Introducing Eight Salty Tarot Spreads For Moments of Chaos & Plague, and the Keep Calm (While Gravely Fucking Concerned) Tarot Spread
Welp, here we all are in the crush of another goddamn disaster. With emergency spread collections, I usually write up a full ebook and post it all at once, but darlings, I don’t have it in me this time around. Writing prose in quantity has always been a challenge for me. I’d planned to avoid it as much as possible post-school, though in the case of my longterm tarot projects, the challenge has grown into a welcome exception. I’ll get back to the books when I can.
Weathering a simultaneous pandemic and economic collapse while my nation careens ever faster toward total anarchic, fascist tyranny, and most of my loved ones (self included) are at least one of disabled, chronically ill, broke, trans, or queer . . . I mean, for fuck’s sake. Even acclimated to a baseline of preexisting spoonie isolation and an archetypally millennial personal life, it's a bit much. I have mustered resilience and art thus far—tarot has helped—and these will have to remain enough. For now, I’m out of fucks for trying to be a graceful or thriving person, and my executive function (usually stellar), is not where I need it to attempt the prose in one go.
I find myself dipping in and out of fury and grief, and operating at peak misanthropy. Once again in human history, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the innocent, the workers held captive by capitalist violence, and the front-lines fighters in our hospitals, clinics, and care centers suffer most and kick it quickest, while the very worst of us twist tragedy to deplorable aims. I alternately crave silence or music, and little in between. Words come feast or famine, spontaneously, uncooperatively, inopportunely and not on demand. I’m frankly not in a good headspace to read tarot for myself according to my own guidelines and standards, so backstage, I’m tucking the cards away to take a break. I’ll chat with the Void sans structure of picture or speech, and make music—the only craft that consistently carries my will to stay engaged in this heckscape when the shit really hits.
So I’m a mess. Cool. Sounds about right. You might be a mess, too. But there’s still plenty worthwhile crap to get done: water to cary, wood to chop, masks to stitch, cares to take, items and persons and systems and world-views to mend. Personally, I haven’t much to offer in a crisis outside domestic chores, art, and of all things, writing angsty tarot spreads peppered with naughty words. Lucky for my ego, these skills are of modest yet markable use. (Boy howdy, that ego kick is a byproduct of some toxic conditioning! A person’s worth stands independent of what they can offer, in crisis or ever. Still, those of us who cope by keeping busy might as well make what we can of it.)
Per usual, I wrote the spreads I needed for myself, and as far as they might serve others, I’d rather not hold them up on account of my trauma-ridden writer’s block. We’ll tackle them on the blog, one at a time. Spoons pending, I may cobble together a proper PDF at the end. I recommend the prior ebook, Eight Useful Tarot Spreads for Times of Resistance & Change for this moment. And now, serially, its companion and comrade: Eight Salty Tarot Spreads for Moments of Chaos & Plague. (Backing illustrations are from the forthcoming Black Ink Tarot Deck.)
The spreads in this collection are spicy. They are grief-tinged. They are loving, and angry, and not entirely scrubbed of malice. They are every single one of them NSWF, but whose work isn’t fucked past all normalcy, anyway? (CW note: given all the f-bombs in this project, I do at times acknowledge sexuality and employ double-entendres or sexual metaphors. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can skim past the f-cards. Every single one of these spreads has platonic applications first and foremost, and ace and aro spectrum readers are welcome here!)
Before tackling any of these spreads, it’s important to ask not only which spread you need for the quandary at hand, but whether and how tarot may assist you this season. I riddle my work with all the standard disclaimers: tarot is for entertainment purposes only, and it’s no substitute for medicine or professional counseling, etc. I repeat these more often than needed because, while I know tarot’s power and beauty, I firmly agree with some of those warnings on the label. Tarot is an art form. I am an artist—a somewhat prickly, reclusive, befuddled one at that—and neither therapist nor spiritual authority. Art can provide forms of healing, validation, catharsis, and camaraderie. These are invaluable, and they are no replacement for science, medicine, medication, or therapy. They are no replacement for friendship, community, and emotional and physical support from other living persons. Tarot can hold a place as one of many medicines in your kit, and let’s acknowledge that not everyone has access to the full apothecary. I don’t mean to put down anyone who can’t lean on other forms of healing, guidance, and support. But it’s vital to recall that tarot has its limits, and that, like all arts and medicines, tarot can mislead, confuse, or trigger pain if wielded from a careless or incompatible mindset.
