Mama, me, and Daddy at my grandparents' home in Winter Haven, Florida, November 26, 1995
“I had to examine, in my dreams as well as in my immune-function tests, the devastating effects of overextension. Overextending myself is not stretching myself. I had to accept how difficult it is to monitor the difference. Necessary for me as cutting down on sugar. Crucial. Physically. Psychically. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde
My father was a Tower of a man. Physically, emotionally, and intellectually. When he walked into a room, everyone noticed. Although he was a big ol’ wallflower, his personality alone took up a lot of space, and whether he wanted to or not (mostly not), he attracted the attention of people. They wanted to know the gentle giant, to understand his quietness, they wanted to go fishing with him, hypothesize and philosophize with him, talk through movies with him (hey, there are things to discuss), and they wanted to include him in every gathering… no matter how loudly he yawped that he didn’t like people and didn’t want to go.
He liked people, in doses, but this detail is one of many examples of how his life experiences, genetic mental illness, and extreme introversion informed his isolation, especially after he suffered a work-related injury that upended and shortened his life.
My father’s death crashed down around our family in a traumatic way. His suffering had been intense, his mental illness spiralic, and his last days lingered, as if suspended in time, like watching a tree fall into the ocean and sink all the way to the bottom. My mother’s response to his death was a spiral of her own. She dealt with her grief by trying to erase the pain from her memory, denying her feelings around losing her partner of more than three decades, and gutting their entire house. She purged everything that reminded her of his disability years: she wrestled his favorite recliner to the dump, sold his boat and truck, gave away all his fishing tackle, blew his inheritance on clothes and food, and traded-in their paid-for SUV for a brand-new sports car.
My response to my father’s death was to rally around my mother when she needed it and get the hell out of her way when she didn’t. My primary focus, however, hadn’t been helping her to manage her grief, it had been helping my five- and seven-year-old boys understand their own. They’d just lost their Granddaddy, their most favorite person in the whole world. And so, I swooped in, scooping them up and helping them recover. I set aside my own recovery (as most caregivers do), until Mama was settled and the boys were asleep, and then I filled the loss with tequila and terrible choices.
Both my mother’s and my response to my father’s death were trauma responses, emotionally fueled stress reactions to a traumatic event. Both of our reactions were emotional and physical, and neither was healthy nor constructive. Our pain and loss took the shape of the hole my father had left in our lives, and for a while afterwards, it burned through my creativity and stifled my imagination.
In the Tarot, The Star card provides counsel, guiding our response to trauma and grief, ushering us through recovery, and invoking a host of other RE-words around the sudden impact of significant change. The Star illuminates the construct of self-care, underscoring the fact that self-care is relative to the individual, and it’s not always as accessible to some as it is for others. Alternatively, The Star is an invitation to artistic exploration, which, for writers, is a much-needed reprieve to the mess The Tower can make of our creativity. Let’s examine this bittersweet card.
What's happening in The Star card?
A naked woman kneels on a lush embankment with one foot in a body of water—let’s call it a pond—and her opposite knee rooted among the grassy blades and flowers. She holds a water jug in both hands, one pouring water out onto the land and the other pouring back into the pond. In the background, we can see two hills: a grassy one behind her upon which a tree has grown and a scarlet ibis perches, and the other a foothill or mountain. Above her head and all around the sky are eight eight-pointed stars, the largest of which is yellow and sparkles directly over the woman’s body. The surrounding seven stars are white and scattered against a cloudless blue sky.
The Star: A Deep Dive
When the smoke clears and the dust settles around the fallen Tower, after you’ve experienced a significant change, a psychological and/or mental breakthrough, and you’ve worked intentionally at seeing something from a new/different perspective, The Star offers rest, reiterating (two of the RE-words) balance. It reminds you of the balance you’ve already learned from Temperance, right before The Devil interfered (or intervened, perhaps?) and The Tower came crashing down.
During this regaining process, The Star harkens back to Audre Lorde’s thoughts (see her quote at the beginning of this post) around self-care and the difference between stretching oneself (via a healthy challenge) and overextending. Regarding self-care, if you’re left picking up the pieces of you scattered by such abrupt change or overextension, The Star offers insight around what accessible self-care looks like for each individual. Although tequila and bad decisions were accessible to me, they were not self-care. Eventually, however, my creativity returned, and I fully examined and healed from my father’s passing through writing and publishing The Scars We Choose, Book Two, a novel in which I gave my father a character with the happy ending he’d deserved.
