A few month ago I discovered a very cool tarot site called Little Red Tarot. I started to read a lot of the blog posts and loved how Beth Maiden (the creator and tarot reader) related and almost translated the tarot for the LGBTQ community. I mean, me being a heterosexual cis-female, I had never had to think about how some of the images and meanings of the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith tarot might not reflect the experiences of a gay person or a transgender person. I loved the phrase she uses, "queering up the tarot". So I was excited when Beth let me interview her so we could find out a bit more about how she "queers up the tarot" and her experiences doing so.
How did you start reading tarot?
Honestly, until I had my first reading in my mid-20s, I was such a cynic. I paid no attention to ‘spiritual stuff’ and I’d never even seen a deck of tarot cards. Then this wonderful woman offered my friend and I each a reading, and it blew me away. My friend got a deck of cards, and we used to do a lot of readings together. Then, when I was having a tough time, I turned to my cards and really threw myself into using them to process what had happened. That turned into journaling, which turned into a blog…and then people started asking for readings…and it just went from there.
One thing that is awesome about your blog and many of your posts represent a faction of the spiritual community that is unrepresented in many ways, but also write in a way that anyone (like this straight black girl over here) can read it and get a lot of from it. You talk about "queering up the tarot" (love that phrase by the way). What does that mean to you?
I’m so glad you find my work accessible Ashley! I do regularly write from a queer perspective, but I want to build a tarot learning community that is welcoming to everyone. It’s those diverse voices within tarot, the many many different ways people interpret their cards based on their life experience, culture or beliefs, that make it all so fascinating. Tarot is a mirror of life, so it changes each time someone new picks up that mirror.
‘Queering up tarot cards’ is the way I describe the never-ending process of taking a traditional tarot card meaning, and reinterpreting it through a queer filter. For example, the Ten of Cups - let’s say that’s all about emotional fulfilment, and on many cards, it shows a man and a woman and a kid or two, often a cute little house or whatever. That’s so far away from my idea of emotional fulfilment, I can’t even tell you! So let’s challenge that image and all of its connotations and open up our ideas when we see this card. Or take the relationship language used, there’s this talk of ‘the opposite sex’, which is a) heteronormative (fancying the ‘opposite’ sex is the norm so that’s all we talk about) and b) binary-gendered (sticks with the idea that there are two genders and that’s it). I want to challenge that language, write articles that include the possibilities of different kinds of love, different kinds of identity. Another way I try to do this is by mixing up gender pronouns, e.g. et’s not always describe The Magician as a ‘he’, we can say ‘she’ or ‘they’, too.
Queer as an identity is more than just ‘gay or bisexual’. It’s political, too. It’s a subversive word, a protest word - it’s intended to be challenging and provocative. For me, queer politics is about understanding systematic oppression, working to challenge the norms, which are harmful to so many and benefit so few. So for me, ‘queer tarot’, or ‘queering up my cards’ is another way of protesting heteronormativity, patriarchy, white supremacy, abelism - all that messed up shit.
I also host an awesome guest post series by Cassandra Snow called ‘Queering the Tarot’ - I’m so grateful to her for writing this series as I learn so much from each post she shares. In each post she takes a card or two, and looks at how you might interpret it differently for queer folks, whether that’s people questioning their gender identity, people in polyamourous relationships, people with variant sexualities… it’s great.
The bottom line is, it’s a discussion. Every post I write is intended to provoke discussion in the comments, and over in the Alternative Tarot Network we have a queer tarot forum where issues get discussed in more depth.
You developed your own unique tarot course, The Alternative Tarot Course. When someone is learning tarot, why do you think it's important to develop your own approach to reading as well as using traditional meanings?
Well - you can read a book of tarot card meanings, memorise them, and then when you turn over cards in a real-life reading, you can come out with that learned meaning. No judgement on that - that’s how most of us start, right? But personally I feel like the way to give truly amazing readings is to develop your own relationship with the cards. So you’ve experienced each card as something that happened in your own life, a feeling you’re familiar with, a situation you recognise. Instantly that’s more memorable and meaningful. And from there, you continue the process. Maybe you hear a song on the radio one day and it’s like ‘wow! That’s exactly what The Hanged Man sounds like!’, or a friend calls you up to describe how stuck she’s feeling and you recognize the Four of Cups in it.
