An Essay in a Six Tarot Card Reading
By: Adesuwa Agbonile
It is early March, unseasonably warm. You open your eyes to the sound of birds. Light is glazing your bedroom walls, but everything still feels dark. You take yourself to the park. You ask your deck of tarot – what do you need to see? Six cards tumble out.
1. Queen of wands; reversed.
Wands are the suit of fire. The spark after the call of let there be light. The crackling snap in your belly, the beckoning towards life. You, little Black body, in the park, on a day kissing you like spring, sitting still, remembering how much you are, how full, how magic, how possible.

Reversals point us towards our shadow. Shadow, as in – blockage, fear, pain, suffering, darkness. The underbelly of our psyche. Shadow, as in – the darkness cast by that little Black body, in the park, standing in the sun. Long and limber outline, dragging by your feet. 

The queen of wands, in reverse, is a beckoning towards that space. It is an invitation to step into the shadow. And you do. You leave the park, slipping into the underbelly of your form, the darkness that is attached to you.
2. Moon; reversed.
And you find yourself in the world of shadows. And everything is dark and twisted, nightmarish. Blue and grey and gnarled. There is no sun here, only moonlight guides your path. 

Rachel Pollack, tarot godmother, writes that in the moonlight, “our sense of ourselves as human breaks down.” The moon’s light is where men turn to dogs, where humans become monsters. 

When you enter the shadow world, you become every name the world has already flung at you. Peaches, Brown Sugar, Sapphire. Monster, bereft, slump, ugly. Disgusting, two faced bitch, slut, abstinent, invisible, gaping expanse, paradox, black hole, toxic waste. 

You are all of these things, you are surrounded by all of these things. Everything you’ve been begging not to be, everything you’ve been begging not to be associated with – they are all right there, and you are forced to realize, yes, they are a part of you. Think about every mistake you’ve ever made, every pain you’ve ever inflicted on another person. Every lie you’ve told, every love you’ve scorned. Line them all up and then make them into mirrors. See yourself in them. This is the journey you’ve embarked on.

Upright, the moon can be a card of peace – an expansion of the imagination. But reversed, the nightmares the moon uncovers compress and pack down on top of each other. You are flailing your way through the shadow world, thrashing against the monster that you are and the monsters that you encounter.
3. Three of Swords.
Until you run out of energy. And there is nothing left to do but sit with the monsters. 

The three of swords asks you to look at everything you have dumped into the darkness of yourself. Everything that you have stored in the reverse. Everything painful and dark. 

This is the revelation of tarot – a vehicle towards seeing yourself as you are, in your wholeness. Your ugliness, too. Your pain too. Your sorrow too. 

Death, sitting beside you. A monster with a face like the sound of a telephone line, a breath drawing in and out, a sentence of admission, of finality. An entreaty to come home, come home. Suffering is a soft thing wrapped around your shoulders, turned heavy. It takes its words and pushes them into your shoulder, down into your breastbone, to hip, to thigh, to calf, to foot. It reminds you of the feeling of pain. 

The three of swords is a card without a person. Only a heart, stabbed three times through. This is sitting with pain – no face. All feeling.
4. The Hanged Man.
And. when you sit long enough with pain, you discover something bizarre and beautiful – it will pass. Eventually, you emerge. Out of shadow, into light. The park welcomes you. The sun shines on your face. And your shadow is still there, but once again, you are in your body. And your body welcomes you.

When drawn right side up, The Hanged Man hangs upside down. After venturing down, into the upside down shadow world, and then returning to the world of the light, this is the position you occupy. You, in this little Black body, who has been – is still being – called every nightmare they can think of. You, who have gone down to the places they scream about and stood in front of each and every nightmare. You, who have seen the nightmare reflected in the mirror. You, who know how to sit with pain, how to move through it. You, who can separate shadow from light. You, with your eyes scrubbed clean. 

Rachel Pollack writes that the Hanged Man is about “being who you are, even if others think you have everything backwards.” ​​​​​​​For whiteness to exist, there must be blackness. For the world to make sense of what is ‘upright’, there must be a reverse. For the world to construct a body, the world must also construct a shadow. 

This is the function of Blackness, this is why Blackness must exist for whiteness to thrive. The white body can claim ‘human’ and eschew suffering because they have located suffering onto another body. They call that body Black. They call that body shadow. They make that body their own reverse. 

But you have faced your shadow, and then, climbed out into the light. Which is to say – you can understand that even when the world tries to convince you that you are the one standing in reverse – that you are shadow, slump, darkness, nightmare – you can see that you are upright. When you understand what your shadow is, when you are able to define yourself in relation to your shadow, you can throw away that which the world calls shadow, which is, you. 

The Hanged Man is their own level, their own compass.
5. Six of Cups; reversed.
When God said let there be light, he was casting out darkness. So when you are told to pray as a child, you understand the futility. You are seven years old and already, you understand that you are the darkness everyone is begging their God to cast out of themselves. Everyone’s sins have already been located onto your body. The only part of that long, twisted story that makes any sense to you is the crucifixion. Jesus taking the blame for everyone’s sins, all that darkness piled up on his body. 

In reverse, the six of cups is an exhortation to move on from the past; cut yourself off from it. This is about your childhood and all the stories you were told about what is dark, what is evil. This is about the last five hundred years of the Western project, the careful and studied distortion of the word black, the ways they made it a cypher for suffering/pain/nightmare. 

You are moving past all of that. You are beginning to understand – they are trying to force you to become their shadow, so they can pretend they live without one. But you know, now – you have your own shadow. Not only that, you have the ability to enter your shadow, to understand it. To sit with it, to think on it. To witness, to weep. To move through it, unscathed. To emerge, out the other end. 

Your eyes have been scrubbed clean. You are turning them towards the future; towards something new.
6, Ten of Cups; reversed.
The end of a reading is also the end of a story; your journey is coming to a close. The ten of cups is a card of endings, completion. Upright, it signals wholeness, emotional wellbeing. The end of the journey; feeling complete and pleased. 

Reversed, the ten of cups signals a blockage – that you’re not able to see all the happiness that life is offering you. That, perhaps, you’re stuck upside down – or, that other people have got you all turned around, making you think you’re upside down. 

Tarot gives you the gift of sight. It helps you understand your pain, and your suffering, as well as points out the joys your missing. It alerts you when this world might make you feel like you’re standing on your head – it helps you open your eyes to it. It helps you turn yourself upright, to collect your blessings.

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