11 min read

october 2023: on awakening to self

judgement from the marigold tarot

hello, friends, and welcome to october.

this is perhaps my favorite month of the year, in my favorite season of the year. growing up largely in new england, i fell in love with autumn: the scents, the sounds, the beauty of falling leaves, the crispness of the air. there's nothing quite like it, and i hope that wherever you are, you're experiencing some bits of unexpected beauty, making some wild discoveries, holding some sweet joys near.

before we dig into our essay for the month, a reminder that i am open for a limited number of tarot readings and that paid subscribers will be getting an additional email from me later today with access to a very limited number of live reading spots. click here to learn more about my reading options, and if you're not a paid subscriber yet, click the button below to upgrade your subscription. this not only helps to support my ongoing work, but will also get you access to today's second email, which will include everything you need to know to book your live reading:

now, take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. release any tension in your jaw, your neck, your shoulders, your wrists, your hips, your ankles. let's dive in.

i recently played through a video game that included a heavy but unavoidable choice as part of the narrative. (i'm not going to tell you what the game is in an effort to avoid any spoilers, but suffice to say: i loved it.) this game involves wading into a lot of layered drama and interpersonal mysteries, trying to untangle and resolve them, including the introduction of a beautiful but terribly sad character that i'll call A.

A had a lot of trauma. so much, in fact, that it was drowning out everything else in her world. in spite of the love of friends and family, in spite of the power and beauty and grace that were so obvious in her person, A was suffocating under the weight of a long-ago horror. as a way of coping, she had developed a means to escape that pain for a time, to forget who she was and what she had endured. she found a way to disappear, and it was now a regular part of her survival, a chance to slip away for a little while.

my character's choice in this matter was both simple and complicated: i could let A continue to do what she wanted and simply stand by her side while she surrendered to this familiar, temporary respite. or i could interfere, beg this wounded character to stay the course rather than choosing the route that she had taken so many times before.

it's an impossible decision. on the one hand, of course people should have agency, should be allowed to make the choices that they want to make for their own damn selves. who am i to interfere in something that this character so desperately wanted, even needed? who i am to deny her an escape, to act like i knew what was best for her?

but on the other hand, A was surrounded by loving family who are desperate for her to get off of the endless hamster wheel of forgetting, remembering, then choosing to forget again: people who are begging her to try to heal instead of giving up. A couldn't see just how many people missed her when she was gone, how many people were eager to step in and help support her, how many people loved her and couldn't bear losing her.

because that's the thing: escaping and healing are not the same thing. they live in different parts of us, serve different functions, are activated in different ways. escaping is opting out, leaving something behind, choosing a new path. but healing — healing requires that we stay the course, that we examine painful truths, that we endure. healing necessitates that we accept support, that we ask for the help we need, that we let others catch us when we stumble.

and choosing to heal, to release, to forgive, takes a lot of courage. choosing to try, to fight, to make necessary change, can feel like the scariest thing we've ever done.

judgement, priestess & justice from the marigold tarot

in the story of the major arcana, a lot happens. what begins with a bold desire, a deep need, a shapeless but undeniable craving, becomes a motivating force, a gradually emerging series of decisions that remakes us. the fool's longing becomes the magician's imaginative ideas, the priestess' intuitive choice, the empress' abundant outpouring, the emperor's structured protection, the hierophant's necessary breakthrough. over and over the fool is challenged to grow, to shift, to make important choices and release old ideas. at times the fool must double-down, affirm that what they want is truly worth the cost; at other times the fool is supported, celebrated, empowered, emboldened. the devil pushes us to a breaking point, the tower collapses and frees us, the star shows us all that is possible, the moon envelopes us in our own shadows, the sun shines brilliant clarity on our own radiance.

and finally, in the penultimate card of the journey, we find judgement.

after pushing, challenging, succeeding and failing, reaching and releasing, judgement serves as the final shift, the final transformation point, the final step in a lengthy and evolutionary journey. and while judgement as an archetype does set us up for that last card, the world, it is also essential for another purpose: for being honest with ourselves about who we are now, as opposed to who we have previously been.

the fool who begins the journey is barely recognizable by the end of it. yet they have not fundamentally changed: rather, they have found a more authentic version of self, a self that is wide awake.

as card twenty, judgement falls into the two constellation (20 // 2+0 = 2), associated energetically with the priestess and justice. this is a number of observation and patience, of looking at our options and considering which one feels the most authentic, the most true, the most correct for us. two holds a lot of duality, keeping things back while also extending a hand of grace, urging us to partner with our intuition and our truth in order to slowly, beautifully transform.

to the outside, two doesn't always look particularly dynamic. we call this a passive digit, a number that is patient and potent, that waits, that considers. like all even numbers, two likes stability, craves safety, needs a firm foundation to build upon.

but still waters run deep. and with the archetypes in this two constellation, we find opportunities to pivot, to make a change that will have a long-term ripple effect not only on us, but on the people and the world around us. judgement wants us to feel safe within ourselves, to trust that the choice we are making, in leaving an old aspect of self behind and stepping fully into our metamorphosis, is right.

none of this is to say that safety is a weak choice, a foolish choice, an inauthentic choice. for many of us, finding a safe space, a safe group of people, a safe version of ourselves, took a long time, or a tremendous amount of effort, or a lot of trial and error.

safety is not lacking, or cowardly, or silly. at times, safety is everything.

