Face Up Tarot: rope, flame, & feathers



Have you ever seen children jump double dutch? It’s not like regular jump rope. When you jump rope you have to get the timing right, but when you jump double dutch there’s more at stake. If you get it wrong, you get swatted in the face. And the best rope for double dutch was heavy, sting-y electrical wire. If it hits, you get a welt, a red mark, sometimes blood. Your face is at stake.

Sometimes it feels like collective consciousness and consumption has a rhythm like double dutch ropes. There are patterns, openings in the rope. But if you wait too long, your energy goes down. And if you wait so long that you don’t have any energy left, you’re guaranteed to get rope in the face. Something about waiting increases the risk.

Growing up, I was the person that never made it into the rope. Everybody else made it in and mostly without issue. Me? Rope in the face. The only days I made it were when I was so exhausted I needed a release. The days when I needed to blow off steam. The days when I was too tired to worry about not making it.

I would jump rope after a summer program I was involved in. It was a scholarship program for minority students to promote diversity in boarding schools. They prepared us to compete in environments we would normally be unable to reach. If we maintained a high enough GPA, we would be granted full scholarships to the most prestigious boarding schools in the nation. We carried college level books in college level quantities. My back hurts just thinking about it now. Up and down flights and flights of stairs, no AC, after commuting 2 hours on the subway from the poor neighborhoods where we lived.

So after 7 or 8 hours of this college level work – mind you we were like 12 – we would play double dutch. Even though I had played the game before, that summer was when I finally got in the rope. But it was still rare enough that when it happened people would get excited. At first I’d walk right in, the sheer exhaustion would just carry me into the rope and then people would notice that I’d made it. They would comment, there’d be excitement, and they’d cheer. The longer I went, the more they would cheer, and the more nervous I would get.

Now people are watching. Now people are noticing. I wasn’t used to it, because I wasn’t used to getting into the rope. It was more than that. Sometime this was the only social interaction I’d have in a day. This was the only part of the day where I’d be seen. And at that point, inevitably, I’d do something to stop me from jumping. Somehow, rope in the face. Because that’s what I’m like. When figuring out that rhythm, there always comes a point when my nerves get into it.

The interesting thing lately has been watching how long I’m able to keep jumping. I can feel that I’m onto something when I hear the rhythm of things and see the flow. I’m able to tap into collective patterns but on top of, underneath, or in relationship to that pattern is my anxiety. It both allows me to perceive the patterns and makes it more difficult for me to take advantage of them.

Flame & Feathers | Queen of Wands & 9 Swords

Anyone who’s ever been told to “just relax” knows the restlessness of the 9 Swords. Anyone who’s ever felt like life was some kind of puzzle with the answer missing, knows this card. Even as it feels awful, sometimes the puzzle carries little consequence – butterflies before any-little-thing. Sometimes your safety is riding on that puzzle – the scholarship that will get you out of danger and possibly poverty. Sometimes the puzzle is beyond anything you control. It’s ancestral. It’s about circumstance and feeling like your survival depends on the alarm bells that you’ve inherited from ancestors. I better keep this, it might be useful later. It’s not safe to be this different.

This week I was the Mother of Flames with 9 Feathers in the pit of my belly. I took the vibrant bubbling energy I get with some full moons and tried something that gave me heebies: I broadcast live on Periscope for the first time. Cameras can be like kryptonite for those of us used to hiding, blending, disappearing. It helped that I thought I was alone. I used a year-old version of the app that protected me from the comments, hearts, and faces of the people that watched. I silently did a face up spread unaware of an audience. The Mother of flames jumped out from the Margarete Petersen as if to warn me. Daughter of light and lens, you are not alone.

My maiden video voyage was anything but graceful.


I pulled some of these face up and some face down. Don’t ask why I used three decks.

These cards landed like double dutch ropes. The “just chill” and “there’s something that you aren’t seeing” vibes from the 4 and 7 of Swords only served to amplify the air and fire of the Petersen cards. These cards symbolized that sometimes this is what it feels like to be seen. To figure it out. To not be perfect. To be consumed. It can be intense. Especially as a black woman. When so much of my life was a competition for value, for existence, for safety. I believed I must earn all of those things. And if you grew up poor, disabled, or non-normative, you were probably forged in this fire too – with little margin for error and lots of feelings tied up in being seen.

I left the video up as a reminder: I’ll survive the fire feelings. I’ll survive the rope in the face, the messes I make.  Even if my life has been filled with times where I needed to prove that I belong and that I’m  enough, even though it goes against the very grain of me, I can choose vulnerability anyway. I can broadcast authenticity. And maybe it’ll serve someone to see this less-publicized, messy reality. The Mother of flames with a belly of feathers asks, where have you been waiting for permission to make a mess?


What puts 9 feathers in your stomach?
How & when do you birth flames & take center stage?
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Featured decks: Margarete Petersen Tarot, Morgan Greer Tarot, Tarot de St Croix

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  1. I’m grateful that you’ve chosen to be seen. Personally speaking, my soul benefits from your curious and nuanced approach to spirituality, and I’m encouraged by your beauty and strength. The world is a better place with you in it.

    • Oh wow! Just now seeing this! Thank you for your feedback! I consciously decide every time: “will I share this much? will I share at all?” And I’m often surprised that anybody makes use of my ramblings!

  2. This hit me hard: “Now people are watching. Now people are noticing. I wasn’t used to it, because I wasn’t used to getting into the rope.” Thank you as always for your writing.

    • It’s still true. Just now it’s other things I’m feeling awkward about. And I’m starting to wonder if all of us aren’t just really serious 11-year-olds that have forgotten who we are. Thank you for the feedback here. =D

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