WATER ✪ THE EMOTIONAL
Crassostrea virginica, better known as the gulf oyster, may seem only a humble mollusk, filter feeding at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal waters. But beneath its unassuming exterior lies a cornerstone of wetland health. Each oyster filters chemicals and other pollutants from up to 50 gallons of water a day. Their reefs provide a nutrient-rich habit that supports thousands of species, and increases the integrity of our ever receding coastline. Despite the decimation of their population by the 2010 BP oil spill, the gulf oyster has endured. Its population continues to grow. It remains intimately intertwined with the soul of the Mississippi Delta, and that of her people, who have created amazing dishes from its flesh since the beginning of human history. Its hard shell protects a beautiful, delicate living force. We too protect a delicate part of ourselves, our emotional and sensitive side, which is integral to a healthy soul as the oyster to the Mississippi Delta.
The suit of oysters speaks on the emotional parts of the soul: love, feelings, romance, and connections to others. Once represented by cups, these cards reflect the elemental water sign, and the zodiac signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.These cards offer reflection on how to navigate those emotions, and how they impact the people close to us. The individuals depicted in these cards are creatives, romantics, dreamers in touch with their emotional selves. Spreads with multiple Oyster cards suggest considering how you are relating to your emotional core, as it may be dominating your life in some way. Are you holding too much back, clamming up? Are you letting your emotions guide your actions over your mind? Are you drawing strength from your own emotional intellect, or letting it hold you back? These cards hold insight into how to approach these matters of the heart.
EARTH ✪ THE MATERIAL
Born from ore mined from deep within the Earth’s crust, formed by the labor of human hands, the cast iron skillet is the lasting symbol of the Earth sign in the Delta Enduring Tarot. Cast iron skillets have been used for centuries to prepare amazing dishes around the globe, and have found their own culinary niche within the robust integrative history of Mississippi Delta cuisine. They distribute heat evenly across their surface. They keep food warm for those unable to partake in a meal right away. They provide a source of iron supplementation. They are practically unbreakable. That dark, well-greased skillet can conjure forth both the magic of food and the comfort of the cook, a venerable black cauldron in its own right. Such a powerful tool can become an heirloom in some families, passed down from generation to generation along with the recipes for Mawmaw’s shrimp creole or coveted jalapeno cornbread. There is magic in the kitchen.
Cast iron skillets are representative of the element, Earth, associated with the zodiac signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. The suit of cast irons relates to the realization and manifestation of our desires, prosperity, ego, and matters of vocation. Traditionally, the earth sign in the tarot has been symbolized by the “pentacle” or coin, a pentagram-clad piece of currency. This take on the Earth sign contextualizes our relationship to the material world within the confines of a capitalist system. Pentacle cards often glorify wealth and work, while displaying the lives of those in poverty or disability as symbols of misery (See the Five of Pentacles). There is so much more to our physical existence than what this classist reading of the tarot can give.
The Delta Enduring Tarot rejects a consumerist vision of the material world for a more nuanced understanding of how our spirits interact with our earthly resources. Coins are mined and minted, and then given or earned. They are inert, except when used to buy or sell. The cast iron skillet, unlike its pentacle counterpart, requires constant work to keep it well-seasoned,each use adding more flavor and history to its fine black patina. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet, like our relationship with the material world, is always a work in progress.
AIR ✪ THE INTELLECTUAL
The pursuit of knowledge is one of humanity’s oldest drives, the distinct desire to see behind the veil. It is our understanding of the world around us that gives us our ability to solve problems, to see our way through challenges, and face the difficulties in our communities in a constructive, intersectional way. Knowledge should not be confused for intelligence or cognitive ability however. While some are privileged with these gifts, they are not necessary in a journey toward wisdom. It is not a formal education nor high IQ that dictates our ability to see the world with clarity and understanding.The pursuit of wisdom instead requires an openness to new experiences and outlooks, and the willingness to admit mistakes.
Many in power would like you to think otherwise, so it is no wonder the symbol for the air sign in the traditional tarot was the sword. Knowledge can be wielded like a weapon by those in control. Many cards in the suit of oysters speak of action,oppression, and force. Sometimes, these powers are external–incarceration, systemic racial oppression, violence. Other times, it is our own intelligence holding us back–overthinking, self deprecation, and doubt. It is the delicate balance between our intellect and our heart that makes these cards so important to consider.
Knowledge too can be a transient thing. There are times where we are listening intently, where we are reading and discovering new truths. In those moments our deep understanding can be powerful, empowering, and beautiful. There are also times when we are caught up in our own heads, the world moving too fast for us to keep up. There may be new ways of thinking or speaking about sensitive topics you may not know about. It’s important to remember that the pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong process. There is always something to learn, even on topics which you may feel you’re knowledgeable.
The beauty and fleeting nature of knowledge makes the moth an elegant symbol of intellectualism in the Delta Enduring Tarot. Beginning life as simple caterpillars, moths undergo a mysterious and energy intensive transformation. When they emerge, they have been completely changed, taking flight as they continue their journey toward furthering their species. Moths are drawn to light and illumination, often at the expense of their safety. It is important to remember that the desire for truth comes with its own risks.
The suit of moths represents the air signs, Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra. Moths reflect the analytical parts of our souls; our search for truth, our desire to find rational truth in the world. Moth people are great communicators, writers, and scientists. It is important, however, to remember that our intellect can only serve us if it is balanced by empathy (cups) and spiritual connectedness (oaks).
FIRE ✪ THE SPIRITUAL