Beware the Ides of March! – Soothsayer 44BC (allegedly)
It has been a few months since I’ve written a real, long-form entry about my life. While I love the ease and pithy hilarity of lists, I do sort of miss paragraphs. I had wanted to write a review of my past year, to take a step back and analyze recent events, but all my efforts dissolved into madness. At first, I found I had no words, and then I found I had too many, and then everything felt meaningless, yet also, somehow, meaningful. In the end, to avoid any conflict between the apparent nothing and the actual everything that happened in 2015, I decided to skip the hindsight in 2016 and focus on moving forward instead.
On January 23rd, I had my fortune told via a late night tarot card reading at an event hosted by my museum. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t pay much attention in 10th-grade English, but I watch a lot of TV, and I was a little cautious of strange figures in togas, crying Beware! I’m no Roman emperor, but I was still afraid the cards would tell me my career was hopeless, my life was the pits, and every decision I had ever made in my entire life was wrong.
As she shuffled the cards, Zostra* (*not her real name) put me at ease and told me not to panic if I saw any typically negative cards. She explained that she would interpret the cards as they fell, and that I was free to independently apply that interpretation to my life as I saw fit. I nodded. So the cards were not going to spell out the names of my last five hook-ups for all the world to see. I could live with that.
When she was finished shuffling the cards herself, Zostra handed the deck over to me. “Do whatever you want to the cards,” she instructed, gently. There was no judgment in her voice, but my brain was running laps anyway. What does one do to a deck? Am I supposed to perform some interesting and complicated ritual? Should I knock it off the table like a capricious feline? What if I tossed all the cards in the air, licked each one, and then sat back down as though nothing strange had transpired? What about nothing? Is there an option to do nothing?
In the end, I balked. Like the slice of white bread covered in mayonnaise that I am, I reached hesitantly towards the cards and simply cut the deck.
“Alright,” Zostra said, unconcerned as she continued her work. She arranged the cards in what is called a Celtic Cross and began her interpretation. What follows is an abridged and incredibly amateur account of Zostra’s reading:
The Page of Pentacles was at the heart of the spread, representing me as a person. The Page is a young card, but a competent card. It is the patron of emerging professionals everywhere and could signify someone chasing a dream job or pursuing a goal. Despite its youth, the Page can be passionate and dedicated because the Page understands exactly how much its job or project benefits the community.
I took this as verification that I work a lot, but that I love what I do. I put everything I have into my research and my teaching, and I show up ready to do a good job, because I believe in my work. I have seen how history can encourage growth and inspire people to get involved with their communities. I know museums can produce understanding across cultures and generations. I love that, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
There were actually an overwhelming amount of Pentacles in my cards. This is not a bad thing, as Pentacles are generally associated with wealth and career stability. These ten were laid across the Page, and she said this basically means I have a lot of money and success coming my way.
I’ll believe it when I see it, but maybe it means that nagging feeling that I’ll never amount to anything more than a part-time drone is just noise. I can (and will) meet my potential eventually.
The King of Wands was in my past. Being a young woman, speaking to a young woman, Zostra told me this could be an ex-boyfriend. I did not take the time to explain that I have no ex-boyfriends. The King of Wands is a creative type, good at what they do, but often at the expense of others. They pursue their art single-mindedly at times, without stopping to consider how they are treating their friends. They can be flaky, immature, and have trouble maintaining relationships. “Don’t worry,” she assured me. “The placement here says you’re over it.”
When Zostra started waxing poetic about former relationships and broken hearts, I almost scoffed. I am notoriously single and have been my entire life. I was about to give up all hope in the credibility of tarot cards and consign the art to a dramatic TV trope when I realized: she was right. Technically, I have no ex-boyfriends, but that hasn’t kept me from having my heart broken. There was an artist-type who dominated my energy and brain space for longer than necessary. For many years, I made him a top priority, yet I’ve thought about him so little in the past year that I could barely recall his memory when confronted with it face to face. Although it was shocking to see him appear in a tarot reading, the placement of the card was fairly affirming. Goodbye, King of Wands. Hello, empowered single lady.
The Ten of Swords is a pretty morbid card once you realize that the swords are sticking out of a human man turned into a pincushion. This was one of those cards that Zostra warned me about, and she tied it to the King of Wands and my love life in general. She noted that it was probably signalling some level of disappointment in my prospects, likely due to the modern dating malaise afflicting so many of our generation. But she was also quick to point out that, after you freak out about the pincushiony swords, there’s a sun rising over the mountains, which is a pretty nice thought.
