Tarot cards Nine of Swords, The Fool, and Five of Cups

Nine of Swords § The Fool  § Five of Cups

The Nine of Swords is generally understood to represent cruelty and despair. Though our new year’s wishes are unlikely to include the Nine of Swords, it’s an indicator that our past would like to have a word with us. Our attempts to avoid pain too often feed a greater collective reservoir of rejection and hurt. Judgments of convenience are judgments we choose to make in order to blame others for their circumstances when simply refraining from judgment would be better. Judgments of convenience are many and common and destructive and we do this when we cannot or will not face our own powerlessness. If we blame someone for losing their house to a fire, we exempt ourselves from having to think it could happen to us. It is not necessary to engage fully with feelings of empathy in order to simply refrain from making the ills of the world worse by judging. After all, you suffer too. The nature of the future is bold, and if we make a commitment to focus on our own ability to float, we alleviate weight from a sinking human spirit.

The Fool meets us on the road to assist with our direction. She knows we are facing struggles that are bound to dip us into despair. And if we are strong enough to refrain from blame, The Fool has special medicine to offer. First, she will share a hardy gut laugh directed at our own folly—as is her way—and if wisdom has taught us anything, we will join in and shake loose the past years of trying too hard. Once this is done, she will fish a compass from her famous bindlestiff and set about guiding us toward a realistic new beginning. Some of us will enjoy a material gain like a new friendship or a new job, while the rest of us will be pleased to discover a new vision within our own psyche. In either case, this newness is noticeable and exciting. The caveat, of course, is we must find our willingness to relieve ourselves of that specific type of judgment that equates loss and lack with being undeserving or failing to be responsible. We are certainly welcome to continue with this form of coping, but in that case we will forgo both the giddy anticipation of a new adventure and the relief that follows from choosing to process our sense of personal failure on our own terms, rather than by the metrics of society.

The Five of Cups speaks to us on the nature of grief. This historical era is defined by loss and the stress that attends it. It is of great importance that we name and process losses of friendships and roads not taken, of words spoken too quickly and dreams deferred too long. The energy of thunder lives in our willingness to claim regret and refuse to pretend it was all for the best. It is this pressure that cracks open the sky that gives way to the hard rain that feeds the soil and drives away those who recklessly reject reality. We don’t have to feel good to be strong and vibrant and valuable. The Fool has imparted to us a gift in the form of a truth which is this:  The Five of Cups is our forever friend. Grief is an aspect of love that cannot be divorced from life. Believe this or don’t, but to accept grief as a normative state is to fully grasp the paradox of living and embrace the complex meaning of humanity. It is normal to grieve our losses one after another with every step in our stride. It is normal to feel grief in our dances and taste it on our kisses. The more of us who dare to lay aside our judgments of convenience, the more easily we will integrate the pain into our own famous bindlestiffs as we travel here. Our collective agreement to see each other through tears is an agreement to foment joy. May this fresh year offer each nothing short of a fool’s mighty heart.

illustration by Gurleen Rai

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