From the Tower to the Star, Queerly Dearest
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
Content note: This letter discusses tarot, Pagan beliefs, two tarot cards (The Star and The Tower) and the limitations of the gender binary in tarot. I also discuss my complex questioning of my non-binary gender, as a femme, afab person.
When I was in my late teens, studying folklore, I quietly went to the Pagan club at my university. I loved it, but somehow, once I left university, I gave Paganism up. I dated a scientist who scoffed at such things—a man I ended up marrying, even though we weren't right for each other—and it would be decades before I'd rediscover the power of the tarot, rites of passage, the fire and the moon. Now, that world is in my life again and I adore it.
But there's a part of tarot that's newly unsettling for me. There's so much binary gender in there. I mean ... a ton. And since I've recently been fighting internal chatter about my validity as a non-binary, femme, afab person, my beautiful Wild Unknown Tarot deck that contains "mothers" instead of queens is somehow even more disturbing. In the traditional Rider Waite tarot, the Star card (see left) pictures a naked person pouring water into a lake. I'm tempted to call the pictured person a woman, but in itself this proves my internalized cis gaze. It's is an assumption—about both that person and myself—because of the world in which we live.
Enter Queering the Tarot, a book I found on the shelves of the wonderful Inspirit Crystals. It is written beautifully by Cassandra Snow. When I picked the book from the shelf, it fell open at the page that explores The Star, a card which, for those who aren't aware, comes directly after the Tower, which is traditionally a card of chaos and destruction in the Major Arcana. Interestingly, before I came out as non-binary and took the name Star, my partner and I lost our home because of a flood in the apartment above ours. Later, because of a "last straw" attack, I lost my blood family too. And then, our move to the UK from the US fell through, partly because we were denied vital medication, and we had to return to the US again. So you can imagine how comforting it was to read what Snow writes about The Star. Here it is—it's simply perfect. And I read it as relating both to life events and my gender's past and present:
Many times when The Tower falls, good or bad, it was for reasons beyond our control. The Star comes to let us know that anything we made out of the rubble, we made on our own, and to remind us how much more we can build. We have an idea and a focus for our life now, thanks to that illumination from The Star, and it is time to create the path we want out of it. Hold tight to your faith in yourself when this card shows up. We live in a pretty nasty society where gender and sexual minorities are concerned. Even when legal rights are obtained, our dignities are often affronted every day, but we are so strong and so beautiful in the face of that. The Star shows up to remind us of this, to remind us to keep fighting the good fight—whether it's for the community or just for ourselves. More importantly, The Star shows up to remind us how capable we really are, and how many miracles we can create by learning to believe in ourselves again.
It's too easy to believe that our feelings are invalid, too easy to tell ourselves we aren't who we are. The tower crumbles and we fall, thinking that's the end of it. But we must never hold what others dictate above our own selves, our own lived truths.
When I was studying folklore and also learning about Paganism, I revisited the notion that the sun was male and the moon female. Disturbingly, I'd also discovered that the moon shines because it reflects the sun's light, and for me, this revealed the misogyny of the sun/moon metaphor for the gender binary. But then, over two decades later, when I came out as non-binary, I took the name Star and this changed everything, especially when I discovered, quite by accident, that stars create their own light—which makes sense, if I think about it. After all, the sun is a star.
My take? The moon/sun binary is false. We all create our own light and nobody is a reflection of someone else's.
My take? The moon/sun binary is false. We all create our own light and nobody is a reflection of someone else's. We might choose to reflect another's light—perhaps that's a way of thinking about love. But when we produce our own light, we need to remember that, in return, we deserve that same reflection. That's what The Star brings us. The figure who stands naked, pouring water into the lake, also receives the lake's nurture in return.
"This is a new sense of spirit and a new road we're walking down," writes Cassandra Snow of The Star. "None of the traps that were hurting us in our old faith are meant to be here now."
The Star shines light on us regardless of identity. Stars don't judge. All they have is light.
If you love tarot or are interested in it, I recommend Snow's extraordinarily smart, insightful, and empowering book. It's especially helpful to have a queer perspective on each card and Snow also takes an active approach to LGBTQ+ politics, struggles, and hopes, in spite of darkness. I'm tremendously grateful for the book. Here are a couple of links:
Cassandra Snow's website
Her book, Queering the Tarot
You shine perfectly, queerly dear,
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