Queering the Tarot
About this deal
Tarot helps us see the world anew. We must also let it help us act well. We must also let it push us to inspect the archetypes of patriarchy, and suspect them. Weighing in as a queer, nonbinary professional tarot reader with over 20 years of experience, some parts of this book really rubbed me the wrong way. It specifically looks at the cards from through a queer lens, as well as a sex-positive, polyam- and kink-friendly one. It doesn't shy away from discussing sexual or polyam themes, and that's fantastic. In addition, while there are caveats not to ever, ever assume or make concrete calls on a seeker's gender identity or sexuality - and rightly so! - there are also interpretations for readings that are about a seeker who's exploring or asking about those aspects of their life. "This card frequently appears when..." and "often this can indicate..." are a couple of the phrases used to point those things out. Again, nothing concrete or "this is how it is, all the time, no exceptions" because let's face it, humans don't do that and neither do the cards, just layers of interpretation that can help a reader to assist the person they're reading for.
But not all queers are living in their shadow all of the time. We need to amplify queer joy as much as anything else. Why is tarot so popular? A huge part of the draw (get it?) is the beauty of the cards themselves: 78 little stories, each with multiple layers of meaning, that reveal stories about your life. If you’ve ever performed a reading or had someone read for you, you’re probably familiar with that eerie moment when the cards seem to know exactly what your problem is—and, like a gruff but loving aunt, they call you out on it!On the positive side, so many tarot books are cisheteronormative and this one gives a basic fill-in-the-gaps for beginner tarot readers or readers who want to learn how to provide non-cisheteronormative tarot readings. For example, the Ace of Wands can be viewed as a phallic symbol (not my style of interpretation, but it is for some) and the author makes a point to explain that a phallic symbol is not necessarily a sign of a man/masculinity. Not all people with penises are men, and many men don’t have penises. This can be helpful for readers who are new to trans-inclusivity. In Queering The Tarot, Cassandra Snow deconstructs the meanings of the 78 cards explaining the ways in which each card might be interpreted against the norm. Queering The Tarot explores themes of sexuality, coming out, gender and gender-queering, sources of oppression and empowerment and many other topics especially familiar to not-straight folks. Cassandra's identity-based approach speaks directly to those whose identity is either up in the air or consuming the forefront of their consciousness. It also, speaks to those struggling with mental illness or the effects of trauma, all seekers looking for personal affirmation that who they are is okay. This book has given me so, so much more to consider in terms of interpreting the cards, especially in regards to giving readings to folks in the queer community. It's definitely not a book for beginners, and novices may still find it a bit overwhelming. I consider myself an advanced novice, and there is a lot to take in.
Tarot is best used as a tool for self-discovery, healing, growth, empowerment, and liberation. Tarot archetypes provide the reader with a window into present circumstances and future potential. But what if that window only opened up on a world that was white, European, and heterosexual? The interpretations of the tarot that have been passed down through tradition presuppose a commonality and normalcy among humanity. At the root of card meanings are archetypes that we accept without questioning. But at what point do archetypes become stereotypes? When we choose to queer tarot, to insist on the queerness inherent in tarot as a tool, we find ourselves in the cards. Queerness and the Cards I'm a queer and trans tarot reader who has been doing this a long time, and I really wanted to like this book more. Unfortunately there were simply too many interpretations of the cards that were offered as absolutes. "This is a bad card" or "This is a great card" are statements that simply can't apply to the practice when we look at tarot beyond a surface level.
Why does the Tarot need queering?
Many of us find tarot as we leave Christian supremacist ways of doing faith. This makes sense because tarot undermines dogmatic ways of seeing the world. Tarot asks us instead to see a web of connected symbols and archetypes guiding our lives. We see the archetypes in friends and enemies, in systems and relationships. DNF @ Swords (at 50%). I have better things to do with my life than force myself to read a poorly written depressing book that excludes and stereotypes so much.
If the four suits represent the four elements Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, the Major Arcana is the Spirit. When one of these cards shows up in a reading, they typically reference a life lesson or journey. For instance, the first card, the Fool represents new beginnings and a fresh perspective of someone without cynicism. It may appear before you embark on a freelance project you’re extremely passionate about and determined to make work. It signifies major, often risky new beginnings that are in line with what our soul wants. As it’s the first card, the entire sequence of the Major Arcana is often referred to as the Fool’s journey. Snow queers the Fool by pointing out how often queer folks start over, such as coming out, finding queer family, supportive relationships, and so on. These queer experiences may not first come to mind when considering the Fool, but upon reflection make perfect sense. From the Fool to the World, a card of completeness and the final card of the Major Arcana, Snow offers a fresh queer perspective. The Minor Arcana
And speaking of negative, oh boy is this book largely that! There are CONSTANT references to how badly queer people are treated, how much we suffer, how little progress there is, how everyone hates us, how isolated we are, etc etc. I think general references of activism is fine, I get it, we all get it. But the constant mention of it gets tiring. For a book where I'd like to feel seen and heard, I don't like being reminded about how much I'm not. It feels draining for me to read through sections where it's mentioned. (It's a large part of why this book took me forever to read, and while I ultimately gave up on it.) I'd love some more happy and positive examples of queer rep and readings with the cards, and not just mentions of our difficulties and hardships. Very few cards made me feel empowered. Most of them only focus on our collective trauma.