Lettie Laughter: the femmiverse, grandmothers and decolonization

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This week I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing the brilliant Lettie Laughter of High Moon Femme Tarot. They are an indigenous queer femme powerhouse whose take on the tarot is both deeply politically meaningful and also heart-bustingly wise and fierce.

You read with a Collective Tarot deck, and when you first got the deck you lost the book of descriptions. It seems to me that in some ways this was a liberating process for you, because you learned to connect with the deck from your intuition rather than through someone else’s guidance. Personally, I feel your voice is so unique because of your ability to trust your interpretation of the cards. Do you have advice to help others cultivate their own unique interpretations of the cards?

1. Make it personal.
I had a writing teacher once who told me to be as specific as possible when telling a story, to pull the personal details through, & that by doing so I would find my work more accessible, more relatable to the reader. I find this to be true, & what I love about writing I consider to be good. I want to feel the heart beat, feel the blood rush, cry the same tears, & laugh with the bones of honesty. This is how I read tarot.

I remember the first reading I did solo, without the book because I lost it, back in 2013. The tarot reading was for a friend who was in from out of town, & there was a super specific detail that came up during the reading that felt potentially so wrong, but they perked up immediately & affirmed it! That was the first time I felt like I maybe I wouldn’t need the books to tell me what was what in tarot-reading-land. I had tapped into the language of symbols, made them so very personal, & read them back to my friend. That is essentially how I read for my clients now.

2. Highlight what you want to remember.
I like to spend at least a few months giving myself tarot readings with new decks by reading from the books they come with to begin familiarizing myself with them. Next, I begin highlighting the parts in the book’s intended interpretations & making notes, choosing what pops out at me strongest. You know, sometimes when you read something from the book, you’re just like, What? No. That shit I leave out.

3. Pull out symbols & stories.
One of the things I love about reading tarot are the images on the cards! They’re all so different, yet carry bones of familiarity. I allow myself to see what I see, to allow those associations to exist & inform how I read them. For example, there are cards that remind me of taking selfies, of daydreaming while floating on your back, & of community care through pouring tea & offering tinctures. Once I am able to identify a theme, I uncover the story that the card is trying to communicate through the images.

I’m a storyteller. I come from storytellers. I pretty much communicate through stories in general. I’ve come to really appreciate & honor this about myself as an indigenous femme, because although I do not speak Diné Bizaad (the Navajo language), I do carry the language patterns of communicating through story & details in said story. Diné Bizaad is a descriptive language, which often means that answers are given in contextual paragraphs rather than concise sentences. When I tell my clients, “The story that comes with this card is…” I am trying to convey & inspire the feelings of the power of gentleness in the Strength card, the hope of renewal after so much loss in Nine of Feathers, & how one can heal their lineage through recipes on how to live & love in the Three of Keys. The layers of story are a necessity.

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In much of your writing you talk to or about the “femmeiverse”. What is the “femmeiverse” and how does it relate to your tarot and healing work?

People reference the Universe all the time, which is cool. I’m not judging. But as a queer brown femme, I like to create my own language to interact & understand my life. I am also trying to find ways to center myself, my experience because it is hard to find that kind of unabashed affirmation when my everyday is sharp with the violences of white supremacy, femmephobia, fatphobia, ableism, & all the other shitty oppressive shit. I feel like, although the Universe might know my name & age & that I’m a Cancer, the Femmeiverse knows my femme ancestry with the intimacy of hand holding & stories told with stars as the only light. & I wanna talk with & to such a benevolent force when femmeifesting the good shit I am just learning to tell myself I can really have!

I really like to reference the Femmeiverse when working with clients who love & cherish &/or identify as femme because it sends a strong message to them that femme is valuable, important, powerful, & so very necessary. Femme is also one of the places I draw my power to heal & connect through, & I want that to be reflected in the work I do. It took another femme, who was actually giving me a tarot reading, to tell me that it was because I was queer & brown & femme that I have all the feelings I do, the power I do, & the wisdom I do. Not in spite of. This changed everything for me. This is also how I know & trust that reading tarot is a legit way of bringing healing work into this world. It happened for me, & I hope to offer the same.

I pray a lot, too, & ever since the summer I was 19, I’ve deliberately renamed & refashioned the divine source I commune with. I was raised with certain ideas of who & what god is, but it never felt like that god gave a fuck about me. It was not gonna work for me while I was trying to heal through trauma stuff, so I decided to change that face to resemble someone more like me. & here I am, 23 years later, praying to the Femmeivese, & ending prayers with “afemme,” something a friend of mine started saying one day over dinner I think, touching upon & embracing the divine within my precious self.

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What are your thoughts about tarot as a tool for decolonization work?

Decolonization is not going back to the way things were, that is never going to happen, but maybe something more like remembering core teachings of who we are & have always been. Colonization is a force that strips us of our humanity, makes us think we have to become sharp & willing to take down the ones we love to survive. Some of the ways to counter & heal that narrative, to potentially decolonize, is to bring back & nurture the humanity within ourselves, the ones we love & bring into the family fold, & then extend this practice to our wider communities & yonder. My main practice for this is vulnerability & what a friend & I coined as “soul-bearing reciprocity.”

