Almost as a joke, I turned to a tarot deck for answers one night and what I found was really transformative and really helped set me back on a path to healing and recognizing red flags in others again.
Hello! I’m Cassandra. I use they/them or she/her pronouns. I’m a fat, chronically ill, mentally ill, queer as can be tarot reader and teacher, writer, witch, and theatre maker. I live in Minneapolis, MN with my queerplatonic partner, my two cats, and three snails. When I’m not working, I’m reading, taking care of my body and brain or laughing. I’m also trying to figure out what activism and radicalism means in my mid-30s as my body is slowing down after a literal lifetime of illness.
I got started with tarot when I was just 18 years old. I had a colossally terrible Freshman year of college. Two very violent sexual assaults and a made-for-Lifetime toxic friendship that ended up destroying my credit and most of my then-important relationships among other things. In the middle of all of it I was coming to terms with how unhealthy my body was and how terrible a lot of my youth was. I was a devout Christian and I had better experiences in church for a while than a lot of queer people did. I am a firm believer that not every track works for every person though, and as a sick, closeted, traumatized Freshman my normal spiritual path was no longer bringing me peace or joy or healing. I was looking for something, anything, that would bring those things back to me. Almost as a joke, I turned to a tarot deck for answers one night and what I found was really transformative and really helped set me back on a path to healing and recognizing red flags in others again.
I was very busy and very traumatized in college, so I didn’t take this study very seriously until I graduated. I had done a few readings for friends for fun during parties and it always went over really well. As I transitioned into adulthood proper though, I was leaning on my cards more and more. By this point I had a few decks and was helping my friends find guidance too. I was struggling to maintain my health and my sanity bouncing around various day jobs in arts administration so I started reading for money a little bit at a time. Eventually the turning point came where I had to make a choice. I chose to step full time into tarot and writing. It hasn’t been easy financially but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is always where I’ve been led. I was lucky enough to stumble into some steady gigs in both fields early on, and I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing without those gigs. I am eternally grateful to them for my life.
The original concept was literally just to write quick snapshots of what tarot cards might look like for LGBTQ+ people, but once I was given permission to let my guard down it became personal, political, community-oriented and so much more all at once.
Ah! My first steady writing gig! I actually started this book as a series at TheColu.mn, a now defunct local LGBTQ+ online newspaper. It got picked up by Little Red Tarot too and now there’s a book from Weiser! The original concept was literally just to write quick snapshots of what tarot cards might look like for LGBTQ+ people, but once I was given permission to let my guard down it became personal, political, community-oriented and so much more all at once.
And for old fans, what can we expect from the book? How does it diverge from the blog series we all know and love?
The first several articles I wrote are COMPLETELY different than what’s in the book. Those articles are not even really recognizable if you read the book first. That’s because the series evolved so much and those shorter, more straightforward articles really didn’t fit in anymore. I also evolved doing this series! I started the series still struggling with some gender stuff but I’ve really been coming into genderfluidity as I finished the book. I’m not sure it makes a huge difference but I think there are some differences in viewpoint there. I think the biggest difference is how articles read versus how a book reads. Articles are very straightforward. “This is about this specific card or group of cards.” In the book I made some tweaks and revisions to make sure it felt like we were really going on a journey with the tarot as a whole.
That cover is gorgeous! Is the book illustrated?
Yes! That cover and the artwork inside comes from The Urban Tarot by Robin Scott. Scott is a queer woman and artist who I adore and I was thrilled to get her deck all over my pages!
These are people who have experienced isolation, guilt, self-loathing, who may not want the same things out of life as their family members, who care as much about community and their friendships as they do about their work or relationships. These are people for whom the cause is as important as anything else. That path is so different than what we might see in a straight and cisgender person, especially if they are white and able-bodied.
I think the biggest difference is that people who are not queer assume a life path and journey that queer people often can not relate too. When I say queer, I do mean people with LGBTQ+ identities. I specifically mean people who have struggled against the white cisgender heteropatriarchy and are fighting back. These are people who have experienced isolation, guilt, self-loathing, who may not want the same things out of life as their family members, who care as much about community and their friendships as they do about their work or relationships. These are people for whom the cause is as important as anything else. That path is so different than what we might see in a straight and cisgender person, especially if they are white and able-bodied. I haven’t even gotten into the issues of sobriety, trauma, polyamory, kink identity and so much more that can also impact a reading. All pieces of someone’s identity will make a difference in their reading, but mainstream or traditional interpretations still assume we start with The Fool and end with The World or start with the Ace of a suit and end with the Ten. Queering the Tarot means acknowledging the nuances and complications and side quests we get into along the way, which can often take the tarot itself to new heights.
