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Major to Minor Skepticism

three of wands!!

A little more than a decade ago I lived in a large collective house in a small college town. There were six full-time inhabitants, a rotating number of medium- to long-term guests, two bathrooms, one landline, no cellphones; at least half of us had long-distance lovers, and all of us had anxious hearts and a strong propensity for gossip. Sound familiar?

It was within this charged environment that I was first introduced to tarot. One of my roommates—a dear friend of mine—would read people’s cards over dinner, in the middle of house parties, etc. My bedroom was off the kitchen, with French doors in place of a wall between the two. All too often, I took it upon myself to interrupt conversations with sarcastic quips from across the hallway, even or perhaps especially if I knew little about what was being discussed.

“How do we know you’re not just using tarot as a pretense to dig for dirt on our love lives?” I would ask, a strange accusation in the context of folks who lived in such close quarters already. My roommate teased me back, suggesting I was scared of what the cards might tell me, and it was in that moment that I firmly and stubbornly adopted my position as a tarot skeptic.

In more recent years, I’ve continued to be surrounded by lovely queers drawn to tarot and other occult practices and again, for little reason beyond being a brat and/or looking down my nose at things that seemed propped up by hype, I shied away. It would be dishonest to claim I haven’t absorbed a fair bit without meaning to, however. This shows in my offhand comments made at family gatherings about my brother being “such a Gemini,” or the number of times I’ve opened a friend’s birthday book when I thought she wasn’t looking.

In the eight years since moving to Montreal, I managed to somehow avoid having my cards read by everybody’s favourite queer tarot aficionado, who also happened to be my best friend and future business partner. But things really came to a head when Oliver and I decided to release a tarot book as Metonymy’s first solo project. With them as the author, and only two of us as staff, I became the primary editor. Since the fall, I’ve been reading and revising the manuscript of She Is Sitting in the Night, asking a million amateur questions, and, by the end, I think I’m finally ready to admit that I understand some of the appeal.

Because as much as I resisted my former roommate’s attempts to make sense of my life and my world for me, it’s actually only through talking out my thoughts (whether about how I should get through my day, or how to grapple with the latest horrible fucked up thing that’s happened in the world) that I am able to come to any kind of clarity on just about anything. There’s a reason I was drawn to collective living in the first place, after all. I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of person who draws a card every morning, or seeks out lengthy readings leading up to pivotal life events, but I will say that, even after having read the book more than a few dozen times already, I look forward to having it as a reference guide on my own bookshelf. Because who wouldn’t benefit from some beautifully crafted, intergenerational queer/feminist self-reflection every once in a while?

Oh, and for the record, Oliver did finally read my cards last summer, and I survived without incident. Turns out I only had to dig up as much dirt as I was ready for.

[Featured in image: Myself and Oliver with Rima Athar, who discovered Ruth West’s deck and wrote the book’s foreword. Photo by Jackson Ezra]