Tarot, Snakes & Ladybugs; or, What the Hell, Universe

Tarot, Snakes & Ladybugs; or, What the Hell, Universe June 11, 2018
a ladybug nestled inside a dandelion
Photo by Sven Gauditz on Unsplash

The day I decided to pursue the idea of witchcraft, a ladybug nestled into the tread of my shoe.

This, I think, will be the title of my autobiography. Ladybug in My Shoe: a memoir by K. C. Alexander. People will wonder why there’s not enough sex in it. I’ll tell them ladybugs aren’t my type. They will look at me oddly. I will smile.

Slot that under things to do in the future.

Ladybug, Ladybug, Get Out of My Shoe

a woman with frizzy blond hair, face paint, red lips and furs
LARP Costume: me as Madeye the Bogwitch

I wore trompy boots that day; part of my costume for my weekly live-action roleplay game. The tread on those boots isn’t deep, but it’s got good grip. Lots of grooves, perfect for all kinds of messes. I was seated in our imaginary “waypoint”, chatting with a few of the other characters, when one of them looked down and said with surprise, “Uh, you have a ladybug in your shoe.”

I thought she was talking IC (that’s “in character” for you uncultured types), so I looked down thoughtfully, prepared to pull out some imaginative nonsense about the ways of nature and such.

No. No, there was, in fact, a ladybug crawling in the tread of my shoe. How it had survived the walk from outside to in is a downright miracle; assuming it had come from outside. Yet there it was, muddling around in the grooves. Apparently in no hurry to fly away.

What the hell, I thought. Lucky little bug.

I captured the pretty thing and ran all the way down four flights of stairs, went outside and lifted my hand. It flew off, cheeky bug, and that was that. Or… I mean, it should’ve been.

My character used oracle cards. I enjoy them, and they happen to be surprisingly on point when I do reads for the other characters. As if my deck could understand the difference between in character and out, it drew truths for the in-game personas of my compatriot gamers with sometimes gleeful bluntness.

Within fifteen minutes, while I was eavesdropping (hush, I do what I want) on another conversation, I drew a card to check my options. On it, a ladybug. I started to laugh.

The date was January 4th, 2018. Just that day, like I’d mentioned, I wondered if witchcraft was for me.

But Does It Matter?

Okay, so, here’s the thing: coincidence or sign? Symbol or synchronicity? Both?

They say that human brains are trained to spot connections where there are only coincidences. I know that I tend to do it. Two or more things will happen all at once (don’t things of significant happen in threes?) and I’m suddenly drawn to it like it matters. And yet…I can’t help but think that sometimes a spade is just a spade and not a visit from the Queen of Wands.

a hand-drawn ladybug under half of the text: January 5
a ladybug I drew in my journal

So I wrote about it the day after, just a little reminder of what had happened. Just in case it came up again. (Waiting for that third, I guess.) As far as I could perceive, I didn’t see another ladybug again.

I did, however, stumble over a job opportunity that would have meant the difference between staying where I hate versus achieving a portion of my dreams. It was slipped my way by a friend within weeks, and as I pursued it, it really looked like everything would fall into place. I had just turned in my proposal for my next Riko books, confident they’d create excitement. That job meant I could finally move to Seattle; I desperately want to live a city where I have more of my tribe around me (and this need hasn’t changed).

And all of this so soon after deciding to investigate witchcraft! Was it meant to be?

I looked up the symbolic meaning of of a ladybug. There’s the obvious connection—many of us no doubt grew up believing a ladybug landing on you meant good luck, yeah? It seems to also represent prosperity, and according to some sources, belief in magic. Even if it’s only a little bit.

That felt good! Given everything happening, I was—for the first time in a long time—filled with hope. Was I on the right track? Was this my path?

All Signs Point to Nice Try, Kid

Connections, perhaps between coincidences. Symbolism that is never set in stone. As time went by, and as I drew daily tarot cards and the occasional self-directed spread, the deck that hates me so much (more on that later; look forward to it!) started tossing me all these cards about the shattering of romantic partnerships. Primary among them were warnings that this romance wasn’t meant to be. That it was a love built on complacency, not happiness.

a ladybug floating on a river, a leaf as her boat
Messengers Oracle: Surrender to the Flow

I am, by the way, in a relationship with someone. Burdened I am with past relationship traumas and baggage, you can imagine how this made me feel. Over and over, the cards told me my relationship would fail. That I was in a partnership with somebody that was nice, but not exciting.

And then…everything but my relationship fell apart. My publisher chose not to continue with my Riko books. I didn’t get the job (although I gather I was up against some seriously stiff competition; I bear them no ill will!). I couldn’t move, had no income (my fault). Although I’d been offered a mentorship at that job, it ended up costing me almost $300 a month to travel to every week, and couldn’t continue.

