In the Cards is a monthly advice column by Carly Boyce, a queer and genderqueer femme witch based in Toronto. With a background in community-based sexual health, grief work, and suicide intervention, in addition to several years of tarot reading, she brings gentle advice and the wisdom of the cards to your questions about life, love, and feelings of all sorts. To submit a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Ask a Feelings-Witch. Questions will remain anonymous, and may be edited for length.
Dear Feelings Witch,
I keep getting horoscopes that talk about career and finances and money, and I keep balking at them. I’m sick to death of struggling to make rent every month, but I also have a lot of feeeeelings around money and wealth, around how much time & energy I want to spend on making money versus how much time and energy I want to spend on things that let me need less of it; around scarcity & worthiness but also around “hating money” & feeling shame around wanting to reliably access it (even though I know, intellectually, that it’s just a metaphor for time & energy), worrying that I will become an Oblivious Rich Person if I’m ever not broke.
There’s a disconnect in my head/heart between “abundance” (being resource-rich in friends, food, garden space, raw materials & skills with which to make things that I can share, but also that I can keep and use) and “wealth” (being cash-rich to the point that I can afford/”afford” to lose those skills and those connections because I can just buy everything from strangers, and still have a hoard of money in a bank somewhere).
I feel like a greedy, shallow bitch for even wanting an answer to this, for even talking about it, and I feel like I must be “too rich” already, for having the time/energy/where-with-all to even consider it.
What do your cards have to say about how I can heal that disconnect, how to stop hating/fearing/distrusting money & wealth and, instead, integrate it into the web of connections, skills, energy and attention that are part of my understanding of abundance?
Thanks so much!
Dear gentle reader, thank you for this question. I think a lot of folks are wrestling with these ideas, and I am so glad to have an opportunity to participate in the conversation, and consult my cards for some ideas of ways forward. Money is tricky business, especially for folks who would like to smash capitalism (or crapitalism, as I like to call it).
In addition to my tarot cards, some of the consistent sources of genius wisdom in my life are femmes who do sex work. I learn a LOT through both Twitter and my deep relationships with folks in those communities. My friends who do sex work were the first people I ever heard say that they love money. The first time I heard it I felt shock, confusion, and some judgement. Does that idea of loving money feel awful to you? Why? Who does it serve if we hate and fear money? What would be possible if you could feel a range of emotions about money, as you likely do for every other kind of power, privilege, and resource that you access, use, leverage, and share? That interaction helped shake loose some of these questions for me, and let me ask myself what would happen if I thought of money as a tool that can let me access things I need, and share them with my communities. It is okay to want, wish for, hope for, and like money. I’m not sure I feel like there is an ethical justification for holding onto fistfulls of it, just like any other resource.
Queers, radicals, activists, weirdos—we walk in two worlds; the world we are constantly trying to create, and the one we actually live in. It’s an ongoing puzzle to decide how to live your values, to be your ideal self, in a world that fails you, hates you, wants to erase you. The disconnect is real and painful, and it isn’t your fault. Anticapitalists sometimes think we can avoid the traps and pitfalls of class privilege by avoiding having money as much as possible, but this might not be the most effective use of the power and privilege we have access to.
Let’s see what wisdom and questions the cards have to offer about this.
Heart of the matter – Ace of Feathers/Swords
The Ace of Feathers is the wishmaker, the figure who knows that feelings, ideas, and intentions can be made more solid by speaking them aloud. Whether you are putting your thoughts about cash and abundance into words in poetry, spells, conversations over the dinner table, workshops, or other settings, the ace of feathers wants you to name your worries, insecurities, hopes, dreams, fears, and questions about wealth. Do it imperfectly, and do it often.
Talking about money openly—what you make, what you need, how you use it—is a disruptive act that starts to erode the taboos that try to quash conversations about money as “impolite.” These taboos serve the people with the most access to wealth by letting them get away with never having to defend their choices about how they use, share, keep, or spend the resources they have access to, and by entrenching shame for those who have less. Wealth is not a meritocracy, and the myth that it is reifies the self-aggrandizement of wealthy (and upwardly class-mobile) people, and also supports ongoing hatred, discrimination, and criminalization of people who experience poverty.
How do you feel when money comes up in conversation? Do you feel compelled to change the subject, for your comfort or someone else’s? Why is it so much harder to ask someone what they pay in rent than it is to ask what kind of food they like to eat? What would be possible if we were all more able to talk comfortably about what we make, pay, give, and share? Just writing to me with this question, dear reader, is powerful and disruptive, and I am so glad you did. The Ace of Feathers wants you to get a lot of practice asking questions like this one, and listening to other people muddle through putting their thoughts into words. Some people have never spoken their confusing nests of thoughts and feelings about money aloud, so it might get messy and complicated! White middle class folks especially have work to do here, having so little practice at this, and so much social programming against it.
