Hey friends! How are you all holding up? It’s been a minute. Let’s get back to posting, but first, some post-hiatus updates: the blog’s been on pause a couple seasons as I’ve been working on the tarot decks and their guidebooks. Artwork for both the Interrobang and Black Ink Tarot decks is complete! I got myself over 70K words into a draft for a proper guidebook to the decks, blog, and symbol glyphs! I’ve still got my work cut out for me in writing, editing, and shopping deck printers, but progress is good.
Second, some new constraints on my time developed in the past year, and now I need all my projects, including this blog, to generate more income in order to keep them going publicly. This is not an emergency situation—my housing and food are stable and my closest people are still with us, thank goddexes! But I do have to take my limits seriously, and moving forward, any projects at a purely hobby level will wrap up and wind down.
To that end, I’m paywalling a good portion of my content through a new Patreon Art & Tarot Club. This is a subscription program, and every single tier gets regular content, starting with exclusive tarot spreads for $1/month. If you can swing it, I’d love to see you there, and your support will make a huge difference in keeping this work going and letting these decks see the light of day! When you subscribe, you immediately unlock access to all the posts already published at your tier. That’s 27 and counting total, including tarot spreads, group readings, art process and philosophy, blogs, vlogs, music, and podcasts. And we are very close to unlocking merch! You can also support this blog by shopping in the shop, or sending a one-time donation through Paypal. I have such gratitude for everyone who does that!
So far, my tarot work has been a fairly low-key passion project. We’ve got shiny illustrations cause I art the art, but like, no posting schedule whatsoever. The silver lining of needing it to become a job to keep it going is that the more backers we get, the more steady content I can deliver you all both through Patreon, and for everyone here on the blog.
Alright, now back to the Salty Spreads. So it’s normal for me to take long breaks between posts in article series, and I admit to being a temporal loose-goose by default, but this is the first time I’ve had a spread collection interrupted. Typically, these things write themselves, and my job feels like a combo of stenography and graphics. I think it appropriate to offer apology on two accounts with this collection: I’m sorry it’s taking so long to get through this series when the whole bunch coulda been useful months ago. But more than that, I’m so so sorry these spreads are still relevant and timely now, as they do roll out. Covid directly inspired the imagery behind them, and even that’s ongoing, but they also speak to the many, multi-faceted, interlocking challenges and disruptions we face these days.
That said, tarot is no substitute for medical help or trained counseling. If you are sick or grieving a loss, please seek professional help from a licensed provider, or if needed, call a crisis hotline. There is no shame ever in needing a little help!
I do see a curious symmetry with the way the final four spreads in this group speak to our climate in what we all hope is the back-end of this plague, and the processes we head into as we get vaccinated, of recovering, rebuilding, and bracing for the next unknowns. It’s been a year. These’ve aged interestingly. Perhaps the last four spreads were meant for now, anyway.
(Side note: Vaccines save lives. Science is rad. Vaccines don’t cause autism, but even if they did, autistic kids are great, and they are people. I care very much about both people on the spectrum, and people who’re immune compromised. Comments are moderated and any anti-vax, anti-science, anti-autism, pro-conspiracy, or pro-eugenics nonsense will get deleted. Thanks for being such great readers, and making my job as mod an easy and pleasant one!)
And now, without further ado (that was way more ado than usual—oof), salty spread number next:
The Fuck Normal Tarot Spread
2. Align: How I aligned with expectations within it.
3. Diverge: How I diverged from expectations within it.
4. Present Reality: The shape of my current situation.
5. Drop: An expectation to drop within it.
6. Twist: An expectation to twist or fuck within it.
7. New Normal: My relation to normalcy, such as it is, in this transition.
8. Accept: A condition to accept as my new normal.
9. Resist: A condition to reshape or resist, normalcy be damned.
10. Future Ideal: An ideal to move toward, a potential to feed.
11. Carry Forward: Where to pull from tradition to get there.
12. Leave Behind: Where to break from tradition to get there.
Welp. The old normal fucked off, and fucked off hard. It doesn’t exist in this moment, and it’s not likely to come back as it was. So fuck it. Here, the “fuck” in the title means both fuck-it (a dropping of expectations) and fuck-with (a creative, innovative messing around).
What even is normalcy, and why do we need it?
