hello, friends. the last few months have gone by in a haze of writing, caretaking, and trying to balance rest and recovery with creation. i submitted my first draft of finding the fool yesterday, a completely surreal experience that i have not fully processed yet. writing is wild! i continue to be so appreciative of the patience, support, and generosity shown to me by community, chosen family, and readers, particularly during such a challenging time. thank you for being here.
those of you that have been with me for awhile likely remember my challenges with stripe, the resulting loss of income from this newsletter, and the eventual piece i wrote for WIRED that discussed the impact that payment companies have on occult services. as a result of widespread community action, stripe has changed their policy and removed so-called “psychic services” from their restricted businesses list. to that end, i am reopening paid subscriptions here on substack.
stripe has assured me in writing that this newsletter is not in violation of their updated terms of service, so i’m considering this a test. we will find out together if stripe is actually following through with this updated policy, and i will continue to report back on any hiccups along the way.
paid subscriptions will be able to comment on posts, and will receive at least one additional post per month, including an exclusive tarot spread. these subscribers will also get first dibs when i open client readings, publish new offerings, and launch classes. your financial support empowers me as a queer, disabled creative professional to continue doing the work that i love, and i deeply, deeply appreciate it.
as we step into this new month, february offers opportunities for personal awareness, conscious action, and deliberate focus. take a moment to listen to your body, your mind, your heart. what is coming forward? what are you bringing to this space? which emotions are you aware of, thoughts are you caught up in, tension are you working to release? give yourself a chance to breathe freely, to drink some water or light a candle or enjoy the sensation of your feet planted firmly on the ground.
when you’re ready, let’s dive in.
we all have limits, whether we are conscious of them or not. there are actions we won’t take, relationships we won’t change, ethical or moral beliefs that we won’t challenge. limits help us protect ourselves, find focus, achieve goals, understand our needs. in creating limits, boundaries, rules, we essentially set a standard: one for how we want to move through the world, and for the ways that we want to be viewed, treated, understood, and accepted. we define the ways that we are willing to engage, share, connect — and the things that are not acceptable, not welcome, not okay.
if you follow any of the same astrologers i do, you may think of limits as something associated specifically with the planet saturn. (and if you don’t, i suggest immediately following the social media accounts and newsletters for jeanna kadlec, diana rose harper, kirah tabourn, mecca woods, and ari felix. you can thank me later.) whether you consider saturn your dyke daddy, your sky daddy, or whatever other kind of daddy you want or need in your life, this planet can be a stern taskmaster, a restrictive ruler, or a protective barrier.
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saturn teaches us how to say no. not because we’re greedy or selfish or lazy, not because we aren’t willing to help others, not because we don’t want to engage with anything outside of our little world. when we know how to refuse, when we understand how to value and prioritize the things that matter, when we are willing to deny one thing in order to continue investing in something else, it reinforces the importance of the things that we treasure. saying no is a way to establish authority over ourselves, to guard our time and space and energy and resources, to draw a line between what we are investing in and what we are not willing to subject ourselves to.
and if you’re a student of the tarot, the first archetype you likely think of when you consider limits is that stern taskmaster, that focused leader, that intensely traditional and determined organizer: the emperor. the fourth archetype that the fool meets on their journey, the emperor (much like saturn) is easy to vilify. this is a figure of rules and authority, of limits and structures, of organizing our work and establishing boundaries around ourselves. and if you’ve ever been harmed by a system, if you’ve ever been in contact with someone who abused their power, the emperor might feel a bit triggering. you might even avoid this card, this energy, at all costs.
and i get it. i really, really do. but the emperor is not the enemy. the emperor, just like boundaries and rules and organization, is not inherently bad. this is an energy that can be intensely valuable, that teaches us how to make a plan to succeed, that encourages us to take our ambitions seriously enough to organize and clarify them. in defining what we want, and in defending our power to do so, we ensure that our dreams can actually come true. we guard the things that matter, and refuse to get distracted by the things that don’t.
