There is so. much. HAPPENING in our world right now that it took time to pull back and suss out some of the larger themes around us. I was surprised (again!) to feel myself leaning towards exploring this archetypal pattern:
JUDGEMENT / AWAKENING
Note: many contemporary decks, like the middle one pictured above, have given this card a much-welcomed image reboot and/or new title, since the word “judgement” has such negative connotations to modern ears. Additionally, references to organized Christianity can be especially troublesome to those healing from religious trauma, and so it may be helpful to recast this pattern as one of “Awakening."
“Awakening” can refer to the very moment that we begin to see reality in a brand new light, and so its arrival suggests big epiphanies, realizations, and revelations.
This card may also show up for us when we are reaching the end of one particular cycle or life phase. As our current chapter comes to a close, we are encouraged look back and reflect on the journey thus far. Where did this path take us? How have we changed? What have we learned?
(Those doing 12-Step work get the opportunity to “take a full inventory” as part of the 4th-Step; we may be drawn to borrow from this tradition for our own conscious self-examination and appraisal of our progress.)
The figures rising from their coffins--which many now find distastefully grim and zombie-like--are thought to symbolize the process in which all of our old stories surface, our hidden baggage is revealed, and our secrets emerge into the light of day.
Once all our skeletons are out of the closet, we are then fully able to process memories and question old beliefs. We recognize that we need to acknowledge and own our historical burdens, taking full accountability as we move forward into the next phase of our lives.
This transitional phase, where we begin to emerge from stagnancy, recalls the butterfly freeing itself from its once-safe, now-limiting cocoon. On the other side, we sense a potential rebirth, a second chance, a fresh start. We hope to atone for the errors of our past and feel the relief that comes when the whole truth is known.
This card reminds us that ONLY once we are able to fully come to terms with the past, are we then able to move beyond it.
Yet another perspective on this archetype is the experience of hearing a calling, whether that shows up as an inner conviction to align with a newly felt purpose, or a recognition of a true vocation.
This wake-up call (loud trumpet! so rude!) inspires us to take a new direction towards a more meaningful existence; to make a difference with the time we've been given on this planet.
We may find ourselves contracting here around our deep fear of the unknown, our shame over past actions, or the terror of contemplating a true day of reckoning, and so we must now remind each other how to access the courage we found in Strength, the hope we found in the Star, and the willing surrender and equanimity we found in the Hanged One.
In the end, I refer back to the wisdom of Rachel Pollack, who notes "the person has already changed; the old situations, the old self, have already died. It is simply a matter of recognizing it... [otherwise] the person remains standing in the grave. [This card] implies that the reality of life has changed. The only choice is to follow." (78 Degrees of Wisdom)
(Cards pictured here are from the Universal Waite, a recolored version of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Numinous Tarot, a radical deck with diverse representations and gender-neutral language, and the Modern Witch Tarot, a modern interpretation of the classic RWS deck.)
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Jessica Katzman, Psy.D.
I'm a psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco's Castro District. I'm interested in harm reduction, LGBTQQIAAP issues, psychedelic integration, social justice conversations, size acceptance, and any intersections of the above. I welcome your comments!
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