Dangerous Compassions


I always was intrigued by tarot cards and bought a deck for myself when I was young.  It was The Mythic Tarot.  I like mythology, so I thought this would be a good deck for me.

I put it in a carved wooden box an ex gave to me.  It came with a book about the card meanings and a black synthetic cloth printed with a spread template.  I kept the cards wrapped in that cloth, tied with a white ribbon.

I would look at the book and cards every once in a while.  But I couldn’t bring myself to use them.

The black cloth threw me off–I saw a lot of significance in colors, and I was a weird person, as I am now.  Colors and patterns could overwhelm me.  I hated clothes shopping, partly because I’m fat and had a hard time finding clothes that fit me.  But making choices about the colors and patterns overwhelmed me also.

The black cloth–I can see now, there was a mystique.  The black was supposed to be mysterious and set the mood–it wasn’t necessarily super meaningful.  But I was confused.  Learning about magical stuff, I’d heard black absorbs energy, and I thought a deck of tarot cards shouldn’t be wrapped in something that absorbs energy.  I got stuck on that.


I looked through the cards, but not even once did I use them.  The main reason was– my mom had instilled fear in me.  She’d had a bad experience as a young person with the occult.  Ever after, she was weird about what she called “evil.”

Claustrophobia was another thing my mom helped me acquire.  She was very afraid of bridges; I’m better with those.  She was the most superstitious person I’ve ever been close to.  Black cats, ladders, umbrellas.  When she spilled salt, she always threw some over her left shoulder.  When I spilled salt and she saw me, she made me do the same.

I didn’t want my mom’s fears to control me.  But I felt very inexperienced and isolated.  I was afraid of getting into deep waters with no one to help me.


My mom told me long ago that when she and my dad were young, and I was a young child, they lived in an apartment that was haunted.  Unexplainable things happened in that apartment, and my mom got more and more scared, mostly for my well-being.  Finally she prayed to her mom, who had recently died, and the weird things stopped.

So I thought I always had that–at the very least, I could pray to my mom’s mom and ask her for her help, if I needed help with the spirit world.  But it seemed too daunting, and I didn’t want to make a mistake that could mess up my life.

much time

Years and years went by.  Every couple years, I would find the box, take out the tarot deck, and look at it again.  I’d ask myself, “Could I use this?” and the answer was always no.  So I would put it away again.

Then it was bothering me, a feeling I was being wasteful.  I felt bad this potentially helpful thing was just sitting there on a shelf.  I wanted to give the cards away, so I tried to think of a friend who might appreciate them.  Finally I did think of a friend, and the friend accepted the cards.


Then I was at a Zia record store in Las Vegas years ago, soon after Ming and I moved here.  By the door was a place people could leave fliers.  I saw a little paper advert for someone who did tarot card readings.  I felt curious–I’d always wanted my palm read, and I thought a card reading might be fun.  Just to do something different.

So I called the lady and made an appointment.  I’d never done anything like that before, and I went to her house at a certain time.  She asked what were the big issues going on in my life.

Really, I didn’t have any big issues.  I was feeling ok.  There was no burning question about love, family, jobs.  Finally I decided that the biggest problem in my life was how people treated me.

I was very misunderstood and undervalued.  The biggest problem in my life was I felt disrespected.  So I thought we could ask about that–what to do so I could be happier in the world, and seen more for who I am.

her reading

I don’t know what cards she turned over, but I know the Empress was one of them.  Her bottom line of suggestion for how to be treated better in the world was to pay more attention to my appearance.  She suggested I look at a fashion magazine, learn how to apply makeup, and buy some new clothes.

I was totally flabbergasted.  Wow!  Was tarot just a meaningless trifle?  I hate fashion and fashion magazines.  I hate clothes and clothes shopping.  Makeup is bad for me in every possible way.  I could not believe this lady was telling me to do stuff I would never, ever want to do.  She was totally off.

