Beth Maiden Interview
One of my very favorite things about putting together the Many Moons Workbook project is getting to include the work of people I really admire. It goes without saying that Beth Maiden, of Little Red Tarot Fame and Acclaim, is one of those people. Beth contributed a piece and Tarot spread for the New Moon in Gemini, and it is amazing.
Beth is one of those people where I don’t even know where to begin with describing! Her site, Little Red Tarot, is hands-down one of the best sources for writing and musings on the Tarot. The contributors on the site are brilliant, and reflect on the Tarot in ways that are incredibly relevant and inclusive.
Beth writes, creates courses, and provides a platform for so many incredible witches, healers, Tarot Readers, and writers. She runs a small yet excellently curated store of independent makers and artists for all things spiritual, witchy, or Tarot-related. She’s humble, warm, and incredibly talented. She took time out of her full life to answer some questions below.
Hi Beth! I'm incredibly enamored of all of the work you do with your business Little Red Tarot. I was hoping you could share a (brief) origin story of your introduction to Tarot and what you love about it.
Thank you Sarah! The feeling is mutual —I'm in awe of what you've created with Many Moons, especially the community you've facilitated around your healing work, and the way you show up, just as you are.
My introduction to tarot came at an important time for me. Moe Bowstern was touring the UK and she stayed at my home for a night. She offered my friends and I a tarot reading, and even though I felt pretty cynical about "all that" and knew nothing about tarot (I'd never even seen a deck) I said sure... and guess what, it blew my mind. Every element of the reading was captivating - the illustrations on the cards, the symbols, the characters, the actual process, the layout, the relationship between the cards, everything! And I found the reading itself deeply encouraging and uplifting.
Not long after that, I was going through a really difficult period in my own life - largely due to some big mistakes on my own part. I was in a lot of pain, I was swinging wildly between victim and overpowered-with-guilt, and didn't feel like I had the tools to figure out what had happened, let alone how to heal and move forwards. I started using tarot as a way to process. The cards were amazing, enabling me to hold myself accountable and show up and really own my mistakes. Without judgement, and with compassion and even humour, they mirrored back to me what I knew deep inside and helped me to find a way through it all. It took three years, but by the end of it, I felt as though tarot had given me symbols and archetypes and narratives with which to frame and really articulate my experience and to own my mistakes, my pain, my healing and my future.
That's what I love most about tarot. For me, tarot 'works' by showing us what we already know, they help us reach our inner wisdom and face things we're either unwilling or unable to access so that we can step forwards into the work we need to do (or receive permission to stop, or whatever it is that we need). Tarot has given me a symbolic language and a structure for articulating my experiences. As a professional reader, I feel so honoured to offer this to others.
The most common thing I hear from clients is like 'it was so good to get that confirmation' - for me, that's tarot's most beautiful gift. Sure, we should all trust ourselves a lot more, we should all be totally in tune with our souls and our intuition... but life under capitalism isn't like that, there are many, many layers between our souls and our conscious minds. We're taught to ignore what we know deep down. Tarot is a beautiful and radical tool for returning to that knowledge.
Building on that, I'm wondering if you could share a little bit about how you came to create Little Red Tarot. It feels really organic and really like it is a pleasure to concoct. Was it is a passion project that turned into a business? Were you fulfilling a need you could not find elsewhere?
Yes, basically! I didn't really know what a blog was when I started Little Red Tarot. I was just looking for a way to record and organise my tarot studies and ideas. Folks started reading, chatting in the comments, and this whole world opened up to me where I could geek out about tarot with folks all over the world (I really laugh when I think about what a shock that was; I'm still friends with the then-stranger who left my first ever comment.)