there are other cards around limits, of course: numerologically, the minor arcana’s fours also sit in this space of boundaries, control, and awareness of limits, whether we consciously set them or are pushing up against them. and there are several cards that also speak to moments of no, like the six of swords and the eight of cups. with these cards, we see the ways that these decisive choices manifest in daily life, the ways that we cut ties or move forward, choosing ourselves, prioritizing what matters.
of course, limits are not always something that we intentionally set. the idea of limits is larger than saying no or creating a boundary — “limits” can also be a breaking point, a final straw, a realization that we’ve absolutely had it. we see this in cards like the tower, the ten of swords, and the ten of wands: moments when we simply cannot do any more, when we must retreat, heal, assess, and recover. our bodies, hearts, or minds set a limit, whether we choose it or not. there is no option other than to stop.
a limit is not the same as weakness. rather, it demonstrates a connection to self, a strength of character, a powerful kind of courage, a willingness to do the hard thing instead of the likable, affable, “nice” thing. when we say no, when we set a limit or a boundary or a rule, when we recognize that we are giving more than we can sustain, we are teaching people about how we want to be treated. as brené brown says, “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. we can't base our own worthiness on others' approval.”
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personal sovereignty can mean many things, but in this context it involves limiting who has access to us, limiting the goals we are pursuing, limiting how often we give of ourselves to other people. this can be uncomfortable, because so often we’re told that kindness and being available are the same thing. but the emperor teaches us about taking charge of our own time, space, energy, resources, desires, needs, and skills; that we alone determine the ways that we spend and generate, that we alone are responsible for ourselves.
that’s not to say we exist in a vacuum; far from it. we live in a capitalist society, our actions impact other people, we have responsibilities to families and partners and friends and neighbors, we are humans living on a dying planet. to ignore these things is wildly selfish. but setting boundaries is not the same as ignoring everyone and everything around us. setting boundaries allows us to be generous when we can, and to care for ourselves when we need to. saying no to some things lets us say a full, true, resounding yes to other things. saying no frees us to fully give ourselves to the goals and people and desires that we truly value.
it may feel generous to always answer every phone call, to always drop everything to help someone, to always be willing to go the extra mile for a community goal or company project or friend’s kids. these are not inherently bad things! it’s wonderful to give of ourselves, to share what we have, to make sure everyone is well cared for. but if we always say yes to everyone else, we’ll burn out long before we can ever say yes to ourselves. if we always put other things first, there will never be time or energy for our own things. and don’t you deserve to also get what you need?
when we establish spaces of safety, when we protect our joy, creativity thrives. when we take the time to protect what matters, we find freedom in that safety, wonder and power in that security. put another way: the emperor and the empress are not opposites or enemies, but partners, a small cycle all on their own. the empress generates, and the emperor preserves. the empress expands, and the emperor guides. the empress overflows, and the emperor contains.
limits, restrictions, containers, help us understand what we have, and conserve it. they help us recognize the value in what we’re doing, and honor it. they help us celebrate the devotion that has gone into what we’ve built, and respect it.
in being courageous enough to set limits, we make space for real progress, real freedom, real joy. in taking the time to organize our goals, make a plan for our success, recognize that our dreams deserve our best efforts, we let our ambitions take up space. in being brave enough to say no, we enable ourselves to move with more freedom, more compassion, more authenticity.
we are allowed to make rules, to define our wants and needs, to limit the access that we grant to others. we do not have to be always on, always available.
how often do you acknowledge the importance of your most personal, most powerful objectives? how do you internally and externally affirm that your hopes and longings matter? when do you protect your energy, and what does it feel like to do so?
what would it take for you to make your own rules? and in setting limits that empower instead of obstruct, how can you take control of your biggest dreams?
have a powerful, focused, satisfying february, friends.
images from this post feature cards from the next world tarot. all photographs by meg jones wall.