I feel like I should begin this post with some moon-related anecdotes after several moon-centric posts, but I am devastated to report that my moon-watching efforts last night were unsuccessful. Undaunted, I went ahead with a reading to prepare for a busy week of interviewing. I've been feeling like things have turned a corner in my job search, following a spate of interesting job postings and a few interviews that could result in me receiving wages in return for my labor, so I decided to use this Bridge spread from Little Red Tarot to help me think about where I've been and what might be next. The card positions are:
1. What you have left behind
2. The hardest lesson you learned
3. Something that helped you
4. The high point—where you are right now, looking back and looking forward
5. The next step
6. Something that will help you
7. Your destination: the new shore
Here are the cards I drew!
What you've left behind: Seven of Wands
The RWS* meaning of this card is defense against an attack. The simplest interpretation of the image in this deck a that a fox is defending its kits against an attacking badger. But I can’t help but wonder who, if anyone, is the aggressor. After all, there are more foxes than badgers. Maybe the foxes are all adults, and the badger is defending her den. Or maybe the badger had to leave her den and is trying to find a sanctuary in the foxes' territory, but the foxes can’t or won’t share space. In this standoff, it’s not clear who’s right and who’s wrong. Maybe no one is. But everyone’s upset and defensive and there aren’t enough resources to go around. All the energy and creativity is focused on the standoff. This type of conflict all too familiar.
The hardest lesson you learned: Queen of Wands
Energy has limits. The Queen has mastered their element of fire, of energy and creativity, in their internal world. Part of that mastery is knowing the limits of the internal store of energy, exactly what it can and cannot do, and how to work within that framework. In this transition, I’ve learned a lot about my energy, and I’ve had to make some tough decisions to step away from things that take more than I’m willing to give. By accepting my limits, I can make better choices about how to focus my energy, and get the most out of what I have.
Something that helped you: The Empress
The Empress has been my guide card for navigating burnout and this transition. They are all about nurturing and creating and birthing, in the inner world as well as the outer world. Deciding to take myself seriously enough to put substantial energy into caring for myself, instead of pouring all of my energy into others to the point of burnout, has definitely helped me in this transition.
It’s also interesting to me that, in this deck, the Empress standing on the same wooden arch as appears in the Four of Wands. The Empress is typically associated with earth, not fire, but the Empress is also strongly associated with birth—which is pretty darn creative—and creativity is a major facet of fire/wands. Thus, if there is a wands association with the Empress, the entire first half of the bridge is wands. One of the things I’ve learned in this transition is that I tend to get out of balance in favor of wands and swords, and that I need to bring more cups and pentacles into the mix, which is exactly what the second half of the bridge is composed of!
Where you are now: Ace of Cups
This ace indicates a new stage of connecting with feeling and emotion. I’ve been working hard to reconnect with my emotional self rather than being constantly stuck in my head or distracting myself by being on the go. Well—it worked. Sometimes it feels like it worked a little too well! I have a lot of new skills to learn, but it’s growth and it’s progress and I’m grateful for it.
The next step: Six of Cups
As a Serious Tarot Person, I feel like I should say this card is telling me to be conscious of the balance of giving and receiving in my life, and to examine my ideas about wealth and poverty, but what’s true is that when I looked at this card I couldn’t stop laughing. Like the green plant amidst the brambles, I am small and also mighty and I am ready, universe, to accept a glorious waterfall of cash.
Something that will help you: Seven of Cups
This card is about illusions and choices, and discerning between dreams and reality. One person seems to be a dreamer, determined to get to the seemingly inaccessible sky-tree-castle-thing, even though there are two other castles that seem like more realistic goals. The other person looks more down-to-earth and is consulting… a map? Or perhaps it's instructions for how to build a helicopter? This card is saying, be wary of illusions when making choices—but don’t be too quick to assume you know what’s going on. Access your analytical self and your dreamy, imaginative self when making choices, and look for opportunities to engage both aspects of yourself in your decision.
Your destination: Judgement
This is the penultimate card of the Major Arcana, and a major here indicates that the destination will involve overarching life themes. A winged being plays a trumpet, calling up a rush of ghosts and butterflies from a field of poppies. I think this means, this transition has felt in some ways like a death, but death is always followed by rebirth, and a day is coming when you will feel that you’ve come back to life, that you have been transformed, and you will be surrounded by beauty.
*RWS is Rider-Waite-Smith, which is the 20th century deck that most modern decks are based on. There are several other major systems.
