Tarot and Self-Care: Queen of Wands

Welcome back to Tarot and Self-Care! After getting distracted by watching my country spiral into a robber-baron-driven hellscape, I’m ready to keep examining how the tarot can help us identify self-care strategies.

queen of wands

Image: Swiss 1JJ Queen of Wands card in a wooden bowl with bones and shells.

Let’s turn our attention to the Queen of Wands. The wands suit represents work, muscle, ambition, and fire. Seeing as much, if not most, of burnout stems from work issues, this suit’s queen implores us to take a hard look at our work lives. Here are some of her self-care strategies:

Establishing work-life balance. Yeah, this is a big one–both in difficulty and importance. Usually we quantify this balance by counting the hours we spend at our jobs. 90 hours a week? You work too much! 40? Perfect! 35? You must have a dream job! But stress and burnout don’t necessarily correlate with time spent working. It’s possible to work reasonable hours at your job and still feel overwhelmed. If your boss is demanding perfection, or the stakes feel too high, or you’re being pulled in a thousand directions at once, you’ll have a hard time taking care of yourself even if the job is part-time. A few years ago, I was put in charge of several projects at once at my job and it nearly destroyed me. I’d spend long hours with nothing to do, waiting for other people to finish tasks–and then five disasters would erupt at once and I wouldn’t know which fire to put out first. It was exhausting.

Obviously quitting or cutting back isn’t always an option. So how do you distance yourself from a job you can’t necessarily leave? Find little ways to steal your time and energy back. Read a book for 15 minutes in the parking lot before you go in for the day. Take the scenic route to lunch. If a meeting turns out to be pointless, journal instead of taking notes. If your job demands loyalty or brands itself as a family, don’t fall for it. You’re there for the money and you deserve your own life. Make your own headspace a sanctuary if you need to. Remind yourself that your job doesn’t own you.

Pursuing meaningful work, even if it doesn’t pay. Do you have hobbies? Causes you care about? What work fills you with joy? Knit a scarf. Blog. Go to a march. Do something that makes you proud.

Finding your passion. Speaking of meaningful work, wands corresponds to fire, which likewise corresponds to passion. What are you passionate about? Do you have time and space for it? If not, steal that time and space back. Camelia Elias writes in Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading that cups and coins bring us closer, while swords and wands create distance. Wands don’t create the same kind of distance that swords do, but they do encourage us to be firm with friends and loved ones when we need space to immerse ourselves in what we love. Maybe your friends really want you to get dinner with them, but you’ve got a writing project churning that you need to get down on paper. Beg off of dinner. Your friends will understand.

Practicing saying “no.” Part of a healthy work ethic is choosing which work you’ll do. Practice in front of a mirror if you have to. Say no to projects you can’t take on, invitations you don’t want to accept, so-called obligations that you’re guilted into. Recognize when you tend to be a martyr.

Tending to your muscular and digestive systems. Are you exercising? What’s a quick exercise you can do right now? (Usually, between work and parenting and keeping the house clean, all I have time for is a 60-second plank pose before bed to keep my back from going out, but it’s something.) How are your eating habits? Can you get something healthy in you? If you’re getting frequent stomachaches, tension headaches, or sore muscles, pay attention to them. Often I don’t realize how stressed and anxious I am until a “mysterious” headache descends upon me.

Getting a massage. Massages are a healing modality, not a luxury. If your muscles are rocks and you’re strapped for cash and time, see if you can find a dollar-a-minute option somewhere or ask a friend to rub your shoulders. Acupuncture is another good option which may even be covered under your health insurance, if you’ve got it.

Your turn! Meditate on the Queen of Wands. What ideas come to you?

Next up, our final queen: the Queen of Coins. Spoiler alert–retail therapy isn’t always a bad thing.


