This piece is part of a series of interviews of ‘Scopes contributors!
In 2015, a dear friend invited me to an Afrobeat Meditation – a moving meditation hosted in my local community by a MeetUp group intended only for black women. I love Austin but it’s not a diverse city, and it’s becoming increasingly less so.
As an adult in my hometown of NYC, where I was thoroughly immersed in a melting pot, however increasingly gentrified, I never bothered to seek black-only spaces. Even though, because of my upbringing, that was how I had been raised.
Dancing in a black-only space felt like dancing in my grandma’s living room. I LOVED moving meditation. I loved gathering with black women. And so I found myself, In the summer of 2015, at a retreat led by Naya Jones, the facilitator, and creator of Afrobeat meditation.
This is where I met Asali of Asaliearthwork.com
She had the most diverse oracle deck I’d ever seen. (It was the Black Angel Cards.) I interrogated her in typical Aquarius fashion. What deck is this? Do you read tarot? What’s your website? It was big enough just to see each other. You exist??! A black tarot reader? Queer?! But she was also a treasure trove of diverse deck information, and I could hear wisdom in her that went well beyond her years.
I knew right away that I wanted to feature her work in my ‘Scopes. Eventually, I would anoint my lover with her fragrant Omiero, the one and the same that we charged while on retreat. I would sooth myself with her healing baths.
This is what the right community does. It lets you find and see each other. It shelters you as you face, or process, the impossible. It leaves you better than it found you and more able to host that same kind of space for others.
I stalked Asali for a bit. To learn how she viewed her tarot practice, to see if she’d keep going. She keeps going. And she encourages the same in others. I look forward to participating in even more communities with her.
WHAT DO YOU THINK TAROTSCOPES ARE BEST USED FOR?
I find that tarotscopes, much like the horoscopes that inspired them, are used to give us a sort of lay of the land in a season. However unlike horoscopes, the addition of the tarot with its history and imagery give the tarotscope reader a deeper access to the message of the ‘scopes.
Beyond what is written, the addition of tarot cards is like giving them a peek into the crystal ball- and they can decide for themselves what it is they see and what calls to them in the cards.
What inspired your custom tea blends?
For custom teas, I ask that my clients share an idea of what energy they’d like to invoke, or what guidance or support they’d like the herbs to give. I also sometimes add a tarot or oracle card to guide my creation if the description is vague or my intuition feels like some deeper truth is missing.
There are also some of my tarot teas that started out as teas created for a particular purpose or person and they matched up perfectly to a tarot card so I kept them for that card. For example my Braveheart (Three of Swords) blend was for the femmes in my life who dive into love wildly and openly even after just piecing their hearts back together.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TIME AND TAROT? IN YOUR READINGS DO YOU PRIORITIZE PAST? PRESENT? FUTURE? A BLEND?
Only in as much as it calls for it and my intuition asks me to care about it. Which is my just a little less dramatic way of saying quite dramatically that chronology is a construct the divine hardly has time for. For example, I often lay a standard three card reading for myself but it’s not always a story of past, present of future. Sometimes even when it is, it cycles back into itself and then trying to divide it into periods of time becomes futile.
WHAT’S SOMETHING WE MIGHT NEVER GUESS ABOUT YOU THAT’S INTEGRAL TO YOUR TAROT PRACTICE? A STORY? A BELIEF? A SUPERPOWER?
Hmm, oh this one’s hard. What does surprise some of my friends is that I do my best tarot reading for myself when I’m devastated. In fact one of my best and most memorable reading was done on my lap, crying in a parking lot, at a particularly low and chaotic time in my life.
I always take care to be calm and collected when working the cards for others but I find that I’m most honest about the cards when I’m too overwrought to avoid hard truths the cards always.
I can identify with this…
I often say I use my cards for emotional triage and my primary experience of this was tarot for myself. At first, I NEVER received readings. Life experience has led me to go above and beyond the standard level of personal responsibility with respect to self care.
Without trust in institutionalized healing systems, it fell to me to care for myself. As we go into such a politically charged time with so many public institutions and programs called into question,
what do you think will be the role of divination/witchcraft/healing arts for POC and marginalized communities?
I think we’re already in the midst of this shift, right? Or at least lately it seems that every popular blog or magazine wants to profile a witch or healer or other diviner as a marker of some new millennial obsession into the spiritual arts. However, I don’t think it’s anything new, so much as it is an effort to make more visible- and accessible to the communities it came from.
This is our work, and has been since the time immemorial. We’re just finding new ways to communicate with each other, and build our community around it. We are now more openly taking the magic out of our grandmother’s (and I use that term broadly, for both biological and community ancestral legacy) closet and placing it on our altars, front steps, and bodies.
Where enslaved people used to meet secretly in the woods to conjure for freedom, we now have widely publicized hexings against oppressive power and fierce femmes burning sage at protest frontlines.
We’re taking it straight into the institutions that want to throw us away and shaking their foundations- one of my favorite manifestations of this work is the building push to incorporating meditation and reflection to young ones in schools as an alternative to letting the prison industrial complex gobble them up.
And it’s not just about the large gesture and big shift- every little thing we do to regather ourselves and our spirit from the margins threatens power. Every tarot reading that grows us deeper into our knowing so we can’t be so easily lied to, every crystal we hold to sustain us just one more minute, every herb we spell into our bodies to prioritize our health and well-being, is powerful. It is not the entire battle, and it is not the complete revolution- but in order to keep fighting, we gotta learn how to thrive beyond mere survival.
That’s what this work is about for me.
Do you work with ancestors in your readings?
I absolutely do- honestly I wouldn’t have a practice without them. My spiritual practice honors ancestral wisdom and communication so I ask that they stay close when I read cards for myself and for others.
I also find that sometimes a client’s ancestral guides will sort of twang my spirit when I need to pay attention to something that isn’t been said or acknowledged. It’s for this reason that I always invite both mine and their ancestors into the space to relay whatever it is that needs revealing.
Do you feel our communities influence how we use the tarot?
Absolutely! I think the way my Tarot of the QTPOC list came about for me is a great example. That list’s existence is at least in part thanks to a white proprietor of a new age store who told this one time tarot newbie and her brown femme friend that there weren’t any decks with LGBTQ or people of color in the store because there just weren’t as many QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) out there reading tarot.
Blessedly, I never believed her- and actually the first tarot reading I received was from my Black and queer godsister and the second one was from a Brown trans femme and my third from a Black queer spirit and my fourth from a Brown nonbinary femme… and you see where this is going.
It’s also about choosing to believe myself, and affirming my querents knowing of themselves too. I pull a card and continue the work of unlearning who I’ve been told I am and should be. That’s work those at the margins have to work every single day to do.
And then of course there’s the minute details of using tarot. In just one example, knowing that my community is queer means that reading the King of Wands in a love reading as a redheaded cis white dude is just not going to cut it. It means I look for decks that throw out that narrow understanding, start from inclusive diversity- hell rename the courts and the majors and the minors altogether to make space for where and who we are.
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