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The Nine of Wands is certainly a card for the exhausted; it is a card that comes up after a long struggle. But it’s also the last torch of hope.
Lately, I’ve been feeling what might be called “overwhelming despair.” It started out on Monday, May 2, with the Supreme Court leak
and has compounded from there. It’s not the only thing I’m feeling, of course. “Rage” and “exhaustion” are also peppered in, as is “profound hopelessness.”
I’ve used this column before to ask the cards a political question as the insurrection was happening on live TV. But that moment felt something akin to 9/11, a tragedy that everyone was feeling. I’m writing this column a week after the leak, which is no longer front-page news. The dismantling of the right to medical privacy and bodily autonomy for women (as well as everyone who can get pregnant) doesn’t seem to be making as big of a splash, which feeds into my worry that, at best, people (particularly men) are indifferent and worst, that they’re OK with it.
I wondered if I drew cards for this situation, would any of the men who read this column care
? Would those indifferent simply skip this week? They might. I don’t know.
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But I decided to draw cards because I
needed to. This is a situation that is depressing me. It’s also depressing for my mother and my sister, currently eight months pregnant with my niece. It’s depressing to my friends who want children and those who don’t, to my queer women and non-binary friends who worry about their bodily autonomy and marriages. They, too, are filled with rage and exhaustion, and despair.
So I did a diagnostic spread, pulling three sets of three cards, plus two for advice, asking: Where do we go from here?
The first set was The Hierophant, Three of Wands, and Page of Wands (all reserved).
A bleak but straightforward cluster. The Hierophant is institutions, holy orders, and courts. The Three of Wands is building on/reflecting on the past as you go forward. The highest court of the land plans to flip a 49-year-old precedent, stripping the past decision and thus blocking a future to be built on it. The Page of Wands is a curious court card because it symbolizes many things related to this decision. It can mean literal youth (such as a child) but can also be naiveté and child-like emotions (like tantrums). The Page of Wand in my deck is adorned with protective symbols because this Page is someone who can both find themselves in danger and be the spark of that danger. Young women are indeed put in jeopardy by this decision. But the judges driving this decision don’t seem to realize that they are the dangerous ones.
The second set was the Ten of Wands (rev.), Knight of Wands, and Justice (reversed).
Ten of wands, a terrible burden to bear. Justice reversed, a long time before justice is felt. That’s the burden we carry.
However, the Knight of Wands is another court card that can represent both sides of this push. Wands are a fire suit, filled with passion and determination and somewhat feral. The Knight of Wands goes for the throat. Many women have fought for years, with a single burning passion, to stop the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and there are many women with that same passion who worked tirelessly to overturn it. The Knight of Wands may be how we got here in the first place, but it can also be how we get justice in the end.
The last set was the bleakest looking of the lot: The Empress (reversed), Eight of Swords, and Three of Swords (reversed).
The Empress, the earthly symbol of motherhood and self-governing women, is paired with the thrice-stabbed bleeding heart of the Three of Swords. Shit is heartbreaking for women and mothers who want to control their bodies. The Eight of Swords adds to the miserable pile-on by being a card of depression and feeling completely trapped.
But, as I’ve written here before, the Eight of Swords is also an illusion. So there is
a way out if you can figure it out.
This brings me to the two cards advising what to do next: Nine of Wands and Page of Cups.
The Nine of Wands is certainly a card for the exhausted; it is a card that comes up after a long struggle. But it’s also the last torch of hope, a card that can mean a breakthrough or a positive change, often from a shift in perspective or tactic.
The Page of Cups is another youthful court card, born from the Mystery-waters of Psyche, and is one of deep emotion, creative thinking, and great empathy. While the wands are considered a masculine suit (as are swords, re: penis-shaped), the cups are feminine. They represent the strength of emotions and wisdom of the psyche. They are water to the fire of the wands. With all the fire and air of the wands and swords in this spread, the way out is water.
While we will need that fire of passion to keep us going (Nine of Wands), it is the feminine Page of Cups, with their creativity, empathy, and maybe psychic prowess, that will figure out how to break out of that sword fence.
How will that work? I’m not sure. Care networks, like those that existed in the 20th century before Roe, come to mind. So does midwifery, which, by the way, if you wonder how “the farmers” would have viewed abortion, check out the diary of Martha Ballard, published as “A Midwife’s Tale” and annotated by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. (Spoiler: widely practiced and without shame.)
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m grateful the cards suggested that there might be one at all. When gloom shrouds the soul, it cuts off all light, but seeing those cards helped spark a little flame of hope in me. If you have been despairing, I hope that flame catches on to you, too.