Tarot Cards for the Pandemic

Holy hell, it’s been eleven months. Eleven. Months.


I’m extraordinarily lucky. No one in my immediate circle has died from COVID-19. I’m safe, healthy, and gainfully employed. I have housemates, so I haven’t been totally without social interaction for the past eleven months. My parents both lost their jobs, but my mother pretty quickly found work elsewhere and my father is considering just retiring. This pandemic has devastated so many lives, and I am so, so lucky not to count myself among them. But nonetheless, the pandemic has been hard on all of us. Humans aren’t built to spend a year in quarantine, and even those of us who are safe and healthy are still exhausted, frightened, and emotionally strung out.

Today, I wanted to walk through a handful of Tarot cards that reflect the things I’ve been feeling for the past eleven months. These cards will focus not so much on the global aspects of the pandemic (the death rate, the politicking over a vaccine that for some fucking reason people don’t want to take because I guess they just prefer death to rain from the skies); rather, I’m working through the more local emotional impact that the pandemic has had on me.

The point of this post is not to boo-hoo; once again, I am extremely fortunate. Rather, it’s to work through some of the emotional toll the pandemic has taken. By identifying major themes and externalizing them as Tarot cards, I give myself an avenue for meditative and remedial work. Because we’re all gonna need to work through this shit for a long time after the pandemic is over.

The Hermit

I mean, this one is obvious, right? We’re all stuck at home. We’re forced into hermitage, whether we like it or not. And on the one hand, this can provide the opportunity for intense personal reflection and growth. I started reading War and Peace last summer, with the rationale that either War and Peace would be over before COVID or COVID would be over before War and Peace—and either way, that counts as a victory. (According to my Kindle app, I’m currently 82% of the way through.) But at the same time, isolation is painful and lonely, and it would be ridiculous not to see the more negative aspects of the Hermit in the experience we’re all undergoing.

Nine of Swords

Whomst among us has not lost sleep since the pandemic started? I’ve lost all meaningful sense of the passage of time, and each day blends into the next—which has also meant that my sleep schedule is completely messed up. This isn’t just a matter of all the anxiety and painful thoughts that invade my mind as I’m trying to pass out. It’s also just that… My body doesn’t know when bedtime is anymore. Normally, I have a fairly strict circadian rhythm. I’m freakishly diurnal: I wake up at sunrise no matter what time I went to bed, and I start to get sleepy right when the sun goes down. (Yes, before you ask, this is quite a burden in winter when the sun sets at 4 PM.) But over the course of the past year, it’s not been unusual for me to stay awake until midnight or even later, because my body just doesn’t understand that it’s bedtime.

Four of Cups

I mean, do I even have to explain? I feel stuck, as we all do. Physically stuck, emotionally stuck, intellectually stuck (I scream internally every day as I go to open up the LaTex document that contains my dissertation). Everything is stagnant during the pandemic. Nothing is moving (except the death toll, which continues to rise, hahahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA). And there are certainly little things to be grateful for or enthusiastic about, small blips of excitement and joy that punctuate the endless wash of sameness. But in line with the Four of Cups, it can be hard to focus on those things, because my attention is inexorably drawn back to everything that feels repetitive, closed-in, and stagnant.

Nine of Wands

My final selection for this post is the Nine of Wands. This is such a fascinating card, and one I keep coming back to in various areas of my life. As I see it, the basic message of the Nine of Wands is, Yes, I know you’re tired. I know you need a break. I know you can’t do this much longer. But you don’t really have a choice. You have to keep going, because the world keeps going as it is, whether you like it or not. And boy howdy, if that ain’t a whole coronatine mood. We’re so, so close to being able to see the end of this thing. Vaccine rollout is painfully slow, but it’s happening, and if we collectively keep our heads screwed on straight and continue to social distance for just a little bit longer, we may see the end of this thing. But as much as we want—need—a break, the time for that has not yet come. We have to keep going, whether we like it or not.

The point of my sharing these cards really isn’t just to moan and groan and wallow in self-pity. Once again, I cannot emphasize this enough: As COVID-19 goes, I’ve been lucky. But the pandemic is hard even on the lucky people, and we’re all going to have to reckon with the trauma of the past year. For me, a lot of how I process things is through the lens of Tarot. I know the Hermit. I know the Nine of Wands. So when I can identify my feelings (and the effects of the eleven-month lockdown) in those terms, that gives me some footing to begin to process and work through them. I hope, vaguely, that this post might give you an avenue to do the same.

Until the next time, friends. Take care of yourselves.

3 thoughts on “Tarot Cards for the Pandemic

  1. Re: sleep, I’m with you. I’m basically a nocturnal creature now, and I don’t like it. But it just happened. I’m not working and have no constraints on my time. So my cycle kept creeping later and later.

    Also I haven’t been outside the house in three weeks. I’m scared. I have underlying conditions. The Rona has always been bad in my town and the B117 variant is afoot here. I’m scared if I get sick, I’ll die.

    I feel like Persephone in the underworld. Confined, cut off, sightless in the dark. Spring must come soon.


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