What does future building mean in a time of net entropy, high flux, and mass death?
The challenges we’ve faced so far, and continue to face here on out will require more of many of us than we might wish to give. To meet them without shattering, we adapt. Adaptation grows from the soil between our bedrock capacity to stare down the worst, and our fresh-air capacity to imagine and create better. Every day that we survive and stay engaged in this world is an opportunity to shape, just a tiny bit, what survives and emerges from the other side of this mess.
Every root and tendril of a green thing growing on the banks of a river, and every pebble in the bed, plays a micro-microcosmic part in directing the water-flow that carves the canyon. Here, you are sprout or pebble—take your pick—the living water is our culture, and the canyon is the story of an entire species. Someday, our river will dry up, and the canyon will be the scar-and-monument trace of a story that was—a much slower brand of temporary than that of a breathing species, though all rock and land shifts and rearranges eventually, as every trace of contemporary culture will certainly fade on a geological timescale. But we ain’t dried up yet, and that means, sprouts and pebbles, there is a place on this riverbank for you, even if you must shudder and cling right down to your roots to hold it, or find yourself tossed down the odd waterfall.
It is adaptive to start from what we’ve got to give and what we need to receive right now, and to steadily, incrementally stretch into challenges. It is adaptive to recognize when entropy and destruction have the potential to break us, and to do a portion of grieving and bracing in advance.
Note that profound shifts play out on different time scales. Some are rapid, and some are terribly gradual. Many of us have lived through successive crashes in expectation and standards, and serial shakeups in lifestyle and environment. Some of us haven’t seen normalcy in a long time. The “prior reality” grouping may point to your life just before quarantine, or it may go back to some pre-shakeup state farther back in the past. This is likely if you’re still actively dealing with baggage from an older crisis or metamorphosis than covid.
Note also that prior reality here points to an earlier phase which has passed, but that phase may not have felt normal, routine, or stable for you at the time. This case can be underscored by a card of action, turbulence, or difficulty showing up in the first position. Sustained reality isn’t always normal. Normality isn’t always stable or supportive.
Under card 8, something to accept, acceptance doesn’t always mean appreciation or pleasure. This position may show you something very exciting to embrace as a gift, or it may be more melancholic, showing a place where resistance is unlikely to be constructive or worth the effort. It’s great if you can feel good about this, but it’s okay if you feel crummy instead. The most important quality to seek here is understanding. We want to understand the things we’d best accept enough to redirect our energies where they’re more effective, with the recognition that this understanding may sit in tension with our preferences and dreams.
PATRON ARCANUM: Death
CW: all kinds of deathy stuff. Hey it is totally okay to skip the section if you’re grieving or scared and it’s too much! Some of us need to talk and read about morbid iconography and happenings right now, and some of us need a rest or escape from such things, and that’s ok. Please honor whatever you need in this moment. Never predict death in a tarot reading. Do fix yourself a cup of tea and go watch some Steven Universe.
There’s a strong taboo in tarot and divination against predicting death, for great reasons! Predicting death is unethical AF, and it can grievously mess people up, doing far more harm than good, regardless of the reader’s intentions, accuracy, or skill level. Historically, predicting death, especially in the political sphere, could easily get a fortune teller executed as a witch. The line between predicting death by divination and causing death by magic is achingly blurry in the court of public opinion, as the court of the Witchfinder General. Don’t go there!
Most tarot readers interpret Death as the archetype of change, rebirth, cultural rites of passage, mystical death within life, and points of no return between one major phase and the next. These can be positive, enriching, beautiful, and life-affirming.
Death in tarot doesn’t mean physical Death at all… Until it does.
The earliest tarot Death artwork, from back when it was a Renaissance card game, follows closely in the footsteps medieval Death allegories, which took off during and after the Black Plague. When prediction is out of the picture, and we know perfectly well that we’re confronting mortality and grieving loss, then the tarot Death card certainly can speak to loss, physical death, vulnerability, life’s preciousness, and grief, in much the same way as historic allegory, danse macabre, and memento mori artwork does. Of course, this shouldn’t be your first interpretation if you’re reading for someone else, but you can go there if someone brings up a recent death or loss, or you’re processing one yourself.
