A guest post shared by April G. Content note: suicide.
My Soom Fairy Legend doll, which I designed to look like my Faery Guide
I have always felt a natural connection to the world of faery.
I remember as a child being taught never to pull up mushrooms in the lawn as if they were weeds, for these were the homes of faeries. I had a picture book of Cicely Mary Barker’s flower fairies, one for each month of the year. I still remember the name of my birth month’s fairy: the Yew Tree. Although she was not as beautiful or colorful as some of the other images on those pages, I remember holding a special place in my heart for that particular little being.
As a young girl I eschewed most things traditionally feminine, from dresses to the neon pink of the Barbie aisle at the toy store, but I loved all things faery related. I could put up with syrupy pink hues only if they came attached to faeries. When my friends and I played make believe, we were always faeries of one sort of another, and I was usually in charge of inventing our storylines.
The Yew Tree Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker
Now, this is something I always feel the need to explain to people before I embark on a card reading for them:
When I speak of Faery (the place) and faeries (the beings), it is not because I believe there are invisible little beings floating around us at all times.
I certainly enjoy the rich mythology and tradition behind the idea of faery/fairy/fae/etc. When I speak of the faeries, I am speaking of archetypal energies, and how they might manifest themselves. The faeries of my oracle cards are simply convenient examples, the vehicle through which we can understand our desires and needs and how best to tackle any problems that come out of those.
Looking back, it makes sense that I felt more of a connection to Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle deck than any other tarot or oracle cards.
My interest in tarot began in earnest in high school, and I will admit that it began with watching Vision of Escaflowne, an anime in which the main character is an expert tarot card reader. I used the money from my part time job and bought two books on tarot and a deck of cards I thought were neat from the local Borders Books.
This was in the very early days of the internet, so there was no reliable community for me to turn to through my computer screen. Instead, in my free time, I sat in my room and read through those tarot books and wrote copious notes on card meanings and compiled them in a little notebook to carry around with my cards.
However, I never felt entirely connected to my tarot deck.
I tried purchasing a couple different decks from the traditional Waite-Rider to a dragon themed deck? but still, it felt like I was wading through molasses in my head when I attempted to interpret the cards during a reading.
Furthermore, I had begun trying to learn tarot cards with the intention of mostly giving readings to myself. I could not imagine sharing this new hobby with my high school friends, most of whom were devout followers of their respective religions. But the first tarot book I cracked open almost immediately warned against doing readings for oneself, lest you influence the cards and find yourself unable to get an accurate or helpful answer.
Then I picked up Brian Froud’s first oracle deck, the Faeries’ Oracle.
Being a child of the 80s, I was already familiar with Froud?’s aesthetic and it held a special place in my heart. On top of this, I immediately felt more attuned with the energy of this particular deck. The guidebook that came with these cards very quickly grabbed me more fully than any of the books on tarot cards I had read before. The exercises that the author, Jessica Macbeth, suggested in order to get to know the cards seemed effortless to me, in contrast to my previous struggles to interpret traditional tarot symbols.
One of the first things she describes is how to ‘spread your wings’ in order to bring energy in, and then to extend your ?tail? in order to ground yourself. To this day, I do this exercise to prepare for a reading, and sometimes when I just need to calm myself and relax when I feel anxious. I know I am on the right path or surrounded by positive and helpful energy when I ‘feel’ my wings spread almost of their own accord, listening to these nudges from the faeries has never led me astray.
The Faeries? Oracle by Brian Froud
I have looked to these cards for help and guidance at various times in my life.
When I was stressing out after graduating college, unsure of what to do with myself, I would meditate on the Singer of Transfiguration and feel a warm glow in my chest. This card signifies transformation, transcendence, and the joy of success after a time of struggle. When I wanted to give up, I would instead focus on what was to come, knowing that my efforts would all be worth it someday.
For a number of years, while doing readings in college I repeatedly pulled the Laume. Normally she symbolizes unconditional giving and receiving, but when reversed (as she was for me), she tells you that perhaps you have been giving too much and need to stop and attend to your own needs for a bit.
At the time I was stuck in an emotionally abusive friendship where I expended almost all of my emotional energy supporting her, but would be called selfish or a bad friend for bringing up my own problems. It has been a few years since I extricated myself from that relationship and now I have been seeing the Laume right side up in my readings again. I smile when I see her, knowing that it is healthy to give of yourself to those close to you, but I need to be choosier about who deserves that from me now.
Of course, since I first began studying oracle cards, I have learned more about tarot and realized that some of my first impressions from those books weren’t entirely accurate. I feel that, as long as you enter the reading with an open mind/heart and think closely about what questions you want to ask, you can certainly do readings for yourself, no matter the deck. In fact, it is extremely useful and even recommended to do daily card readings for oneself as a way of learning the cards. Much like I learned from my oracle deck, tarot isn?t so much about predicting the future as it is about gaining insight into your present self and situation. However, by the time I realized these truths I was already too connected to my faeries and continued down that path as the correct one for myself.
I have also gotten past my childhood abhorrence for skirts, dresses and pink. I blame my initial rejection of these things on a combination of internalized misogyny and my nascent homosexuality. If I didn’t dress like a girl too obviously, I thought, boys would just ignore me and maybe I could hide the proportions of my body that society told me were wrong. Interestingly, I realized that I am a lesbian around the same time I became interested in tarot cards, although those things aren?t directly linked. It took me almost another decade before I became comfortable wearing dresses and began to express my current hard femme self (because motorcycle boots go with everything. Everything.) My femininity is neither weakness nor a product solely for male consumption; and I can stomp on anyone who says otherwise, whether wearing a skirt or pants, and the faeries will approve and laugh gleefully.
