I fell in love with Tarot and Qabala at almost the same time, and by pure coincidence the first Tarot deck I purchased was one with the ten spheres of the Tree of Life embedded in the art of the Major Arcana cards (Ellen Cannon Reed’s “The Witches Tarot,” which I purchased around the same time I read her book “The Witches’ Qabala”). I’ve spent the last several years studying the intersections between Qabala and Tarot, as each can lend insights to the other. Qabala acts as the “operating system” of most modern Tarot decks.
Still, like with Qabala, I have struggled with the heteronormativity, patriarchy, gender binarism, and agrarian-focus depicted on most standard Tarot decks. Where do I see myself, a queer outside the gender binary who has lived their whole life in metropolitan communities, within these cards?
Despite the fact that many of the queer people in my life use Tarot as a personal growth and spiritual tool, and though many top books on Tarot are written by queer authors, and though many queer-centered Tarot decks have been released in recent years, the world was lacking for a book specifically about viewing the Tarot through a queer lens until Cassandra Snow’s 2019 book, “Queering the Tarot.”
Why do we need a book specifically on viewing the Tarot this way? As Beth Maiden of LittleRedTarot.com says in the Foreword, the Tarot is and has been an excellent tool for queer people to “explore our collective story, its struggles, its resilience, its growth.” As a group that exists on the margins of society, we are drawn to tools that have been historically marginalized as well. As mainstream paths to power and self-actualization are often cut off to us, we seek unconventional ways to reclaim ourselves, and that includes magick.
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.Cassandra Snow, Queering the Tarot
Snow is a sex-positive, polyamorous, genderfluid person who has a queer-platonic partner and identifies with the kink community, and the book embraces the whole spectrum of sexual, romantic, and gender-related queer identities and experiences. Snow examines each of the 78 cards from a queer perspective, noting where queer readers could see their own unique journeys, worries, and joys in the cards, including personal anecdotes to add flavor and depth to the understanding of each card. The book is illustrated with images from Robin Scott’s gorgeous and inclusive Urban Tarot deck, which has quickly become one of my favorite decks.
One of the things I most appreciate about this book is how Snow includes multifaceted ways to approach each card, and reminds us there is no one, correct interpretation of any card. Snow offers a lens through which to view the cards, but encourages the reader to trust to their own connection with the cards just as much. While openly acknowledging personal struggles with certain cards, like the Hierophant, and the pains that can be connected to the symbolism on certain cards for queer people, Snow gives readers full permission not to work to put a positive spin on every single card in the deck. If the meaning of a card to you is negative, then that’s how to interpret it: “You are where the intuition and the magic lie,” Snow says.
When examining specifically-gendered cards like The Emperor/Empress, Magician/High Priestess, and kings and queens of the court cards, Snow’s approach is to examine the experience over the portrayed gender to get at its truth. The Empress represents anyone, regardless of gender, who is nurturing, artistic, in tune with nature, for example.
Though the book is a relatively quick read, it’s deeply thought-provoking and has added many new, intriguing dimensions to my interpretations as I read for myself and other queer querents. It’s a welcome addition to my Tarot library.