An Excerpt from “Tarot for the Hard Work” by Maria Minnis
We begin with the premise that tarot is a tool of self-discovery. The cards provide us a tactile means to do inner work and grow as individuals, to unveil our “true” selves. In particular, the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana depict “the grand picture”—classically they represent the archetypal energies we all share within the great universal unconscious. Our vivid trek through the majors has been described as the “hero’s journey” and the “great work.” It’s an alchemical process by which we move from innocence to knowledge, from unconsciousness to consciousness.
In other words, the majors present us with opportunities to move from ignorance, denial, and complacency to awareness, responsibility, and action. We might say that the journey wakes us up.
Tarot for the Hard Work is a potent partner for this journey. It is an array of Major Arcana writings and exercises for untangling racism, both externally and internally.
The word “racism” is tossed around so often that we don’t always consider what it really means, what it actually entails. Ask anyone, “What is racism?” and they’ll likely answer that it is white bias against people of color, that it is oppression rooted in racial and/or ethnic group membership.
They are not wrong in describing what racism looks like externally.
Often overlooked is internalized racism, something subtler and more insidious. When racism is the cultural norm, Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) raised in such a society can internalize harmful racial narratives, subconsciously and even consciously. We may unintentionally reinforce ideas about ourselves and the world that collude with racism, leading to self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-disrespect. Racism perpetuates itself on a deep, inner, and subconscious level that traumatizes us and undermines our true power. For the BIPOC community, this book provides a path toward personal healing.
Internalized racism in white people can also be subconsciously insidious. Generations of white dominance and political power has led many of them to rarely, if ever, think about their privilege blindness and how their deeply rooted preconceptions precipitate microaggressions. They may tokenize others, assume criminality, expect lower intellectual capacity, claim colorblindness, or disrespect different communication styles. Internalized racism in white people can prompt an inner voice that says, “But I’m not racist—that’s other people.” This sustains the lack of responsibility that perpetuates a structurally racist society. Yes, “good people” and “bad people” can be racist. For white readers, this book provides actions to break that cycle and answers the ever-present question, “What can I do?”
Tarot for the Hard Work is a tool for passionately demolishing structural oppression. It is a tool for white people who want to use their privilege for mass liberation. It is a tool for Black and Brown people living in a structurally racist society intent on selling self-hatred and shame to marginalized people and capitalizing on their pain. It is a tool for both tarot newbies and tarot experts. It is a tool for action. It is a tool for going beyond baby steps. It is a tool that can offer great satisfaction as well as great difficulty. It is a tool to expand your comfort zone. This is a tool that requires your presence for it to work.
I’m an unapologetically Black writer, tarot reader, ritual facilitator, and artist whose work ultimately prioritizes one thing: freedom. I’ll be your guide as we explore the Major Arcana to uncover how each archetype can help us cultivate a freer world. As we move through the cards, from the Fool to the World, keep in mind that everything we do ripples beyond us and that we must take responsibility for our actions. We’ll seek opportunities for liberation within ourselves, our relationships, and our communities. Bless the interconnectedness of all things, for it promises that our magic is about more than ourselves!
The fact that I’m your guide doesn’t mean that I have all the answers. This book exists because of my blog series about antiracism and tarot. I discussed various manifestations of racism and everyday strategies to combat it. It felt terrifying to write about these things on the internet, a place where I’ve been vulnerable to racist attacks. Being invisible was safe, but some things are more important than our individual safety.
The Moon card reflects how our subconscious has a way of boiling to the surface until it can no longer be ignored. Writing the blog, two things fascinated me:
- People actually use the strategies I’ve written about in the real world!
- Wow, I have a lot of internalized racism to unpack.
As I said, I don’t have all the answers. I’m right there with you, experimenting with creative ways to use my spiritual practice toward a more liberated planet upon the smoldering ashes of white supremacy. I chose to write about antiracism strategies using the Major Arcana because of the powerful impact that tarot has had on me. Tarot helped me heal past trauma, communicate with the spirit realm, process two near-death experiences, and so much more. I know how this resource has affected my life, as well as my darling clients’ lives. With tarot, we embody unique archetypes to energize different parts of ourselves to deepen our lives. If we can use tarot to inspire and enlighten personal evolution, why can’t we do the same with community transformation?
Our focus will remain mostly on the tarot, but please incorporate any other ethical tools, spiritual or otherwise, into your antiracism work. Each chapter will focus on one Major Arcana card and will feature
- Multiple perspectives of each Major Arcana card and how they show up in internalized and societal racism
- How the shadow shows up in each card and different ways to use the benevolent aspects of each card to confront it
- Activities to dismantle internalized racism, interpersonal racism, and racism in communities
- Thoughtful reflection prompts
- Inspirational mantras
I would like to draw your attention to bullet point #3: Activities. This book is about action: taking action, changing action, becoming aware of action. Each chapter is going to present activities that will ask you to reflect on how you manifest and act upon the energy of each card. There will be questions. There will be exercises. There will be places where you’ll want and need to record your thoughts and impressions. I highly encourage you to buy a journal (or two!) so that you can participate in these activities as we go along. Look for this prompt for journaling exercises and activities: ✎
Of course, I could have asked you to fill in a blank on the page, but the number of activities in this book would have made it an unwieldy tome. And more importantly, I don’t want to presume your thoughts and exercise entries would even fit onto one or two lines. A journal will give you unlimited space to explore and do a dive deep: in your journal you are writing your own antiracism manifesto.
Your experience through this book should not feel fixed, prescriptive, or dogmatic. Tarot is a flexible analog for our life experiences. If our lives and world are always changing, then so should our tarot practice and freedom work. I want you to interact with the tarot archetypes more intuitively. In our instant gratification information-age world, it can be tempting to take someone’s perspective and run with it. Instead, take what resonates with you and forget the rest. I want this work to feel personal. I want you to strengthen your personal relationship with the cards. One reason I’m a tarot reader is the reality that tarot is most effective when intuitively guided and manifested consciously. As you incorporate new information and activities in your everyday life, try to
- Take ownership over your actions and their consequences
- Use whatever privilege you have responsibly and often
- Remain open, aware, and flexible
- Reflect regularly
- Confess, apologize, and fix your mistakes
This work isn’t supposed to be easy. One could imagine where we’d be if it was. Our commitment to a radically evolved future means committing now to radical action and change. You might find that even minor changes can feel uncomfortable. Right now is a good time to accept that fact, anticipate some bumpy roads, and start where you are. We must get through the Tower to make it to the Star.
If you’re reading this book, you probably already have a few things in your “witch toolbox.” Maybe you have gems, candles, meditations, or whatnot. Lean on the magic that ignites your path to awareness, insight, and social change. There is one hard rule, though: you must understand that you are the most magical ingredient of your life. No rune or naked dance in the woods could hold a flame to your inherent magic. You may have companions, but ultimately you are the one who moves your energy. This book is a spell for our more ideal futures, forged by intention, willpower, action, and compassion.
In my Jewish tradition, we often speak of “the world to come,” the future we are constantly building with spirit guidance, community responsibility, and acts of devotion. I talked about this a few times with Rabbi Mychal Copeland of the Sha’ar Zahav synagogue in San Francisco. She once told me that some people recast the phrase as “the world that is coming.” I like that one better.
I believe in a better future. I believe in it because we are already building it.
One last thing: I’m only one person. I write this book from a perspective of a Black woman raised in the United States. I can’t divorce that fact from anything I do in the public sphere. Still, the strategies and exercises in this book can help you confront racism of all kinds.
The future is on its way. Let’s go, witches.
—Maria Minnis, from the Introduction, Copyright © 2024