It’s all about tying the cards to real life - for some that might mean departing from traditional meanings, for others that might mean the traditional meaning is spot on, it just becomes more relevant to them. In the Alternative Tarot Course we do loads of activities designed to shake up the way you think about a card, and also to build that personal relationship. My aim is that after the eight weeks, you have this whole new connection to your deck, the cards feel like your friends, you can converse with them. I believe that this makes you a better tarot reader, and more confident reader when you’re reading for other people - and that’s definitely the feedback I get from people who take the course.
How has Tarot changed you?
It’s helped me to understand and articulate concepts I had no awareness of previously, or felt on a deep level, but had no idea how to verbalize or use. Concepts such as integration - understanding that all parts of my life make me who I am and contribute to the whole world. Learning about the four suits and the four elements has given me a language to describe what’s going on for me at different times, in different parts of my life.
I feel more empowered and self-directed now than I did before I was doing tarot. Tarot forces you to face what’s going on in your life, and to take responsibility where you need to. There’s no burying your head in the sand or being a powerless victim where tarot is concerned - here’s your way forward, here are your choices, here’s how your behavior is impacting, here’s what’s blocking you. Now go fix it, or change something, or whatever the hell you need to do to move forwards in the best possible way. I love it! My whole belief system about tarot is that you already have the answers you need, before you even get your cards out or request a reading. The cards will prompt you to dig out those answers - which is really empowering.
You have something on-going and awesome called The Queer Tarot project? Can you tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for it and why you think it's important?
Yeah! The Queer Tarot Project is a contributory art project where LGBTQ-identified people can share stories of how a tarot card represents part of their journey. It’s an extension of the ‘queering tarot’ and the ‘taking a personal’ approach stuff I just mentioned - it’s both of those things in action! If you take a look at the site, you’ll find a lot of really beautiful stories of people have wrestled with their sexuality, found pride in themselves, battled for acceptance, come to understand their own gender, experienced oppression - all kinds of things that are part of the collective queer experience. Talking about those experiences via the medium of a tarot card gives those stories a framework - perhaps tying an individual experience to a universal archetype (such as The Tower) or understanding a powerful element of yourself that’s reflected in one of the court cards.
I plan to re-launch the project properly very soon - at the moment it’s just a small collection of people who have participated so far and I’d love for this to be much bigger and way more diverse.
You write a lot of great blog posts about productivity, business and being a professional tarot reader. What is your best piece of advice to someone who is trying to go pro?
Aw man, this is a pet topic for me! But I’ll keep it short. The most important thing if you want to make this work is that you think of it as a business. Don’t faff around being a hippy about it and pretending you’re not doing it for the money - you can absolutely do tarot for love but if you’re going pro, then you also want an income stream. So get serious. Get a decent website. Show up. Deliver the goods. Charge properly. Stuff like that! Theresa Reed at The Tarot Lady is the place to learn about all that - her no-bullshit approach to running a ‘mystical business’ is practical and motivating.
You live on a boat, how awesome is that?
Very awesome! I live cheaply and simply - there’s no room for “stuff”, heating is from a small fire, and I’m really aware of the resources I use - water, gas, wood and coal - because I have to physically get it into the boat in the first place! I love that. When I moved aboard, I sold or gave away almost all of my possessions. I used to be a real hoarder, a junk shop junkie. Now, I’m just not so interested in ‘things’.
My boat is called Empress - in the summer I love the swans and geese that hang around my doorway, in winter, I love lying in bed while a windy storm bumps and rocks her. It’s wonderful being on the water. I’ve had some really fun adventures sailing this boat - and my old boat, Swallow - with my partner Em. We have some big plans for our future home (she’s a builder, so the world feels like our oyster!) but for now, I’m content living simple and small, with just the basics.
I want to thank Beth for letting me interview her and everyone should go and check her out on the web! Links Below!
Little Red Tarot Website
Theresa Reed had a fantastic Soul Proprietor memo the other day (if you don't get it sign up, they are free and full of good advice for the entrepreneur). This particular newsletter was about whether or not you should keep hustlin' in your business, even when your not doing as well as you might like. I loved this because this is something people don't like to talk about. People around you, while of course doing it out of love, will always encourage you to keep going with your own business, even when its not doing too well. I'm not here to tell you what to do with your business, but I am here to tell you what you can expect from the dreaded/most enlightening year of business: the first year.
I, myself, just wrapped up my first year. This year has been great to me, but I have also learned a lot of hard lessons. But the best thing about this year is that I understand my business so well, its like we one.
