5 min read

from temperance to the devil

from temperance to the devil
from the antique anatomy tarot

hello friends, and a blessed solstice to you.

as the sun moves into capricorn and we mark the longest night of the year, there is room for both reflection and rest, awareness and stillness, dreaming and reality. i would encourage you to not push too hard, to not feel guilty about anything you're not doing, to not pressure yourself into doing an elaborate new ritual (unless you genuinely want to and feel supported in that choice).

yule gives us opportunities to let our inner dreams expand, to light up the darkness, to sit quietly in space and let discoveries come to us. what are you considering? what is resonating with you? what makes you feel safe, supported, satisfied?

earlier this month i shared an essay on finding equilibrium, on juggling fears and pain with hope, healing, and messiness. it was in large part inspired by my reflections on last december, on spending endless weeks in the hospital at my love's side. it's felt impossible not to acknowledge and celebrate how far we've come since then, not to remember how close i came to losing her, not to share how grateful i am that she's nearly recovered now.

but last week on december 12th, exactly one year from the day i first took jeanna to the hospital with her appendix on the brink of bursting, i woke up at 5am with acute abdominal pain of my own.

december 12 2021 // december 12 2022

i've been dealing with ongoing chronic health issues for the last few years, which found some clarity when my doctors discovered a uterine fibroid in august of 2021. but the pain i woke up with last week was different, new, and terrifying. sharp and localized to my lower right abdomen, it was impossible not to worry that history was repeating myself, that my own appendix was stirring up trouble.

the shift from temperance to the devil can sometimes feel like this: trying to find our balance in a strange new world, trying to recover from a hard hit - only to feel something tilting us off of our axis, knocking us backwards into old fears, old habits, old patterns.

i like to think that i'm brave, that i can be courageous and strong when i need to be, that i take care of myself and practice what i preach — but the thought of going back to that same ER, of being separated from my partner as we were so many times last year, of fighting for care and hoping that no mistakes would be made, paralyzed me. every inner voice whispered that going to the ER would be intensely traumatic, that i would be a complete wreck, that i couldn't possibly handle it.

i tried to convince myself that this pain wasn't that big a deal, that i've dealt with worse, that this was just my body's terrible way of remembering and sympathizing with the pain from last year. i quickly slipped into my familiar pattern of denying my own suffering, ignoring my discomfort, refusing to get checked out even when i could feel in my bones that something was wrong.

the devil from the antique anatomy tarot

the devil can have many faces. and while i think that this archetype can bring a lot of necessary wisdom, awareness, and even wild magic, it also asks us to examine our habits, our tendencies, those patterns that feel comfortable but may be doing us harm instead. temperance may demand balance, but the devil forces us to acknowledge the truth — or bear the consequences of avoidance.

when i looked at jeanna's worried face, i knew we had to go, in spite of my desire to just crawl into bed and never come out again.

and to my immediate relief, the ER department where i'd spent so many hours last year had been completely renovated, looking nothing like that old, musty room where i'd hovered and worried. the strict rules that kept us apart so many times last year had been adjusted, allowing us to stay together without subterfuge, without begging. the staff was different, the security guards were different, the cause was different. it felt like a fresh start, like a new place.

after 15 hours in the ER, tests and meds and far too many pelvic exams, we've figured out what the problem isn't, and are still working to define what it is, what exactly my fussy, broken uterus needs. my future holds more specialists, more appointments, more tests, and probably, more surgeries.

my appendix is fine. healthy, even. my fears that i'd be facing the devil i already knew have faded, even as new fears take their place. but there can be relief in carving a new path, even if we aren't sure where it ends. there can be joy in having something ruled out, in knowing that we don't have to retrace old steps, confront old struggles. there can even be strength in bracing for a new fight, instead of having to relieve a past battle.

temperance & the devil from the antique anatomy tarot

refusing to face the truth wouldn't have helped me. denial over treatment might've caused lasting physical damage, not just made the problem evaporate. even when it feels impossible, we can hold space for our terror and still do what must be done, can acknowledge the pain of the familiar, the shadow of the past sweeping over us again, and still break the cycle. we are strong enough to grow, even when faced with doubts, even when fear threatens to hold us back.

in shifting from temperance to the devil, in moving from the unknown to the known, we find opportunities to reclaim our power, to tell a new story, to open up a different path.

and while i'm not yet sure how this story ends, i'd rather go into the unknown than be stuck in an old, impossible cycle.

for more on capricorn season, the devil, and cards to work with this season, make sure to check out my capricorn tarotscopes for autostraddle. and for those of you who purchased year of seven readings, thank you for your generous and kind emails, for your patience, for your compassion. i'm pulling cards again and your readings are on the way.

wishing you all a safe, easeful, and happy holiday season.