10 min read

august 2023: on the gift of fear

the moon from the moonchild tarot deck
the moon from the moonchild tarot deck

hello, friends.

it's been a busy month of unpacking, settling, breathing, remembering. being in this new space, making a new home, feels like waking up somehow, like i'm coming back to myself. this place is quiet and clean, filled with sunshine and moonglow, and has already been gifted by the welcome presence of friends and loved ones. there's joy and laughter here, a sense of roots and home that i've been craving for such a long time.

wherever you are, wherever this finds you, i hope you feel safe, and settled, and satisfied. i hope you are resting and recovering, sinking into pleasure, taking stock of what you need and what you long for. with so many planets currently retrograde, and more joining them soon, the sky itself is crying out for us to slow down. and as we turn our attention this month to the moon, i hope that her soft, luminous glow helps you find your way back to yourself, too.

a reminder that i'll be sending out a spread for today's full moon in aquarius shortly, so if you want to make sure that lands in your inbox, check out my paid subscription tiers. silver and gold will both receive today's spread.

take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. let's get into it.

dreams can take many forms. some come to us while we’re awake, pulling us out of our present and dragging us into possibility, letting us anchor one foot in the tangible and dangle the other in the unknown. others arrive only in slumber, when our minds tangle up our experiences and memories and thoughts and feelings, creating strange new worlds for us to explore.

once, when learning about my severe insomnia, a sympathetic friend-of-a-friend exclaimed sadly, "you mean this world is the only one she's ever known?" i laughed at the time, darkly charmed by this turn of phrase, having never heard my odd chronic illness framed quite like that before.

but the truth is, i’ve known many worlds — i just have to find different ways of accessing them. i have to choose to dive in rather than letting my mind sweep me away. books and movies and music, daydreams and meditations, writings and readings and musings. these mediums help me explore and escape during the day, or whenever i need a break from reality.

but every night, it’s just me and the moon, whispering to each other — whether i have anything to say or not.

i was always able to write my way out / the song always made sense to me / now i find that when i look down / every page is empty / there is nothing to describe / except the moon still bright against the worrying sky. florence + the machine, my love

there are plenty of theories around insomnia, but a lack of sleep is most commonly linked to anxiety, depression, pain, or trauma. and while my particular case of sleeplessness is lifelong and idiopathic (meaning that it has no underlying cause), for most people insomnia can be traced back to deep, powerful fear.

fear of what is more complicated, and varies from person to person: fear of surrender, perhaps. fear of hauntings or nightmares, fear of what might reveal itself in the darkness. fear of our own memories, dragging us backwards. fear of our shadows, keeping us from moving forwards. fear of truth. fear of harm. even fear of hope, of what it might unlock, of how we might be disappointed.

but the biggest fear, the one you probably already thought about while reading that last paragraph, is the fear of a lack of control, a fear of the unknown. a fear of what we can't see or change, what we can't define or predict, what we can't protect ourselves from.

yet, those sleep-fueled dreams in particular have a way of freeing us from this control, whether we like it or not. our minds create worlds for us to wander through, and we don’t always have to make the same decisions that we might make while waking. sometimes, all we can do is follow the path that our heart creates for us, and see where it leads. sometimes, we have to take an adventure that our spirit has crafted for us, and risk it all along the way.

this tension, this strangeness, this lack of control that may feel satisfying and terrifying simultaneously: all of this is the moon. mystery, uncertainty, terror and wonder all wrapped up in one beautifully hazy, strange, uncomfortable, uncontrolled package. we tend to associate the moon with dreams and fears as well as illusions, intuition, confusion, secrets, and the subconscious; a lack of (or craving for) clarity, a propensity to wander, an opportunity to stumble through our own imagination and see what we find in the shadows. what is revealed, under the moon’s enchanting glow? how do our shadows twist and bend, a curious dance of movement and stillness?

where does the moon lead us, if we're willing to follow, if we don't mind getting lost? what might we learn, and what might we realize we never knew at all?

all of my life / i spent searching the words / of poets and saints and prophets and kings / and now at the end / all i know that i've learned / is that all that i know / is that i don't know a thing. -natasha pierre and the great comet of 1812, dust and ashes

the moon is an archetype of the strange, the mysterious, the undefined. what do we hide from ourselves? what lives within us, that we might not even know about? what dreams, what desires, only reveal themselves when we give them the space to come forward? numerologically, the moon falls into the nine constellation, living alongside the hermit and the minor arcana nines. nine is philosophical, spiritual, a digit of emergence and detachment. yet there can be fear too, in spite of the hermit's reputation as a sage and seer. being accomplished, possessing gifts, having lived through challenges and emerged out the other side, does give us a certain air of gravitas. but it doesn't mean that we know everything.

and while the hermit might encourage us to sift through what we know, the moon pushes us to consider what we don't know, what we can never know.

in all of us, no matter our age or experiences or traumas, there are parts of ourselves that we are still learning, that we may never completely figure out. it’s why the devil is such a frustrating, enigmatic, controversial archetype: because we all have our own relationship with it, and all have to define and understand it for ourselves. my devil will never be the same as your devil. my moon will never be the same as your moon. not just because we're different people, but because what scares us, what inspires us, what beckons us, are always different too.

our mysteries are our own. our fears are our own. our journeys are our own. no one can define these things for us.

