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Media Review: Queering the Tarot by Cassandra Snow (book)

I have been eagerly awaiting my copy of Queering the Tarot for ages. Things take a little bit longer to come out in the UK if it’s an American print, so it just heightens the anticipation.

And this book did not disappoint.

I cannot tell you HOW IMPORTANT THIS BOOK IS—yes, with all caps, all italicized, all bolded, and all underlined. It’s that important.

Queering the Tarot is a book about reclamation. Reading cards has always belonged to the most oppressed, from the extremely persecuted Romani people to modern-day readers from all walks of life. Yet, even now, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any people of color, queer people, disabled people, or people who don’t look wealthy in a traditional tarot deck. I wrote this book for all the people not represented in the aforementioned history of books on the tarot.

p. 5

Tarot is an art, and as an art, it belongs to everyone. The beautiful thing about the Tarot is that the main tool for the art of reading tarot is art itself. Each Tarot deck is an artistic representation of the cards that have been in use for centuries. As readers, we choose which art we want to represent our style of reading.

What is the art of Tarot reading? How we connect the images to one another to create interpretation, and the words we use to express those interpretation.

Queering the Tarot is a book about how to use our words to be inclusive regarding an artform that historically has been used to depict the white and wealthy, the able-bodied and straight. Of course there are exceptions: in Death there is the depiction of people from all walks of life; in the 6 of Pentacles there are the beggars and the givers; there are depictions of the religious (who were privileged in their own way), and the poor/sick/injured (5 of Pentacles). The latter are depictions of those in a low point, and don’t empower those who are permanently differently abled, or those who are any other race other than white, or, as the book’s main focus, of the LGTBQQIP2SAA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bi, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, 2-spirits, asexual, and androgynous) community.

Queering the Tarot: The Book Itself

Queering the Tarot spends the entirety of the book (with the exception of a forward by Beth Maiden of Little Red Tarot, an introductory message and a closing message from Snow) focusing on redefining the Tarot, card by card. Almost each card has at least one full page, with the exception of the Empress and Emperor whose roles cross and intermingle, and thus share a page.

…[S]ome cards make more sense to queer as a set or a series. The empress and the Emperor are two such cards. Traditionally, these cards are seen as Mother and Father, each presenting the best and worst of those archetypes…Most readers, at least at the professional level have figured out how to read around gender in the court cards, but this pair presents a different challenge…To truly queer these two, you have to be willing to throw out any gendered notions of them—not only to acknowledge same-sex relationships, but also to acknowledge the experience of transgender people, including those who don’t identify on the binary.

pp. 17-18

Other exceptions include the 2, 3, and 4 of Wands, the 8, 9, and 10 of Swords, the Ace, 3, and 3 of Cups, etc. There are many more series of cards that are defined together because of their intertwining relationships to each other. When writing about the 5 and 7 of Swords, Snow says,

These two represent oppression both large scale and personal. They represent pain, theft, and the feeling of drowning or being trapped in your misery…I’ve chosen to queer these two cards together because I tend to think of them as two different faces of oppression or trauma.

p. 104

Along the way, Snow talks about the difficulties that LGTBQQIP2SA+ go through in various forms, from family life, to social life, to self-expression, to acceptance, to simply understanding themselves. Through each of the cards, Snow navigates the experience of being a LGTBQQIP2SA+ person, and provides insight via the Tarot to those who might not be of this community and thus doesn’t understand full or at all.

However, as she points out at the book, this book isn’t for the latter mentioned. It is for the LGTBQQIP2SA+ community, for those who have been left out and under-represented in text and in art. This book is for them to know themselves and to use their Tarot art of help others know themselves as well.

Queering something, then, means taking what our society has given us and finding our own way, outside of that society’s limits. They put us in a box, and we still find ways to create and prosper and make it the most well decorated box you’ll see. Queering erases the narrowness and small-mindedness of normal. It embraces the beauty, the mystery, and the vastness of our differences. It welcomes everyone who needs a safer space, and it takes responsibility for helping those people heal. Tarot is supposed to help people heal, after all.

p. 2

Do you need to identify as queer to get the most from this book? No. Although it’s tremendously important for me to address the needs of the overlooked LGTBQQIP2SA+ community, this book is for any unique soul who has felt wronged, left out, marginalized, different. Which is most people. This book  is meant to guide you as you learn tarot, but it’s primarily meant to make you ask questions, encourage you to sit with your cards, and learn to let the deck speak to the beautiful, powerful, hurt, confused youthat you are.

p. 5

This book is straight forward, there’s no tricks, no spreads, no insight to the elements, numbers or symbolism. It is simply an in depth dive into the cards to show their inclusivity, and the importance of keeping that understanding at the surface of our reading.

My Thoughts on Queering The Tarot

I’ve already said it. This book is insanely important for any reader who has even the slightest inkling of reading for others. I would even go so far as to say this is just an important book for any one to read, even if they don’t know what Tarot is. Tarot, after all, is a collection of archetypes found in our daily living and in the important lessons we encounter. These archetypes are found in the stories we tell and create: the movies we watch, the books we read, the people we meet daily. The Tarot Exists in Real Life.

Thus, to better understand the experiences of all the souls around us, we all need to expand our reading and understanding to meet and accept those souls for the plight they’re one, and look at everyone with compassion. This book, I believe, helps to highlight those areas where we, as a society, can improve.

I know, this is “just” a book on Tarot cards, but I assure you, art is never just color on a canvas. Art says something. Words say something, and any words put to paper is an art, regardless of its subject matter. It is a choice of stylistic expression. This book is an art, talking about art, and the art is a medium of self-express and understanding.

My Rating

This book is important.

This book is important.

This book is important.

Do I need to say it again?

Go read the book. Trust me. You want to do this.

***** 5 Stars *****

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