Tarot and Self Care Part 2: The Queen of Cups

In my last post, I used the Queen of Swords as a lens through which to look at some aspects of self-care that don’t bring us immediate pleasure, like keeping a schedule or breaking off toxic relationships. In this post, let’s turn to the Queen of Cups for some softer, gentler ways to take care of ourselves.

queen of cupsThe cups suit represents water, fluidity, emotion, intuition, and love–both romantic and platonic. Here are some ideas that came out of my meditation on the Queen of Cups:

Forming and strengthening relationships. Contrary to the Queen of Swords’s propensity to push people away, the Queen of Cups beckons friends, family, and lovers closer. Did you know that isolation and loneliness are major factors in the depression epidemic? Humans are a social species, and we need companionship, community, and physical touch in order to be healthy. I myself can be a pretty solid recluse sometimes, but my own depression starts to flare up when I spend too much time alone. Do what you need to do to form bonds with other people. Maybe it’s as simple as picking up the phone. Maybe you need to find strategies to work through trauma or social anxiety. The Queen of Cups reminds us that we’re hardwired to flourish with companionship.

Staying hydrated. Yeah, this one seems obvious–until you find yourself exhausted and cranky with a pounding headache and a foggy brain. More and more work environments frown on taking time to eat a meal, and I find that our fear of nourishing ourselves often extends to water, too. Have a glass of water or a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. Remember that moisturizing counts as hydration, too! Put on some lotion. Condition your hair. It’s not frivolous or vain, it’s taking care of the marvelous construction of starstuff that is your body.

Cleansing yourself. The physical and psychological benefits of taking a bath or shower are manifold. You wash off viruses and bacteria that could infect you. Steam clears out your sinuses and pores. And feeling clean is uplifting and physically pleasurable. Often, when we’re unwell, hygiene is one of the first things to go, but the Queen of Cups implores us to do whatever it takes to get ourselves into that bathtub. Metaphorical and energetic cleansing are important, too; if you find rituals like incense smudging or making Kala helpful for clearing psychic clogs and blockages, then do them.

Cuddling or having sex. Orgasms and sensual touch help your body release oxytocin. Rub one out or get close to someone you love! If you’re not able to, do what you need to do to confront and work through sexual trauma, shame, or other inhibiting forces. Work with a professional if it’s helpful and you’re able to.

Listening to your intuition. We’re so often coerced into harmful activities that we tend to tune out the parts of our brains that tell us something is wrong. Don’t say yes to another project. Don’t get in the car with that guy. Don’t laugh at that offensive joke. These messages bubble up, but we feel forced to ignore them, and often rationalize doing so. That’d be selfish of me. I’m just being paranoid. I probably just don’t get it. Intuition is much more powerful than we give it credit for–it’s the basis of supposedly “supernatural” abilities like clairvoyance–and when we learn to listen to it, we receive more information about our environments and ourselves than we ever knew was possible.

Feeling your emotions. One of the most powerful effects of practices like mindfulness meditation or talk therapy is that they give us permission to stop suppressing our emotions. When we’re told throughout our lives to stop crying, grow up, get a thicker skin, and get over it, the message we internalize is that we must hide our emotions instead of letting them out. Don’t lash out or abuse people, but do let yourself feel and cry.

Tending to your heart. The cups suit corresponds to the circulatory system. Is your heart racing? Is your blood pressure high? Are you experiencing other problems with your blood? Tend to them. It goes without saying that tending to your heart is important on a figurative level, too.

Tending to your womb. Are you on your period? Snag some rest wherever and whenever you can. You may not have access to a red tent, but your body deserves some peace and relaxation while you menstruate.

Your turn! Meditate on the Queen of Cups using the method I described in my last post. What guidance does she give you?

Next time: the Queen of Wands, who can give us insight into self-care relating to work, muscle, and more.


Pagan Blog Project: Depression, Dreams, and Divination

I’ve been living with clinical depression and anxiety since I was a child, and I’ve tried over a dozen different medications throughout the years to alleviate it. The only reason I haven’t tried more is that mindfulness meditation has been relatively effective.