but sometimes, we spend so long creating that safety that anything more feels like a risk. we cling so hard to that hard-fought safety that we can't imagine any other shape it could take. we find ourselves so desperate to protect that safety that we close the door on other desires, other longings, other needs.

and judgement is the moment that we are willing to thank that safe place, that safe version of self, for the value and necessity and protection it offered — and also to say "i'm ready for more."

just because we've always carried something doesn't mean we can never set it down. just because we've always moved in a specific direction doesn't mean we can't change course. just because we've always defined ourselves in a particular way doesn't mean that definition can't change or expand or completely shatter.

just because we've allowed ourselves to get used to a certain way of being — that doesn't mean it always has to be that way.

the first time i played through this video game, i didn't fight A. i didn't particularly like her choice, but i felt that i had to respect it. and when she faded away, to the overwhelming sorrow of her family, i understood both her decision and the grief that she left in her wake.

but the second time, i pushed. i begged A to really see all of the people who loved her, who would stay by her side while she tried to process this impossible trauma, who missed her when she wasn't her complete self and who vowed to support her every step of the way. i challenged her notions that everyone around her approved of her choice, that she wasn't doing harm in her own way by endlessly escaping. i gave the people who loved her a chance to speak freely, to make promises, to affirm her value.

and reader, that second time, A decided to stay: to face her demons, to push through the pain, to see what (and who) she found on the other side of grief.

it's not an easy road, stepping up to face our demons and our fears. sometimes, these are deeply-ingrained aspects of self, traumas and anxieties and beliefs, that have been with us for so long, we don't know how to imagine ourselves without them. these are truths to us, rhythms and convictions, that feel inextricably woven into the fabric of who we are, things that would be impossible to remove without our entire selves unraveling.

and yet. at the end of the game, this character stood up for herself a second time, bravely vowing to fight for the life she had committed to, showing up for others and for herself in a way she could never do before. in encouraging A to stay, she gets to be present for the big final showdown, to add her voice to a necessary chorus instead of being lost in her own escape. A just wanted someone to fight for her, and after realizing all that she was capable of, decided to fight for herself too.

if that's not a perfect example of the judgement archetype in action, i don't know what is.

every archetype in the major arcana is optional. we have to remember, when looking at this journey, that we are not just being dragged along against our will: we are actively choosing to remain in it, to keep taking steps forward. that choice is often captured in the fool's desire and bravery: that aching need to shift, to grow, to reveal and release and be reborn. the story only moves forward if we make the decision to keep telling it, to keep participating in it, to keep untangling it.

at its core, judgement is an opportunity: to look critically and honestly at who we have become, to own an aspect of self while also releasing ourselves from the prison that that aspect of self may have become.

we don't have to let our flaws define us; we don't have to let our fears restrain us; we don't have to let our old limitations keep us held back from growth. just because something has been a secret, has been true, doesn't mean that it has to stay true. we may think we've moved on from something, but if it's still taking up a lot of internal space, it's likely having more of an impact on our external choices and actions and movements than we may even realize.

and when we wake up to that reality, it can clear our vision, and create so many new possibilities.

tel aviv, 2015 // nyc, 2023

there was a time in my life when i thought i had gone as far as i could go: that the life i had made was the best it could get. i had safety and stability, i had love, i had community. maybe i wasn't my absolute best self, but i had enough, and shouldn't i be grateful? as the years went by, as i kept pushing against more and more internal walls, i kept having to shed pieces to still fit into that comfortable life i'd built. i started to realize that what had been satisfying had become stifling — and finally, i had to walk away from that solid foundation, had to stretch the wings i'd spent years building and finally try to fly.

it was terrifying. i wasn't really sure if i could do it, wasn't sure if the risk and fear and loneliness was worth the potential that i could only dream about.

but now, i wake up early in the mornings to little cracks of light filtering through the bedroom curtains, singing birds and fresh coffee and soft sheets. i look at my beloved's beautiful face, calm and peaceful in sleep, turned towards me on her pillow, body curved around mine. and i can't help but feel overwhelming gratitude to that past version of me, for being brave enough to chase after something unknown, for opening a door to a new future that hadn't yet been written: because it brought me here, now, to a woman i adore and a home i love and a generous chosen family and a creative life that satisfies and challenges in equal measure.

i had to acknowledge who i had already grown into, and give that person the room to keep growing — even if it meant leaving something familiar behind.

owning that longing, that fear, that trauma, that history: it's scary, and painful, and uncertain. but it also allows us to step more fully into ourselves, to leave a past perspective behind so that our vision can expand, to plant seeds that will slowly create an entirely new landscape.

it lets us welcome in possibility, building a life that can continue to blossom.

judgement from the marigold tarot

as we move into october, as we embrace the energy of judgement, as we consider lifting veils and dying leaves and the endless cycles of growth and decay that we all move through, i want you to consider what is awakening within you. i want you to pay attention to the ways that you have changed, to the person you actually are, to the truth that you see when you look fully in the mirror without flinching.

who are you, now? how does the person that you have become, through trials and challenges and big wins, through revelations and discoveries and painful goodbyes, compare to the person you used to be, the old versions of self that still echo within you? what does that person need? what has to happen for you to fully accept who you are, to own the changes, to acknowledge the shifts?

are you ready to walk through that new door you've been moving towards, and fully embrace the person you are?

wishing you a magical, ethereal, revelatory october, friends.