Cassandra Snow takes readers on a queer tour of tarot reading. Check out the first twelve parts: Queering the Tarot: The Hanged Man, Queering the Tarot: Justice, Queering the Tarot: The Wheel, Queering The Tarot: The Hermit, Queering The Tarot: Strength, Queering The Tarot: The Chariot, Queering the Tarot: The Lovers, Queering the Tarot: The Hierophant, Queering the Tarot: The Emperor, The Empress, and Archaic Gender Roles, Queering the Tarot: The High Priestess, Queering The Tarot: The Magician, Queering the Tarot, and Queering the Tarot: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
Appropriately, for October we’re dealing with the Death card here at Queering the Tarot. Death gets a bad rap, but is actually one of my favorite cards in the tarot. While the card is widely understood not to represent a physical death, but a metaphorical one, (an ending, an opportunity lost, a phase of our life complete), most people still look upon those ideas with regret and sadness. In my own life, however, these times have led to rebirth, reinvention, and are followed by periods of joy. This is in part a personal addiction to new beginnings, but it’s also because the Death card symbolizes what I deep down believe to be true—that we sometimes lose to gain, that we must kill off parts of ourselves to be our best self, that we must accept the cycles of death in our lives with dignity in order to usher in the following eras of rebirth.
Because I take a sunnier view of Death overall and frequently focus more on the opportunity for change and growth that comes with it, my own queered version reflects that optimism. In a queer person’s life, there is constant change and death, starting with the coming out process. When we accept that we are gay, for example, we are closing the door on the possibility of the societally approved heteronormative life, but we are stepping into a life where we get to be who we are and love (or lust after) who we love (or lust after). Another example of necessary death in queer life is that of the transition for transgender people. After transition, many transgender people do not wish to acknowledge the names and identities they were assigned at birth, and many trans clients and friends have spoken to me openly about the certain death of the person they were raised to be. While some do feel a sense of nostalgia and sadness when thinking about life pre-transition, across the board it is recognized how necessary and important that death is. When you are able to live your truth, that time of secrets, lies, and hiding dies. This is a common queer narrative we’ve all seen play out in fiction and our friend’s lives many times, and maybe it’s the rebirth that follows that gives me such a loving view of the Death card in the first place.
When queering the tarot however, Death cannot be all ascension and promises of future joy, as there is the unfortunate interpretation that sometimes shows up in this card. For a queer seeker, there is a real possibility of losing loved ones or a sense of family as you come into your own, and it is for those reasons that I don’t take a wholly positive, naïve view of this card. These are real, tragic deaths of relationships and that hurts, and those are deaths that we mourn. Everyone loses relationships with friends and family in their lives, but it is fairly unique to LGBTQQIAP+ persons to lose those relationships because of who you are, and that definitely needs to be respected in reading for someone queer. For some this unfortunately extends beyond lost relationships. It is not uncommon for someone who is not straight and cisgender to come out or be outed at work and lose one’s job, or to be outed to your landlord and lose your home. Death may come up in this instance, and should be frankly but as compassionately and with respect to the querent’s comfort level as possible. As someone who’s been reading tarot for a over a decade now though, I can promise you that once that mourning is over you will be able to welcome in relationships full of actual unconditional love and support, and you will understand why that pain happened, but for those walking in our world as a marginalized person, that is a much harder thing to trust in because of the very real bigotry and hatred that can lead to tragic endings in our lives.