To that point, when The Star shines on your writer’s desk, it can encourage imagination and innovation, empowering you to ladle creativity from every inspiring source—dreams, experience, surroundings, everywhere. You are urged to take it all in and apply the inspiration to your work. Like a current, allow your creativity to flow into you and through you, right out of your fingertips, and then share what you’ve crafted with the world.
The Star might not have any pockets, but she certainly carries with her plenty of RE-words: realization, reassessment, reconfigure, recovery, regaining, rehabilitation, reiteration, rejuvenation, relaxation, remembering, renewal, rescue, reset, rest, restoration, retrograde, retrospect, revelation, revival, and rewilding. On a lower polarity (reversed), she might inform regurgitation, remorselessness, response (as in trauma response), restlessness, restriction, and retribution.
The Star Reversed: The Shadow
When reversed, The Star can represent hopelessness, depression, illness, imposter syndrome, and as previously mentioned, overextension. The reversed Star is what my family and I experienced in my opening story: a trauma response to a stressful situation. It’s anger, aggressive behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, guilt, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), self-blame, self-harm, shame, or suicidal thoughts.
Similarly, The Star reversed uncovers all the Un-REs: unrequited feelings, unreal ideas, unresponsiveness, unreliability, unrealized potential, unrenewed vows, unrestored hope, unrevived dreams.
Notable Symbols for The Star Card
Spirit / Air
The number 17 represents being on the right track spiritually and working hard to make one’s dreams a reality. When combined, 1 + 7 = 8, which is the number of achievement and manifestation. See also Strength.
Eight eight-pointed stars—the eight-pointed star is a symbol of balance and harmony, a reminder that all things are connected to the universe’s natural rhythms. This star is also representative of the four directions—north, south, east, west—intersected by the four elements—air, earth, fire, and water. This star also denotes the eight moon phases, new moon (or dark moon), waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, second quarter, and waning crescent.
Scarlet ibis—The ibis is a sacred bird to both Hermes Trismegistus and Thoth, Egyptian god of wisdom. The bird perches in a treetop, a symbol of focus and concentration in order to welcome higher knowledge.
Nakedness—According to A. E. Waite, a nude figure in the Tarot symbolizes unveiled Truth.
Hill in the background—My own interpretation of the hill featured in the background of this card is that this is where The Tower stood before it toppled. Moreover, hills and mountains in the Tarot can denote security and stability.
Grassy terrain with flowers—These features evoke newness, growth, blossoming, nurturing, and awakening.
Two vessels—balance and harmony [see also Temperance]
Footing—One foot is in the water, symbolizing intuition, while the other rests on land, denoting stability.
Water— intuition, healing, rejuvenation
The Star, Characterized
The figure in The Star card can be lots of different people, I’m certain. However, I interpret her as being both you and me as writers or a caregiver. If the former, she represents tending to our own personal needs following an experience that brought great change into our lives and/or an event that changed us from the inside out. She is our inner self, our personal Truth, and her best interests are bringing balance, hope, and harmony back to our lives and our writing practice. She challenges and supports the stretches, and then intervenes when we’ve overextended ourselves. If she is a caregiver, then she is a person who makes our healing and wellbeing a priority; that individual might be a parent, a best friend, a spouse, a nurse, a doctor, a therapist, an acupuncturist, your favorite Aunt Tillie whom everyone else in the family gossips about but wouldn’t dare say those things to her face. Either way, Aunt Tillie doesn’t care what anyone says. She loves you. You’re her favorite.
Notable characters, people, or personas
Catherine Barkley from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms; Hana from The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje; Harry Potter’s Madam Pomfrey, played by Gemma Jones; The Star is Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Florence Nightingale, Anne Sullivan, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
VA.gov | Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/isitptsd/common_reactions.asp
The Meaning & Symbolism Of Angel Number 17. (2022, January 14). Numerology Nation. https://numerologynation.com/angel-number-17/
Rhys, D. (2022, September 27). Meaning of the 8-Pointed Star (Octagram). Symbol Sage. https://symbolsage.com/8-pointed-star/
Echols, S. E., Mueller, R., & Thomson, S. (1996). Spiritual Tarot: Seventy-Eight Paths to Personal Development (1st ed.). William Morrow Paperbacks.
Waite, A. E. (1966). The Pictoral Key to the Tarot (3rd Printing). University Books.
On Writer Wednesday, the spotlight shines on indie author Rachel L. Carlyle!
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself. And that's a good thing!
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.