At that point, I also couldn't find anyone else writing about 'alternative tarot' (e.g. politicising or queering cards) and all the tarot sites I knew of were that sort of 'black and purple' aesthetic that's just so not me. Also no-one seemed to be in my peer-group? So I stood out, and 'my people' began to find me and my audience grew and started paying me for readings...you're right, it was really organic. I didn't think of it becoming a business, I just wrote my blog and offered readings, like a lot of folks do. Then a few years ago I quit my job as a community development worker, learned a shedload about web design, and got very intentional about it all - starting a newsletter, writing for Autostraddle, and creating the Alternative Tarot Course, which was a ridiculous success. I opened the shop (by accident, there's a fun story there!) and bit by bit, over about four years, Little Red Tarot grew to become my living. Now it even pays others! I still can't believe it sustains me— like your work Sarah, it's enabled me to start saving, and to make plenty of donations to the causes I support. It is an absolute pleasure to do this work —every day I get to have these fabulous, loving, supportive, political, magical conversations with witches around the world (I've met some of my very favourite people through this work) and that sustains me as much as —probably more than —the income. I have so much gratitude I don't know what to do with it all, except pour it back into the community.
One of my favorite parts of the Little Red Tarot is how much of a platform it is for various voices that are not traditionally given space in the New Age/Spiritual/Tarot scene, which is incredibly cis, white, privileged, and heteronormative. I'm wondering if you could speak a little bit about the potential that lies in Queer Magic.
The potential in Queer Magic is— by definition—infinite. For me queerness is about limitless possibilities for self-definition, self-expression, self-actualisation —what can be more magic than that, especially when those 'selves' are part of a community? Queers — especially those with other intersecting marginal identities - tend to exist in the spaces the mainstream neglects; beautiful, scruffy, overgrown edgelands (see Cristy C Road's Next World Tarot for gorgeous visuals!) where we can experience a little freedom, support each other to thrive, where we get real about our pain, and where we continually look outwards. We have to look outwards because as well as being reviled and scapegoated, queers are also exotified and tokenised, and the radical spaces we create are rapidly gentrified and commodified, claimed by the mainstream and sold back to us in plastic packaging (we can see this happening with 'witch vibes' right now). This is always painful, but I think queer folks are used to it. It can be fuel for the fire. We push boundaries and move a little further out of the mainstream, where discover new sources of inspiration, create new kinds of magic. We've always had to do it for ourselves, and that DIY, punk approach is also part of magic.
We work to liberate ourselves and each other. Queers understand that personal and collective liberation are interwoven and are used to supporting and uplifting each other in a way that runs counter to the 'me me me' messages of the mainstream. We critique what we are offered (sold) and turn it on its head. Magic, magic magic magic.
Without inferring that there is anything okay about systemic oppression, I think it's important for oppressed folks to righteously claim the very special kinds of power that come from being marginalised. If we allow it, there's a power there that can lift us up. Being marginalised makes me resourceful, it makes me angry and proud, and I see folks far more marginalised and/or oppressed than me being all the more resourceful, all the more proud, all the more powerful and intentional and magical. That's our silver lining, I guess (or rather, it's our dirty gold.) In our secret, DIY edgelands we forge that silver and gold into art and wands and talismans and other magical tools and the mainstream just does not know what to do with it. I love that.
In terms of Little Red, I'm queer, and I'm also cisgender, white, and middle-class, so early on I realised that I couldn't possibly speak to all of the topics I wanted LRT to engage in, there was no way I could single-handedly create the 'home' I envisaged for all marginalised witchy folks to find community and strength and inspiration. But I could share this platform I'd made, so that folks with different and intersecting identities and/or oppressions could use the space too. I'm proud and excited about the diverse team that co-create this space with me, but I also know there's so much more we could do. I get very excited when I ponder the future of Little Red Tarot, imagine it being less hierarchical and far more diverse. I want it to represent the edgeland, ever expanding, ever shifting, responding to what our big, beautiful community needs. There it is again: the limitless possibilities of queer magic.
