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december 2023: on grief, winter, and the sparks of a new year

december 2023: on grief, winter, and the sparks of a new year
chariot & strength from the queer tarot

hello, friends, and welcome to december.

before we dig into this month's essay, a reminder that my 2023/2024 reader survey is still open! it's short and sweet, and serves as an opportunity for you to (anonymously) let me know what you would love to see from me in terms of writings, offerings, and resources in the new year.

i'll be sending out a few more updates this week, including a brand new tarot reading for the end of the year, discord invites for all paid subscribers, links to a new set of introductory tarot resources that i've been putting together (by request from y'all, so thank you!), and information on my next tarot course. if you'd like to adjust your subscription tier, or you no longer want to receive emails from me, you can update your devils & fools preferences right here:

now, take a deep breath, stretch out your shoulders and neck, grab a favorite beverage, and let's settle in.

this has been a tough year.

with december and the coming of winter here in the northern hemisphere, we've reached the usual talk about the new year: what it might bring, how things might change, what we hope will and will not stay the same. these end-of-year holidays so often inspire reflections and gratitude, as well as the creation of promises and vows for all that is ahead.

my 2023 has been a doozy. from my first book getting published to some necessary transformations, from a disaster apartment to a wonderful new home, from unsuccessful job hunting to committing to 3am.tarot as my full-time job for the foreseeable future, it's been a 7 year for the ages. and nationally, globally, there have been so many reckonings and revelations that i hardly even know where to begin in summing the year up.

just in the last few months, the themes of this chariot year have been unrelenting: interrogations of budgets and tax dollars and financial pressure, crowds speaking up and out in solidary with palestine and other suffering people groups, and a lot of americans reckoning with the united states government's roles in funding, supporting, and covering up genocides around the world. protests and boycotts, fury at our representatives' unwillingness to speak for the people who elected them, frustrations and sorrows in every corner of the globe.

it's a lot. yet it is important, even essential, for us to take time to reflect on our values, our ethics, and our needs, as well as our power. what have we learned in 2023? what are we carrying forward into the new year? what universal energies will we be dealing with, and how will that inform our individual journeys?

chariot & strength from the queer tarot

7 years are for interrogation, analysis, questing, assessment, and acknowledgements, and 8 years are for pushing forward, clearing the way, putting our weight and our strength and our resources into our clearly-defined goals. 8 is ambitious, empowered, bold and devoted, with eyes fixed on the prize and a heart that beats for success.

but what that success may look like, for individuals and for the broader collective, is still up in the air.

at the top of this year, i wrote a big ol' piece on the numerology of 2023, and on what it means to move into a chariot year (2023 // 2+0+2+3 = 7). seven as a digit is insatiably curious, but not just for surface facts and figures. seven wants to dig deep, to interrogate and question, to understand purpose. seven isn't afraid of mystery, isn't afraid of asking questions that feel too big to ever really answer.

and in these moments, as i think about all that 2023 has revealed and all that 2024 might require, i can't help but think about grief. not only of the people and ideals that have been lost, but also the grief that comes with knowledge, with answers, with awareness.

seven is a number that can hold a number of simultaneous truths, asking its questions not in a socratic, trying to prove a point sort of way, but instead with a dogged pursuit of truth, an almost desperate hunger for understanding. yet seven can sometimes experience distress when answers are found, often more comfortable in the seeking than the finding, not always knowing what to do with the aftermath of dramatic shifts in perspective.

but what do you do with it all? what do you do with all the "awareness," the pain, the sadness, the survivor's guilt, the seemingly insurmountable heaviness? - ayesha khan

seven reminds me of the schrödinger's cat paradox: that in mystery, multiple things can be true at the same time. that as long as we don't know something for certain, we can maintain optimism about what is real. that there can be delight and wonder in not having proof of something, in being able to indulge our imagination about what we might never find.

in asking questions, there are endless potential answers. as long as a challenge lingers, there can still be possibility, even hope, for what the response might be.

there can be perceived safety in just asking questions, in seeking, in saying that we don't have enough information to take action. there's a kind of strange calm in that pregnant pause, that deliberate hesitation, that necessary assessment. but ignorance can be bliss, because with answers comes certainty. with answers comes a need for a reaction or a response.

with answers comes responsibility.

once that box is opened, once we know whether or not something is true, we can't go back. we can't un-know what we have learned. once truth is discovered and named, once answers have been identified, we find ourselves in a new stage, whether we like it or not.

and as we slip into winter's rest and stillness, as we sit with the knowledge we have gained, what do we do with the grief for the truths that we did not find? for the answers that we were not given, for the hope that has perhaps been revoked or rejected? for the love that has no place to go?

what happens when our questions are answered truly, faithfully, fully, and those answers are painful? what happens when our curiosity is satisfied, but we ourselves are unsatisfied? what comes next?

if 2023 was a year of questing, of seeking, of pursuing, 2024 as an eight year, a strength year, a starlight year, asks us what we will do with our hard-fought answers. what will demand our attention? what we will devote ourselves to? what will we invest in, embody, be changed by? how will we use our power?

tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? - mary oliver, the summer day

what lives in the labored breaths between seven and eight, between the chariot's pursuit and strength's devotion, between impossible questions and emerging answers? who are we in that particular liminal space, in the heartbeats between discovery and dedication? what magic dwells in the shift from awareness to action?

knowing something is not the same thing as feeling it, as being driven by it, as letting it fuel our focuses and choices and actions. yet this is the exact magic that we find ourselves in during this transitional phase, with winter closing in, with a new year around the corner.

2023, and especially the last few months, has brought some staggering, horrifying revelations, asking us to bear witness to atrocities that no one should have to endure. around the world, eyes are opening, watering. hearts are softening, breaking. minds are learning, changing.

and all of that tender emotion, that righteous anger, that bottomless well of frustration: there is so much power in it. power that we have the ability, and the responsibility, to use.

denying grief denies humanity. - malika devich-cyril

grief isn't just an emotion. it's a deeply human reaction to something that has been lost: a person, a place, a creature, a desire, a promise, an ambition, a safety net, a community, a vision of the future, an understanding of the past. it's a reckoning with what is real and true, an awareness that something has been surrendered or sacrificed or sundered.

and as uncomfortable as it can be to reckon with grief both personal and collective, remember that this is not just about self-pity or self-absorption. grief instead is about holding love and respect for something, honoring a loss with every fibre of our being, holding the reality of just how much something mattered and continues to matter, even in its absence. grief is an honor, a privilege, a gift.

through grief, we learn how to let something take up a different kind of space, to allow it to endure in a new and important way. we empower it to be reborn. we vow to not forget. we let the sacred alchemy of grief permanently transform us into creatures of care, of empathy, of purpose.

and we collectively carry that grief forward into a new year, a new journey, a new ambition.

as you reflect on all that you have been, and all that you may become, consider: what questions were you willing to ask this year? what answers did you find, and what impact did they have? which truths have been revealed, that you can no longer deny? how has your relationship to different kinds of power changed?

what has this year taught you about who you are and what you value? what has this year taught you about what you're willing to work for, what you're going to invest in, what you want to pursue? what has this year taught you about your own courage and capacity for bravery, about how you can add your single voice to a growing, raging chorus?

and i know i may not look like much just another screaming speck of dust but oh god you're gonna get it you'll be sorry that you messed with us - girls against god, florence & the machine

there is real courage in asking questions, in being willing to seek and uncover and analyze — but there is also real courage in doing something with the answers, in taking what is known and acting on that information.

my question for you, in this final month of 2023: how brave are you ready to be? what power are you willing to wield?

wishing you an honest, reflective, and safe december, friends.