But it’s not quite enough, so last week I started Wellbutrin. Here’s the funny thing about me and Wellbutrin: I’ve been wanting to try it for years, but have never had the courage to ask for it. Year after year I’ve let doctors prescribe all sorts of medications, secretly wanting to try this one, but being afraid that I’d be seen as pushy or disrespectful.

But I finally worked up the courage to ask, and now I’m on it. The pharmacist warned me that it can interfere with sleep and told me to take it no later than mid-afternoon, but the other night I forgot and had to take it at bedtime. Mistake! Giant mistake! If anyone ever tells you it’s okay to take Wellbutrin at bedtime, point them to this post.

I fell asleep fine at first, but woke up agitated around 3 a.m. I started fretting about the stupid bullshit that signals an anxiety attack: a mean message someone sent my friend, the books I’ve loaned people that I want back. I’d just started wondering if I’d have to get up when I fell back asleep.

After that came an hour-long string of frenzied nightmares. In one, there was an intruder in my bedroom and I was afraid to see who it was. In another, my husband started yelling at me in a Judge Doom voice. In more than one, I tried to wake myself up by moving but was frozen by sleep paralysis. (Sleep paralysis just sucks, friends. It just bites. I get it all the time.) But the strangest nightmare was the one about the moon.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be afraid of the moon. I haven’t had that fear for a long time, but in one of my final dreams, I went up to our rooftop patio to look at the stars and saw the moon in its current phase (about 80% full as I write this). I was instantly overcome with panic and bolted back inside. Then, later in the dream, I was driving up a tall hill, and as I crested it, a completely full moon appeared before me. I hadn’t escaped it! It was coming to get me after all! I started yelling “No, no, no!” and tried to turn around, but my car wheels were lifting off the ground.

If I hadn’t woken up right at that second, I would have drifted up into the moon.

I spent the next day puzzling over it. The way I saw it, there were three possible explanations:

1. The panic was caused by physiological anxiety symptoms, and found an outlet in an old phobia;

2. The dream was some divine message using Tarot imagery to tell me there was something in my subconscious that I was afraid of; or

3. Witchcraft was devil worship and I was flying straight to hell.

With no disrespect to Christians, I eliminated the third one pretty easily.

While 2 was tempting, it felt a little too pat, like an occult fortune cookie. I knew the likeliest explanation was 1…but I was still intrigued by the fact that my brain had dredged up my old moon phobia. The next night I went up to the roof and there she was, pretty as ever, and I didn’t feel a drop of fear. Then I went to bed and dreamed that I was showing my daughter a breathtaking starry sky.

I decided to do a Tarot reading to see if I could shed some light on the problem. I have four decks, two of which I use regularly, and I usually choose a deck on impulse right before the reading. This time I chose the Sun and Moon deck by Vanessa Decort. I did a five card elemental spread–Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Center–and got some nice insights, most of which wouldn’t be of much interest to you. The Center card was pretty noteworthy, though:


The 6 of Cups (reversed): two youths frolic like children under a giant full moon. The same full moon that I, as a child, hid from in fear.

With Tarot, I try to let my intuition guide me, but this time I turned to Joan Bunning’s Learning the Tarot. Bunning suggests that the 6 of Cups can sometimes mean feeling secure and taken care of, like a child. That, I felt, was it. I started fearing the moon right around the time my parents divorced and my mother sank into a deep depression. It was after I’d come to the knowledge that no one really loved or wanted me. It was the same fear that convinced me that I’d wake up and my bedroom would be in space, or that aliens would abduct me.

I thought I was afraid of the moon, but what I was really afraid of was becoming unmoored and drifting off. Of never finding a source of stability, a safe and solid place.

I think back to my childhood self and want to hug that little kid so much.

Of course, the reading still doesn’t explain why my moon phobia came back now, at this particular time in my life. It’s something that I’ll continue to work through. It’s a mystery that will unfold slowly, at its own pace.

May your dreams bring you clarity and wonder! May your depression melt like snow! May your divination give you hope and delight!