Quacks and scammers crawl out of the woodwork during crises like this pandemic, and spiritual and New Age communities too often harbor them. Please be wary of anyone unlicensed who claims to offer physical or metaphysical protections against coronavirus. Please run screaming from any guru or spiritual teacher who broadly disparages medicine, tries to control your medical decisions, or directs you to stop taking your medications. Western medicine is not beyond reproach or critique, of course, and some alternative and supplemental healing practices have merit, but blanket medical-bashing and prying into personal medical histories are two major red flags within spirituality. At best, they tend to accompany unconscious ableism and medical shaming, and at worst, cultic control. Please do treat your own tarot brainstorming sessions and personal spiritual healing activities as supplements to other recommended measures, like social distancing as much as possible, hand-washing, and covering your face in public. The woo-arts are no replacement for reasonable caution and good sense!
It’s great to approach tarot slowly, with an open mind, a grain of salt, and full acknowledgement of your own role in your readings, including your biases, self-talk, hopes, fears, and subjectivity. Divination can spark insights, validate patterns, and help us brainstorm through tricky situations, but it can also become a focal point for anxiety, harsh internal criticism, wishful thinking, and brooding when we’re under high stress. I adore this craft and gladly lend it my time and labor, but I have an anxious personality, and you know what? Tarot’s not my own best salve in this high-doom season. At least not this week. It works great for me until it doesn’t, and that’s fine. You can enjoy reading for others and struggle to read clearly for yourself, or vice versa. You can need guidance from a trusted friend or therapist to get through a heavy reading. You can try it out and stop if it doesn’t help or speak to you. You can be a dedicated tarot pro and still need breaks, particularly when grieving, depressed, or traumatized. (I’ve taken tarot breaks before. It’s been a while since I felt drawn to, but this is within my patterns, and it feels healthy for me.)
If you find that you often end your readings feeling more confused, stressed, anxious, or self-critical than you began, please stop, and don't feel bad or lesser-than for setting your cards aside. Hipster occultism is not a contest, and ought to run deeper than Insta-shiny photo-ops. Keeping up with the Addams family is no better than keeping up with the Joneses. Tarot is one tool among many, and not always the one you need. You do not have to be constantly improving yourself or processing all there is to process, especially not at this time!
This crisis is next-level surreal, and the spreads I’ve written for it may get challenging in spots. Pace yourself. Bake your ideas all the way through and thoroughly chew your symbolism before swallowing any easy answers. Think carefully about which spread you need most before you shuffle and draw, and take them one at a time. Some of my spreads look like jokes. They are, but they also work, so lookout. I highly recommend journaling through them, both so you can take breaks as needed without losing your place, and so you can return to any quality advice you generate for yourself. Most of the themes in this collection will actively run through our lives for a while, and turmoil can do funky things to both memory and resolve. When you hit on something juicy, it can help to write it out, either in a diary you periodically revisit, or tacked on a board or wall somewhere in your line of sight.
And now, spread the first:
Keep Calm (While Gravely Fucking Concerned) Tarot Spread
1. KEEP (Hold Truth): A core truth to steadily keep in mind.
2. CALM (Keep Cool): Strategies for staying cool and collected under chaos.
3. WHILE (Pass Time): Strategies for passing the time with grace under uncertainty.
4. GRAVELY (Address Threats): A legitimate threat to attend to.
5. FUCKING (Get Dirty): Strategies to fight back with creativity and grit. Where and how to get my hands dirty, to twist unfavorable circumstances back into my favor.
6. CONCERNED (Channel Fear): Strategies to channel fear into meaningful and effective action.
First off, let’s drop the notion that anyone needs to Keep Calm and carry on pristinely, whatever that even means. Holding your shit together under high stress doesn’t mean croqueting your way through a plague like a coiffed and manicured Stepford wife, or emotionally repressing yourself to the specifications of the British ancestors who gifted the world those neato Keep Calm posters (and also capitalism and modern colonialism). It means surviving as long as you can, while controlling as much damage as you can manage according to your abilities, means, and talents. Your damage control or best grasp at peace may not look like your neighbor’s, and that’s fine.
