Hope this missive finds you well. After five amazing years of service, I am- mostly- closing down my Brownstargirl Tarot practice for now. My last day will be June 13, 2017.
It’s been a hell of a ride. When I started Brownstargirl Tarot in 2012, I had been reading tarot, for myself and other people, since I was 19- for 18 years. Reading tarot had been a private practice I did to get clarity and support for myself in tough times. It was also how I kept the phone turned on when I was broke in my 20s. It became something I shared with friends and community members, as things started to change and I wasn’t the only person who had an altar in their bedroom and was into that “weird witchy stuff” in activist QTPOC communities. Tarot was my backup hustle, the thing I knew I could count on doing when I didn’t have rent, and a gift I loved offering.
When I opened Brownstargirl Tarot in September 2012, I thought it would be a short term thing to get rent money together, something I’d done many times before. Instead, the response I got bowled me over. My calendar was booked, and for the first time, I was kind of paying my own way- rent, bills and groceries- by reading cards. More than that, it felt like being a healer was a role I could play to support my communities. This wasn’t a fluke. Brownstargirl Tarot launched at a particular time and place in healing justice movement and community, when many people in the Bay Area and beyond were talking about healing, exploring QTPOC spirituality, where many queer and trans Black and brown healers were doing work to name that yes, we had the right to heal, on our own terms- that healing wasn’t just a white thing. This created a container and a moment that allowed my practice to flourish.
Over the the past five years, I have been privileged to sit with many people, listen to their stories and questions and offer high quality intuitive counseling services. I have been proud to prioritize QTPOC, to offer payment plans and make space where people who had been multiply marginalized and shut out of healing services were able to feel safe enough to access healing. Reading tarot was an accessible way for me to make a chunk of my living. I was able to make money as a chronically ill person from working from my bedroom, laptop or a nearby cafe. More than once, I read for somebody on the floor of an airport, my phone plugged into a nearby socket.
I offered intuitive counseling services at many healing justice practice spaces- at the Allied Media Conference for five years in a row, at CUAV’s Safetyfest, at the Color of Violence 4 Conference and many other one off spaces and was a part of building healing justice communities. My practice brought me to helping to co-organize the Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter action in December 2014 with Adaku Utah and Susan Raffo, where healing justice workers across North America and beyond raised over twenty thousand dollars for the Ferguson bail fund. In 2105, Cyree Jarelle Johnson and myself lead a “Divination for Liberation” meetup for people practicing divination as part of the Healing Justice Practice Space at the AMC. Tarot followed me as I moved home to Toronto when I was priced out of Oakland, covering my bills during a financially tight two years. I sought out formal mentorship, bought multiple decks, started and maintained a blog, built in regular cleansing practices to my work, pushed myself to deepen my practice, had regular clients I built relationships with over years. As one of my mentors pointed out, intuition is like a muscle- the more you use it, the stronger it gets. At the height of my practice, I could hear the first words of what people were going to say before they said them.
I’ve seen so many changes in the world of politicized healing over the past five years. When I started, I knew one other person who identified as QTPOC who read cards, and two QTPOC who did any kind of intuitive counseling. Now I can’t name everyone I know who is queer or trans, POC and/or disabled, who offers tarot as a small business or a practice to friends and community. There are big QTPOC witch communities on Facebook, and columns about tarot on Autostraddle and GUTS magazine. I’ve seen a new generation of healers using divination coming up. When I started, Instagram wasn’t really a thing – I think I had an account, but it was just a place to post blurry snapshots I took on my travels from my crappy phone, not a marketing tool. Now, the ”Instagram witches” are a big thing! There are multiple radical, queer tarot decks- Slow Holler, Tarot of the Black Madonna, Dust to Onyx, Cristy Road’s forthcoming deck and many more.
Why am I moving on? The process really started two years ago, when my books Bodymap and Dirty River both came out in 2015. At the advice of my mentor, I closed down my practice for some months then, realizing that I wouldn’t be able to read for people well in the middle of the hecticness of touring and performing. In some ways, my practice didn’t come all the way back from then. For most of my 20s and 30s, I counted myself as lucky to be able to make a living as a disabled, femme of color writer without a trust fund, and that living was made by working 3-4 jobs at a time, plus many community organizing and support commitments I did for free. I was constantly available and constantly working til 2 AM every night.
I did the best I knew how to survive as a disabled femme of color. But, post turning 40 two years ago and having some health scares, I’ve done a lot of work to slow down and figure out how to be more sustainable for real, how to focus on fewer things to do more and hopefully be around for longer. Getting older has given me more of a sense of how long and how many spoons things actually take, and how I’ve got to pace myself as a sick and disabled queer at midlife to be able to not burn myself the fuck out. Right now, the healing I’m feeling the most called to offer the world is getting my books out there. I’ve got five of them in the works (a writers manual, a new book of poetry, a book of essays, a second memoir and a YA crip of color science fiction novel), and I’d love them to come out in a year or two, not another ten. This means figuring out how to focus as much of my energy as I can on writing.
I will be seeing clients til June 13th, 2017, so if you’d like to book something in, please do so now, at https://brownstargirltarot.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php. If you are a long-standing, repeat client, please know that you can always email me at brownstargirl@ gmail.com if you want a reading and I will let you know if I can fit you in.
Doing this is hard! I’ve felt the rightness of taking a break for months now, but have been pulled back to the work by how much I love it, and also the sense of responsibility and scarcity i have to offering tarot to my communities. But I want to think of this as a disability justice, emergence, sustainability decision. There can be many people offering healing, and radical healers can move up and move back as our spoons, needs and desires take us. And this may not be forever- but it feels like a good choice for now.
If you are looking for a reading, here are some readers I can recommend:
Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Temperance Queer Tarot: https://www.temperancequeertarot.com/
Carley Boyce, Tiny Lantern Tarot: https://tinylanterntarot.com/
Dori Midnight, http://www.dorilandia.com/
Lettie Laughter, High Moon Femme Tarot: http://www.highmoonfemmetarot.com/
Shira Hassan, Flying Pig Tarot: http://www.flyingpigtarot.com/
Thank you for the past five years. I am honored to have been able to offer and share healing with you. I will always carry and pass on this gift of vision and healing in whatever way feels right. And this practice might come back- but for now, look for me pulling a couple cards at a kitchen table near you.
With much respect,
One Comment Add yours
So sad to hear there will be one less rad, beautiful queer femme of colour reading cards on the circuit (but understand your reasons) Leah! Thank you for all of the amazingness and healing and right-on wisdom you have put into the world through your work with the tarot. Love and love for all that comes next xxxxxx