I received a letter the other day and decided to answer the querent in my column here. May it be helpful . . . . .
DEAR MISS X
There are times in life when an exorcism is not only possible, but recommended, and I’m not just talking about demons. I’m not. There is more to life than demons. There is grief. There is sorrow. And I’ve done it. I’ve cast their sorrows to the crows like so many breadcrumbs.
On the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, there is a ritual called Tashlich when we throw our “sins,” in the form of tiny pieces of bread, into a moving body of water. I did this when I lived in Iowa City. Sin, like exorcism, is sometimes a metaphor.
QUEEN OF SORROW
The other morning I was up to all kinds of hijinks as usual on my social media, and I had drawn the Queen of Swords, among other cards, and shared this:
If you keep up with my Instagram then you know that your “Do Not” card today is the Sorrow Queen. Beloved, mourn not.
Beloved, have you married your sorrow? Who were you before grief?
Recently, while preparing for a local Tarot workshop, I found myself looking more deeply into many of the Minor Arcana cards, like small mirrors. I was well aware of the stark feeling of the Swords without ever picking apart the images. It was like seeing the suit for the first time. I recommend this exercise if you read cards like I read cards, more by feel than by sight.
The other suits are so lush in comparison, have you noticed? All fruit and greenery, robust figures. LIFE.
But there appeared before my eyes, that morning, the Queen of Wisdom from Sorrow, Queen of Turbulent Stark Clouds.
And yet. There’s a tree. In the Rider-Waite-Smith, there’s a tree. Look at her open hand. What might she have for you? She could stand up from that heavy throne if she wanted. Fly away from her cloud cloak.
MORE NEW YORK STORIES
Years ago I lived on Staten Island. Okay, it wasn’t that many years ago, but it was a lifetime, and once upon a time I was on my way to the emergency room.
I had been to the emergency room at least twice during my short stay on the island, and on this taxi ride there, or maybe it was the taxi ride home, I heard a song by a famous pop star, and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it. I was in the back of that car forever, going nowhere. She blew my mind.
Split screen to another moment in that Staten Island life, not far from the ferry, a short walk, and I’m listening to this techno track and suddenly realize that although this song was also not written to exorcise demons that’s EXACTLY WHAT IT IS.
Which demons? Whichever ones you want. Cast them out. Isn’t this what music is for? Now, I’m well aware in some witchcrafty circles that demons are welcome and honored guests, but I like my coffee sweet and light, not dark and cold like the grave. I should also add that these were the days before I broke up with my altar (and Santa Muerte). I had all kinds of workings going on, back in the days of unintended magickal consequences.
INSTRUCTION FOR YOUR EXORCISM
You can do it yourself, but if you want an expert you need someone you trust and that this someone trusts they can do this work. You need to have faith in this person. And this person needs compassion for you.
It may sound obvious to say, but this person cannot hate you. This is something you likely can intuit. The work will be ineffective otherwise. Temporary. The stitches will break. Your demon will return. You also, and this is key, must be certain you want him, or her, gone. The work will be ineffective otherwise.Exorcism is not quite the same thing as space clearing. That is exorcism “lite.” A substantial home or office clear can be accomplished by a good broom, some salt, and the intention to send out any negativity. Really. Maybe I underplay the laser beam focus that is required. Probably. Back in the day, I was a big fan of bodily fluids in my magickal workings and let me tell you it is effective. Just be careful what you wish for. But I digress.
Exorcism requires that same very clear intention, like a broth with the fat skimmed off the top, plus compassion, and strong arms. As an exorcist, you will see the possessed shed their skin in front of you, emerge like out of a cocoon in a violent wind. They may lurch and you must hold them, whether or not you physically touch them. There may be, to quote Jerry Lee Lewis, a whole lot of shakin‘ going on, until your friend is free. Oh. A strong stomach. That’s the other thing your exorcist must have.
MOURNING AND MEANING
“Mourning” was the first keyword I ever learned for the Queen of Swords. It’s one of her traditional meanings. It’s my go-to. I’ve written about this before.
Sure, she’s smart and strong and a manager of people and projects, funny (and a good dancer, I remember reading somewhere) but her wisdom and sadness stuck with me. Is she your exorcist? Maybe you should ask all four of the Tarot queens to stand by. The Queen of Wands to lend you courage, the Queen of Cups to press a compress to your head, the Queen of Pentacles to brew a cauldron of chicken soup for afterwards. It takes a village.
I think it was my knees. That night to the emergency room. I had fallen in Chelsea, a week prior, somewhere around 8th Avenue and 20th Street, after having dinner with an old boyfriend.
I believe I had missed a step, the curb, and I remember old boyfriend looking down at me, and I looking up at him, and him asking if I was okay. It was a stranger passing by who stopped, gave me his hand, and helped me up.
Yes, Miss X, you can exorcise an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. You can exorcise pieces of your past entirely, although I’m not sure I recommend it. Integration is a far better approach although integration includes actually feeling, and feeling includes Queen of Swords feelings like hate and envy and sadness and coldness, clarity like bright light. Are you sure you want that?
And I’ll tell you something else: I find hard exercise can mimic some of the intensity of an exorcism. It’s what I imagine a shred of childbirth might be like, as seen on television: JUST ONE MORE PUSH(up). We’ve all seen these scenes and then New Mother collapses in sweat and tears and other gore. That’s the best exercise anyway, the kind that ends in sweat and tears and gore, because the physical has made a direct connect INSIDE YOU and is cleaning out the wound, whether or not you know what the wound is, or how it came about.
The Queen of Swords cuts, and she knows just what to cut, if you let her.
Dear Miss X, I hope I have sufficiently answered your questions and that you feel confident moving forward with your plans. If not, please do not hesitate in contacting me again.