See the Cripple Dance: Witchcraft for crazy people

As the newest member of the Little Red Tarot team of contributors, allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Maranda Elizabeth, my pronoun is they, I’m 31, and I’m a writer, zinester, and witch. I’m also a capital-C Crazy cripple-goth, non-binary amethyst-femme, high school dropout, a recovering alcoholic with almost six years sober, and I’ve been writing and self-publishing for most of my life.

I’m a Libra Sun and Gemini Rising with a Sagittarius Moon. I grew up in poverty with my identical twin and our single mom in a small town on Ojibway, Chippewa, and Anishinabek land, also known as Lindsay, Ontario, and I now live in a bachelorex (my non-binary word for bachelor/bachelorette) apartment named Amethyst Cathedral, on Haudenosaunee, Ojibway, Chippewa, Huron-Wendat, Anishinabek land, also known as Toronto, Ontario. I’ve had 33 homes – or “homes” (including but not limited to: houses, apartments, rooms, psych wards, a detention centre, and a group home) – in my 31 years, but Amethyst Cathedral is the place I’ve held onto the longest. Three years now!

When I was in my mid-teens, I began making zines. After a small handful of first efforts, I started writing a perzine (personal zine) called Telegram, and I’ve written under that name for 15 years. In 2012, I published a collection of the first decade of my work as Telegram: A Collection of 27 Issues with Mend My Dress Press, and in 2013, I self-published my first novel, Ragdoll House. I’m currently finalizing edits for my next novel, We Are the Weirdos, as well as working on a non-fiction book, To Be True to My Own Weirdnesses: Re-Incarnations, Re-Iterations, & Re-Imaginings – and of course, I still make zines!

To tell Little Red Tarot readers about myself, I decided to take a selfie with three of my favourite cards.

Each of these cards symbolize how and why I work/write, and how and why I stay alive.

In brief (with further notes in the future): The Three of Pentacles represents madness, creativity, and crip-body feelings as gifts and skills in my unending process of making a body of work with a spiritual purpose even/especially when I’m feeling unseen or underappreciated. The Five of Pentacles represents surviving with chronic pain and disability; crips-supporting-crips; the painful realities of struggling with poverty, inaccessibility, and feelings of not-belonging; and validating feelings of loneliness, isolation, and fear. The Six of Cups represents one of my forms of time-travel, interacting with my younger selves as well as bringing them information from adulthood, listening to them today, tracing lineages (particularly queer, mad, crip, and sober lineages), and re-thinking dissociation as a form of information-retrieval for present and future creative and personal projects.

My madness, my writing, and my recovery are all forms of personal and political resistance. I like to talk/write about feelings – the entire range of them, including joy, but with an emphasis on the uglier ones: jealousy, rage, desperation, loneliness, shame, and yes, chronic suicidality. I got my first deck of Tarot cards when I was 15, about a year after dropping out of school. I became more focused on Tarot in my early-twenties, and began reading for others in my mid-twenties. A year and a half ago, I began offering readings online, with a specific emphasis on Tarot for mad folks, crazy people, borderlines, disabled queers, weirdos, crips, medicated witches, trans folks, and misfits.

This language is both intentional and open; these words serve as a way of reclaiming not only language, but spaces within witchcraft and spirituality that we are often not included in – but I’m not gonna boss you around about how you feel or identify, nor do I need proof or evidence that you’re mad enough, disabled enough, queer enough, crazy enough.

“The gods visit us through illness.”
Carl Jung

“See the Cripple Dance” is a Hole lyric, from the song “Dying” on the album Celebrity Skin.

I grew up obsessed with Hole and Courtney Love, and she remains one of my favourite artists and witches. My body no longer allows me to dance – I’ve danced only once in the last three years since acquiring my cane, which was at a Hervana show during Toronto Pride – so with this lyric, I’m imagining not only the ways in which disabled folks re/claim crip and cripple, and the ways in which crips find ourselves and each other in witchcraft, but also what it might look like, sound like, feel like to reclaim and redefine dancing with bodies that don’t dance the way they’re “supposed” to.

Two years ago, I survived my third or fourth or fifth (who’s counting anymore?) suicide attempt. I was listening to Celebrity Skin when I overdosed, and I was unconscious before Dying came on. I’d originally bought the album on cassette on my thirteenth birthday, survived suicide to it at twenty-nine, and couldn’t listen to it again until the one-year anniversary of that attempt. Listening to the same album for nearly two decades has resulted in having multiple interpretations and memories associated with each lyric, much like I do with each deck of cards in my possession. (An ex once misheard the lyric “Remember / you promised me” as “Maranda / you promised me,” so that’s how I’ve sung it since then.)

If Courtney Love were (a) card/s, I think she’d be the Queen of Swords, the Star, and the Queen of Wands. The Queen of Swords is a survivor of immense and incomprehensible pain with psychic abilities that sometimes get her into trouble; the Star is the feeling of getting out of the hospital and breathing fresh air but not being sure where to go next; and the Queen of Wands is a knowledgeable and intuitive witch with manic raging creativity who does not have the patience for small talk.

Spiritual practice, personal healing, and political activism are the three legs of the cauldron in which magic and wisdom are brewed.
Starhawk, The Twelve Wild Swans: a Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action

There are multiple reasons I kept my Tarot and witchcraft practices (mostly) to myself for such a long time.