So some things you should know if you too are about to start or are in the mist of your first year...
You probably won't a ton of money.
Pretty much every business article you will read will tell you this. And they are right. Most the money you make you will be reinvested, spent on advertising, attending events, all kinds of different things. You may even spend more money than you make. Don't be discouraged by this fact. Unless you are totally in the hole and have seen no growth, understand that this is part of the process and if you feel your business growing, next year will be better.
Quality, not Quantity usually wins.
Your first year you will want to do everything. Any opportunity to make money, go to a party, doing a small fair, whatever it is, you will do it. And that's great. It helps you learn what you like and dislike, what was worth the trip and what wasn't. Sometimes you will find that you might waste some money doing things that don't pan out, but again, this is all part of the process. The second year you will know more about the events you attend and waste less time using marketing tactics that don't work, so you will probably be a lot more profitable.
You have to pay taxes, and you will hate it.
I have never owned the government money, so tax season was always great for me! I got a nice check and all was right with the world. Not this time. You will owe the government money and it will PAIN you to pay it. It will hurt you to your core. But do it. Seriously. If your gonna go to jail, you want to go for something cool like protesting for human rights, not for something like failing to pay your taxes. During your first year, try to save some of your money because you won't always know how much you may owe. The first time you have to pay taxes, make sure you make note of how much it was so you can know for the next time.
You will acquire haters and/or copycats.
Ah. There is a quote I always tell my sister when she dealing with jerks, "My haters are my greatest motivators." You will find that once you start getting a bit successful or your business starts gaining some legs, people who you don't even know (and some you do) will come out of the woodwork with all sorts of objections and rude comments. And the best part of it is that most of the people who have something to say are usually not doing anything half as hard as running their own business. So don't even worry about.
You will meet a lot of people, don't dismiss them.
Networking is big your first year. Your going to feel like you meet everyone and give everyone your card but nothing is happening. Just wait. After a while all that talking and explaining what you do will come back and benefit you. Keep your new friends and all those business cards and things will start to pay off.
You will learn how to manage your time- or you won't.
So just because you weren't super busy your first year doesn't mean you can take a break. Keep looking out for events to do, keep in touch with contacts, write those blog posts, do whatever you can do because once you get busy, you will wish you had time back to do all those things.
You will see trends, so pay attention.
Even if things aren't as busy as you would like, pay attention to trends. For example, I have found running classes during the summer was not really a good idea because people are away with their families. The fall is very busy for most tarot card readers, so make sure you try and get most of your other work done before that. Paying attention to trends is important so you will know when to save up money for the times that business is slow.
What have you learned in your first year of business? Let me know!
A few weeks ago I was at Odunde, a huge street fair in Philadelphia, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ashleigh ( I knew I liked her because she had a great name). I got a natal chart reading from her and it was fantastic! I knew I had to interview and learn more about her specialty, business astrology.
Me: How did you get into astrology?
Ashleigh: I got into astrology as a kid really. I was a bit of a bookworm so I was always read stuff. I have been reading [book] since I was two. So I happened across horoscopes in papers and magazines and I figured out I was an Aquarius. I would always read it and of course as a kid it didn't make sense to me. Over time I started to look more into it and I got more serious about it. A couple years ago, around 2010 or 2011 I started going to an astrologer. The first time I got a natal chart reading I was just like "Oh my God, this is everything!". It really got me, it was just really interesting. I kept getting readings and I kept wanting to know more but I didn't want to bug my astrologer to death, so I started to learn stuff on my own. I've always been a very "do-it-yourself" type person, I started to learning how to read my own chart. Then I started reading my friends charts, the charts of guys I was dating, and my friends were having me read charts of guys they were dating to try to figure stuff out. And it just kind of blossomed from there.
Me: What is it about astrology into particular, more than anything else really attracted you to it?
Ashleigh: I'll start with the fact that I am an Aquarius, my sun and moon, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and Ascending are all Aquarius in the first house. So I have a lot of Aquarius energy going on and I always wanted to understand it. Actually Aquarius rules astrology. I think what drew me to Astrology is that I've always been on a quest to figure out who I am. Because Aquarius is very much all about individuality, being original and being yourself. But you need to figure out who that is. You know, you got to try stuff out. So I think for me I love Astrology because it is a really good tool for self-mastery. It's so unique and individualized to you, there is no cookie cutter way to read someone's chart.. Even if you were born the same day as somebody, your chart may be totally different than theirs because the rising sign of the ascendant changes every two hours. Depending on what time you were born, you have a completely different chart than someone else. So I just like that Astrology is so vast, and there is so much still to learn. I mean, there are astrologers who have been doing this for 30, 40 years and they are still researching, still working, I mean, it never ends.