I don’t think that all tarot is inherently actively decolonizing shit, but I know that in honoring myself & my own process, I am throwing oppression off it’s game because I came here to win, too. I know that breathing every day, loving even through a broken busted up heart, & trusting the power of my magic is fucking up the state that tries to kill me & so many other lovely people who deserve life. Every day I wake up & keep trying is a miracle.

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Your relationship to your grandmothers and your ancestors has an enormous influence on your healing work. How do these relationships effect your tarot practice? Do you have any advice for readers who are seeking to connect with their ancestors through the tarot?

I’ve recently come to understand & name how I read as mediumship tarot. Basically, the way that I read tarot is through connecting with my grandmothers, Lettie & Lucy (who are both in spirit form), & with the client’s permission, my grandmothers connect & communicate with their spirit guides & ancestors. Then, when the client offers up their inquiry, their spirit guides & ancestors are the ones who respond, which is really nice because since they’re always around they have background info & understand the layers of what is being asked about. Everyone, the spirit guides & ancestors, brings all the info to me through the tarot cards, & I read it all back to the client. My grandmothers, ancestors, & other spirit guides are pivotal for how I practice all the healing work I do, & this is true in tarot reading, too.

When I first started reading tarot for people who were not the friends & family I have been reading for for years, I had to critically understand how what I do was working, & almost like a faint feeling or whisper, the ancestral element came to me. It seemed blaringly obvious & inconsequential at the same time. I had no idea that it would become so central to my work, & I am so grateful that they are. It kinda takes the pressure off of me to know everything or do the right thing, which can unfortunately foster an already parading imposture syndrome kinda thing. I am always reminding myself that I am a channel, that it is not my job to decide what is shared, but that I find the best way to do it.

It is important for me to be transparent about the fact that I have not always had this connection to my grandmothers. I’ll share about Lettie for now because I’ve worked with her the longest, & Lucy & I are still getting to know each other, she’s newly passed (a little over a year), but I know she is also here with me.

I was not a fan of grandma Lettie, who I knew as grandma Susie, grandma Yazzie, up until eight or nine years ago. I was a devastated child who wanted to blame someone for my mother’s inability to mother me, & the source, as far as I could tell, was her mother, Susie. She was the source of my shitty childhood & my mother’s shitty childhood, & I was gonna hate her about it. & I did, much to the dismay & horror of my family. I wasn’t rude or unkind, but I did refuse to play a flute solo at my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, which embarrassed my mother & got me at least a month’s worth of being grounded. My relationship to her was so complicated.

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But when I was 25-years-old, she started dying, & something inside of me knew she needed me. I began to pray for her & her healing as she made her way back to Spirit. & I was there in her last days, fumbling my way through some kinda spiritual practice to help her finish her healing work before she left.

When she passed, I was in my favorite cousin’s kitchen with my mom & four-year-old baby Panda, my favorite cousin & her mother, my favorite aunt, & my favorite cousin’s toddler baby, who is also Panda’s favorite cousin. We were in the kitchen making a breakfast of fried potatoes & frybread, laughing & enjoying being together, so confident grandma Yazzie would be there once we rested & showered & had eaten—that’s the only reason we all left vigil in the first place. & that’s when the call came that she had passed.

I like to think that she was there with us in the kitchen, so pleased to be part of this lineage, to be hanging out in the kitchen when magic happens & hands that love to peel potatoes & make dough & spin the bread counter-clockwise like she taught them. I wonder, too, if maybe she had even been waiting for the love & laughter we created that morning to finally make her departure.

Since then, it has been seven years of trying to figure out whether or not I was really talking with her, whether or not this connection is real, asking for signs, trusting the gentlest of intuitions & nurturing them until I could hold the born fruit & partake of the sweetness that is her love. I know that I could not have the relationship I have with her today if I hadn’t felt all the resentment & hurt & anger for all those years. I kinda wore those things our, wrung them out completely while she was here, & now my channels to her are based on love, healing, & guidance. I trust her because I trust myself. & that’s why I would say to anyone wanting to connect with their ancestors, trust yourself & your process.

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5 comments

  1. Beth
    Beth says:

    Thank you so much Lettie and Andi for this completely awesome interview. I’ve learned so much from these words, I will come back to this post over and over again.

  2. Melanie says:

    Mmmmmm, so much goodness here….thank you Andi and Lettie. Such spaciousness and versatility in your expression of spirituality and divinity…….a potent blend of intuition and honouring your ancestors that screams grounded femme magic to me. Lots to integrate here, and like Beth, I’ll be coming back for another read.

  3. Marianne says:

    There are so many riches in this post! Thanks so much for sharing. Like Beth said, I’ll come back to this interview again and again. For now, I’m introducing “femmeifesting” into my vocabulary, because that is fucking BOSS.

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