I got to muse a little about this when I did a profile on my friend and illustrator Genevieve Barbee-Turner, but there’s a reason queer people are drawn to things like astrology and tarot. It’s not a coincidence that many of us were raised in Christian, even Evangelical, households that were strict and limiting, only to turn to a more expansive and subversive knowledge of ourselves and the universe.
This is, of course, not true of every queer person. But, it is true of Autostraddle contributor Meg Jones Wall, author of Finding the Fool, a book on the power of tarot as a practice and a mode of understanding. I came to Finding the Fool as someone with a very limited understanding of tarot. I bought my first deck from Genevieve, and still to this day, when I do a reading for myself, I heavily rely on the guidebooks that come with my decks.
What I’m leaving this book with is a better understanding of the cards, what they can hold, and what they can evoke in me. Reading this book was compelling, fluid, and joyous. I loved delving into Meg’s syntax and language, getting to know how she thinks and the words she chooses to describe this practice that is so dear to her.
Finding the Fool begins with a little on Meg, their story, which includes that Christian upbringing I referenced earlier, and where she lives now. In the now, as many readers might already know, Meg leads a very queer life. You can get a glimpse of it in these pages, and in her writing and curating for Autostraddle.
The book is broken up into three parts: the first part which encompasses an intro to Meg’s understanding of tarot and the book as a whole. The second part takes a look at all 78 cards of the tarot, focusing on numerology, astrology, and practice. To paint a picture, the first card we start with, the zero card, is the Fool.
I love how Meg writes about the Fool, a card that I took for its English meaning instead of really looking at what the card can represent. To use Meg’s own words:
“That moment when we decide to throw caution to the wind and chase the fantasy anyway, when we begin to actively move toward that vision that has manifested in our mind and began a radical journey—that is the brilliant, wide-eyed, aspirational energy of the Fool.”
Each look at individual cards includes the planet the card is associated with, its number and numerological significance, keywords associated with the card, and what it can mean if and when it shows up in a reading. This approach to the cards was so welcoming to me and made it easier to connect with the cards and understand their interpretations.
One thing Meg does that I also found really cool was that she does not use gendered language to describe the cards, nor does she divide things into “masculine vs. feminine” categories. For example, the High Priestess (card 2, represented by the moon) is often associated with “divine feminine” energy, but Meg resists that pull to categorize the card as feminine, making it open to a whole hosts of energies.
Instead, Meg focuses on the psychic wisdom and power the card is known for. The High Priestess is all about recognizing and harnessing your own personal magic, and you don’t have to feminine to do that.
In this section of Finding the Fool, there are also writing and thinking prompts that come with each card, encouraging you as a reader to slow down and really engage with the cards and the text. It was really inviting to me as a reader, and I found myself paying special attention to cards I have seen and seen often when I’ve had a reading done or done one for myself.
The last reading I had done was before I moved, and one suit that kept showing up for me, was Cups, namely the 10 of Cups, King of Cups, and the Queen of Cups. If we turn to Meg’s words about the minor arcana, we see that:
Tens “represent what happens when we push the energy of the suit to the limit, giving us opportunities for celebration and reflection, and defining the ending of a cycle—which in turn sets the stage for the next one to begin.”
Queens “are compassionate, self-assured leaders, and bring insight, observation, boundaries, creativity, and precision to their work: they teach and transform, guiding others with gentle wisdom and encouraging everyone around them to be the best possible version of themselves.”
Kings “are discerning, attentive leaders, and provide clarity, authority, shape, vision, and organization to their realm: they advise and challenge, helping others make actionable and lasting change through individual and community efforts.”
In Introduction to Cups, Meg writes:
“As an element, water is sweeping and surging, powerful, with endless depths that can rage or trickle depending on its environment. We can’t always see what’s under the water’s surface, don’t always understand what is simmering, aren’t always certain which currents may be impacting movement.”
I’m a water sign (Scorpio), so this language rings very true to me. I revisit the breakdown of the last reading I had with this new knowledge and find things I never found on the first pass with the cards. What my tarot card reader said and what Meg says here is both similar yet different, and if you’ve had your cards read before, you know that no reader approaches the deck the same.
As I’m reading this book, I’m struck by the amount of care it takes to write something like this. To make something that is so often shrouded in mystery and gatekeeping and make it more accessible, I can’t help but think, is an act of love. Anybody can get their cards read and ingest whatever the person reading is saying, but to truly connect with and understand what’s being said is a different story all together. This book spells things out in plain language, making it so that even the most experienced tarot connoisseur and the most bright-eyed novice can come to the cards and learn something new.
In the third and final part of the book, Meg takes you deeper into the cards, asking “What feels holy to you? What feels sacred?”
In the final pages, they prompt readers with opportunities to connect on a deeper level with the cards on a path toward self-discovery. She highlights meditation, prayer and mantras, divination, spell work, and ancestor work as a way to delve into the spiritual side of tarot a little more.
In the section about tarot and creativity, she outlines ways to find inspiration in the cards, whether that means finding a traditional Rider-Waite Smith deck and marveling at the illustrations on the cards, or connecting with a deck that is more aligned with your personal identity, there are ways to incorporate tarot into your creative practice. There is even a section on tarot and “occult esoterica.”
In the last pages, she outlines the 22 different major arcana spreads that you can do with a practiced reader or on your own. There are also simple two and three card spreads you can do if you’re just learning.
I don’t want to give too much of the book away because I think you should read it yourself. It would make a great gift for the tarot card reader in your life or the friend that’s just a little curious about the whole thing. As Meg says in the beginning, she expected to find an immediate connection with the cards. And when she didn’t, she returned to them anyway. That spirit of determination is present throughout this wonderful book, and I hope you find it too wherever you are in your tarot journey.
Through it all, Meg encourages you to, well, find the fool. To search out that spirit of play and hope and dreaming, to hold onto the curiosity and desire that come with it. Finding the Fool abandons notions about tarot that make it inaccessible or blasphemous and make it so even I can understand it, and find something for myself, or about myself in the cards.
Finding the Fool: A Tarot Journey to Radical Transformation by Meg Jones Wall is out now.