Longing is the act of honoring separation. It is the impulse of the soul calling us deeper into life…It is a piercing ache in the heart that knows there is more than this and pulls us, like a magnet, in orientation towards it…Like the reed plucked from its bed, there is something exquisite in being torn from what we love, which allows us to make the terrible-wonderful music of being human.
– Toko-Pa Turner, from Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home
From the day we leave home for the first time, we are seeking. Seeking to replicate the raw intimacy and belonging that we felt in our mother’s womb, and if we were very lucky, into our childhood and early teen years. This leaving home is a right of passage for each of us, calling us to differentiate our selves from the encompassing context of our caregivers.
In tarot, The Lovers often represents this process, which Jung called individuation. It is a leaving the home we were born into so that we can come home to the truth of who we are. This is what The Lovers call us to embrace and do. To give ourselves names that encapsulate who we are, what we love, and what we long for.
Many times it is in romantic relationship that this drama unfolds, but it is not always. Sometimes it is with a call to move in a new direction with our lives, pursue a new kind of training, vocation, living space, or spiritual community. Whatever it is, it is the process of what Turner calls “the soul calling us deeper into life.”
Making a change that involves some level of uncertainty tends to trigger our deepest fears of abandonment, whether that be through fear of failure, rejection, or a success that is so grandiose it alienates us from our kin. Six of Cups speaks to the things we learned in childhood that may now be antiquated or no longer useful. The lenses we developed that colored everything about how we see the world and who we are in it.
It asks that we look, always with compassion, into the roots of the things that hold us hostage (Eight of Swords), stuck longing for a new life but too scared to make a move. What did you learn about yourself or the world in your childhood that can be traded up or traded in for something that would be more useful to you now?
Queen of Swords advises us to watch our thought patterns without reacting to them. She says that this—nonjudgmental observation of the thoughts that pass through your mind—will help you detangle your self from the dilemma depicted by the Eight of Swords. From a life that becomes smaller and smaller through the compulsive avoidance of unwanted thoughts, feelings or sensations.
The path of self-discovery is not for the faint of heart, it is a rocky and dimly lit road (Eight of Cups) paved with triggers, roadblocks, and psychic traps that are constantly shape shifting. The moment we think we’re in the clear, a trap arrives in a package we’ve never yet seen, calling to us in the most saccharine of tones to see if we’ll topple in. If caught in such a trap, we will be forced to rely on raw instinct and stamina to claw our way out and climb our way back toward the path.
Expansion—through a departure of some kind, a relinquishing of something that carries deep value—is possible, and in fact it makes way for a homecoming that is deeper and more magical than we can imagine. Three of Wands depicts a person on the edge of such expansion, willing to stand alone in service of finding connection through relationships and community that are longterm, sustainable, and deeply resonant.
But expansion always means that we leave something behind, as we see in theEight of Cups. Comfort is valuable to human beings. An old life, even when it is not the one we wanted, carries a vibrational signature that is constantly calling us back. But we must remember that yearning for comfort is not a sign to turn back.
We can honor our experiences of separation from the things that feel safe just as we would honor the experience of having spent 9 months in our mother’s womb to be cast out, never to return.
This world can be sharp and harsh and brightly lit and the act of letting go of what is soft and warm to the psyche is not a small feat. But the space that is cleared when we move forward is the space from which new life grows, life that is truer and more in alignment with our deepest longings.
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