I’ve been wild about astronomy since I learned about the way the moonrise time and location varies according to the season and the phase of the moon, and my obsession has led to hours of youtube videos and kitchen-table models made of oranges and flashlights. So, as you might imagine, Monday’s summer solstice/full moon/blue moon was a Big Event!
I have friends who live on a little farm out in the Columbia Gorge, out past the sky-dimming lights of the city, and we decided to watch the sunset and moonrise up on their hill. We set up our observation station—a blanket, tequila sunrises (obvs, also sans tequila) and a hand of Uno—at the highest point, in a sea of pale, waist-high grasses bent with heavy seed-heads. We didn’t quite catch the sunset, but the sky was all shocking pink and flaming orange clouds, and soft blue ones, wooly and almost close enough to touch. We picked out planets (Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter!) in the growing dusk, freaked out about how small Earth is in relation to Jupiter, and tried to figure out exactly where on the eastern ridge the moon would come up.
There was a small, half-round glow above the ridge, so faint I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t imagining it. Then a tiny light appeared, in the trees, below the glow. The tiny light became a scatter of sparks, blazing through the lower branches of fir trees at the top of the ridge. Slowly, slowly, the curve of the moon rose above the trees. It was a fiery, shimmering orange-yellow, the color of the sun rising on a sweltering summer morning; nothing like comfortable yellow of a full moon hanging low in the city sky. The trees in front of it wavered, as if they might burst into flames at any moment. We watched, transfixed, as it rose so fast we could almost see the moon’s movement, and we speculated about whether, watching the rise of the moon, we could perceive the speed of the earth’s rotation. As the moon cleared the trees, we sat on the hill basking in it, amidst the waving grass. We could see each others' faces clearly in the golden-half light, and the grass stems made shadows on my legs.
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away for sleep, so I retreated to my cozy truck-camper nest, and I pulled a card for the day: Three of Pentacles. One friend lifts up another on their shoulders, helping the friend to reach high on the wall to draw moons and stars. This card is about community. Not the facet of community shown in the Three of Cups, the pure sweetness of friendship and shared celebration, but the facet of cooperation, of showing up for each other to do tangible things.
A friend recently posted about the concept of moving from individual self-care to community care*, in the context of Orlando, which is something I want more broadly but struggle to understand how to make real in my life and more broadly. I often feel alone, exhausted, and like I have little to contribute, having left an intense job several months ago and slowly recovering from vicarious trauma and burnout.
But as I thought about the Three of Pentacles, I noticed the small, quiet ways community functions in my world. I often go out to that little farm in the Gorge to shovel gravel and clear brush and paint chicken coops, and my friends feed me and listen to my tales of job-hunting woe and walk through the woods with me and lend me their chickens for snuggling and their hill for moon-watching. Friends have let me borrow their cars and bought me midday cocktails and made me dinner and shared professional contacts and listened endlessly. I’ve edited friends’ cover letters and made them dinner and mentored students and given tarot readings and also listened endlessly.
These are just little acts. They aren’t things my white middle-class upbringing taught me to see as valuable, as security. But I've been broke enough for most of my life that I've struggled to access those middle-class touchstones, and it's working class/mixed class activists' writing that has helped me see alternatives and grasp a more nuanced class narrative.**
Showing up for each other is a powerful thing. Doing a little more when we can—consistent with our actual abilities and needs, not the ideal of the “perfect activist” or “perfect friend”—and learning to discern between the discomfort of the unfamiliar and the discomfort of the harmful, is powerful. For me, this web of small, tangible acts of community has lifted me up, even in the midst of struggle and uncertainty in my own life and in the larger world. And that feels like a beginning.
* This is a concept that a lot of folks have written about, and I've tried to gather a few important examples. I would love more resources in comments if folks want to share others. YASHNA: Communities of Care, Yashna Padamsee; see also this article that appropriates Padamsee's points and romanticizes poverty to explain why we all just need to do more labor, and this lovely response. Here's another take. Finally, this piece by Leah Lakshmi Piepnza-Samarrasinha is relevant to community care as well as class complexity.
**LLP-S's piece, cited above, is one example, as well as this piece. Here's another interesting article that talks about class status in the context of sliding scales.
In the Jewish calendar, months are based on the lunar month. Each month begins the day after the new moon (rosh chodesh, or head of the month), when the waxing crescent of the moon is first visible in the sky. Blessings are said, candles are lit, and it's a lovely fresh start.
