Skip to content

Mothers and Kings

Sometimes interpretation happens backwards and you realize you’ve written thousands of words with only a small grasp on something huge. That probably happens less if you’re a true researcher, which I am not, but even they always end up talking about all the next steps and things to investigate further. Let’s just assume that no one gets to the end of a big project feeling like it’s absolutely complete.

One thing that I realized I had to investigate further upon finishing a first draft of the She Is Sitting in the Night manuscript was tarot and the history of feminist tarot specifically, because though I know a thing or two I haven’t gone about acquiring that knowledge systematically. I would argue that that is a reasonable way to approach a knowledge system premised on intuition, but still. When Kristin Li interviewed Ashley and me about this intergenerational project, she asked about the history of tarot, and we sounded less certain about our answers than we would have hoped coming out with a book in this field.

It seems to me, based on my scraps of intuitive knowledge accumulation, that nobody knows the true birthplace and -date of the tarot. But that doesn’t mean that I as the author shouldn’t be somewhat familiar with the specific history of the deck of which I wrote. My own questions came up during writing around little things (Are the Mother cards actually equivalent to the King cards in other decks? Do the descriptions differ because the negative patriarchal elements are removed from the descriptions, making them sound more like descriptions of the traditionally feminine face cards, the Queens?) and big things (What is the history of the term Amazon IRL? Why does it make me feel weird? How come I don’t know?). And because I am not a researcher by trade or interest, and I actively seek out knowledge only in roundabout, sideways manners, I sometimes don’t get the answers to such questions immediately (Hmm.. what does it mean? Why don’t I know yet? Why don’t you just look it up on the internet, weirdo?).

It is at these points that I feel my age and remember I was born before the internet and actually don’t use it as effectively as I could. Or maybe it is more so, because I learn things—once I do—in ways that are lasting and impress themselves upon me. (Or maybe I’m just jealous of youth online literacy.) But that is when I feel a kinship with the kind of artistic practice Ruth engaged in to make the deck, and I trust that it is the reason why I like it.

Anyway, Rima, who introduced me to Thea’s Tarot, interviewed Ruth, the deck’s creator; I got Billie Potts’ original A New Women’s Tarot on eBay, and I read the seminal (lol) Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom cover to cover. The rest is in the cards.