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.”
“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!