drawing it again for the third time in a week and a half.

What are the arguments that seem to never end in your own life? Who, or what system, are they with?

Why do these arguments continue?

What are you holding as sacred, precious, or worthwhile when you continue to engage in these arguments? What are you protecting? What are you standing against?

What would it take for the argument to end?

Would the argument ending be progress? Or would the argument continuing be progress?

What does progress mean?

Who taught you about progress, and about arguments, and about arguments that seem to (or literally do) last for centuries?

When was the last time you painted your nails, or wore something exceptionally comfy?

Can you do something gentle for yourself today?

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.”


Boredom, abuse, and the Four of Cups

Last week I pulled the Four of Cups, and my phone ate the post. I meant to come back to it, but didn’t have time.

This morning, I pulled the Four of Cups again and I am thankful for the opportunity to come back to this. I’m also so conscious of how our relationship with the tarot deck is so contextual – this card lands differently today than it did last Saturday.

Today, I flipped that card over and in the femme checking her nail polish I saw so many women and femmes in my own life who have experienced abuse and are bored with it.

I thought about those moments when you’re shocked that someone would say or do something abusive, but you also know that they’re just reading from the same ratty old playbook as so many people before them. I’m thinking about how predictable and unoriginal abusive people are; the gaslighting, the victim-blaming, the blame and shame and fragility and violence.

And it doesn’t really matter who they are, we see it all over the place. TERFs abusing trans women in the same boring old ways. Men abusing women and non-men in the same boring old ways. White folks abusing people of colour. Across every gap of privilege and dominance, there is the potential for this abuse and when it shows up, it is horrible and unacceptable and boring.

The effects of abuse are real. When I say that abuse is boring, I am not at all intending to downplay the impact. But where I see creativity, resourcefulness, innovation is in the responses to abuse. Abuse is so easy – our whole culture is set up to comfort and console and protect people who misuse their power. Capitalism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy – it’s all designed to make it easy to misuse our power in the same old ways. At the end of the day, it’s the same old Scooby Doo villain reveal – looked like an exciting new monster, but it was the same old thing again.

I see this boredom in the Four of Cups today.

I feel this boredom in my heart. And I feel the heaviness of it in my shoulders, my temples, my hips. Because it may be same old same old boring shit, but it’s also pervasive, entrenched. It’s everywhere. Yes, it’s the same thing. Yes, we can predict the gaslighting, the victim blaming, the revisionist histories. We can predict the response of the media and many of the people around us. But that doesn’t make it any easier. That doesn’t make it hurt less. That doesn’t give the disenfranchised access to power or stability or security. The boring abuse still takes over lives, leaves people hurting, alone, living with trauma.

So, back to the Four of Cups.

Personally, I have always read this card as being about scarcity. It shows up when I’m feeling restricted, afraid. There’s often a sense of constriction in this card for me. I’m holding all those cups in reserve, because I don’t know if I’ll have anything left tomorrow. I’m unwilling to engage, because engagement feels risky.

In Carrie Mallon’s interpretation of the Four of Cups in the Wild Unknown, she writes:

This card tends to get a bad reputation, but it’s one of my favorites, and it has a very nuanced message. In some circumstances, this card suggests a person who is closed off from opportunities. Being too absorbed in your inner world can be a detriment, leading you to miss golden opportunities. Disconnection and apathy can be inherent in this card.

But in another view, emotional withdrawal does not have to indicate a negative form of apathy. Sometimes you need to hole yourself up, forget about what shiny things the outside world is offering, and let your emotions stabilize. After all, four is the number of structure and stability, and cups are the suit of emotions. Therefore, the Four of Cups can advise you to come back to your own emotional center.

Even in the more “negative” interpretation here, I wonder: what has led this person to be closed off? What has been happening in their context that has them turning inward to their inner world? What is the context that invited disconnection and apathy into their lives?

I think this is especially relevant when we are examining our own responses to someone who has experienced abuse. Do we see them (or ourselves) as “missing out on golden opportunities” (without holding compassion for how much those opportunities might cost)? Are we frustrated with them (or ourselves) or not engaging in their/our own lives? For not leaving, responding, resisting – all the other “opportunities” available to people who are experiencing violence (which are often not actually as available as they seem).

The Next World Tarot guidebook interpretation of the 4 of Cups highlights the potential positives that come with disengagement and withdrawal. I think this is relevant to the current theme of responding to abuse which is so present in my life these days.

In the Next World guidebook, Cristy C. Road writes:

It feels as if she has been in the middle of this argument for centuries. The 4 of Cups is strong, but exhausted, and unwilling to part with the quiet. She is happy now – along the seaside, surrounded by her most comforting possessions. The 4 of Cups asks you to question your exhaustion. Is it due to unhappiness, disinterest, or boredom?

Living in a society so complacent with injustice, the 4 of Cups asks you to transform exhaustion into your own disengaged moment of accidental self-care.

Are there ways in which exhaustion can highlight injustice? Can our exhaustion and disengagement be an indicator of where something is wrong, and we are unwilling to cooperate with it?

Is there a way in which exhaustion can be refusal? Is there a way in which our acknowledgement and response to exhaustion can be self-care?