the devil, the moon, and the nine of swords from the moonchild tarot deck
the devil, the moon, and the nine of swords from the moonchild tarot

but this is part of what makes these archetypes so tricky, so sticky: because fear is powerful, and emergence is constant, and answers are rarely fixed. nine is an uncomfortable number because it’s an ending, one with a new beginning that may or may not be starting to reveal itself. we can’t yet see what the silver lining is yet, what the moon might be illuminating in the great beyond: but we can feel something slipping away, something settling into surrender. we know that something is being lost, even as something else is being found.

and isn’t that just another way of describing fear: as the dread of loss? as the knowledge that something may be coming that we cannot stop? as the worry that our dreams will never come true, our desires will never be satisfied? fear can also be the terror of what that loss will reveal: about us, about who we are, about what we long for when no one is looking. fear is vulnerable.

of course, the moon doesn’t just have to be about fear. it can be about exploration, about wildness, about trusting what we know but can't prove. but just like with the devil, when we avoid fear or shame or messy feelings, when we try to make the moon solely about intuition or dreams, sometimes those things we have neglected come back to haunt us.

fear is an instinct. it is a protective measure, a way of heightening our awareness. it’s our bodies and minds trying to get us to pay attention, to focus up. it keeps us safe, reminds us of our boundaries, encourages us to stay alive. but it can also hold us back if we let it call all of the shots. it can restrict our growth. it can smother our dreams.

because when fear becomes too strong, it chokes out our ability to recognize our desires. and if we aren’t careful, desire and fear can get twisted up, until we can no longer tell them apart, until we become afraid of our own longings.

barn's burnt down - / now / i can see the moon. -masahide

because that’s the thing: often, desire scares us. desire is vulnerable, just like fear. but desire and dreams are so often the key to unlocking essential aspects of who we are. desire shapes us, even if we’re too afraid to acknowledge it. desire tells us what we’re willing to fight for, what we’re willing to risk, what we never want to lose. desire tells us what we value, what matters.

and when we let our desire take up space, when we’re brave enough to dive inside of it, we begin to touch the core of who we are underneath all the fear and control, underneath the shoulds and have-tos.

desire is our beating heart, our breath, our soul. it's our crackling fire, our grasping hands, our endless craving. it's our hunger. it shows us what we live for.

i'll say it again: your moon is your own. but i think the moon longs to teach us about the wonder and awe that can come when we allow mysterious desire to take up space, when we give it equal weight alongside facts and figures, truths and realities. i think the moon aches for us to see the beauty in shadows, the loveliness in doubt, the magic in uncertainty. and i think the moon wants us to dance inside of our desires, to hold space for our fears, and to recognize what each of these aspects of self have to offer us.

while it's sometimes uncomfortable, i think it’s okay not to know things. mystery is good, healthy, important. it’s delicious to still have things to discover, to always have new things to find and explore and question, to see new aspects of things we have already studied carefully. rather than fearing what we don’t know on principle alone, letting that lack of control consume us, the moon can remind us of the wisdom in exploring something undiscovered, and the joy in gently following paths that former versions of us might never have found in the dark.

the moon can keep us company, while we ask our unanswerable questions. and sometimes, if we're lucky, she'll even whisper back.

isn't it splendid to think of all of the things there are to find out about? it just makes me feel glad to be alive - it's such an interesting world. it wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? there'd be no scope for imagination then, would there? - anne of green gables, l.m. montgomery

if you only take one thing from all of this rambling, let it be: the moon's strange and shifting light is a gift, even when we don’t fully understand it. not because it guides us forward like the star, or because it brightly illuminates everything like the sun. not because if offers perfect clarity, or unconditional support, or an easy path forward. the moon brings its own revelations, ones that we can choose whether or not to receive, ones that we may not be able to find anywhere else. the moon supports our dreams and fears in equal measure, reminding us that they are both essential pieces of us. the moon lets us be the fullest, weirdest, most authentic version of us, the one that we might not always remember exists, one that might rarely get to take up space.

because we don’t have to live in the mystery, not if we don’t want to. we can lock those secrets up tight, let parts of ourselves stay hidden even from ourselves. we can keep things as simple as possible, can only work within spaces we control completely. we can build fences and walls, lock ourselves up tight, always stay on the well-trod paths that we've created inside of ourselves.

sometimes, it's easier to never step into the shadows, to never surrender to our cravings, to never let ourselves go.

but there is such magic, such power, such growth, such possibility in exploration. there is such joy, and sweetness, in learning more about ourselves, in giving our fears and our dreams alike room to breathe. the more we know, the more we change. and isn't that such a terrifying and gorgeous part of life? isn't that part of the strange, intoxicating wonder of being human?

even when knowledge is a frightening prospect, there's beauty in it too: in the transformations and the endings, in all that emerges through them. in the many doors that get thrown open after we shut one that needs to close.

even when truths are hard to catch, when fears are hard to define, when desires are hard to acknowledge, the moon listens to our cries, our whispers, our longings.

even when sleep is out of reach, our dreams are never far away.

the moon and the hermit from the moonchild tarot

what are you ready to find out about yourself? what desires are you discovering, buried beneath your fears? what is emerging within you, slowing poking its head out of the shadows, letting itself be seen? what parts of yourself will you find in the ever-shifting moonlight, and which ones will you be brave enough to chase? what are you willing to whisper to the moon, to confess and discover, to acknowledge? what don't you know, and how does that sit within you?

and how will you let your fears, your desires, your mysteries teach you about who you want to be when the sun finally starts to rise?

sending you love, comfort, discovery, and support this month, friends.