Each month I share a reflection on a tarot card in the service of self- and community-care, healing, and social and political transformation. I am still relatively new to tarot and nothing I post is meant to serve as an expert guide to the deck. Rather, I hope to illuminate, as I learn in public, the ways in which the tarot can act as a tool for healing, activism, movement building, and worldmaking. I am thankful for the teachers who have guided me in this embracing this modality and humbly recommend visiting more seasoned readers and intuitives to learn more (on tarot and/or related practices), including: Sara Gottesdiener, adrienne maree brown, The Firebrand Witch, Lindsay Mack, Dori Midnight, The Hoodwitch, Little Red Tarot, among many others!
I once had a dream that was filled with tree-houses, desperate to stay suspended above wildfires. In my dream, I leapt from plank to plank of the forts built by twigs, children's imaginations, and wooden boards from their grandparents’ garages. I was afraid, in the dream, of the fire, but once I got the courage to look behind me, I noticed that with each of my leaps, a rain cloud followed behind me, the kind you see in comic strips above the head of someone unlucky. But this was not an unlucky storm, it was a savior, water extinguishing flames like your sink’s faucet on a hot cookie sheet. Smoke was everywhere, and at some point, I rested. I thought I’d see destruction in my wake. But instead I saw a message, written in ash and bones. It was beautiful.
I do not remember what the message said. Dreams are so choppy, I can rarely recount them start to finish, but I do remember the feeling I had upon reading it. It was clarity. Awareness. Awakeness. Grieving but ready. Whatever had been lost in the woods that day needed to be released. And whatever it left in its wake revealed that whatever I loved about the forest was only one piece of what could be if I looked further than the land below the tree house.
I was reminded of this dream when I pulled the Eight of Cups as the collective reading for October. It is often explained as a card of loss. A card that suggests you are leaving something behind--by choice or not--in which you had previously put a lot of faith. The clearest example from my personal life is my Eight of Cups moment with academia. I spent close to ten years of life trusting and believing that I was meant to be An Academic. That my identity and my passion and my livelihood were going to rest securely in the confines of a college or university. Over five years as a precarious PhD has told me otherwise. And although I still may end up in academia, Eight of Cups was me opening myself up to the possibility of another career trajectory, and more importantly, opening myself up to the belief that my identity was not contingent on my job.
When I pull for these readings, I pull for the collective, and so although it’s possible you’re also experiencing something in relation to a job or a partnership, I think the message from Eight of Cups is a much bigger one.
On Saturday, Brett Kavanaugh, a white, rich, sexual assaulter, with apparently untouchable power, was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. He has gotten away with assaulting a woman with no real accountability. He will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He will work to chip away at numerous small gains made by progressive and radical social movements. He will maintain the right majority of the current court. For many, this news is unbearably dismal, hope-draining, apocalyptic.
But for others, the apocalypse is something already lived through, or perhaps endured daily. What does it mean to say we are pre-apocalypse in a post-slavery, postcolonial, late capitalist world? Apocalyptic for who? This is not to say that a right-leaning Supreme Court isn’t bad (it is), but to say that those who have been the wreckage in the wake of white supremacy and economic terror, fighting monsters like this is nothing new. As adrienne maree brown so rightly notes, “things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
This unveiling brown speaks of is not dissimilar to what Marx & Engles described as “false consciousness.” The concept of false consciousness, in short, explains that people are unaware that the system they are consenting to is one that does not benefit them. It was an attempt to explain why it wasn’t a given for every working-class person to be a socialist revolutionary. There have been valid critiques of the idea (generally anything that treats “the masses” as “dupes,” and in need of a vanguard savior has been rejected by a large portion of the Left), but the concept still holds some weight. Why did it take a Trump presidency, for example, for huge numbers of people to protest deportation and ICE raids (both of which happened under Obama)? Why are so many poor folks voting for representatives that endorse economic policies that only support the rich? And why has it taken us (the collective ‘us’) so long to realize that perhaps a “justice” system built on white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy will never be in the service of our liberation?
After the Kavanaugh confirmation, this Howard Zinn quote began circulating: “The rights of working people, of women, of black people have not depended on decisions of the courts. Like the other branches of the political system, the courts have recognized these rights only after citizens have engaged in direct action powerful enough to win these rights for themselves.” Many of us have known this, but many others will have the opportunity--in the face of this defeat -- to wake up to this truth as well. That perhaps when we have witnessed a lack of support in our president, our supreme court, our prisons (and so on), we can start (or rather, join) the struggle in the streets.
A collective walking away from the illusion that our two-party “democracy” is working is, to me, an Eight of Cups event. It is a shift in thought (a ‘swords’ moment), but it is also an emotional departure (a ‘cups’ moment). It is a painful awakening to have put faith in something for so long and to realize not only that it may not be worth trusting anymore, but that in fact it has not been worthy of trust - since its inception - for millions others. Shifting our thoughts about the system is an emotional move. It is the sentipensar described by Arturo Escobar as a “thinking-feeling,” that emerges from a “living based on thinking with both heart and mind.”
This Eight of Cups moment is inviting us to take the risk to think bigger than the Supreme Court, to dream beyond capitalism, to believe in love outside of patriarchy. This thinking, dreaming, and believing will break our hearts, but it will also free us. It will inspire us to build, in the streets and in our gardens, a landscape that is far more beautiful than our current system could possibly hold. The Eight of Cups is asking you, us, to swim further Left into the current. To allow yourself to grieve the structures you once believed would serve you, but to keep moving into the arms of new worlds that could serve all of us. To look into the wreckage of the fire and see the new world in the ashes of the old. It’s okay to feel pain, but don’t let it keep you stuck.
Instead, the Eight of Cups is an echo in the mountains of Mariame Kaba’s perennial request: “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.”
Let it, sweet one.