7 min read

on growth

reflections for january 2022
on growth

hello, friends, and welcome to 2022. the end of last year was filled with fear as well as blessings, and below are some words that i wrote over this past week with my partner by my side. unfortunately jeanna had to go back to the hospital yesterday, and we both deeply appreciate any candles, prayers, and healing energy you can send our way. (and for those that have asked, i wrote a short twitter thread with ways to support her recovery that is still relevant.)

as we move into this new calendar year, i want to remind you that my patreon study community is working with the empress this month, and we’d love to have you join us! i share exclusive sneak peeks from my upcoming tarot book and we look together at keywords, correspondences, numerology, and so much more - plus, your patronage directly supports my writing.

i’m still planning to open up paid subscriptions here on substack to test out stripe’s shift in policy for occult services, so be on the lookout for that update as soon as i can get to it. i deeply appreciate your patience on this front!

as we greet a new year with hope, dreams, and uncertainty, i invite you to take a moment to release any tension your body may be clinging to, particularly in your shoulders, jaw, wrists, and ankles. take a few long, slow breaths. close your eyes and think about what you can feel, what you can smell, what emotions you’re bringing into this moment. how can you show yourself a bit of grace? what might help you relax?

let’s begin.

on growth

the concept of growth can feel like a loaded one. like so many nature-based concepts, it’s frequently co-opted in narratives of success, productivity, and ambition. growth and the growth mindset are ideals we constantly strive for, endlessly dream of, unceasingly crave. we internalize the idea that we are not enough, and that we need to always keep pushing, keep prioritizing, keep going. if we aren’t moving forward, we are falling behind. if we take a moment to rest, to breathe, to process, we’ve failed. and if we have the audacity to be content with where we are, with who we are, the world finds a way to kick our ass and make us regret ever thinking we were worthy.

it’s exhausting.

beyond the obvious ties to capitalism, what so frequently gets lost in this concept is that growth is rarely linear, and that sometimes, often times, it costs us something. seeds need certain things to root, to bloom: nutrients, moisture, sunshine. but we can’t just throw these raw ingredients into a jar and expect them to manifest results immediately — seeds also require care, devotion, attention, patience. we have to invest in them, show them grace, give them space. we have to want it, have to keep wanting it.

growth takes time. and in the tarot, we are constantly reminded that growth is a result of a true commitment to change, that it doesn’t happen unless we are consistently choosing to continue prioritizing something. what are we willing to do to get what we want? how far will we push? what if our dream requires sacrifice — is what we desire worth giving something else up for? or do we only want it if it’s handed to us, if we don’t have to make any real changes along the way?

in the major arcana, we spend the first few archetypes dreaming. the fool articulates their most hidden, desperate desire; the magician throws open every door and celebrates all of the potential ahead; the priestess urges us to tap into the powerful, intuitive wisdom that dwells in our shadows. but once we reach the empress, action truly begins: we take the resources offered by the magician, harness the magic we discovered with the priestess, and watch the internal seeds we’ve been tending begin to germinate.

this isn’t neat, orderly rows of cultivated gardens: this is wildflowers blooming with abandon, wildfires surging through the forest floor, wild magic dazzling everyone that sees it. the empress isn’t concerned with immaculate and flawless creation, but instead craves expression, letting delight and brilliance and a sense of true connection flow. this is an archetype of radiant, hopeful release. this is the first moment of a transformation, the first efforts towards lasting change.

it can be scary, overwhelming, to let everything that has been building explode out into the world, to let our most intimate yearnings take up space. but it can also be a relief, to stop holding back. it can be so empowering, so exhilarating, to let ourselves and our dreams be known.

the flip side of this, of course, is in not judging ourselves, not obsessing over every flaw, not ripping our first efforts to shreds the moment that the joyful rush of creation slows. (easier said than done, i know.) in prioritizing formation over perfection, it’s essential that we don’t immediately destroy all that we’ve done, disparaging this initial effort when it’s still in its rawest form.

a first draft may not feel as refined, as elegant, as a published work — but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.

there’s power in those early ideas, in the crackle of magic flowing without restriction onto the page, the screen, the canvas. there’s weight in unfiltered desires taking up room, demanding our attention. there’s electricity in letting ideas light up open spaces, in seeing the profound impact they can have. these early forms of expression set so many other things in motion.

the empress doesn’t care if something flawless or finished. they know the value that lives in creation itself, the energy generated in process and progress. and they understand that in beginning something with confidence, our people and our resources will find us. in taking this risk, our rewards will be tenfold.

we see this same spirit echoed in the threes of each suit: fire expanding, water overflowing, air sharpening, earth sprouting. as our energy unfurls, as our community finds us, those tiny, wondrous seeds of potential spread like dandelions in the wind, catching the breeze and sharing our wonder, our power, our magic with the world around us. everything that is beginning in these cards keeps building momentum and purpose and clarity: nothing else can happen without these first steps.

when we let our dreams take up physical space, when we invest in them in a way that others can observe, real change is able to take place. and in taking chances, in seeing what happens when we’re unapologetically authentic, we inspire everyone around us to do the same. progress is its own kind of wildfire.

so what happens when you’re tired of chasing that progress? what happens when you’re running on fumes, out of fuel, unable to find a spark to feed?

what happens when growth itself feels impossible?

it’s a new year, and that brings a lot of expectations. some good, some bad, all heavy.

instead of obsessing over who you should be, instead of stressing about goals and objectives and ambitions and legacy and jobs and dreams and savings accounts and ten-year plans, take a deep fucking breath. i hereby give you permission to get all of those voices out of your head and just listen to your own.

consider what growth really is: what it does, who it’s for, what it means. what is driving this desire to grow? do you actually need to be bigger, or are you looking for permission to take up more space? do you actually want to be different than you are, or are you afraid to step into your full power, believing that it won’t be enough? do you actually believe you have to change, or are you worried that the world won’t value your beauty and magic for the gifts that they truly are?

consider the necessary deaths that you experienced in scorpio season, the dazzling movement that you enjoyed in sagittarius season, the quiet patience and powerful focus that you’ve been tapping into in capricorn season. what is all of it building to? when you consider all that has been left behind, the rot that has gradually become rich fertilizer, what are you ready to now plant and nurture? are you looking backwards, or are you moving forward?

put another way: what have you been afraid to acknowledge to yourself, to let others see? which dreams have you been reluctant to share? what would it take for you to pursue what you really seek, instead of letting dread or doubt or anxiety hold you back from real, powerful, necessary growth? what could you do if you created exactly what you want, without fear, restriction, hesitation?

which limits are you tired of living within?

what if you let yourself grow in the direction you actually wanted, instead of only planting the seeds that felt safe?

want more? i recently published a roundup of my favorite witchy nonfiction books from 2021, along with a forgiveness ritual that makes a lovely new years’ exercise. patrons are working with the empress and you can join them for this month’s study, and you can always find me on instagram and twitter.

have a beautiful january and a brilliant 2022, friends.

images in this post feature cards from the spacious tarot and a page from “a thousand mornings” by mary oliver. all photographs by meg jones wall.