I missed writing my Rosh Chodesh post last week. Rosh Chodesh Elul was super magical though! I was able to see the moon if I stood in exactly the right spot on my front porch--it was just behind some power lines, and with the power lines as a point of reference I could almost see the moon moving! So amazing. Then I went inside and pulled my monthly cards, one face up and one face down.
My face up card was Innocence, from Thea’s Tarot.
Innocence replaces The Fool in this deck. It shows a young person standing at the edge of a river, among waist-high reeds. Their feet are set wide apart and planted in the earth. They are wearing knee-length shorts, no shirt, and they have small breasts—or maybe short top surgery scars. Their long dark hair hangs loose, past their waist, mirroring the reeds growing up from the earth. They look calm and determined.
When I look at this card, I see sureness and wholeness. This person is friendly with their body. It’s the same kind of body-friendliness you see in a toddler as she squats down to examine a bug. There’s no self-surveillance or internal division; they are just themselves, solid and peaceful.
Sureness and wholeness in our bodies is often impossible, especially for those of us whose bodies that are labeled “wrong”—fat, of color, gender non-conforming/non-binary, trans, intersex, female, femme, with a disability, and so on. In the external world, we may face harassment, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual assault, state violence, and more. We are also trained to surveil and control ourselves—to see our bodies as an enemies, or, at best, recalcitrant things to be brought under control. Experiencing sureness and wholeness in our bodies, even inside our own minds, is absolutely not allowed.
That shows up in every facet of our lives. For instance, I used to hate swimming. Actually, I never hated swimming, but I hated swimsuits. Trying to find one in my size was hard enough, and finding one that fit my non-binary gender identity? Forget it. The whole process was a gauntlet of interlocking microaggressions, and then, as a reward for my fortitude, I got to pay a premium price for being fat. Thanks, kyriarchy!
Then I discovered naked beaches. You would think that being naked would be even more stressful than dealing with swimsuits—and it totally is for lots of folks, especially many trans and intersex folks—but for me personally, it was easier. The difference was equal parts not having to deal with swimsuits and being around other naked people. It’s one thing to know intellectually that the “perfect” body type marketed to us is just one of a zillion ways to have a body, and it’s another thing to see fifty naked butts, in all their fabulous variety, over the course of an afternoon. That changed me.
And so, one day last month, I was hiking with a friend in the altogether along a sandbar. The river was sparkling and the sun was hot on our backs and the sky was perfectly blue, and we saw a dragonfly that had just molted. Like, its dragonfly shell was an inch away and it was quivering in the breeze like OKAY WHAT JUST HAPPENED YOU GUYS. We squatted down to look at it and suddenly I noticed that I felt good and happy and just regular about my body. I wasn’t particularly happy about my body, or sad, or anything. It was just my body and everything was as it should be when one is naked on a sunny sandbar, companionably ogling a freaked-out dragonfly. I felt content and at ease and like I fit perfectly in my skin.
That’s what I see when I look at this card. A moment of sureness, wholeness, integration. A hope for resistance and healing, and a place of strength from which to leap into the unknown.
Rosh Chodesh Tamuz* was on July 6th. I didn’t pull my monthly cards that night as I normally do, because I couldn’t concentrate. Just hours before, police had murdered Philando Castile in front of his partner and little daughter, and I was nauseated and furious and full of grief.
A few days later, I was able to focus better, and I decided to pick my cards for this month face up. Rather than pulling cards face down, we can choose specific cards to focus intention or for other reasons, as explored in this series by Siobhan Rene. I decided to try it this month because picking face up helped me feel like I was choosing my own path instead of having it chosen for me. That’s especially meaningful for me right now, as I’m moving out of a period in which I needed to drift and into one in which I need to be more focused, because did I mention I got the job? I got the job! The World was right on.
I chose the Eight of Wands, The Fool, and Strength as focuses for this month.
I chose the Eight of Wands for momentum and moving out into the world. A person stands amidst rocks and trees with their fox friends, blowing seeds into the wind. Seeds are the beginnings and ends of plants. This plant has gone to seed, ending a cycle, and now it begins its journey into its next life. It feels like things are moving fast for me too. I spent months job hunting and networking and often felt like I was just spinning my wheels. Now all that built-up energy is pouring out and rocketing me forward, and I want to embrace that momentum as I start the next phase.
I chose The Fool because I’m a little bit scared to start a new job in a new field, and I want to access that Foolish energy of embracing new experiences, taking risks, and stepping boldly off the cliff to see what happens. The Fool stands on top of a tower of rocks, stretched up on tiptoe and ready to plunge over the edge, trusting that they will be okay and full of curiosity about what lies below. Their clever fox friend is by their side, and a cloud of birds wraps them in ribbons—not to hold them up, but to show them how it’s done**. This reminds me that I need to surround myself with smart friends who support me without trying to rescue or fix. Also, I’ve looked at this card a bazillion times but I never noticed the bees! Since one of my long-term goals is to chuck it all and become a bee farmer, I feel like this Fool is telling me I’m on the right track.
I chose Strength because I want to embody power through collaboration. A person stands next to a lion so ferocious he’s sprouted horns. The person is relaxed, their right hand draped over his huge head, and their left hand right next to his sharp teeth. At their feet are two smaller cats, belled to protect the birds at the bath below. This is strength, but it’s not the strength of possession or dominance. There is trust and respect of each others’ agency, intelligence, and power. In the past, I’ve sometimes given up my power, failed to share power, or ignored my physical/emotional boundaries in order to please others at work. This card reminds me to slow down a little, to share power, and to respect my own needs as much as I respect others’ needs.
Happy Rosh Chodesh Tamuz, everyone. May we use this month to act in solidarity with one another for our mutual liberation. None of us are free until all of us are free.
*Rosh Chodesh means head/beginning of the month (the Jewish lunar month), and Tamuz is the name of the month. All Jewish days begin at sundown, so the new month starts when the sun goes down.
**"not to hold them up, but to show them how it’s done" is paraphrased from a reading by Siobhan Rene.
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.