Comrade Femme Tarot: Seven of Swords

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!


Minneapolis is covered in the kind of snow that is really more like blocks of vaguely fluffy ice. The air stings my cheeks and yet I am so much happier than when the sun is too hot. The snow casts a muted kind of hush over the room where I pull these cards, and it muffles the sounds of the cars and the sirens. It is December, a bridge month, an inward turning, a foundation for us to clear, to make space for what we want (what we will) to come in 2019. I asked the cards what we needed to support us in our collective joy and struggle this last month of 2018. It reported: The Seven of Swords.


I was admittedly delighted to pull this card -- I absolutely love the Seven of Swords. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the person on the card has just gotten away with lifting five of seven swords from some kind of camp, probably a military base. They don’t have all seven swords, but they have five of them, and I get the sense that they are pretty satisfied.



I love this card because I think it brings some playfulness to the struggle. This card is a reminder of the need for a diversity of tactics, a reminder that we need glitter bombing, dance party protests, and DIY fashion show fundraisers, as much as we need shop-floor organizing, one-on-one agitating, and militant discipline. Sometimes when the “serious radicals” are planning for the overthrow of the castle, the pranksters spike the punch and make it easier to steal the keys.


I am wondering then what this means for us today. What it might mean for the Left, broadly, to embrace the silly and the playful as much as the diligent and controlled. The Seven of Swords is a trickster, but he gets the job (or at least most of the job) done. And we need the cunning spontaneity of the Seven of Swords as much as we need the control of The Emperor, for example. We deserve dancing with Emma Goldman as much as we can’t survive without the vigilance of the Brown Berets. We need scrappy determination of the Wobblies as much as we need the calculated planning of Lenin. Don’t @ me, the Left, I’m serious. We need all of this, as many approaches as we can handle, to build what we all believe is possible.


I know it is tempting to want to cohere to a dogmatic party-line. Trust me, I’m a Marxist, I get it. But I think this card is begging us to remember the power of our deeply unique and distinct strengths. Imploring us to allow the unorganized, the disheveled, the cunning to use their skills as much as our planning and our theory and our strategy.


In Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot, she names the card “escape.” In it we see a fabulous human sashaying away, with conviction, from some kind of ominous building. This person is confident that whatever they just did was the right thing. It may be a bit off the beaten-path (notice where their shoes rest on the rocks rather than the dirt), but it’s still a necessary part of the mosaic that is our resistance.


Seven of Swords, then, is an invitation to embrace our scallywags and our tricksters in the movement. It’s a reminder that the cunning are as brave as they are reckless. And that we need them.


The Seven of Swords asks: how might we embrace our shadow-skills (deception, manipulation) for good?


Perhaps it means lying to the cops. Maybe it’s slyly slashing an ICE truck tire. Or, maybe, it’s smashing a bank window while, simultaneously, the bank janitors are being organized by a salt.


The point, my loves, is that what looks like chaos is sometimes magic. What feels like conflict is sometimes harmony. Maybe we need temporary autonomous zones AND long-term strategy. Maybe we need the unfurled rawness of emotion-in-the-moment as much as we need the planning and the studying.


It is hard to find solace amidst our differences, I know. But, sweet loves, as the Zapatistas remind us (and beg us to believe), “The world we want is one where many worlds fit.”  


Let us make space for them.


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