This card was a no-brainer. Whether in my career or my social life, I am no stranger to disappointment. But you know what they say: “Optimism is a muscle–if you don’t use it, you lose it.” So, as an exercise in positivity, I’m going to say this card is validating my strength through adversity. The sun is rising, after all. (But the man is still dead?)
The Ten of Swords wasn’t the only horrifying card in my spread. The first thing I saw in this card were the five Pentacles in the window, and I became excited again. Yes, I thought, tell me more about how I am good at my job. Well, then I noticed the snow…and then I noticed the poor people in the snow. How fitting that this should represent my fears. Zostra explained that this card doesn’t always signify poverty in a literal sense, which was a relief, because I don’t consider money a key motivation in life. It mainly signifies a dearth of something you, personally, consider valuable.
This card really hit home in many ways, especially where it was situated in the spread as a fear. There are a lot of things I am lacking in my new home: a core group of friends, family, connection to the natural world, and any sense of heritage. As far-away friends start more serious careers or relationships, I’ve started losing contact with them, as well. There are a lot of times, now, when I don’t know who I can talk to, and it can be hard to push forward without the safety of familiarity. If I leave myself alone to think too hard, I worry that this state of solitude will become permanent, which is a pretty terrifying thought, especially when you look at the next card…
It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it? The Hermit card was a little ambiguous where it was situated, so Zostra drew a few more cards for clarification. What resulted was this:
Apparently, the Two of Swords pointing between The Hermit and the Ace of Cups indicated that I am often faced with a decision between whether I want to stay in and focus on me and my own goals, or if I want to venture outside the walls of my introspection and hang out with friends.
This was eerily accurate to my current situation. I am fiercely dedicated to my work and to bettering myself, often to the point of isolation. But I am also committed to the idea of becoming a more social and less prickly person around my peers. Sadly, I can’t seem to find a balance. I can’t perform research on the side while teaching preschoolers and being a security guard and reading for fun so that I can hold more interesting conversations and participating in protests and relearning German and teaching myself how to play the viola again and winning dance competitions and writing stories and making presents for all my friends’ birthdays and going to parties and joining bowling leagues &c. &c. & c. I can’t be everything I want to be all at once, and so I’m feel I’m becoming nothing. It’s Sylvia Plath’s fig metaphor right there in my tarot cards, and it’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time.
But what about my future? The future is what I’m supposedly focusing on, so it is where I will bring this (no doubt) riveting recap of my tarot reading to a close. There is another King in my future,but this time he’s a Pentacle. (Did I mention I had, maybe, five dozen Pentacles in this spread?) Anyway, Zostra said this probably means I’m going to meet a new man. This time, I won’t be wasting my energy on a creative but incompatible human. I’m going to find someone in my field, who is mature and put together. We will share interests. The feelings will be mutual. He may even be a bit older than me. It might not be what I expect, but it’s going to work a heck of a lot better than the King of Wands.
Zostra drew this card to clarify one I can’t quite remember, but the Ace of Pentacles stuck in my brain because it was near the end, and she said it had to do with a decision I was trying to make…also known as the next step in my career. She said that I may have been sitting on it for a while, but that this was a good sign. The Ace of Pentacles was telling me to go for it. Whatever I was thinking of doing, it was a step in the right direction and would bring me the success I was hoping for.
There’s really only one thing this could be about. For too many years, I’ve been waffling back and forth on the issue of grad school, flaking out on taking the GRE, and making excuses, despite knowing for quite some time that it is probably where I belong. If nothing else, I know I don’t belong where I am now. Last year, I came close to having a plan, but I bailed, because that’s what I do best. I thought dramatic, providential signs only happened in movies, but I think this is good enough proof that the time is ripe to follow through.
To conclude, I will say it was a surprisingly moving and validating experience to have Zostra read my tarot cards. Having only seen tarot decks on supernatural TV shows, I think I underestimated the cards’ ability to productively turn my thoughts inward and assess aspects of my life I wouldn’t have ordinarily. The organization of the spread guided my introspection in really helpful ways and allowed me come to more concrete conclusions than usual. I feel like I can see my path a little more clearly now, and I’d say that is a pretty powerful experience for a confused 25-year-old in a quickly changing world.
(Also, I’m pretty obsessed with the word “pentacle” now.)