As for the Gravely Fucking Concerned half of this equation, let’s appreciate that we each carry different concerns, and these are also valid. It’s important to acknowledge where we’re privileged and do whatever we can to reduce the burden of danger and stress we’ve placed on vulnerable and actively involved people, like healthcare workers, essential workers, disabled folx, and black, indigenous, immigrant and POC communities. It’s also important to allow our fears and pains, even when they strike us as lighter than others’ pains. You don’t have to have fallen sick or lost a close loved one yet to be feeling the very real challenges of collective fear, collective grief, and anticipatory grief. To boot, we live in a culture that demands speed-grieving. It cruelly and paradoxically requires that our pains be demonstrative without being disruptive. It conditions us to feel rotten whenever our productivity wavers or slips. That’s fucking rough. Let yourself know how rough and how absurd that is as you unpack it.
With card four, addressing threats, remember that not all threats are malicious and not all threats are obvious. This card position asks for a warning, aka information we don’t know yet, and that can make it tricky to interpret. Be willing to think outside the box and diverge from textbook interpretations. Consider any seemingly random thoughts that pop up during your readings.
With card five, fucking, “get dirty” doesn’t mean fighting unfairly or compromising your values. (Fucking by all definitions should center integrity and consent, after all.) It means getting creative and messy, taking calculated and worthwhile risks, rolling up your sleeves, and being willing to stand with discomfort or vulnerability to improve your situation. The dirt’s metaphorical. Physical cleanliness is encouraged for the duration of this fucking nightmare plague.
PATRON ARCANUM: Strength
True Strength is not about might, aggression, or perfection. Neither is it about forcing outer circumstances or other people to take the shape of your wishes and whims. It’s about courage, continuity, and tenderness within trial. Recall your truths and act from the part of your nature that remains tempered, still, and steady even when threatened with pain or immersed in change.
ELEMENTS: Earth & Fire
Grounded action, channeled passion. Steadiness within turbulence. Composure within ferocity. Spirit and grit within constraint.
Relationships: In relationships, point this spread toward communicating through rough patches or shared challenges. If reading alone, keep the focus on your side of the exchange and how you interpret what you receive from your partner. Don’t use the cards to put words in your partner’s mouth. If reading together, you might each draw the spread to look at your respective viewpoints, then compare notes. You might frame the threats position either as a hazard within your communication that could trip up your relationship, or an outside challenge you face together, rather than some dire threat from one another. Again, remember not all hazards are intentional or malicious. If your relationship is sexual, you can take the fucking card literally.
Creativity: In creativity, use this spread to get through high stress collaborations. This would be a good one to draw before tech weeks or production meetings if you’re in the performing arts, or during difficult communication snags in the general arts. Fruitful collaboration requires respect even when working with people you don’t like or agree with, so do mind and check any manipulative or combative impulses that may arise around the threats and fucking cards. Diplomacy matters. In nine cases out of ten, best not to take the fucking card literally until that album is already recorded, the production has closed, or the final draft is in, no matter how cute your drummer, director, or editor is. Words to the wise.
Career: This one applies pretty directly to either holding strong during high stress work, or mustering up solace and project ideas while unemployed. On the latter front, it is okay to take a minute to breathe and collect yourself before jumping back into the game. Remember the system crashed for almost all of us at once, and the gig economy just swallowed a tidal wave’s worth of big fish from the mainstream economy. Competition is peaking as much as stress, and audiences are slammed with pleas for patronage right now, from mom and pop shops, indie makers, mass corporations, established pros, and even stars. We’re undergoing change so rapid that it’s very difficult to plan ahead with any accuracy, even with the aid of magic or psychic tools. High flux = chaotic open trajectories = psychic noise. It’s really fucking scary to be in an income lull right now, but it’s not your fault. Don’t beat yourself up for experiencing loss, or for not having a new business plan or side hustle going yet.
I hope you enjoy this spread and get helpful results from it! Stay tuned for the Focus Fucking Tarot Spread (for twisting & reviving focus under discord), up next.
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