Me: You mentioned before you really enjoy astrology because you are looking to find more out about yourself. How has astrology really achieve that? How has it helped you from the time you started to now? How has it helped to learn more about yourself?
Ashleigh: Well I think it initially helped me achieve certain things because I... well in 2012 I visited Cleveland which is where I live now, and, I fell in love with the place. And I couldn't figure out why. I've always had this thing about being lead by my intuition, but I also know it's important to use my brain and use logic. So my decisions are usually a combination of the two. But that gut feeling has to be there. So then I consulted with my astrologer, and he introduced me to astrocartography, which is laying over certain lines and aspects of your natal chart over a map of the world and figuring out what areas of the world affect you different. Some places my be great for you professionally, but they may suck for your personally. There are places that are good for you to have children, places that would be good for you to network, places that would be good got you to have children, places for you grow and so on. As it turned out, the Mars line for my career was almost directly over Cleveland. So he said, "This would be a great place for you to start new and get your career going." That kind of gave me confirmation. I kept thinking, "Why am I so into this place?" and after that it made perfect sense. Coming to Cleveland has allowed me to really grow as a woman and a professional and has really gotten me to where I needed to be. Since I got here I held a director position and now I have started my own business, and that is within two years of being here. So astrology has served in a way... to find the logic behind my instincts. Sometimes we have these thoughts, and these things we want to do and these desires, and we don't know where they come from. But it is all within us. One of my favorite Astrologers, her name is Anne Oretelee, one of her phrases is that "if it's in your heart, it's in your chart".
Me: That's so cute!
Ashleigh: It is, but it's true! We have to determine whether these things that we truly desire and want are things we really deep down truly want or if it is something someone told us. I find that a lot of my clients are looking for that confirmation, looking for that validation. I want to make sure I'm on point.
Me: One really interesting I found about you is that you do business astrology. I had never heard anything about business astrology, I didn't even know people did that. If you could explain a bit about it, because I don't know if a lot of people know about it and it's just so cool.
Ashleigh: Business astrology is... most people call business astrology financial astrology, or electional astrology. The electional part comes from planetary trends that that affect the stock market and things like that.That I don't do much of but... doing astrology for businesses and companies themselves, as if they were an entity and then reading the chart that way. Business astrology is more of a 20th century thing. What peaked my interest in it was a quote from J.P. Morgan that said "Millionaires don't have astrologers, billionaires do". That really peaked my interest. It has helped me tremendously in my own business. It's like a little cheat sheet. For example, I'm actually doing a blog post about Chipotle. Chipotle as a business actually has a Virgo ascending, and that is the sign of health and agriculture... and Virgo is also very into systems and order, so you notice when you go into Chipotle, they mostly look the same and have the same aesthetic and you know exactly what your gonna get when you go to Chipotle. Also, in a business chart, the owner is reflected in some way. and I was looking at the founder, Steve Ells has a lot of Virgo placements in his chart including his Sun so he is very part of the business. When you lay out his chart and Chipotle's chart together, it's very interesting. That's what I love about Business astrology, it helps you run your business better. You can know when to launch something, when to hold back, when to brainstorm, when to strengthen your networking, when to ramp up your marketing, how to market, who to market to, it can get really granular.
Me: It's so amazing how involved you can get with all of these things, especially in business. The last question I have is what kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to know more about astrology?
Ashleigh: I would say learn the basics. Learn the planets, the qualities, the modalities, the elements, and you know all that good stuff. And use your chart, practice with your own chart, and try to be as objective as possible. It's easy to look at other peoples chart, but it's quite another to look at your own. I would definitely suggest getting a natal chart reading and get it from a couple different astrologers. You don't have to go to the same person, everyone is different. Go where the specialty lies. Like, I'm good with business, and someone else might be good with relationships.Try different people out and see what vibe you get from them. Also, read the charts of people in your life... especially your parents. it will definitely help you to see them differently. Lastly, don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Astrology is a lot and there is a lot to learn, but do one thing at a time. You never gonna know everything. Every astrologer is still learning, still growing and still figure it out.
