On Answering a Call
Betraying the heavy influence of Christianity on the imagery and symbolism of the Smith-Waite tarot, this card makes heavy reference to scenes of the dead being summoned back to life to recieve their ultimate judgement at the hands of God, at what is colloquially called, appropriately, The Last Judgement (namely, 1 Corinthians 15:52 and Revelation 20:13).
Earlier, in our discussion of The Sun, we talked a little about the narrative arc that is commonly ascribed to the Major Arcana in the tarot as we understand it today, thanks to writers like Eden Grey and after her, others like Rachel Pollack and Mary K. Greer: This narrative arc is commonly known in contemporary tarot circles as The Fool’s Journey, an almost Jungian path that traces the development of the self and soul through a bevy of lessons illustrated and learned from many trials and tribulations, before ultimately attaining spiritual enlightenment and unity of the self.
Here, we get to learn a little about something that we will be getting into much later, and in much more detail: numerology.
Numerology is, in broad brush strokes, the study of numbers and how they are spiritually and/or metaphysically related to real-world events. This also encompasses the study of the meanings of numbers themselves, in terms of how they symbolically represent mystical or spiritual concepts and ideas. These ideas have trickled out of the often-closed circles of esotericists and occultists and into our popular vernacular; we sometimes say things like, “Good things come in threes”, while at the same time commenting about not wanting to be the “third wheel” while around friends in love with each other. When we play games of chance, we talk about picking “lucky number seven”. We live in buildings with no thirteenth floor (or fourth floor, in some Asian countries). Numerology is all around us.
The number “ten” is another example of this. The term “Top Ten List” imparts a sense of ultimate finality and exclusivity to the ten finalists selected…something not really sensed or seen when we speak of a “Top Eleven List”. The number itself caps off the number sequence from one to nine, so there is something that once again points to ten as a sign of an ending.
The Wheel of Fortune was given the key of ten (using the Roman numeral X) by A.E. Waite, which fits in well with the idea of the Wheel of Fortune being a card of endings and beginnings. Chance brings change, and with change comes the conclusion of something, as something else begins anew. Or again. Either way, the wheel keeps on turning. But here, with Judgement, this is “XX”. Quite literally, X + X, or ten + ten. If the Wheel of Fortune represents something coming to an end, with a consequent beginning, then this is also an ending coupled with a beginning, but doubly so in terms of power and intensity. The Last Judgement is an apocalyptic event in Christianity. Well, it’s actually the most important and most powerful apocalyptic event in Christianity. From the Biblical accounts, the ending here is supposed to be the ending of all things. The beginning here is the beginning of a new age, where all of the cries for justice, peace, and healing, let out by those who are suffering, should be satisfied.
A large part of that ending though, is a calling, because an ending is an event where there is always a gathering. Hence why we see the scene depicted in this card: the dead being called out of the earth and towards heaven where they are to be divinely judged.
I have to confess, as someone who for a very long time didn’t really think much of divine rapture, judgement and punishment, the thought of this at the present truly frightens me. What if the aphobes, queerphobes, transphobes and white supremacists are all correct? We are summoned to rise from our graves and we find that God is in fact an old rich white man; found lacking, we are sent back to Key XIII, The Devil. Is that what awaits us who aren’t amatonormative, perfectly able-bodied, neurotypical, or cisheteronormative? Is that what awaits us for those who aren’t white?
In this current politically charged age, it is all too easy for us to feel thoroughly weighed down and beaten down by the world. Even if we have found little pockets of happiness and safety, in community groups or in our relationships, that still does little to address the wider systemic isses of chronic inequity and inequality that touch almost every aspect of our lives as ace or aro people. How many people do we know have been affected by racial discrimination, relationship trauma or relationship abuse? How many people do we know have been touched by violent misogyny, and queerphobia? As I first write this, it is Trans Day of Rememberance — how many people do we know have been affected by transmisogyny, transmisandry, and violent transphobia?
Judgement gives us — or at least, it gives me — the kind of promise that sustains me at the end of the day; the promise that all of the imbalances and disparities weighing us down will be made even. That all of the wrongs so embedded so deeply in society will be righted, and all of those who have suffered will be avenged. That even though we as individuals in the here and now may not able to solve all of the problems of poverty, racism, sexism, ablism, aphobia, and queerphobia, there is something else beyond this realm, beyond this world, that will call to account those who had and continue to have so much wealth of privilege, and use it to inflict so much harm on those who have had so little. With Judgement comes the promise that trans, bi, non-binary, pan and ace and aro people get the satisfaction they have waited for for so long, be it representation and recognition in society, acceptance in their friend and family groups, or justice for those oppressed an excluded by racism, aphobia, queerphobia or racism. This is especially key, I feel, for ace and aro people who exist at the intersection of other oppressions, be it race, economic class, mental and physicial health issues, or disabilities. It cannot be stressed enough the incredible amount of oppression and hardship that BIPOC, economically disavantaged, and disabled aces/aros face. It’s not enough, it seems, for ace and aro people to encounter hardship from a society seemingly obsssessed and mad with lust for normative partnered sexuality. They also have to have the burdens of poverty, ablism and white supremacy heaped on them too. Judgement tells us to not give up. To endure, persist and survive. Everyone has their reckoning, for good or ill, and everyone eventually reaps what they sow.