For your Many Moons piece, you contributed a very holistic writing that offers many ways to work with the New Moon. This includes a Tarot Spread. Is Tarot usually how you honor large shifts and changes in your life, with the changing of the Moon? Could you give an example or of how you've utilized Tarot pulls or spreads with Moon rituals?
Yes, I absolutely use tarot to honour large changes in my life— and also small changes! Though like the tide, there's an ebb and a flow to this practice. Right now when I'm writing this, I haven't read 'properly' for myself for ages—my cards are not what I need. I am, however, following the moon closely just now—another practice that ebbs and flows, water rising and falling. And I follow a personal version of the wheel of the year that blends the Celtic traditions I've inherited with my own queer witchy ideas.
When I am doing both tarot and lunar love together, that tends to look like taking my rookie understanding of each moon's energy, learning a little about the themes of the moon's zodiac position and blending these with the energy of the moon's phase. Then I reflect on how those themes are showing up in my own life, and I'll create a spread —or just do a one or three-card pull — to explore this. I might also seek out specific cards that speak to me about these themes, and place them on my desk or my altar. And for me all of this will also be grounded in what's happening seasonally, too. My favourite moon times involve getting outside somewhere with a friend or three, talking together on the moon/season's themes, pulling cards, reflecting together. I've done this in some very structured, ritualised ways, and other times really informally— but to me it's all ritual, it's all sacred space.
What are some similarities for you between a Moon practice and a Tarot practice?
Oooh there are lots! Working with tarot for years has shown me how cyclical life is, which is a big lesson the moon teaches too. I find that a very healing and empowering idea, as it encourages me to be present with what is, to celebrate when its time to celebrate, to know that 'downward' shifts, where my life energy feels like its waning, are as important as the more upward, waxing times. I love how the moon offers symbols and terminology (or allows me to invent my own) which I can use to interpret and articulate my own life, just as tarot does. I love the language of circles and cycles, the Fool's journey in the tarot corresponding to the moon's journey. I love how both practices help me to look both inwards and outwards, how they help me with my personal 'journey', but always help me place that within a social (and thus social justice) context.
Weirdly, considering my job, I'm not as easily 'spiritual' as folks might assume. It doesn't come very naturally to me and sometimes I feel a bit inadequate next to my much witchier peers who are intuiting this and that, having visions, or easily slipping behind veils and whatnot. I'm really not that girl (I'm very Aquarius sun, very Capricorn moon, not sure if that explains anything!) But tarot and moon-following both give me accessible, adaptable keys that unlock a world I once dismissed as 'not for me' and help me to work with the more spiritual, intangible elements of myself, and these keys also help me to reach out and connect to others in spiritual, intangible ways. I'm very grateful to have these tools, and a community who is continually showing me new ways to work with them.
What is your favorite time of the Moonth? Why?
Right now it's the full moon. Previously, I would have said new (as in both dark moon and first day waxing) because I have an unbridled addiction to new starts, fresh notebooks, big new ideas, radical changes of direction, etc. But in recent months I'm really finding full moon times to be very grounding and fulfilling and that's much more what I personally need just now. I love the encouragement to step back and take a good look at what's going on, the fullness of the moon reminds me of the cycles of abundance and letting go that spiral through my life, the light draws me out of my comfort zone, the tide is high. I'm reminded to lift my head, and that there's a bigger picture beyond my personal day-to-day.
I also like how it's the moon phase where just about everybody gets a little woo. I can convince even the least witchy of my friends that there's something special happening when it's a full moon ;)
Other than the upcoming workbook, any projects or anything coming up in your life you are excited about?
Nope! Just now I feel like a brand new notebook, waiting to be written. 2017 has been a really full-on year for me on a personal level, loads of 'a-ha!' moments, cycles completing, shifts and realisations. So right now I'm easing back on work just now and trying to resist my 'planning' urges (which I recognise as a comfort zone and very surface-y) so I can let the next phase bubble up for me, revealing itself slowly in its own time. I'll let you know!
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