Do you have any quick tips to help make readings more inclusive to all the letters in the LGBTQIA+ umbrella?
I think the best starting place is not being afraid to ask questions that make you uncomfortable. It can be as simple as “What pronouns do you want me to use for you?” or “What genders do you date?” if the seeker is asking about relationships. If things get deep quickly, you might need to ask about societal trauma or pressure from families or being raised in a conservative household. A lot of readers are uncomfortable doing that but I think it’s so necessary to reading for queer people (or just anyone who is sex positive and trying to come into their own power.)
I would say the next step is just rifling through your cards. Try to look at them differently. Try to see Pentacles as being about mutual aid and community building, the Cups about emotional healing or chosen family, etc. Build an alternative arc beyond the one that’s already in your head and use both to inform your reading process.
Just like queerness, race, and sex positivity, if we’re not being paid to create work specific to health and illness in tarot we’ve just got to normalize it by incorporating it into our other work.
This is actually a hard question for me to answer, but it’s an important one. It is one I haven’t quite found the right answers too though because for me my illness is intrinsically linked with my tarot study and practice. I have been sick most of my life. That’s very different than a lot of people. I didn’t develop anything quickly. I’ve had joint pain that is so bad it’s made me physically ill my entire life, and got diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis as a teenager. I had chronic migraines as a kid that luckily lifted as I got older, but just in time for my PCOS to really rake me over the coals for so much of my life after that. None of that accounts for mental illness and my thyroid crashing several years ago and so many other things.
So I don’t really know a spirituality or tarot without illness. I do think it’s made me more compassionate as a reader. I understand firsthand the very real stumbling blocks on our way to living our best lives. I understand that sometimes a card about oppression isn’t just external--sometimes your own body or mind is preventing you from moving ahead. I also understand that so many times it IS external too. So it’s taught me a lot about recognizing the subtle differences in what cards can mean and how much that can impact a reading.
We have some amazing queer-centered decks, writings, and resources in tarot now, but there’s still so little representation of disability and chronic illness! What would you like to see in the future around health and illness in the tarot community?
This is such a great question! In my art and in my life I am so inspired by the fat positive movement. I am so inspired by the Disability Justice movement (which is primarily for black and brown disabled people who can’t or don’t trust the system) and the work being done there. I am so inspired by own community and friend group of people of all races, abilities, and genders caring for each other so intimately. Ultimately I would like to see that reflected in tarot somehow. I think a few decks have captured this. The Next World Tarot and the Numinous Tarot are both queer decks that also center BIPOC and feature people in wheelchairs or with walkers and canes in ways that are not sexless and flat. I just want more of that I think? More representation in the art of the tarot. I would love to pen a book about tarot and disability but I do try to weave that into my work as you pointed out. I think that’s really the key though--just like queerness, race, and sex positivity, if we’re not being paid to create work specific to health and illness in tarot we’ve just got to normalize it by incorporating it into our other work. To answer your question, I’d like to just see more makers doing that.
I pulled the Ace of Vessels from the Slow Holler for my Word of the Year pull and got “Heart” for the word after ruminating on it. It’s been a weird year where I am DEFINITELY back in touch with my heart and emotions but I’ve seen this card bursting into my life in the most delightful, and occasionally painful ways. I am learning that the pain is part of the process of Heart and therefore love and joy--so while it’s been my card for the year based on a specific ritual I did, it’s definitely the one making itself known.
You’re such a creative person! On top of tarot and writing, you run a theatre company. I’d love to hear more about that! What kind of work does your theatre group do, and where can people catch your shows?
Yeah! Thank you for bringing up my theatre work! I run Gadfly Theatre Productions with my aforementioned queerplatonic partner. We are a queer theatre group, which we define as a theatre company that does queer art for queer people. Beyond that we actually aren’t very picky? We’ve done tearjerkers and comedies, classics and new works. We just closed a play that was actually many plays. I’m Never Going to Earth Again: 60 Queer Plays in 90 Queer Minutes was a couple handfuls of my very favorite creators and collaborators writing about what was important and urgent to us. It was actually a lot of levity and laughter and plays about resilience so it was absolutely the best thing that could’ve come out of it. We also do a one act festival that we’re starting a slow gear up that is always a geeky theme. This year we’re doing “In A World” as the theme so we’re hoping for a lot of dystopian work, a lot of speculative work, a lot of sci-fi. We also do quarterly fundraisers called Drunk Queer History and Sober Queer
History which are historical storytelling and improv sets. They’re fun and we love them.
