Author’s note: I started writing this post before Charlottesville, and it was intended for publication later this week, but in light of recent events it felt important to offer strategies for healing/self-care for those who are hurting right now. The entire purpose of Mercury Mermaid is to provide a community of support and healing, so feel free to please reach out if you are feeling in need of those things at this time.
TW: sexual assault, rape
When I was 14, I went to an overnight party with my cross-country team. Cross-country at our high school was well-known as the sport for nerds. These were the boys who had never had a girlfriend, or played DnD, or spit when they talked. And the girls who had never been kissed either, or were in the marching band, or didn’t wear makeup properly. It was safe place for social outcasts like myself, with my pimples and braces, and I felt accepted. A place where it was cool to not be cool, and the other kids there understood what it felt like to be excluded from the “popular” lunch table, and their backwoods parties, because you didn’t have the right sneakers, or the right kind of face.
I was also just figuring out how boys, especially ones who hadn’t had girlfriend’s before, could be tricked into forgetting you weren’t strikingly beautiful or desirable if you were funny, and clever, and had the right taste in music. A simple, but effective spell that I learned to cast by thrusting myself into the “funny/chill girl” friend role again and again. It was the first time I had gone to a sleepover where boys would be there, something my parents had always forbidden me to participate in for religious and hormonal reasons. These were the “good kids” though, who didn’t drink, and were in the marching band. I explained to my mother that no one was going to try to make out with me or grab my boobs, especially because there was a mom sleeping upstairs!! And so she finally gave in, and I was on my way, pajamas and sleeping bag in tow. A boy I had a crush on was going to be there. His name is boring and as irrelevant as whatever trash he’s up to these days, but that night he texted me that he was excited to see me at the party.
Fast forward to the middle of the night and there were fingers under my shirt. Under my bra. Fingers that were not mine. Fingers I had not invited. This was my first experience with sexual trauma/assault. It certainly wasn’t my last, and what happened in the following years of my adolescence was much uglier, much more sinister, much more difficult to unpack. But this was the first time I consciously felt that my body did not belong to me. Like some irreplaceable magic had been taken from me and balled up in a grimy fist and shoved somewhere else where I could never have it back. And the whole time I didn’t say anything because I had conjured this. The spell worked and I was irresistible and I had always wanted this attention, right? To be seen. And wanted. Except not like this. Not at all this. I held my breath. I pretended not to notice. Eventually he removed his hands, and (weirdly) kissed the back of my head. I went home in the morning.
I remember attending church the next day and feeling like my body was full of dirt, didn’t want anyone to look at me, didn’t want to form words, to touch anything. Years of undiagnosed depression made it especially difficult for me to connect with my excitable, fast-talking family, who didn’t understand me and my introvertedness. Or why I wanted to lay in my bed and make a cocoon for myself under pink sheets, and maybe even skip school on Monday. What would I say to him at running practice? What would he say to me? Did I just imagine everything, as the girl I had confessed this “embarrassment” to had suggested? Was it actually my fault?
I have always dealt with depression and anxiety, much before experiencing assault, but they are intrinsically connected to my trauma. And to being an empath. And to my insatiable need to learn and write and create and leave a mark on the Earth.
So what does all this have to do with tarot? I am 25 years old now, and have not spoken to that first boy with hands in over 10 years. I honestly don’t really care where he is or what he’s doing. There have been so many boys and men since his hands, who have come in the night and taken from me when they thought I was asleep. So many that at times I feel numb to it. And yet at times those same feelings keep surfacing for me: of inherent ugliness, of consumption, of magic being stolen. Being an empath causes me to feel too much, connect too deeply, or draw in people who want to take and take and leave in the dark. I still very much feel connected to my 14 year old self, who was confused, and hurt, and vulnerable, and scared.
Except I am also so different now. After years of unlearning harmful mindsets, building a new social/healing circle for myself, and writing and creating, and processing my feelings, I have names and words for my traumas. And friends who believe me when I tell them what I’ve gone through, and I have a loud voice. A poetic platform. I have tools that make me feel less isolated, and less wounded. And tarot is one of them.