For more spiritual or religious ace and aro people, Judgement also reminds us that while The Sun offers us a wonderful, happy place to inhabit, it is actually still not yet enough. It is possible that we can live in positive, safe, affirming communities, yet still feel unfulfilled, still feel like there is something more to pursue to help give our lives meaning that we must consider and be called to explore. While bodily happiness on earth is what we attain to get to in our day-to-day lives, happiness of the spirit is our goal as well. Happiness of the spirit — of the soul — both complements and elevates the happiness that we achieve in our bodies.
Out of the lessons of The Moon we learn that people will throw up all sorts of illusions in our way to keep people down. From The Sun, we learn that our perfect place and community can be found, even though beyond that wall there is still so much work left to do. But there is another lesson that this card has for us. Judgement tells us that despite the illusions, and despite what is real, there are very real consequences and effects to what we do and what we say; at the end, we will have to obey that trumpet and come out and face the people we helped or hurt in our lives. Perhaps then, this invites us to think about how we choose to meet people who are oppressive, discriminatory, or aggressive with their aphobia and queerphobia. In these divisive, violent, and emotionally wrought times, it is truly easy, and oh-so-satisfying to let loose our frustrations and anger and bitterness at the people we increasingly encounter on Facebook or Twitter (or perhaps even in our offline social circles) who feel all too-empowered to denigrate and mock us over our identity on the asexual or aromantic spectrum, or engage in hate speech and prejudice against trans or racialized people.
I admit to struggling to find a way to explain this in ways that use rational scientific language, but in my own experience I find myself seeing, repeatedly, that when we put negative and hostile energy out there in our interactions with others — be it through social media posts and replies, or in our own day-to-day conversations — that energy invariably ends up coming back to us. Call it an example of Magical Thinking, or call it mere coincidence, but I’ve noticed that without fail when we put out into the world energy that is combative and aggressive, that relational and emotional energy cycles back to us in the form of others in our life, or messages we may unconsciously seek in the world that reinforce that combativeness and agression. This means that if we meet aphobia or queerphobia with our own level of negativity and anger, it will only intensify the aggression and negavity that is present with others.
What should we do then? Simply just let bullies and gatekeepers roll over us? Not say anything and take the absolutely withering and toxic things they say with a smile?
A insight that I took from a close friend about activism and advocacy (especially in online spaces) is that the energy spent on trying to engage aphobes and other hateful, prejudiced and bigoted people is that when you undertake the emotional labour necessary to engage such people with a measure of level-headedness and compassion, you aren’t really doing it for the person you’re directly addressing; you’re doing it for everyone else watching the discussion thread unfold. You’re doing it for the countless other people who are also the bigot’s audience. Who knows who else is watching the thread on Twitter you’re replying to, or the post on Facebook you’re trying to address? There could be potential allies, or people who had no previous knowledge or ideas about the facts about asexuality or aromanticism. There could even be people who have ace and aro folks in their own personal lives, or people who are ace or aro and not even know it yet. And the energy you put out with your reply, that is intended to factually inform, instead of verbally spar and combat, could very well be the spark that lights the fire of someone else’s own asexual or aromantic journey — whether it is a journey into their own sexuality, or a journey to be a better ally, friend, partner, or family member to an ace or aro person in their own lives.
It is that positive energy, put out into the world, that has a far greater potential to help make life better for everyone in the ace, aro and queer community. And by potentially spreading out and helping to inform others about asexuality and aromanticism, we have the potential to have that come back to us in the form of new allies, new advocates and activists for aces and aros, and even new people who may identifiy on the aromantic or asexual spectrum, further strengthening the ace and aro community. It’s no wonder then that such concepts like “cause and effect”, or “karma” are often strongly associated with this card. In my favorite version of this card, from James R. Eads’ sublime Prisma Visions tarot, a hand is shown holding up a knife that slays a snake, that same snake sinking its fangs into that same hand: cause and effect. Of course, we are used to seeing “cause and effect” lead to outcomes where people earn a seemingly well-earned comeuppance. In this example however, we are invited to think of cause-and-effect as both the cycle of how we bite and cut each other down, or how we can cut down the cycles of aggression and othering that get in the way of community building.
Like facing down any bully or bigot, it’s hard to resist the temptation and short-term satisfaction of striking back, and there are times where we must call a spade a spade and call out bigotry and hate in the most clear and unambiguous way possible. But if anything, Judgement shows us that it is possible to see past anger and hate, to having a conversation where open mindedness and informing can take us beyond bigotry. That is ultimately how we can get to true justice that is both restorative and healing.
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