Radical Readers: An Interview Series (Starting With J. Ryan of Queer Street Tarot)
Welcome to “Radical Readers”, a (hopefully) ongoing new series where I interview professional tarot card readers (and other metaphysical practitioners who are also activists, advocates, or otherwise living and practicing their craft from the margins.
My first Radical interview was really fun for me; J. Ryan of Queer Street Tarot and I met when I was looking for readers for a Pride event last summer. He was thrilled to step in and read for LGBTQ+ seekers and as a bonus we became fast friends. His frank tarot reading style won me over as a reader, and his unexpected sense of humor has kept us tight as friends. J. Ryan works full-time in the metaphysical publishing field and runs Queer Street Tarot. Though J. is currently taking some time away from content creation to design some tarot decks and build his client base, you can catch the archive of really great personal essays and tarot musings here.
Did you learn tarot or witchcraft with your queer identity and radical politic in mind?
I have been reading for fourteen years. My practice has always revolved around my identity as a gay man since I first used the cards to come out and understand myself. This led me to explore Wicca early on and pursue a practice in witchcraft. I don’t actively use spellwork as something I offer to clients but it plays a pretty serious role in my daily life outside of tarot clientele. That has changed over time and let me to explore both my familial roots and their associations with witchcraft.
We seem to be in a much more tumultous time politically than when you started your practice. Has that affected your attitude towards tarot or your Pagan practice? Do you aim any readings/spells/etc. at collective healing or liberation?
Due to the current times we are now facing, I find myself using the cards to see where we are headed as a nation or what can be done on a personal level to be better to those around me when they need me. A lot of my magical and spiritual practice doesn’t use spellwork without using a practical approach as well. The change has to come internally and so I practice a lot of life coaching techniques that then provide the inspiration for whatever spellwork serves as the follow up. I will focus on giving people tools that they can use either small scale at home or larger scale in their communities. That is something I think will really inspire change; communities acting together as one entity to make the changes they need to thrive in this world.
Are there other intersections of oppression besides sexual identity that you live with that affect your reading style?
It’s harder for me to enter into a lot discussions with people when it comes to social justice issues because another ongoing aspect of my life that has affected my reads has been mental health. I live with both depression and anxiety and have felt how draining it can be to see so much going on around you and feel unable to affect much change at the time. That being said, I am extremely sensitive to people and often I have found that there are people who come into every situation with a sense of anger, rage, and misplace that emotion onto something small and I’ve seen it in some clients. It can be empowering, it can feel righteous but it’s not going to bring a community together unfortunately. A lot of my practice, both magical and non, tries to address this and diffuse any unproductive emotional responses and deliver tools that can be productive.
Anything else you want us to know about your spiritual or activist life?
In discussions with my partner, he and I often talk about the fact that a lot of universities don’t focus on restorative justice, rather they focus on the other kinds of social justice approaches. This eliminates a lot of conversations that need to take place; not that could take place but that need to take place. It is my hope that the magical/tarot/social justice communities do something to bring the focus to restorative justice rather than anything that is going to make the conversation a continuation of the systemically oppressive us vs. them that it has been, especially on social media.