I will start by saying that tarot should not be used as a substitute for therapy, and what I am suggesting here is surely not an alternative to the perspective and guidance of a professional. This is instead a fairly cheap and accessible tool that you can use on your own to help process difficult days, difficult feelings, and to help manage generalized anxiety.
What you need:
-a tarot deck of your choice
That's it! Though you may personally choose to add healing crystals, candles, incense, elements, ect. to your routine, this is all you need to get started.
Spend a minute reflecting in your journal. What has you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, emotional lately? Maybe you're not sure, which is fine too. Just take note of your overall feelings. You will likely uncover something specific later that you may or may not have realized was the root.
Example: With friends, work, and the world, it has been an emotionally intense week. How can I help myself when I am feeling energetically overwhelmed?
2. Set up your spread. Below are two tarot spreads that I use to answer healing questions, and you should feel free to use either or neither. What's most important is that your intention for the placement of each card is clearly specified before you cut your deck and draw your cards.
Assisting/Crossing: This is the very basic center of a Celtic Cross spread, but can also be used to gain insight on what is helping you (vertical) /harming you (horizontal) in your current approach to a situation or problem.
My read: Your unique energy, insights, and abilities make you a light to so many around you who need help and support. People are drawn to you, intrigued by you, and so many love you for the amazing star that you are. You are learning to love your gifts and bask in the abundance that is brought on by your ability to connect with and heal others. But by spilling so much energy into other people and their needs you are running out of energy to use on yourself. You need to take some time to reconnect with yourself, and give your energy a break.
Mercury Mermaid Healer Spread: Another simple spread, this one is a combination of different spreads I have read about/tweaked to make it my own. The top card represents what needs to be healed currently. The bottom cards represent what this healing will look like/what you can do to help yourself heal, and what the healing will feel like/how you will know you are healing.
My read: Being too self-contained in your mind is hurting your energy. You are rationalizing away legitimate emotions that are part of your healing process. Maybe you are doing too much thinking right now. You need to reconnect with yourself, and in turn setting boundaries from the energy of others. By taking the time to do this, you will have more energy for others in the future, instead of burning out.
3. Look at the cards in each position and take notes in your journal. What card did you draw for each position? What are your initial feelings, noticing, wonderings when you see this card? What memories, associations, colors, people, places, jump out to you? Take about 5 minutes to sit with each card and not down your notes. Then take about 5 minutes to reflect on the cards as a whole. How do they speak to each other, relate to each other, contradict each other? How does this relate to your initial feeling or question?
4. Set an intention/affirmation for these feelings. This can be pretty much anything that relates to the reading you did for yourself, and could look like:
Making a list of energies from people/associations that you need to release from your personal sphere, reading it out loud, then setting it on fire. Toxic ex,
Creating an affirmation for yourself to help your brain re-wire its thinking about an insecurity or anxiety you have. For example: I am intelligent, empathetic, and powerful, and achieve success in my activist goals. Repeat this out loud, and in your head over and over again for as long as you need to.
Make a crystal grid with a specific intention linked to your reading in mind. For example, you might program your crystals to helping you overcome the anxiety you feel
Make a checklist of self-care tasks (eating right, exercise, drinking water, reading a book) that you can do everyday to help yourself heal. Put it somewhere you will see every morning. Forgive yourself when you do not complete each task sometimes. Small steps...
5. Reflect again later. Take note in your journal of how you feel about the cards/your initial journaling later in the day, week, or month. What solutions worked or didn't work? What new feelings surfaced? How do you think they relate to your original question
Healing doesn't happen overnight, it is not linear, and there is no quick fix to dealing with years of trauma, institutionalized forces, or the incessant stupidity of our current political leaders. But by documenting feelings and patterns, brainstorming actionable solutions, and creating affirmations for yourself, you are giving yourself the permission and tools to heal and grow both spiritually and personally. We are pretty much conditioned to think that its selfish or corny to do that, but it is so damn necessary. And important to remember that you cannot do the healing work you feel called to do for others, without first taking care of yourself. (As you can tell from the self-reads I did above, this last sentence is a huge Note To Self.)
And always, seek therapy whenever possible. Here is a great list of resources for therapy for those who are uninsured in NYC!
Take care of yourselves. I am sending all of my love.