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The Star: Hope Hurts

Updated: Oct 19, 2019


After The Tower Falls: What Next?

The Star is well known as a card of hope, calm, and healing after emotional turmoil. I have a special relationship to it as the card of Aquarius (my sun sign) and as corresponding to my favorite number, 17 (which is also my date of birth). The Star has a relationship to my personality card, The Chariot, through the number 7, and my shadow card, The Tower, as the card following in the Major Arcana. But The Star is, curiously, not one that often shows up for me in readings for myself. It’s also a card that can be difficult to understand beyond its surface meanings of hope and optimism. But, lo and behold, it turned up two days ago in the middle of a very emotional spread. So I’d like to share a bit about The Star with you today.

So many of the cards in the Tarot, both in the Major and Minor Arcanum, hold a narrative within them: a blessing, a lesson, and a warning. The Star, however, introduces us to the part of the Majors where things get real abstract. The Star, Moon, and Sun represent more abstract archetypes, ones that don’t correspond to actions in the world or narrative points on the Fool’s Journey, necessarily, but rather evoke something less tangible: a way of feeling, a prevailing energy, a mode of spirit. These cards are the in center of the last third of the Major Arcana, which is the segment of the Fool’s Journey when we’ve passed through the conscious sequence of learning the world and developing identity (trumps 1-7), through the psychological journey into the subconscious to discover self-awareness beyond the ego (trumps 8-14), and entered the third and final leg of our journey to enlightenment and wholeness (trumps 15-21). By the time we reach The Star, we’ve been through the highs and lows of The Wheel, the limbo of The Hanged Man, the transformation of Death, the liberation from The Devil, and the shattering of beliefs in The Tower. At this point, our conceptions of our lives, our selves, our truths, have been tested and revised and demolished many times. Rachel Pollack, in 78 Degrees of Wisdom, writes that The Tower “ripped away the veil of consciousness. Here in The Star we are behind the veil.”

This is the moment of lowness when there’s nothing left to do but release. To pour out our vessels of emotion, pain, heartbreak, disappointment, want, fear, need. To trust that the universe will fill them once again with fresh, sweet water. To open ourselves to emptiness with the hope that we won’t stay empty for long.

The nudity of the figure is simultaneously freedom and confidence, and also raw vulnerability. With no clothes to costume us, we are left with the bare Truth, the essential self, nothing to protect us but also nothing to block or stifle or constrain us. The figure has one foot on land and one on water, and they also pour their vessels out onto each. The land represents matter, the physical and conscious world, and the pool represents the unconscious and the inner realm. What we have gone through in The Tower has affected both worlds with its catastrophic and revelatory burst of energy. The 8-pointed stars on the card recall trump 8, Strength, and point us to the well of deep self-compassion and peace in the face of the unknown that is required of us now.

So many see The Star as a gentle blessing, a positive or comforting nudge from the universe that all will be well, and it certainly can be these things. But The Star is also a card that feels very sad to me. There’s an ache beneath it, but a graceful ache of healing. It’s the tenderness of a bruise, the soreness of spent muscles, the deep throb of a mending bone. You can’t have The Star without The Tower. The presence of one of these cards suggests the presence of the other. After all, The Star is a symbol of light, but we can only see the stars in darkness.

I pulled The Star in the reading you see pictured above two nights ago, at about one a.m., after a thing happened that momentarily took all the fight out of me. This thing felt like the universe kicking me in the stomach while I was already down. This thing felt cruel. It felt like something was purposefully fucking with me, and I was confused. I hadn’t experienced this perception of meanness from the universe for a long time, and it’s not at all how I think it operates. The universe isn’t malicious. I truly believe that. So, not knowing what else to do, I cried for a while, and then I sat down with my cards and asked my guides, “what the fuck is going on?”

I didn’t have a spread planned out but instead pulled intuitively. And there, right in the middle: The Star. Bracketed by cups (emotion, intuition) and followed by two sixes: the number of harmony, truth, and balance. I won’t go into the whole situation or the full, very personal, reading, but this pull exuded such a sense of calmness and release. Contraction (the fives) comes before expansion. Every time The Tower rips something away, enlightenment shines through the wreckage. We grow. We rebuild. We get one step closer to our Truth.

In the Star, we receive that Truth, or a glimmer of it. We find ourselves momentarily in touch with the conscious and the unconscious at once, a willing and receptive bridge between the land and the water. The Star is an opportunity to receive deeper messages, if we reflect on it. The next time you pull it, think of The Tower that has brought you to this point. Open yourself to healing through gentleness and compassion. Empty your vessels of whatever you’re holding on to, whatever is paining you, so they can be filled again, refreshed.

And don’t think the hopeful message of this card is not a challenge: it’s hard sometimes, so hard, to hold on to hope. Hope requires holding your heart open to possibility, even when that possibility seems slim to none. Hope requires not shutting down or giving up, even when that may feel easier. Hope hurts. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Aimee Bender: “The most unbearable thing I think by far . . . is hope.”

As the North Star has guided lost wanderers for millennia, the bare internal truth exposed to us in The Star is a beacon to guide us in our darkness, truer than any man-made map or compass, if we choose to follow it. If, against all odds, we choose to hope.

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