The best ways to keep in touch with Gadfly work is to bookmark our website or follow us on Insta or Facebook. We have a Patreon too! There’s still a lot of details we’re sorting out over the next couple of months so following us is the best way to know. Right now we’re just rooted in Minneapolis, MN but if anyone wants to throw a bunch of money at us to bring a show to you we can work something out!
Do you find parallels between storytelling through tarot and theatre? How do those two practices get along for you?
I try to keep my tarot and theatre lives pretty separate as a way to save energy and make
everything easily organizable. That being said, they’re definitely both impacted by my creative and my spiritual mind. I set intentions and do some minor breathwork with my casts before rehearsal. I teach tarot from a storytelling/creative perspective where we analyze the art and tell stories. So they’re definitely still very inspired by those same places in me.
Sticking to the basics of self-care and organization get me really far. . . [Know] your strengths in terms of what kind of worker you are, and playing to those instead of trying to “fix” your weaknesses.
My answer to this is so boring! But so important, I think! How do I manage it all?
Get ready! I:
Drink a lot of water.
Get as close to eight hours of sleep a night as my body will let me.
Have a defined “clock out” time/schedule for the day.
Find lots of space for laughter in my work AND my personal life.
Keep a planner and stick to my to do lists, unless I’m sick in which case I rearrange them to other days.
That’s really it. For me, sticking to the basics of self-care and organization get me really far. That being said, I’m naturally very good at prioritizing projects and knowing how to manage time. Which is great for me--but is not that interesting to interview about since I’ve never really struggled there. I think knowing that has been a huge help though, so I guess I would also say knowing your strengths in terms of what kind of worker you are, and playing to those instead of trying to “fix” your weaknesses.
I love hiking or being in water when my body allows it and board games. I love food, be that cooking, someone cooking for me, watching cooking shows, eating out, etc. etc. I have to be careful because anxiety, my thyroid, my PCOS, etc. all adds up to a lot of stomach problems too, but I really have a passion for quality and delicious food of all kinds. I’m not going to act cooler than I am--it’s a lot of Netflix and a lot of playing games on my phone. I thinking spending time with loved ones, reading, and going to see a lot of art and live performance are the biggest ones though.
Queering The Tarot is coming out so soon! What’s next for you and the book?
Yikes! It is so soon and I am so scared-excited! I have some events right here in the Twin Cities. I have one at Common Good Books in St. Paul on May 2nd. I’ll be at my home base store of Eye Of Horus on the afternoon of May 4th doing signings and chatting with people. On Monday May 6th I’ll be in South Minneapolis at The Future. All of their websites should have more info. During Pride month I’ll also be doing a mini-class/signing at Moon Palace books. I don’t know what’s next for me! I hope it does well so I can write more books because I truly loved this process. I have so many ideas!
Tell the people how important pre-orders are and where they can order Queering The Tarot today!
As I mentioned above I really need this book to do well so they’ll bring me on for other books or pick up some of my other ideas. Publishers often determine that by how well a book does in pre-sale, so it’s a really important determining factor for my writing career overall. It also helps me get on best of and bestseller lists more so than overall sales sometimes (depending on the list/publication) so for building steam it’s really critical too.
Right now I am ON SALE at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also pre-order on IndieBound which is my personal favorite. Any major bookstore (including your local store), occult/metaphysical store, or LGBTQ+ aimed store that sells books should be able to order it for you and have you pick it up in person the day it comes out if you’re like me and like that personal touch. That actually helps a lot too because a lot of stores order for the store based on what people request.
And how else can folks follow and support you?
The biggest thing is I have a Patreon which I do community style, which means all except the top two tiers (which are basically just paying for monthly or annual readings) have total access to all of my perks for just $1 a month. I have the Patreon to support my ongoing work at my Blog, my #dailytarot and other Instagram tarot posts and those are great places to follow me too. I have a Facebook and a Twitter too! The Patreon will also hopefully help me launch a podcast or Vlog, but I need a little more support before we get there!
Alright friends, go pre-order your copies of Queering The Tarot! This book is not to be missed!