Tarot contributor Jessica designs a spread to help us understand our relationship with sentimental objects that are weighing us down (and then get rid of them).
I live in Michigan, and I tend to hibernate during the months of cold and darkness. I get sluggish and slack. Then the days get longer, the sunlight streams through the windows, and I discover that I hate my house and everything in it. Right about now is when I get spring-cleaning fever.
For me, cleaning pretty much always begin clearing away the crap that’s accumulated while I’ve been too busy or too distracted or too consumed by physical lassitude and existential despair to deal with said crap. (Midwestern winters are no joke, y’all.) So, as I started considering what this month’s column might be, I found myself thinking about my house and the mess that’s making me crazy now that there’s enough light to see it and I have enough energy to care. (Midwestern winters are no joke, y’all.)
Sometimes, decluttering is easy. That self-help book that has been sitting on my bedside table, unopened, for months? Give-away pile. A really nice box that I kept because it might come in handy while wrapping Christmas presents? Recycling bin. Lipstick I bought five years ago and have worn exactly once? Garbage can.
But what about a pair of corduroy overalls my teen outgrew in 2008? A mixtape made by the boy who broke my heart 25 years ago? The Hillary Clinton action figure my best friend gave me when we just knew that we were about to have our first woman president? What am I supposed to do with that stuff?
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Maybe Tarot can help. One of the things I love about Tarot is that it compels me to think deeply and that it often presents me with possibilities I hadn’t considered. With that in mind, I designed a spread to help us understand our relationship with sentimental objects that are weighing us down. This is a four-card spread, and these are the questions to keep in mind while laying out the cards:
- Why am I keeping this object?
- What will happen if I let go of this object?
- How can I transmute my relationship with this object?
- What am I making space for when I let go of this object?
Olivia, Ramshackle Glam’s Editorial Director, offered to serve as the querent for my first reading with this spread. The object she wants to let go of is a purple fleece that belonged to her grandmother.
The first card I drew was The Empress. I like to say that I don’t believe in magic, except when I believe in it. This is one of those moments when I believe in it. The Empress is the matriarch of the Tarot. From her reaction to seeing this card, I get the impression that—for the moment, at least—Olivia believes in magic, too. She is clinging to that purple fleece because it is a tangible reminder of a woman who, for her, embodied everything good we associate with motherhood and mothering.
The next card I drew was the Six of Swords. The Swords are, to my mind, the toughest cards in Tarot. The talk about the realm of intellect, and they tend to show up when it’s time for us to acknowledge and address a painful truth. The Six of Swords is about moving on from a difficult situation. There are some varieties of grief that we live with forever, but this doesn’t mean that our experience of that grief doesn’t evolve. One way to look at the numbered cards in the Minor Arcana is as a long cycle divided into three parts. The Sixes represent what some readers call “second completion.” The full cycle won’t end until the Nine shows up, but seeing the Six of Swords here suggests to me that Olivia has reached a transition point. You can tell just by looking that this is not a happy or easy card, but sometimes the very best thing we can do actually kind of sucks. It might even totally suck. But the very process we are looking at here—letting go of something that’s hard to let go off—is an excellent example of what the Six of Swords asks us to do.
And now the Knight of Cups is here to help Olivia transform her relationship with that purple fleece. The Cups rule the watery realm of emotion, and the Knights of Tarot are at the beginning of their quest. I see this card as a message about the new possibilities that will open up for Olivia if she does the hard work that the Six of Swords asks of her. This might manifest, at first, as a massive and not-easily-contained wave of feeling. Once that subsides, though, Olivia will possess emotional wherewithal she didn’t have before. We imbue objects with meaning because we are physical creatures living in the physical world. But Olivia’s grandmother does not live on in a piece of synthetic fabric. Olivia’s grandmother lives on in the hearts of the people who love her.
Finally, we arrive at the Nine of Pentacles and—no joke—if I simply chosen the cards that would have best fit my intentions for this spread and this column, I might have chosen the Nine of Pentacles as a bookend to The Empress. Pentacles talk to us about the world we experience with our senses, and the Nines represent the end of a long cycle. The Nine of Pentacles shows us a woman who has earned the luxury of simply enjoying what she has. Seeing this card here really makes me think that hanging onto that purple fleece has created a spiritual roadblock for Olivia. My sense is that it simply is not adequate to fulfill the emotional task she has assigned it. To put it another way, Olivia is pouring meaning into this object and not getting what she needs in return. It’s not a touchstone for happy memories, but a material reminder of what’s missing. Letting go of it will remove a source of discomfort and make space for new joys.
Some Notes on Disposal
Whenever I am thinking about ritual magic, I ask myself, “Can I set something on fire?” I am generally unimpressed with any magic that doesn’t involve setting something on fire, and I will suggest that disposing of whatever it is you need to get rid of by consigning it to the flames can be very satisfying. Of course you will want to use common-sense precautions like keeping your fire confined to a suitable container. I like a metal bowl resting on a heat-safe surface if I’m inside. When weather permits—especially if I’ve got a lot of shit to burn—I build a little bonfire in the belly of my grill.
If the object you’re releasing is something that still has practical value, you might consider donating it. Knowing that someone else will get use out of an object that has become burdensome to you can be very satisfying.
In some circumstances, the garbage can might be your best option. Some stuff is just toxic that way. If you’re choosing this method of disposal, I would like to recommend using a receptacle on the street or a random dumpster. Once you’ve decided that you need this shit out of your life, you do not want it sitting in the trash can in your kitchen.