Queering the Tarot is a guest post series written by Cassandra Snow. Cassandra takes the most common interpretations and manifestations of the cards and discuss ways you might read them for a LGBTQQIA* client—or for yourself.
From the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn
Queering the Tarot: XIII. Death
As Spring approaches, we re-examine the Death card here at Queering the Tarot, which I find completely appropriate. Death gets a bad rap, but is actually one of my favorite cards in the tarot.
While the card is widely understood not to represent a physical death, but a metaphorical one, (an ending, an opportunity lost, a phase of our life complete), most people still look upon those ideas with regret and sadness. In my own life however, these times have led to rebirth, reinvention, and are followed by periods of joy. This is in part a personal addiction to new beginnings, but it’s also because the Death card symbolizes what I deep down believe to be true—that we sometimes lose to gain, that we must kill off parts of ourselves to be our best self, that we must accept the cycles of death in our lives with dignity in order to usher in the following eras of rebirth.
From the Justice League Tarot and Vertigo Tarot
Because I take a sunnier view of Death overall and frequently focus more on the opportunity for change and growth that comes with it, my own queered version reflects that optimism. In a queer person’s life, there is constant change and death, starting with the coming out process. When we accept that we are gay, for example, we are closing the door on the possibility of the societally approved heteronormative life, but we are stepping into a life where we get to be who we are and love (or lust after) who we love (or lust after).
From the Spiral Tarot
Another example of necessary death in queer life is that of the transition for transgender people. This is the number one card that comes up for clients in or on the verge of transition for me, for very good reason. Often these querents are entering a totally new life—it’s called a dead name for a reason. While some do feel a sense of nostalgia and sadness when thinking about life pre-transition, across the board it is recognized how necessary and important that death is. For most of my clients going through this, Death is a welcome sight as it means the end of an era where everything was wrong and not indicative of who they are. When you are able to live your truth, that time of secrets, lies, and hiding dies. This is a common queer narrative we’ve all seen play out both in fiction and our friend’s lives many times, and maybe it’s the rebirth that follows that gives me such a loving view of the Death card in the first place.
From the Cosmos Tarot and Oracle
When queering the tarot however, Death can not be all ascension and promises of future joy, as there is also the unfortunate interpretation that sometimes shows up in this card. For a queer seeker, there is a real possibility of losing loved ones or a sense of family as you come into your own, and it is for those reasons that I don’t take a wholly positive, naïve view of this card. These are real, tragic deaths of relationships and that hurts, and those are deaths that we mourn.
Everyone loses relationships with friends and family in their lives, but it is fairly unique to LGBTQQIAP+ persons to lose those relationships because of who you are, and that definitely needs to be respected in reading for someone queer. For some this unfortunately extends beyond lost relationships. It is not uncommon for someone who is not straight and cisgender to come out or be outed at work and lose one’s job, or to be outed to your landlord and lose your home. Death may come up in this instance, and should be frankly but as compassionately and with respect to the querent’s comfort level as possible. As someone who’s been reading tarot for a over a decade now though, I can promise you that once that mourning is over you will be able to welcome in relationships full of actual unconditional love and support, and you will understand why that pain happened, but for those walking in our world as a marginalized person, that is a much harder thing to trust in because of the very real bigotry and hatred that can lead to tragic endings in our lives.