So often, interpretations of the Four of Cups can feel incredibly victim-blaming. (In Michelle Tea’s Modern Tarot, she actually says, “Often when this card comes up, the problem is you but you’re too deep in your own bad feelings to see it.”)

When we locate the problem internally, it becomes difficult to see the wisdom and creativity of people’s choices to disengage. Disengagement, turning away, avoidance – these things are all massively devalued in our capitalist, productivity-worshipping, success-chasing, “manifest your best life”, “law of attraction” culture.

But people are always responding to the hardships and traumas in their lives.

People are always resisting.

Nobody is a passive recipient of hardship.

Certainly, there are times when we want to be engaged, and there are times when we want to shift away from the restriction and isolation of this card. But what would happen if we brought curiosity to our interpretation of what’s happening?

What if we asked:

Am I feeling disengaged right now? Does this card reflect my feelings in my own life, or is it an invitation to think about how I’m viewing the world around me?

What have I learned about disengagement as being either good or bad? Who taught me this? Does this learning align with my own values, or my own lived experiences?

If I am disengaged right now, why am I disengaged in this moment?

What am I disengaging from?

What does my disengagement make possible?

What have I learned about greed, or selfishness, or self-absorption (also strong elements associated with this card)?

Whose values do these lessons about greed, selfishness, or self-absorption align with? Do these values apply differently depending on the social location of the person who is behaving in “greedy” or “selfish” or “self-absorbed” ways?

What have I learned about self-care? From whom?

Is there a small moment of self-care that I can engage with today? What might that look like?

Who does it serve or benefit when I engage in self-care? Who does it serve or benefit when I do not?

How can I reevaluate (the key word on the Next World Tarot version of this card!) what I have been taught? Can I choose to engage with these discourses and narratives with curiosity, and to honour my own insider knowledges?

This week, in fact the last few months, has been focused on being a support for people responding to violence in their relationships (both intimately and socially/structurally). I have been so thankful for the gentle invitations that the tarot has offered me over this time. I’m particularly thankful for Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot and the liberation and justice-oriented interpretations offered in the guidebook.

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.

Card of the Day: Four of Wands

Image description: The Four of Wands in the Next World Tarot.

Today’s card is the Four of Wands. Harmony.

This four says, “Today is always the first day of the rest of your life.”

More from the guidebook, “The 4 of Wands asks you to do as she does – hold onto the breadth of your enthusiasm and use it to both offer and embody inspiration.” – Cristy C. Road

Beloved tarot companions, where can you breathe into an awareness of your own survival?

What is the ground beneath your feet, the ground holding you up? What helps you feel grounded?

What would you name as your accomplishments? What have you done despite the obstacles in front of you?

Who is your chosen family, and how did you find them? How did you choose them? What does it say about your values and what you hold precious, that you chose these people to be in your world?

What defines ‘home’ for you? How have you built this home?

I pulled this card into a day marked by emotional distress, into a week overshadowed by violence and abuse and gaslighting and victim-blaming. I pulled this card into a context that is anything but harmonious.

And so, I pulled this card especially for those of us who resonated with the Ten of Swords earlier this week, and who are struggling with issues of intimate partner violence and abuse.

Where can you, you who have suffered and are suffering, find a moment of harmony? Where is the breadth of your enthusiasm, beloved? What do you love, and what does this love say about your lovely and longing and resilient heart?

You are here, surviving.

This is the first day of the rest of your life, and so is tomorrow, and so is the next day.

There is ground to stand on.

There is home.

There is chosen family.

There is music and there are plants and there is a soft sky above you.

There is you, with your heart.

What magic that is.

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: Seven of Wands

Today’s card is the Seven of Wands. Courage.

From Cristy C. Road’s brilliant Next World Tarot guidebook, “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. There is a system of power that excuses hate violence; this system could run through a police state, a political power, or a love. Through intimidation, scare tactics, and lies, they urge you to run from your own magic. The 7 of Wands cultivated a force field that surrounds the space she creates her elixirs, makes her art, and strengthens her intuition – away from the claws of the oppressor. She asks you to do the same.”


What is your vision? Your dream? What secret, precious hopes are you holding close but feeling unable to bring into the world?

Maybe it’s a book. A course. A career change. Involvement in a project or process of justice-doing. Maybe it’s just speaking what you know to be true into a world that you know to be hostile.

What is the system of power that sits in your way?

How can you resist this system?

How can you show up for your dreams, for your own deeply knowing self?

What are we doing with, and for, our dreams?

What do you think it means to your dream or vision that you have not forgotten it, despite the resistant system that you face?

Where did you first discover this dream or vision?

Who in your life, past or present, would not be surprised to know that this is your dream or vision? Who knows the secret magical heart of you?

Who supports you in this dreaming? Is this person living, no longer living, fictional, historical? Can you bring this person closer to you in the moments when you need courage?

I believe in us. In you, and in myself. Sitting with this card early this morning, I felt it deep in my bones. Both the vision and the fear.

If you are here in this Seven energy with me, welcome. Let’s put up our force fields and protect our magic. Let’s build.

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.


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.