I want to thank Ashleigh D. Johnson for taking some time to sit down with me and if you would like a business reading, here is where you can get in contact with this lovely lady:
Even with the emergence and popularity of yoga, mediation and other holistic modalities, divination in general still has a lot of negative stigmas attached to it. When people come to see me at a fair or festival, they come up to me and say things like "Hey tell me my future!" or "Read my mind!", when that is not what we do. Now every tarot reader is different, but here are some myths people have about us:
-All Tarot Readers are psychic.
One thing people don't seem to understand is that being a tarot reader and a psychic are not interchangeable. You can be one or both, but they are not the same. I asked Google what the definition of "psychic" and she said (for some reason I imagine Google is a woman) and what I got was "relating to or denoting faculties or phenomena that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws, especially involving telepathy or clairvoyance." Not all tarot readers "hear" or "see" anything at all. Some of them use the cards from a very textbook standpoint and just tell you wants happening based on meanings and combinations. Also, because of the stigma that comes with it, many readers don't like to call themselves "psychic" anyway.
-All Tarot Readers are Witches or Pagans.
Tarot being a form of divination is usually associated with the occult. Because of that, many other people involved different occult practices such as people in nature-based religions and different forms of magic and shamanism study tarot. But tarot is similar to mediation in the fact that it is a practice that doesn't subscribe to any one religion or faith. It can be practiced by anyone and is practiced by people from all different backgrounds.
-Tarot Readers are all about the money.
HAHAHAHAHA. Why am I laughing? Because this is non-sense. Now, you have some tarot readers who definitely are scam artist (refer to my article about "How to Spot a Con Artist") but that happens in just about any profession. Real ethical tarot card readers don't do it just to get paid. They actually do it because they want to help people. But then (for some reason, I don't know why) people ask, why do we charge? Because just like everyone else, we need to make a living. And why should we not get paid for our talents? And actually, I know more tarot readers and other spiritual practitioners who donate their time and/or money to charitable organizations than any other profession.
-Tarot Readers are uneducated/can't do anything else in their lives.
HAHAHAHAHA. Oh look at me, I'm laughing again! Why do you have the giggles this time, Ashley? I'll tell you why! When I started meeting more and more tarot people, I started realizing how freakin' smart they are. The amount of tarot readers I know who have Master's degrees is ridiculous. I know a few who have Doctorates and most have some type of college degree. And beyond traditional education, I know some tarot readers who are just brilliant people. Business people, authors, podcast hosts, teachers... the list goes on. These are tarot readers. Also, if your a tarot reader, you know that tarot is a never-ending learning process. Tarot involves studies of religion, spirituality, psychology, art and literature.There is always something new to find out or learn, so having a love of learning is kind of a must.
-The less you tell us, the better.
So imagine you are feeling really sick. Like your feeling horrible. So you decide to go see a doctor. The doctor asks, "So what are your symptoms?" And you say, "Well your a doctor, figure it out!!!". Does that make sense? Not really. That is how your tarot reader feels when you sit in silence and then expect them to just come and tell you every detail of everything you have ever wanted to know. I always tell my clients, if you have a specific situation you need to ask about, let me know. The more I know about the problem, the better I can help you answer it. Of course you don't have to tell us everything, but don't sit there tight lipped thinking your so clever getting one over on us. Darling, it's your money, so being honest and opened will normally get you more help and a more enjoyable experience.
-Tarot Readers can read minds.
No, we can not do that. Telepathy is very different than being a reader. When we lay down the cards, they tell us what is going on in relation to your issue. Also, being honest is the best way to go about your reading. Coming into your reading and lying to try to "prove" something is only hurting yourself.
-All Tarot Readers tell fortunes.
Not all readers are predictive. Many readers use the cards to clarify a situation, not to tell the future. If you want a predictive reader, make sure to ask before you purchase a reading.
-Tarot Readers lean on tarot as a crutch and are therefore not as good as psychics, mediums, etc,.
This is a statement I can't stand. I find it is just a way of practitioners to put other practitioners down. There is no "better" way to do readings. There is nothing wrong with using tarot cards, clouds, shells, a pendulum, runes, animal innards (even though that's kind of gross) or nothing at all to do readings. This is what we use and this is our craft. No one says a sculptor is better than a painter because it is harder to carve marble than to use paint do they? Of course not. Because they are both trying to create something, and regardless of how they do it, it will be interesting. Same thing with us spiritual folk. No matter what tools you use, we are all working towards the same goal, to try to make things better and easier for our clients.
Any myths I missed?! Let me know!
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