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After a rough November for so many of us in the LGBTQ+ community, it is comforting and re-inspiring to me to be writing about the Nine of Wands today, and as a response to the drain and stress so many of us feel right now, this card deserves it’s own standalone piece. For those just now tuning into this series, we’ve been discussing the suit of Wands for the past several month. The Wands are a suit that are full of ups and downs, conflict with others, but very often, the resolution of those conflicts coming soon after. It’s a suit that show up to represent our gut instinct and that source of intuition, and it’s a suit heavy on communication and creativity. It’s also the suit that correlates with Fire, and as such represents all of those things that we think about as making life worth living: sex, intensity, and the things we personally are most passionate about. Here at Queering the Tarot we’ve been talking about how for so many of us in the queer community, queer activism and even our very identities are the things we’re most passionate about. We’ve discussed how those affect the personal in the two-four, the hard activist fights of the five and seven and the joyous triumphs of the six and eight, and now we’ve arrived at the nine.

The Nine of Wands is tied to keywords like persistence, bravery, tenacity, and even the phrase “test of faith.” The Nine of Wands is those moments we’ve come through hell and all of a sudden it feels…pointless. There’s been a setback of any size, and all of a sudden that hard work we’ve been putting in seems to dissipate the results right before our eyes. It is a frustrating card to get in a prophetic placement, because it says “oh, hey, a speedbump is coming.” It’s a great card to get elsewhere, because it shows how far you’ve come, and it promises that though this may feel like your toughest battle yet, it’s not the war itself, and the war itself is winnable. In fact, you’ve actually already won the battle in question. It’s just a matter of sticking it out and pushing through, of allowing yourself to admit you’ve grown exponentially from previous situations, and this time, you’re ready. This is also a card that idealizes standing up for your beliefs, and so it often shows up simply to tell us the fight is worth it. It’s a card of resilience. As advice, it’s almost tough love, telling us in fact, to just BE resilient. It’s a card of resistance. Letting someone or something else win at this point is nonsense. Keep going.

So it’s serendipitous after a month that has left most of us feeling defeated and broken, that this is the card we’ve arrived at in this series. It doesn’t take much imagination to apply the above to our current struggles for queer equity and liberation. It follows pretty straightforward to think about what many went home to or dealt with during the November holidays after such a start to the month. In case you need to hear it anyway: the fight for LGBTQ+ rights isn’t over. We have been dealt a harsh blow, but the progress we have made over the past decade isn’t disappearing, at least not right now. We are stronger and better as individuals and a community, and we will continue to fight to protect our existing rights and push for the plethora of rights and dignities we still do not have. This would be true if the Nine of Wands showed up in a reading, but I do not think it’s a coincidence that this is the card I was led to to kick of our December. If you did struggle over the past holiday, keep working with your family, keep going. If you take nothing else away from the column today, take that: keep going. But take this too: you are strong enough to do so.

While I am speaking directly to current events and issues, the same queering I’ve talked about can apply anytime, in any year or month that the Nine of Wands shows up for you, about any setback or struggle in your path of advocacy or even when just fighting to be heard in your family or personal life. It’s also true about the internal conflicts that the suit of Wands also seeks to address. Issues of mental health, sobriety, and self-worth are imbued pretty deeply in the LGBTQ+ community for understandable reasons. We are marginalized people, and we’re going to have some reactions to that. As we think about taking control of ourselves and our lives back from even internal sources, the Nine of Wands shows up to basically confirm that we got this. Maybe we didn’t a year or two or seven ago, but here in this moment, a temporary self-esteem slip or return to self-destructive behavior isn’t going to throw us totally of course. This card shows up to say that in this moment, we are able to pull ourselves up and continue on our path of healing.

The Nine of Wands can apply to slightly lighter situations too. If your identity has fallen more into “questioning” than any firm letter in even the expanded acronym, or if you are fairly fluid, you are reaching a point where those cases of fluidity will no longer throw you off track and make you question everything about who you are. Though it’s always a little strange to find yourself feeling or identifying outside of your wheelhouse, the Nine of Wands shows that you can still retain your sense of self as you either wade through this new territory or begin incorporating it into your life.

The Nine of Wands can also show up in our personal or romantic lives. We are all sometimes tempted off of our track by a cute femme just slightly too young for us who doesn’t want the same things out of life but sure is sweet when she shows up at your work with coffee. (Okay, maybe this is a really specific piece of personal testimony, but we all have those weaknesses whether it’s a specific ex, type of relationship, or yes, type of person). If the Nine of Wands shows up in a future placement, this is a warning to hold on to your hat, because that situation is likely arising soon. In this AND any other placement, this card also reminds us of how far we’ve come in our personal growth since our last merry-go-round of this type. As a Wands card which does prioritize passion and therefore sometimes carnal desires, in this type of reading the message may not be to stand your ground and say no no matter what. Rather, it’s saying if we choose to walk through the flames this time, and there are times when we just really need our flames nurtured, it will not crush us when it inevitably falls apart or when we have to be the ones to pull the rug. Don’t lose sight of who you are in the process or the aftermath, and your personal and domestic goals will still be met on time with your self-worth in tact. There are times when the Wands firmly says to stand up to the person and refuse. Relationships that were actually unhealthy, or when we know we aren’t sexually compatible with someone for example. But there is an alternate way to read it, and that does include embracing our physical side. Common sense should be able to differentiate between the two situations, but if not lay out some extra cards for clarification.

As we conclude 2016 we are wrapping up a lot of battles, some won. Many more were unfortunately lost. I’m going to break from format a little by ending with a suggestion for a reading to guide your transition into 2017 with your queer self and current anxieties at the forefront. If you read, great, if not, find a friend or professional who does, and ask for this. First, pull the Nine of Wands out, and let it oversee the whole reading. Think about the things that have you feeling defeated, be it personal or more societal/wordly. Lay out three more cards in any order. These are steps you can take to put this time behind you and feel triumphant by year’s end. Pull one more card as a “final message,” and let it’s message be your mantra over the next six to eight weeks. If it’s Death, for example, the mantra would be “Everything that ends makes room for something new,” or if it’s something like the Five of Wands, it’s a basic reminder that walking away from the things causing you pain is always an option. The Nine of Wands promises we’re ready to start anew—now it’s a matter of planting our feet, summoning our strength, and looking ahead (which many of us admittedly haven’t been great at lately). The number one message of the Nine of Wands is this: a defiant, confident “You got this,” and I can’t think about a stronger, more important message for marginalized communities to receive right now.

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