What to do – The Sun
This is a resounding “you’ve got this” from the cards. The Sun is the energy of feeling skilled and competent, things working well together, and bringing skills successfully from one area of your life into others.
You already know how to live with and struggle through scarcity, inequitable distribution, and structural oppression related to other kinds of resources—time, energy, ability, privilege. You can use all of those competencies in your financial life too. You know how to get what you need and share what you can. You know about generosity and compromise and leveraging what you can access to benefit others in your communities. You know about hustling and improvising and letting yourself enjoy the small moments when things come easy and feel safe.
The Sun has total faith in your ability to enact those beliefs and skills in your financial life. What stands in the way of you feeling competent about managing money? What are the fears associated with money and having money? What are your fears about making conscious choices about money? Are you feeling nervous about exposing yourself to critique? Have you developed skills to hear, process, and integrate critique in other parts of your life and art and work? Maybe it would feel helpful to learn more skills around finances (mostly those are passed down generationally in families with wealth, and that sucks!). Maybe you want to build more competence in thinking and talking about class and class discrimination in our communities and movements.
What to think – Six of Keys/Wands
I went to a workshop a few months ago about navigating relationships as a trauma survivor, and the facilitator premised the whole workshop on the idea that for people who have trauma histories (which, let’s face it, is most of us, or maybe even all of us), dating is an extreme sport. Extreme sports can be pretty awesome. They also require careful, laborious preparation, constant self-assessment, and strong community support. Even well-equipped, most extreme athletes spend some of their time injured and recovering from those injuries. Setbacks, injuries, and mistakes are not anomalies, they are an expected part of the trajectory of being part of the game.
I think this analogy might be helpful here too, in how the Six of Keys, a card about cycles of winning and losing, playing hard, and being celebrated for your accomplishments, is asking you to think about money. In a sharing economy, sometimes you’re the guy who needs a hand, and sometimes you’re the guy who can offer help. It’s hard for me to think of an ethical justification for hoarding wealth, even though the narratives we see are all about stepwise growth and endless expansion (how very relationship escalator). Sometimes you win the wrestling match, and sometimes you’re the guy in the mud with a foot on your chest. No one should get to stay on the podium forever. This card wants you to notice when you’re in a strong position and when you’re not, and to be able to modify how you use your ethics around money depending on your postion moment-to-moment.
In your question, you referenced fears about becoming (or even already being) an Oblivious Rich Person, which sounds to me like a fear of your values slipping away. How do you manage the risk of mission-drift in other parts of your life? Do you check-in and debrief with people you share values with to get feedback and see if you are doing the things you are setting out to do? One of the qualities of being on the podium is that people are looking at you. This makes me think that in some of the communities you run with, folks look to you as an example, or come to you for guidance. It may be that if or when you start asking and talking about thinking more about money and wealth, others will look to you in how they manage that kind of resource and privilege too. What do you want to model?
A really powerful example to set (and discuss, and muddle through, and experiment with) is an ethic of giving. How much of your money do you give away? What people or communities or organizations do you prioritize? Would you give a certain percentage of your income away every month? At the end of every year? Give a small amount every time you’re asked? Split your gifts between registered non-profits that issue tax receipts and individuals raising money for their medical expenses, transitions, legal costs, or other things our social services fail to provide? What about raising money if you can’t give as much as you want, or you want to have a greater impact than your capacity. For me, learning about and practicing grassroots fundraising has been the place where I have learned the most about my own baggage around money and class, and also begun to find ways to navigate those things. I don’t think of giving and raising money as charity; this is work that is intimately tied to personal and collective liberation, and moving resources feels more like reparations work than philanthropy.
The Six of Keys wants you to plan for the ebb and flow of resources in your life, and also think carefully about what you want to model in your communities. You are more powerful than you know.
What to be careful of – Seeker of Keys/Page of Wands
The Seeker of Keys is the choicemaker; the card that puts you in close contact with your own agency. In a position of something to watch out for, I think that the Seeker is here to remind you that you do not have the power to crush capitalism with your individual choices in how you get and use money (as some might say, there is no ethical consumption under late crapitalism). It’s a pretty tricky system to opt out of at this time, so to some extent, you have to participate.
I think the project is twofold: find ways to get and use money in ways that align with your goals and values, while also working towards the longer term and more communal goal of smashing the system. Lots of folks in my communities are finding ways to divest from banks, to repatriate land, to participate in efforts that change the big picture while also surviving (or even thriving) in the current system. Your individual choices matter, and have real impact, but there are no purely individualistic solutions to collective problems. The Seeker of Keys is a warning against individualistic thinking, and a reminder of community interdependence.
This spread of cards is optimistic; it says that you have the wisdom and power to change how you feel about and interact with money and capitalism. Healing this disconnect is a process that starts with conversation, disruption, and collectivity. I believe in you, and in the abundance that you can create and share.