One of them was experiences of ableism and madphobia (which is a term I created, similar to saneism, to describe a particular form of ableism specifically related to mental health and illnesses) with other witches, as well as exhaustion and confusion with so much ableist language being used in Tarot card descriptions, astrology and horoscopes, and spirituality in general. Also, I’d had a few too many readings with non-disabled people that left me feeling like something was very much missing in their interpretations.

Also also, Tarot became so heavily branded and marketed in recent times that I was left feeling alienated until I began to reclaim my own space as a high school dropout on social assistance whose words and craft are not valued under capitalism, but/and must be appreciated and respected if we are to continue working and spellcasting toward liberation.

After a while, I found (and am still finding) more confidence in my ability to resist these narratives, to create my own alternatives, and to share them as well as encourage others to move toward their own definitions and interpretations. Much of my column will be devoted to these themes, and to using my non-binary crip-borderline psyche-body to continue unlearning binaries, undoing clichés, and unspelling ableism in (queer) witchcraft.

Grab your broomstick, cane, wand, or chair, and come fly with me!

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29 comments

  1. Julie Reeser says:

    I’ve typed a bunch of responses, but none of them felt adequate to do this introduction, and how it made me feel, justice. Your words made me feel hopeful and relieved. It’s a huge thing to be understood. To let down your hair and move your body freely without worry of knocking elbows or getting in the way. That’s how this felt to me. I’m excited to read more from you! Do you have a link to your other work?

    • marandaelizabeth

      Hi Julie,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! There are links to my work in the bio under this entry. I write at marandaelizabeth.com, make zines & books & do Tarot readings at schoolformaps.etsy.com, and I tweet @MarandaDearest!

      <3

  2. Bobby says:

    Hello Maranda, I recognise parts of your story from a place that is deeply buried… just wanted to say welcome and I look forward to more… and love… lots of that…

  3. JW James says:

    I’m 59 and have lived with chronic disabling illness(es) since I was 31. Even though it has been about half of my life, I am constantly annoyed by people telling me I’ll “get better soon.” This is it! This is my life! (my inner bitch is pretty ratched this week)

    So reading their blog post has been rewarding and I took a great sigh of relief. Maranda, I loved that they had more than one tarot selection; one for them and one for Courtney, who I also love.

    Great quotes. I hadn’t seen the Jung quote before. I have a poem called, “cripple-wing” about my madness. I also had one written a very long time ago, “The Sick Can Dance” (which sounds close to the Hole lyric).

    There was a grunge group, Mudhoney, that titled an album, “Love me I’m sick”

    Looking forward to their future posts. Right on with that capitalism shit and where do you fit in once you can no longer work for $$. More time for tarot inspiration for one thing!

    Thanks! eliora holy aura divinus

    • marandaelizabeth

      Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story, and for your supportive words! You also reminded me of Sonic Youth’s Touch Me I’m Sick, and My Ruin’s incredible cover version.

      I never wanted to grow up to waste my time at shitty, meaningless jobs, and while I did so for a while as a teenager and adult, until I couldn’t anymore, you could also say that now that I can’t work, can’t contribute in a way that capitalism deems valuable, my dreams/spells have actually come true!

  4. LB says:

    HOLY EFF I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! As a fellow crazy who finds a lot of tarot culture’s approaches to mental illness and disability deeply disheartening, I’ve been following your writing on Tarot and madness and disability for a while and found it incredibly helpful and affirming, and I am so looking forward to seeing more here. And so happy to see that Little Red Tarot is getting serious about this stuff by bringing you on board. <3

    • marandaelizabeth

      Aw, reading this comment made me smile A LOT!!! Thank you so much for supporting my work, and I’m so glad it resonates with you, and that I’ve been given this space to keep on connecting with crazy witches. <3

  5. craftyweetzie says:

    I am so glad you are here and going to be writing for LRT. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and your thoughts. as someone with chronic pain and other chronic symptoms, and as someone who can do nothing but embrace a long line of lineage of maddness that flows into me, i feel connected to so much of your writing. so looking forward to reading more from you on magic and tarot and madness and resistance. xoxo.

  6. So ready for this! Fellow chronic pain suffering, non-binary astrologer witch here. My pain is definitely rooted in emotional repression and trauma and I am just very excited to read your upcoming contributions, it’s so necessary. <3

  7. Emily S. says:

    Very excited to see you contribute here as you are one of my favorite writers & I always continue to be challenged/grow and see through a different lens based on what your words conjure up…as a person from a lineage of depression and anxiety your interpretations are powerful to me.

    • marandaelizabeth

      Emily, thank you so much for your encouraging & validating words! It makes me feel really happy & grateful to know that there are rad sad folks out there who find meaning in what I’ve to got say, and who look forward to new pieces. I’m so glad to have been given this platform, and I’m gonna make real weird magic with it.

  8. bec says:

    26 yr old bpd queer nb witch here. not only am i looking forward to reading your interpretations and thoughts on tarot, but i just realised that the winter survival zine by the name of ‘telegram’ i bought as an 18 yr old at a zine fair in a community cafe in a horrible rainy town on the south coast of england was also written by you. i just had the most wonderful feeling of standing still and seeing myself as i was then with new understanding. fate and the internet…

  9. marandaelizabeth

    Oh, wow! Fate & the internet really do conspire to get us borderline witches together. It feels especially magical to re-connect-ish during another winter (it was unseasonably warm here, rained for a few days, and this morning everything is noisy wind and ice ice ice again). Ah! <3

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