Comrade Femme Tarot: The Emperor

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 didn’t ask for general advice this month. You see, usually when I pick a card for the collective reading of the month, I ask in broad strokes. “What do we need to know for X month?” I’ll usually ask three times, once for each shuffle. But I couldn’t, on Saturday night when I had set aside time for the reading, in good conscience, not ask something more pointed.

The names of last week’s dead played on loop in my brain, my heart: Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Melvin Wax, Daniel Stein, Irving Younger, Rose Mellinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal; Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones; Nancy Van Vessem and Maura Binkley; Danye Jones. Victims of anti-semitism, anti-black racism, misogyny. Victims of the rise of fascism.

And so my question this month was specific.  

“What tools can we use, what gifts do we need to tap into, what do we need to know to get serious about smashing fascism?” I asked. Begged. Pleaded.

The cards reported: The Emperor, reversed.   

From The Lioness Oracle deck

I know, of course, that there are beginnings to answers to this that rest outside of magic. History, for example; our ancestors who fought fascists in Italy and Germany and in Spain. And the decades of antifa organizing here in the US, the organized resistance to homegrown nazis that has been criticized and unappreciated and condemned by the mainstream. We have so much to learn from what’s come before.

But I turn to the deck to draw on both those voices of the past and also what the universe is asking us to do now and tomorrow. And that I pulled The Emperor reversed gives us so much to reflect on.

The Emperor is often described as having hyper-masculine energy. Of course, any good queer reader will challenge the binary implications of that, and I am personally drawn to Lindsay Mack’s interpretation of The Emperor as an immense sequoia tree. Space-occupying and beautiful. Sturdy, strong, rooted, and deeply powerful. But masculinity - on a spectrum - does exist and I’m interested that this pull invited us to reflect on what it might mean to embody, utilize, call on that element of The Emperor, but reversed.

I am wondering then about a new form of masculine energy. Perhaps then, a new form of militance. Many of you are probably familiar with the text Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times, and I think this card is calling for a study of it. In it, the authors draw on Indigenous resistance (among other traditions) to suggest that militancy must be a means of “emergent radicalism” that “isn’t based on a single program or ideology but comes out relationships.”

How might we heed that?

In Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot version of the emperor, she calls it The Teacher. And this feels like a deeply necessary contribution to the canon of emperor interpretations. Maybe we must learn to study before we act. To read and remember. To call on our ancestors in the cards and in our prayers, to read their words in communiques, to hear their voices echoing in the streets. And then to take those lessons and share with others, for tomorrow, for right now.

These tarot reflections are often a lot of flowery language and big ideas, but I am interested in specifics this month. What will we actually do to embody joyful militance, what will we actually study, how will we teach?

From Cristy Road's Next World Tarot

Here are some of my action items: I will learn to use firearms primarily to understand how to disengage them; I will to continue to build strength in my body that enables me to use it in self- and community-defense; I will show up to gatherings where black bloc/antifa is present and defend their right to be there; I will listen to Black, Brown, trans, Jewish, and Native communities, both past and present, and I will do my best to use my skills as an educator to teach what I’ve learned; I will look to be of service to organizations that are in the practice of building power; I will cast spells of protection; I will cast spells so that I may be less afraid.

I think we are being told that the defeat of fascism will require the building of power, and that power can only be built through the power of our relationships. I think we are being asked to fight like we mean it. I think we being pushed to see that our lives and our neighbors lives depend on it.

And so, sweet comrades -- let's fight.


If you enjoy these tarot reflections, advice letters, and essays, consider sharing some financial love to support femme labor. It will go to student loans and/or tea that I buy when I do this writing. <3

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