If the world required me to turn into someone I’m not, in order for me to get respected and seen, fuck the world!  Nothing would be worth that.  I wore makeup as a kid for plays, and it was torture.  I always wanted to rub my eyes!  What was that yucky gunk?

The tarot card reading felt totally wrong.  Was this psychic just very much not psychic?

work trade

There was this other aspect where she was trying to get a business off the ground, but she was lacking social media and web skills.  “You have a blog–maybe you could help me,” she said.  Her idea was a work trade; she would do readings for me, and I would do web work for her.

I was like–ok, maybe.  But I didn’t get back to her.  I had no desire to have another reading.  The things she told me were totally un-useful.  In fact, they were anti-useful.  It felt depressing that I was sad to be mis-seen in the world, and her reading had mis-seen me.

ten of swords

Years later a good friend who likes tarot cards was offering on facebook to pull a card for anyone.  I asked, “Could you pull a card for me?”

Yes–when I saw what she told me, I was surprised.  She said that when she went to pull a card for me, the deck sputtered in her hand.  She said the deck had never done that for her before–cards went flying everywhere.  And the card finally that was mine was the ten of swords.  “The spirit world really wants to tell you something.  Girl, you need to face what’s going on and make some decisions,” she told me.


Wow, what an intense thing to hear.  Yes, I was feeling like that for a long time.  I was in painful situations, trying to make things work.  Yes, many facts I did need to face and make decisions about.

The reading seemed accurate.  Not that I was running from problems–more that I was using all my energy to make half-ok situations work out for me, when I really need to say some huge NOs and make changes.

angel card reading

Then I got an angel card reading.  It was very inexpensive, over the phone, to support a local cause.  I liked that a reading would support the cause and was done by a young bruja.

The reading was brief, and the cards were over and over again telling me messages in the same vein: slow down, take care of my health, rest, prioritize myself, and take time for me, not over-serving other people.

That angel card reading was consistent, and I was glad I’d started doing more for my health.  I totally agreed with that reading, and it helped strengthen my resolve to focus on being more to be kind to myself and learning to love without sacrificing my well-being.


The Empress came up in that reading also, or the angel card equivalent.  I realized that the Empress was coming up in just about all of the readings I received.

friend in France

Then a zine friend in France did a reading for me through the mail.  They offered, and said I could ask a question.  I’d been thinking a lot about where I belong and place.  My question was, “How do I best serve the world?”

My zine friend pulled three cards.  They’d expanded my question into three parts: my unique qualities that I have to give, something to be mindful about, and how I can give my gifts to the world.

First card was ten of cups, about chosen family, community, and fulfilling relationships.  The letter my friend wrote explained how that makes sense with the skills they know I have.  Yes, radical mental health work and anarchist organizing is about that.

Second card was the seven of candles / wands.  That one’s about being vulnerable, taking the spotlight, how much to give to others.  Negotiating attention and how people react to me.  Standing my ground–not crumbling from haters and trolls.

Third card was the Empress.  I was happy to see the Empress come up because yes, I want to be creative, nurturing, helpful, fertile with plants, and pregnant with Earth magic.

local friend

I mentioned this reading from France to my local good friend a couple months ago.  She was curious, so I brought the letter to show her.   “Wow!  It was the Numinous Tarot?!  I have that deck!  That’s a less common deck too.”  She told me she’s contributed to the kickstarter.

My friend wanted to show me the Numinous Tarot and found her deck for me.  Ming and I were at her kitchen table.  This was when pandemic was less, before the variant surged.  It felt great to be at my friend’s house, relaxed with her easy love.

The deck was in front of me, and my friend encouraged me to pull a card.  The first card I pulled was the first card from my friend in France.

Wow!  I saw the picture on the ten of vials / cups.  Looked like kind, queer people at a party, cuddled up a little bit, happy, and comfortable with love.  Yes, I can give the world that.

seven of wands

I pulled a second card–it was the seven of candles / wands, the second card from the reading from France.  Holy crap.

