We are now a solid week into 2020 and somehow the year feels both new and old at the same time. How are you all settling into the energy of 2020 so far? Have you noticed a change since we shifted into the new year? I have.
I’m sure by now many of you are aware that we have entered an Emperor year (2+0+2+0=4 = The Emperor in the Major Arcana). There are plenty of other tarot practitioners who have discussed this already so I’m not going to retread this territory because it’s not what I want to talk about.
Instead I want to talk about something else.
As 2019 came to a close, my best laid plans were to write a tarotscope for 2020, like I did last year for the Smokey Spells blog. I had planned to write it the Sunday before New Year’s Eve but fate had other plans: thanks to a storm the Saturday evening prior, a tree fell on my house. This, as you can imagine, required me to re-prioritize my attention. Thankfully (miraculously) the tree didn’t cause any damage and my dad was kind enough to bring his chainsaw the next day for a little father-daughter tree chopping session.
(Personal note: after all the upheaval I experienced in 2019, a tree actually uprooting and falling on my house felt sort of appropriate and brought about a literal-and-not-unwelcome change of scenery.)
Following the tree incident I got swept up in house-and-pet-sitting for some friends who were out of town. If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories you know this involved caring for a lovely corn snake named Snakey. I very quickly grew quite fond of hanging out with Snakey in the mornings while I had coffee, taking her out of her enclosure to let her slither around my lap or draping her around my neck to feel her scales against my skin.
What does any of this have to do with tarot? We’ll get there.
I’ll circle back around to my relationship with Snakey in a bit, but first let’s quickly revisit last year’s tarotscope:
Outgoing Energy for 2018: the High Priestess
Incoming Energy for 2019: Six of Swords
(You can read last year’s tarotscope in full here if you are so inclined.)
Now, we move on to this year’s tarotscope:
Outgoing Energy for 2019: Six of Swords (!)
Incoming Energy for 2020: Judgment
Notice how the cards align. Last year’s incoming energy of 2019, the Six of Swords, appeared again as the outgoing energy of 2019. I promise you I legitimately drew this card and did not seek it out in the deck to serve my own purposes. To make matters stranger (or maybe not?) the one card that I really wanted to talk about leading into 2020 was Judgment, which I pulled as the incoming energy for the new year.
First, let’s look at the Six of Swords.
The (Smith-Waite) imagery most often associated with this card consists of a figure in a boat, their back to us, their head bowed, with six swords standing upright, points down, at the bow of the boat. The guide book for the Spolia tarot deck (which I used for this tarotscope) captures the vibe of this card perhaps better than any other with the following description: “We’re moving forward, but we’re fucking exhausted. We are in a boat, we are headed somewhere new, but who knows where and frankly who cares.”
This feels apt, yes? So many people I know went through some serious shit in 2019. To say we are exhausted feels like an understatement. Collectively and individually we are all on a journey of some kind and sometimes our view is obstructed by our own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, just like the figure in the Six of Swords. We can’t always see where we’re going. We don’t always know what our destination will be or when we will arrive. When we are worn out and tired all the way to our bones, sometimes it is best to surrender to the flow of the air and water currents to get us where we need to be. We rely on the elements, forces that lie outside the realm of our control, to propel us forward and keep us on course. This card asks us to trust that where we’ve been will lead us to where we want to go. It might be awhile before we arrive but damn it, we’re on our way.
Now, the incoming energy for 2020: Judgment.
Judgment is arcanum 20 and we are now in the year 2020. Cute how that worked out, right? Yeah, sort of, but if you recognize that time is a construct and that the year 2020 is only relevant if you believe that our modern / common era began with the birth of Jesus and SERIOUSLY WHAT IS TIME OMG. So let’s acknowledge this briefly in passing and move on to the heart of the matter.
Judgment is the second-to-last card of the Major Arcana, a near-culmination of the Fool’s Journey symbolizing how far we have come to get where we are now. To reach this point the Fool has undergone one hell of a spiritual obstacle course, encountering destruction, confusion, death, and rebirth. If you’re into Christianity (I’m not), Judgment Day is when Jesus returns to earth to judge the living and the dead. If you’re into Nature (I am), Judgment means something else entirely.
In the iconic Smith-Waite tarot deck the image for Judgment is that of an angelic being emerging from the heavens to harvest the souls of the righteous and pure.
In the Spolia tarot deck the image for Judgment is a snake shedding its skin.
Which brings us back to my recent mornings with Snakey.
In the short time I had with Snakey I developed a kinship with this being who is so extraordinarily different from me. In the quiet morning hours we sat in the sun together, allowing the light and warmth to wash over us. In the space we shared I began to notice not the ways we are different but the ways we are the same. She, like me, prefers quiet cozy spaces where she can be left alone. She, like me, is well acquainted with the darkness, with the subterranean energies of the Underworld, with being misunderstood and even feared.
And she, like me, has shed many skins that no longer fit, skins which she has outgrown.
So with this tarotscope I want to talk about shedding.
What we shed.
How we shed.
Why we shed.
This is a topic I plan to write about in more depth as the year progresses, but in 2019 I died and was reborn. No, I did not experience physical, biological death (not from myself anyway). My death was of a spiritual and emotional nature. To reference the Spolia tarot guide book again (because it’s just so good), Judgment dictates that “…in order to live again first you must die. … To truly change, to truly reach transformation, one must die to oneself, come to terms with who one was, and only then can one be reborn into a new form.”
In September 2019, following what I’ve come to acknowledge as the most intensely painful part of my dying process, I attended a Living Funeral Ceremony in Chicago hosted by Steady Waves End of Live Services. It was a meaningful ceremony, one that aligned very strongly with what I was going through in my personal life at the time. It required me take a step back and look at both the Old Me that was dying and the New Me that was in the process of being born. I had to judge myself from all angles, not in the way that we often think of judgment (as being critical, disapproving, or fault-finding) but in a way that is honest, authentic, and loving.
What did I shed? A long-term relationship. A sense of self that no longer matches who I am. False beliefs about myself that had become deeply embedded in my psyche. Narratives about my life that I realized were never true to begin with. The part of myself that believes playing small is an option. About 30 pounds of body weight which, in retrospect, I think served as a protective barrier against outside forces I perceived to be harmful.
How did I shed? Honestly it just sort of happened…but only after I made the choice to let it to happen. This choice was maybe not conscious at first, but by the time I realized what was going on it was too late to go back. One of my mantras for the last year has been “no backward movement” and it quickly became clear that an old skin can’t be put back on once it’s been discarded.
Why did I shed? Quite simply, because I fucking had to. Because in order to live with purpose and integrity I had to let all the layers and masks and skins fall away. I had to let myself become vulnerable in ways I never have before. Want to know what I learned? It is in this vulnerability that our greatest power and most profound strength can be realized.
From the Spolia tarot guide book again: “And like a snake shedding its skin, this process hurts. One does not simply shed, one has to feel the restriction of the old life, the dissatisfaction of it, and one must work to rid oneself of its confines. One crawls through this card, but it beckons you to a new, freer way of being.”
Friends, in 2020 I invite you to allow yourselves to feel the restrictions that might be holding you back. Lean into the painful act of shedding. Know that the hurt, like everything, is a temporary space we all occupy on our way to something better.
Here’s to a year of growth, expansion, and evolution, the likes of which we have never seen. Crawl on your belly through the darkness. Allow the murky depths to strip you bare. Shed your skin and wriggle free.
Happy New Year. I love you.