Through card readings, I have learned more about myself, facing difficult truths that I nonetheless needed to face, and have also been brought closer to others for whom I have offered to do readings.
Since I first started reading oracle cards, Brian Froud has come out with a second faerie themed deck, which he created along with his wife,Wendy Froud. This deck is called Heart of the Faerie Oracle and is meant to focus on relationships. At first I was apprehensive, not knowing if I wanted to dedicate the time and energy into learning a whole new deck, but of course I picked them up anyway. I ended up finding this new deck very intuitive and now use it as my main deck for reading for others.
The only thing I regret about learning to use my oracle cards is the seeming lack of community attached to them. I see people able to discuss tarot card meanings across a variety of social media, but cannot participate myself. There was a bulletin board on Brian Froud’s site for a while that I poked at and discussed the Faeries’ Oracle, but it has since disappeared. I wonder how I can connect with others who have taken the journey to faerie as I have? – perhaps I will simply have to create such a space myself.
Another interesting aspect of Brian Froud’s cards was the place to invent one”s own cards.
The original Faeries’ Oracle comes with a blank card, number 0, labeled ?Faerie Guide.? In the Heart of the Faeries Oracle deck there are three unnumbered cards with images drawn by Froud, but they do not come with any name or explanation; that is for the reader to intuit on their own. Here, I would like to introduce you to my Faerie Guide, the Butterfly Tamer:
The Butterfly Tamer. Art by ProdigyBombay
Butterflies fly so fast and hard because they have such a short time here on earth; there is beauty in that. The Butterfly Tamer is a faerie who understands that. She loves her butterfly friends but knows their time together is brief and cherishes it while she has it. When this card comes up in a spread, it implores you to live life now, for it is too short to waste being bogged down in misery. It can also reference metamorphosis, like a caterpillar one day becomes a butterfly. You may have changed more than you think, you need only discover your wings to fly. And this is the important part: you must take responsibility to spread your own wings. You can find happiness, and the journey is no one else?s responsibility but your own.
When this card shows up reversed, it can mean that perhaps you are living your life too fast.
It is important to live life fully, surely, but don?t take it for granted either. Slow down and re-evaluate. Are you fully out of your cocoon to be flying so far, so fast?
The story behind this card for me is extremely personal but I would like to share it here with you all. In part to better explain the origins of this card, but also because I hope it might help someone else. I suffer from clinical depression which first manifested when I was in middle school. I hid it and suffered in silence for a very long time. In my sophomore year of high school I had finally had enough and began contemplating suicide in earnest. There is a nature preserve near my parents’ house, and I planned to throw myself off of a large cliff deep within it. One day I went for a walk in the woods by myself in order to stake out the place I had decided to die. This cliff was part of an old pioneer’s trail off the beaten path, the entrance of which was marked by two tree stumps standing as sentries. When I arrived before these tree stumps I paused to take a breath before entering the denser part of the woods. It was in that moment that I noticed a small butterfly flying by me in the tall grass. It was just a tiny white cabbage butterfly yet it still drew my attention as surely as any of its more colorful brethren. It alighted before me and paused a moment. When I turned to look at it, it took off and fluttered back down the trail. Without thinking, I began to follow it. It seemed to move slowly enough for me to keep it in my sight. If I paused, worried of scaring it away, it would land on another piece of grass and wait for me to catch up. Finally, it took off into the air and away from my line of vision. When I looked up, my concentration broken, I realized that I had followed it all the way back to the edge of the preserve. That butterfly had led me out of the woods. I never went back on my own, nor did I ever make it to that cliff. A few days later I went to my school?s counselor during a free period and told her about the pain I was in. That is how I ended up finally getting help.
Most people who have suffered from depression immediately realize the origins of the Butterfly Tamer card. Not the specifics of my story in the woods that day, but what the card?s lesson represents. For people contemplating suicide, it often takes just One Thing to make them step back from the ledge. It can be something small and inconsequential, but that’s not what is important. What is important is that you do step back. That you choose to go on living. My One Thing was that butterfly, and I hold that in my heart at all times, but especially when I fall into depression again. I hope that sharing my story with more people might help someone else get through something like that.
When I pull my Faerie Guide in a spread for myself, I know that it symbolizes ‘me’, and is also reminding me of the lesson of the Butterfly Tamer.
This is a lesson I learned through a lot of therapy as well as the loving support of my close family and friends. I don?t deserve to be unhappy. My life is indeed worth living. But it is up to me to go out there and live it. When the Butterfly Tamer appears reversed, I know I am not being true to myself or otherwise ignoring my own intuition.
At the end of the day, we almost always know the answers to what we ask the cards; they just have to remind us.
About the author
April is a queer grad student living in NYC. She loves things both silly and serious including fairytale creatures, Japanese popular culture, and her beautiful girlfriend. In her free time she enjoys doing oracle card readings, trying to figure out what spirituality means to her, and watching reruns of procedural crime dramas.
If you are interested in connecting and discussing the Faeries’ Oracle, you can check out her tumblr.