The seven of candles had someone on the catwalk, being looked at by people who were not friendly.  “What do those people look like?  How do they feel about the person on the catwalk?” my friend asked.

“They’re just looking.  They’re not really supportive or wanting the best for that person,” I said.

My friend explained that card could be about jealousy and being resisted socially.

She showed me a different deck’s seven of wands.  It had someone sneakily cutting a bell off a dancer’s dress.  I said, “Well, she has a lot of bells on her dress.  Maybe she doesn’t really need all of them.”  I looked at the facial expression of the bell cutter.  “I don’t think he’s really hurting the dancer.  It’s just one bell.  She’s going to be ok.”

We sat at the table for a while.  I was freaked out that the exact same cards were coming up, in the same order–the odds of that seemed very very unlikely.  I exclaimed to my friend, “This is freaky!  To see the exact same cards!”

She said that’s normal–that’s how tarot is.  Things like that happen all the time.

four of cups

I was tired and nervous.  It had been an intense experience.  I wanted to go, and Ming and I started packing up.  “Aren’t you going to pull a third card?” my friend asked.  We were all wondering if it would be the Empress.

I kind of didn’t want to try, but I decided to be brave and pull a third card.  I was almost disappointed it wasn’t the Empress.  It was the four of cups.

The four of cups showed someone sitting at a table.  She looked really sad.  “What do you see in that card?” my friend asked.

“Well, she’s got these cups in front of her.  But she’s looking off to the side and looks like she’s going to cry.  I really feel sorry for her.”  My heart ached for her sadness.  “There’s a window behind her showing a body of water.  Maybe she’s on vacation or something.  It looks like she really doesn’t like these cups, for some reason.”

My friend said that that card could be about needing something different from what’s in front of you.  Needing change really bad.

“Well, yeah,” I said.  “But those cups in front of her are pretty.  Maybe she should just look at these great cups in front of her and be happy with what she has.  Or maybe she should go outside and go to the water.”

five of cups

I was thinking about my life.  The card seemed to be telling me I need to move on and make room for fresh possibilities, not keep trying to make stuff work that doesn’t really work.  “What’s the next card?” my friend asked.

I peeked at the next card.  “Five of cups,” I said.  “Wow, that person looks like they’re having a really bad day.”  Looked kind of similar to the four of cups, but this person was losing their shit.

I felt like the five of cups was what was up next, if I ignored the message of the four of cups.  Real, deep suffering.


I realize that the big problem of my life that I presented to the psychic around six years ago–being misunderstood and not respected for who I am–is still the biggest problem of my life.  It’s manifested in different ways, and it’s troubling me a lot.  Being understood is critical to being loved for who I am.  And that’s what I want more than anything–authentic, shared love in community.

Also I see…when my mom died, I lost so many things.  One thing I lost was my clothes shopper!  I had to start buying clothes for myself, and I found two companies I like that sell clothes big enough for me and that are styley.  When I started riding trike and asked Ming to photograph me as a spiritual practice, I had no idea I would start paying more attention to my appearance.

Not in a fashion magazine way or a makeup way, but I learned that costuming can be fun.  I still wouldn’t say I’m into clothes or how I look, but I moved a step up from jeans and a teeshirt every single day, wearing my clothes till they were rags, and half-fitting boring clothes that were not a joy to wear.


Now that I have a lot of friends and am no longer isolated, I feel more safe to experiment with tarot cards and other ways of finding truth that scared me before.

I still don’t want to jump in completely.  I’d prefer to go slow, no rush.  There are a lot of ways for me to find truth in the world–guttermancy, looking at clouds, prayer, paying close literal attention, thinking about my life, peer counseling, therapy.  My memory is very sharp, so I have material to access.  I can connect many dots because I remember almost all of the dots.

fat folks

A good friend bought me the Fat Folks Tarot, and I look forward to receiving it in the mail.  Fat liberation is my favorite, so maybe this deck would be great for me.  A luxurious way to ease in, that feels safe, with fat people like me.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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