I was devastated by life. Where was that good luck? Where was the prosperity those ladybugs had suggested?

You know…I still don’t know. Part of me believes that things that happen in life for a reason (well, mostly; I have conflicted feelings about death save that it happens to everyone). Part of me wonders if all of this was my fault—I have a history of wanting to believe, to the point where I leap before I’m ready. Well, when I’m not overanalyzing and planning every contingency ever.

I’m still recovering from all of this. I feel like I understand those cards I thought hated me a little bit more. But I’m still lost.

Which makes a lot of sense, because I’m being visited regularly by a new repeat offender.

A snake curled up in a whicker basket
Photo by Jordan Gellie on Unsplash

Old Friend, New Friend; Ghossssst of a Familiar

Years ago, years and years ago when I was just a wee tyke, my mom worked for the California Academy of Sciences. I used to have pictures of myself draped with snakes of all kind, grinning up into the camera like it was the coolest thing in the world.

In my late twenties, I had a ball python. His name was Jeremiah Vetirnari, and he was the friendliest, chillest, most best snake ever. He spent a lot of time around my neck, head braced on the top of my ear while I did stuff. Sometimes he’d wrap, Cleopatra like, around my biceps. He was amazing—and the closest thing to a familiar I have ever had. He was there constantly. (Except when he shed, when he became a tangled ball of asshole and misery.)

I miss him. And I think of him more and more because I am tripping over snakes every which way!

a purple snake wrapped around two branches
The Arcana: 2 of Wands, Snake

There is a game I absolutely adore, a visual novel, called The Arcana. It’s gorgeously drawn, is one of the very few that allows you to choose neutral pronouns, and has several other little bonuses. Not least of which is a tarot function.

Each of the (currently) three characters can do readings. All three can do a three-card reading, and then each has their own focus: Asra does a love spread, Nadia a career spread, and Julian a happiness spread. (The latter is deeply ironic and I love it.)

I’ve paid for some of the larger spreads, but every 7 days of checking in (in a row) you get a free three card spread. And I will be damned if Mr. Snake over there hasn’t shown up in each and every one.

Let’s go to something more random… There is a fascinating and very wonderful person on Twitter named Joyce Ch’ng. She has in her delicious hands a one of a kind deck that I am dying to purchase, should it ever be made available. One day, she was offering single-card pulls for people.

I want to point out that we don’t know each other. I found her through a random retweet by someone I know, and hopped on her twitter train: destination, fun. So, what the hell, right? Figured I’d roll with it. She was very nice. And she pulled…

You guessed it. “A lot of us fear snakes,” she told me through DMs. “So, at the moment, there is a lot of fear and anxiety. However, snake teaches us something: change. A snake sheds its skin. The process of moulting itself looks painful. The snake is vulnerable at this period. Yet, after this necessary ordeal, snake emerges with a new skin.”

Oh. Well. I mean, sure. That feels apt. But then she adds, “As much as people hate snakes, they teach another important lesson: confronting your fears. Snakes too are master opportunists when it comes to hunting prey. They use their tongues to test for any changes in the atmosphere. So, perhaps, you might have to look for alternate methods when it comes to opportunities. Perhaps, you find yourself hitting against a wall – but have you explored other ways?”

MAYBE. Or… maybe not. Okay, probably not.

… Fine, definitely not. I’d gotten all hooked up on the stuff that came before. The job opportunity, the move. I married it and then I broke down when it didn’t work.

So snake’s up here, all in my grill, being like, “Hey, Kacssssssse”—because snake tongue, see—”maybe you better, you know, look around.” P’sure Snake’s been muttering, “Idiot,” under his breath.

Thanks, Jeremiah. You always were a good-natured asshole.

A few weeks ago, #frankenpup got the shock of his life when he was snuffling around the grass. A thin, but rather long, snake recoiled from the onslaught of wet dog nose—probably jumped as far back as my dog did, and promptly slithered away.

a ball python snake coiled up on a hand
Chase by Benjamin Archibald

Okay! Okay. Snakes abound. And if there is one thing I am learning, it’s that I believe in the connectivity between coincidences. And also that I overanalyze everything.

Most of all, that I am afraid to believe in magic.

Joyce finished her translation with this:

Lastly, snake teaches us about beauty, even in the times of ugliness and pain. Snakes are very gorgeous creatures.

Maybe, just maybe, so am I… failures and trials and all.

About K. C. Alexander
K. C. Alexander is an SF/F author and very proud of smearing her bloody fingers all over the lines. She writes aggressive transhumanist sci-fi, co-wrote Mass Effect: Andromeda: Nexus Uprising, and may or may not be a witch. Like what she does? Want to see more? Check out her tarot reads and behind the scenes glimpses of her new projects. Every offer goes to support an author hard at work. You can read more about the author here.

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