Last night was Rosh Chodesh Sivan (the beginning of the Jewish month of Sivan). And so, after a long day closed up in my (relatively) cool (actually pretty hot) room, hiding from a murderous Portland heat wave that left me feeling flattened and vaguely nauseated, I decided to go out to see the new moon before I said the blessings. You’ll be able to see it from the front porch, I told myself, which cheered me as I grudgingly got dressed.
I couldn’t see the moon from the front porch, but the cool darkness was delicious, so I ventured out a few blocks, craning my neck toward the western horizon and trying to find a break in the trees, expecting a little moon sliver fairly high in the sky.* After several blocks' walking, as I became increasingly impatient and grumpy (did I mention I don't handle hot weather well?), I saw it! It was just visible though a tiny crack in the layers of trees. It was lovely and fat and hanging just over the horizon, showing the first slender edge. And pink.
I don’t know why I’m ever mad about anything in a world where gigantic pink crescent moons exist, I really don't.
I walked home, feeling better about life, to say the blessings and draw my Rosh Chodesh cards. My practice this year has been to draw two cards each month, a major and a minor, as a guide or focus for the month. Normally I just take the first major and minor, ignoring any intervening cards. This time, the intervening cards were so fascinating that I took a whole series of four: the Nine of Pentacles, Five of Pentacles, and Knight of Swords (all reversed), and the Empress.
The Nine of Pentacles shows a figure playing a grand piano while sitting crosslegged on a spiral shell. A tree has grown through the piano’s case, and the piano is sprouting twigs. There's a stained glass window suspended between two trees. It's about integration of work and nature, nature in the sense of the earth and in the sense of the worker’s nature. Your needs are abundantly met, allowing you to relax and create, you are grounded, and you know you are part of something real and tangible.
The Five of Pentacles is the opposite of the Nine. This stained glass window is embedded in a cold marble wall, the figure sits on a hard marble bench, knees drawn up, face buried in their arms. They are surrounded by thorns. They don’t see the butterfly or the flowers or the cracks in the wall. This card is about being stuck and struggling to meet the most basic physical needs.
And then the Knight of Swords. A heavily armored person rides a bird off to battle and all the other birds have come along. Birds typically represent thoughts, feelings, and communication. I feel like this card is saying, I must gather every single thought and every idea and every issue I need to process about and go deal with all of them, all at the same time, right this second, hurry up you guise!
All three cards are reversed.
Together, they seem to say, it’s true that you don’t have the integration and ease and freedom and abundance you want in your work life—in actual fact, I’m unemployed and engaged in what has become a soul-sucking work-search/career transition—but remember that a lot of your physical needs are being met.
Not like, someone else has it worse so don’t complain (which is a burnout-inducing guilt trap that props up the kyriarchy and does nothing to address actual issues of privilege and oppression), but like, you have what you need today. The rent is paid. You have money for food. You have clothing, your phone bill is paid, you can even go to the cheap movies when it’s a bazillion degrees outside. You are making steady progress on your job search. Everything is okay right now.
So you don't have to get stuck in your head, worrying and trying to predict and hash out every potential issue and every possible pitfall until you’re exhausted. You don’t have to barrier yourself quite so tightly. Trust yourself, trust that you can find a solution by working at a reasonable pace, and resist anticipatory suffering. If you get to the Five, you can deal with it then, and you’ll handle it better if you’re not exhausted from worrying about it before it happens.
And then the Empress. I love this card. It’s about nurturing, receptivity, caring for self and others, birth and re-birth, emotional labor. Being your own mama, being the mama you needed. Making delicious food for yourself, sleeping when you are tired, going for walks in the cool soft darkness, laying in the sun with your friends. Setting boundaries and limits, but being open to what will surely come and what is. Accepting this period of between-ness and drifting as a gift and a place of healing, of gestation before rebirth.
So essentially--notice that you are safe right now, don't go racing off to the thought-battle and exhaust yourself if it's not necessary, be patient, be open, and care for yourself like it's your job. Except that you don't have an actual job, so soak it up and let yourself relax a little.
I think I can do that.
Happy new moon, and Rosh Chodesh sameach all!
*This was entirely wrong, as I learned during the ensuing moon rise/set internet nerd-out! During the new moon and immediately after, moon's rise/set is almost exactly synchronized with the sun's rise/set--hence its actual position just over the horizon shortly after sunset.