A Tarot Spread for Protestors

One of the frustrating things about Tarot is that it’s fundamentally passive exercise. It can give you a peek at the future and arm yourself to what’s coming your way, or it can provide an interpretive framework to process and understand the events around you—much the way that I processed the recent wave of protests against police violence by looking at it through the lens of the Tower card. But when you’re in the middle of a fight for change, of something that really matters, Tarot doesn’t do much to push that change forward. Sure, there are ways that Tarot can be used for spellwork, but Tarot as a tool is directed much more toward reconnaissance and analysis than toward field operations.

Today I wanted to share a Tarot spread that plays to Tarot’s strengths. This is a spread that people can use when there’s an ongoing protest movement that they want to support, but they’re feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start, whom to contact, or what to do. This is not a replacement for direct action; rather, it is a road map of sorts, intended to help people who want to combat injustice find the best ways for them to do so. Not everyone is able to participate in protests in the same way, and that’s okay; but for those people who can’t be marching on the streets, for whatever reasons, this Tarot spread is intended to point to other ways they can support causes that matter.

  1. The Issue. What is being protested? What is the specific event, injustice, or issue that has sparked these protests?
  2. The Deeper Cause. Injustice doesn’t exist on its own. What are the structures that hold this injustice up? What are the systemic factors that contribute to the issue and make change more difficult?
  3. The People Leading the Charge. Whose protest is this, really? Who are the founding voices, the people who made this issue a priority for others? What do they have to say about the matter?
  4. The Forces of Opposition. Part of the reason that change is so hard is that a lot of people fight against it, tooth and nail. Who is obstructing the change that this protest is trying to enact, and why?
  5. Ways You Can Get Involved. What can you do? How can you help? Where is your participation most useful?
  6. Ways You Shouldn’t Get Involved. Just as there are ways that it’s good and productive for you to involve yourself in this fight, there are other ways in which it might be ineffectual or even inappropriate. Sometimes well-meaning, enthusiastic people can do more harm than good when they act without a complete understanding of the movement they’re trying to co-opt or the consequences of their actions. This card is a gentle warning about courses of action that you should avoid if you genuinely want to help.*
  7. The Goal. It’s important to know what you’re trying to accomplish. What are you ultimately fighting for? What is the vision of a better world that this protest hopes to make reality? What is the specific change that you are trying to bring about?
  8. The Outcome. Where is this protest going? Will it succeed? Will it fail? What is the outcome of your (and others’) efforts?
  9. Motivation to Keep Fighting. Regardless of how this protest turns out, there will be more work to be done. If it succeeds, there will be further injustice to fight against; if it fails, there will be a time to regroup, lick your wounds, and then start the fight anew. Either way, the continuous struggle for justice can be exhausting—but it’s also necessary. The final card in this reading is a reminder of why you need to keep carrying the torch.

Please, everyone, keep fighting—for justice in all its forms, but especially against institutionalized white supremacy, anti-Black racism, and police violence. (And let’s shout it from the rooftops so there can be no doubt: Black lives fucking matter.) For those of you who want to help but don’t know how, I hope this spread has given you enough ideas to help you get started. This matters.

If you use this spread, as always, I would love to hear how it reads for you. For anyone who’s curious, I did this reading for myself with regard to the current BLM/police violence protests, and these are the cards I turned up (their interpretation is left as an exercise to the reader). Remember that I use the Thoth deck these days, so the titles of the Minor Arcana are included in parentheses:

  1. Eight of Pentacles (Prudence)
  2. The Hermit
  3. Two of Wands (Dominion)
  4. Nine of Pentacles (Gain)
  5. The Aeon (Judgment in the RWS system)
  6. Four of Wands (Completion)
  7. Nine of Swords (Cruelty)
  8. Princess of Wands
  9. Two of Swords (Peace)

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*This card is basically the “White people, let’s please not center ourselves in conversations about racial injustice” card, but it has other applications as well. E.g., immunocompromised people should not be participating in crowded protests right now, people living in dire poverty should not be trying to donate money they don’t have, and so on.

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