As climate change progresses, we’ll see more and more events like the covid crisis and those once-in-lifetime natural disasters we seem to be having several times a year now over the globe. This isn’t doomsday propheteering, it’s the logical, evidential, and materially foreseeable outcome of factors we’ve tracked but failed to manage for decades. And it’s scary. The challenges of our times push many of us past breaking points, and some of us through the gate of Death. Whether that gate is physical, metaphysical, or metaphorical, we meet ourselves as altered creatures on the other side of unknowable transitions.
So it always is within cataclysm, catalyst, pandemic, the collapse of any empire, and the machine of war. So it has been for generations. (i.e. Traumatic AF.) That humans have so long architected ourselves into collective horror stories, doesn’t make the unbearable, unthinkable, or unforgivable any lighter or easier to weather, process, rationalize, or excuse. (It’s okay to call that it’s not okay.) It also doesn’t mean we give up, or charge through the Gate prematurely, in despair or infatuation with predatory philosophies that revile life—or worse, that revile some lives for the comfort and profit of others.
It might strike some as hypocritical, given my aesthetics and casual affinity for morbid imagery in art and spirituality, that I’m getting on a soapbox to criticize death-mongers operating in different spiritual and philosophical veins than my own. Let’s pick at that tension. As an artist, animist, mystic, and goth-leaning aesthete, I find richness, value, and beauty in the imagery, poetry, and nonnegotiable facts of life and death, growth and decomposition, organization and entropy, and stillness and change. But it is horrifying to watch politicians ask working people to die for the economy; to watch eugenicists celebrate the deaths of disabled and elderly people as a cull; to watch white supremacists purposely stoke disproportionate threats to BIPOC communities; to watch propagandists spread disinformation on public safety to target political opposition; and to watch charismatic religious leaders ask their followers to abandon reasonable caution because death is a reward for the righteous or whatever. These abuses inspire disgust. Not shock—the worst of human/western/capitalist/American culture is abominably consistent—but revulsion.
In the natural world and the arts we collaboratively make with it, there are beauties, horrors, and neutralities all within life and death each. But there’s no justice or natural balance in those with more power asking those with less to die prematurely, en masse, for the material and political benefit of the few. These are cruel machinations of societal design, and everyone who knows better needs to do what we can in our own spheres to tilt the collective compass toward greater compassion and decency.
Recall that image from earlier, of pebbles and little green shoots in the river. Culture is always in flux, and that flux intensifies during large-scale disasters. When normality crumbles, everyone left standing has some influence, however small, on what grows back up from the rubble. We don’t need to see that as a silver lining to recognize the opportunity and power within it. (Please be tactful about rummaging for on-the-bright-sides while people are grieving!)
We don’t know what comes next, and we don’t need to know to keep building resilience. So let this be more prayer than prediction or proclamation: May we each learn to better recognize and curb our harmful actions within our own spheres. May every disaster as can’t be prevented be mitigated. May the worst impulses and abuses of our cultures pass with the unavoidable crises they create and the normalities they shatter, and may our nobler, more loving, and more equitable impulses survive. May we create better with whatever we find on the other side.
ELEMENTS: Water & Earth
Emotional grounding, cathartic grieving. The river Styx and the rocky caverns that host and hold it. Stevie Nicks’ Landslide. The fertility of mud.
Twelve cards is a lot for one session! if you’re crunched for time or want to dig deeper with each card, you can break this into a four-day session of 3-card readings, taking Prior Reality, Present Reality, New Normal, and Future Ideal a day at a time. You could also draw a more succinct single-session reading as follows:
1. Prior Reality: The shape of my former normal.
2. Present Reality: The shape of my current situation.
3. New Normal: My relation to normalcy, such as it is, in this transition.
4. Future Ideal: An ideal to move toward, a potential to feed.
5. Bridge: Place a bonus, bridging card between cards 3 and 4, for strategies to move your new normal closer to your future ideal.
If pointing this reading towards a particular area of life, write out your intention in your journal or set down a signifier card before you shuffle and draw, to narrow focus.
In creative life and art, your main phase cards (prior, present, new, & future) might point to projects or skillsets. The overall focus of the reading can become brainstorming ways to shake up a stale process, or bounce back from a failure.
In relationships, the main phase cards (prior, present, new, & future) might point to past relationships or life phases. The overall focus of the reading can be which of your patterns and conditioning still work for you, and which don’t within connection and communication.
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