Our first Question of the Day host of 2017 is Elissa Ball. Elissa is a poet and Tarot reader who writes an astrology column called Space Witch for Seattle Weekly. We asked Elissa some questions about feminism, the Tarot, and what we can expect from the new year, astrologically speaking. Enjoy!
Let's start by asking you one of the Questions of the Day you wrote for Siren: How did you discover feminism, or when did you start to think of yourself as feminist?
Reading a speech by Sojourner Truth (“Ain’t I a Woman?”) in fifth grade was my first contact with the concept of feminism. I think it’s important for white women like me to recognize that Women of Color invented feminism, not white Suffragettes or Gloria Steinem. As soon as I began to learn why the women’s rights movement was still necessary (and heard Kurt Cobain call himself a feminist), it made sense to me on a visceral level to join the fight against sexism. I was ready right away.
In sixth grade an older babysitter introduced me to riot grrrl bands and zines. One Olympia band called Heavens to Betsy discussed white privilege in their liner notes and encouraged white folks to read books by authors like bell hooks. That set me down a certain path and helped me understand that women experience sexism differently, not identically. At age 13 I started writing and distributing my own zines . . . which got me into some trouble in junior high.
Today I think of myself as a gal who is committed to trans-inclusive, sex-positive, intersectional feminism. (By the way: The term “intersectionality” was created by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a Black scholar, in 1989.) As a white cis woman, I mess up all the time and will surely drop the ball again, but I try to listen hard and learn from my mistakes.
"I think it’s important for white women like me to recognize that women of color invented feminism" [Tweet this]
What is the relationship between your feminism and the work you do as a poet, a writer, a Tarot reader?
The moon. What I mean is: the moon rules our intuition, emotion, and “irrational” lunar wisdom. Poetry, feminism, and Tarot all value that . . . and are ridiculed for it. An image on a Tarot card or in a poem makes you feel a certain way, though you can’t always express why. You just know.
Lunar wisdom has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with trusting your gut, dreams, and instincts. However, women in particular are frequently discouraged from listening to our inner voice. We’re told: “That guy’s always been a cool dude to me! I don’t see why you think he’s a creep.” Ummm, well I feel unsafe around him. That’s all the proof I need. Flash forward two months later and the guy’s outed as an abuser. Boom!
Feminism, astrology, poetry, and Tarot are all ways of making people feel seen, heard, and believed. When Tarot clients are going through a rough patch and draw Tarot cards that reflect such turbulence—or learn about harsh astrology that’s affecting their suffering—they feel a wave of relief, like: “Thank goodness it’s not all in my head! This sorrow is real.”
Same thing happens when women share their stories and experiences. Other gals recognize their pain isn’t wholly personal, but rather a systemic problem. When a poet shares their sad-as-hell love poem, the audience feels recognition, relief, and connection.
All these jobs I do involve tears too. In each realm people are given the freedom to be soft, to show vulnerability. That’s crucial, especially for masculine folks. Crying is vital! I believe that Patriarchy harms us all, and that everyone—regardless of gender—benefits from feminist ideals.
"Feminism, astrology, poetry, and Tarot are all ways of making people feel seen, heard, and believed." [Tweet this]
I look forward to reading your column Space Witch every week. In a nutshell, how do you think astrology informs our dating habits, or the relationships we form?
We’re more than just our Sun sign. Saying “I could never date a Taurus” is silly, because a Taurus might have a Pisces moon and an Aquarius ascendent (rising sign). You yourself might be chock-full of Scorpio and not even know it. Each one of us is a spacey soup of diverse planetary influences. Get a natal chart done for yourself and/or your love interest. Seriously. You can do it online for free and it takes three minutes. Then when you read horoscopes, be sure to read for the big three: sun, rising and moon sign.
Our moon sign is especially important when it comes to relationships, because the moon shapes our emotional world and our private, innermost realm. Also: The position of Mars and Venus in our natal chart lays the blueprint for how we like to give and receive love. Astrology is useful for predicting preferences and compatibility to a certain extent, sure. But desire is weird and wild. Relationships are opportunities for us to work through past pain, deep fears, and childhood monsters—heck, even past-life trauma. What we have to teach and learn within a one-on-one partnership is Big Stuff. Growth and awareness can feel uncomfortable, but I believe partners are supposed to challenge us.
Are there any more resources on this subject you recommend for those interested in digging deeper?
My three favorite YouTube astrologers are: Nadiya Shah (Canada), Michele Knight (UK), and Stormie Grace (Colorado). They’re brilliant women who make weekly and monthly astrology videos that are approachable and empowering.
What is your response to people who take a hard skeptical stance toward astrology, or any of the other things you take seriously?
I won’t read cards for pissy skeptics because: a) I know the reading is going to sap my energy and won’t be accurate and b) The skeptic will never get the “evidence” they crave from occult wisdom. People who go out of their way to crap on astrology are usually only interested in feeling superior. Logic makes them feel safe. I love logic and science too, but I don’t waste my time trying to prove that astrology or Tarot are valid tools for living one’s life. ‘Cause you know what? The stuff isn’t science. It’s a language that’s older and wiser than science.
Happy new year! 2016 was hard for a lot of us for a lot of reasons. What do you see on the horizon for 2017?
Astrologically, 2016 was heavy on emotional cleansing, rinsing old crud from our eyes and closets, questioning outworn belief systems, and thinking anxious thoughts (Am I doing the right thing? What if this is the wrong choice?!). I’ve heard some astrologers refer to 2016 as The Year of the Question Mark. 2017, however, is being called The Year of The Builder.
This year contains a ton of Fire-sign influences. Fire sparks action, creation, drive, and willpower. Of course fire can also ignite passion and, at times, anger. Politically speaking, 2017 could be a volatile tinderbox. But in our personal lives, we’ll feel fired up and motivated to actually do the things we’ve previously only considered and put off ‘til later. Goodbye, Fear. 2017 is Go Time! With Jupiter stuck in Libra until October, there will continue to be a huge emphasis on relationships and justice. We’re all examining our one-on-one unions of the romantic, friend, family, and career variety. We’re adjusting how we partner with and show up for others. Keep doing that vulnerable but rewarding work!
Who inspires you and why?
You mean besides Bob Ross? My nana and my sweetie both inspire me to take my professional projects and public roles more seriously: “Sounds like an exciting gig, but will you get paid?”, “Have you finished your deadline yet?!”, “You should apply to this arts grant!”, “How’s that manuscript coming along, Elissa?” Uggh. It’s like they truly care about my well-being and want me to be wildly successful or something.
I’m kind of a scrappy punk and definitely a Sagittarius, so I naturally prefer spontaneity over planning. “It’ll all fall into place! I’ll fill out that invoice eventually,” I tell myself. But Nana and my squeeze push me to realize there’s real value in respecting structures, timelines, and planning. They encourage me to imagine bigger things for myself as a writer and a witch. Plus they’re both passionate about sports, which forces me to open my mind about jock culture.