The Star


Trying something new! Some behind the scenes on this production: I wrote out what I wanted to say, but knowing that I was going to speak it aloud and record freed me up from a previous block and made the words flow easier (funny how that works). I riffed a little and flubbed once or twice and went back to edit those parts out along with a few but not all of my ums and vocal clicks. I recorded it using Audacity on my laptop in my living room with no one at home and the fan on, and didn’t do any other audio tweaks. Do have a listen, but if you’d prefer to read text, I have the transcript of the audio below at the end of the newsletter.

Previously, I wrote about the things I love about being a Leo. If you'd like to subscribe, click here. If you like what I write and share and want to support that, here’s my tip jar. Please feel free to share this newsletter with a friend 💌

Things That Are Good

  • The Tarot for Beginners workshop Liy and I organised at the end of July! We had 13 sign-ups, which was exciting, and ended up having 7 participants, which turned out to be just about the right amount for the space we prepared and the activities we had in mind. It was so good to have a few Sunday hours to nerd out about tarot with other nerds, to talk about what it means to us, our questions about how to understand it better for our needs and wants, and carving new paths towards that understanding with each other. The feedback was positive, for which I am very very grateful

  • I received the best array of love letters for my birthday! Comics of a friend's first memory of me, a testimony from an acquaintance I made last year and really connected with through tarot, a little ficlet about College Boyfriend Harry Styles™ - a beloved character from my 1D tumblr days, beautifully thoughtful affirmations so full of love and more grace than I thought I'd be allowed from dear friends️. The sweetness of getting exactly what you asked for and needed 💖

    While in Ho Chi Minh over the week of my birthday, I had meaningful visits to 2 museums: the War Remnants museum and the Southern Vietnam Women's Museum. The former left me with a black sadness and incandescent rage, and the latter inspired me to dream of how I would curate a hypothetical Malaysian National Women's Museum. (If anyone wants to take the ideas below and either collaborate with me on making it happen or running with it for their own project, by all means, please just credit me and don’t take these images / text without permission)

    Text of 3 instagram stories, mainly text laid over images of displays from the SVWM: I would like my Malaysian Women’s Museum to have a) a reading and resource library b) permanent exhibition charting the history of our women’s involvement in nation building, their achievements in all fields (with comprehensive representation c) involve as much of these women’s own voices as possible d) multimedia tools: videos, audio guides, multilingual texts, accompanying reference books in exhibition rooms e) training programme for docents with scholarships for those from marginalised communities f) active programming to contextualise the exhibitions and the progression of various movements g) an interactive space or platform for people to talk about the malaysian women they look up to and have discussions g) adjacent gallery space to feature women artists and art h) display info and content from and by cis and trans women as well as non-binary folk. Dwelling on so many random details like how to make a non-segregated prayer space that allows for privacy, the break room for all the staff, whether we charge for the rolling thematic exhibitions, how to be transparent and handle corporate sponsorships, what’s our security plan. Re: curation and content, the thoughts are more nebulous. How do we approach and feature domestic work, how do we highlight migrant women workers (many of whom are as Malaysian as anybody!!!)
  • Being part of Tugu Kita / Our Monument (FB link), a participatory art performance organised and dreamed by Sharon Chin, one of my favourite artists. I wrote a bit about my experience here. Something I didn't say there was that one of my favourite parts was watching the banners unfurl and overhearing a couple next to me wondering what this was all about, and getting the chance to offer an explanation, to show them the poem Sharon wrote, and hearing them say "Oh, I see now" as they looked at the work again. You can read here an English translation of her poem by writer Zedeck Siew. 


Writing a newsletter during my birthday month has proven to be a bit tricky. There's a desire both to have it MEAN something and also for it not to be a high pressure situation because who needs that ever, least of all the month of their birthday, especially if you're a Leo Sun and that shit capital M matters to you!

So I had two ideas I used to guide me through this, which is to write about The Star, a very important Major Arcana card for me, and to finally test out this audio recording thing on Substack. (I’m not about to call it a podcast, that’s not what it is) I feel like using my voice here allows me to be a bit more casual, a bit more free, and lightness is a big theme for me when it comes to The Star. 

The Star is one of two cards I pulled for this quarter of the year when I did my year ahead spread back in December. It's also a card I have literally tattooed on my body - please don't tell my dad. Another thing about The Star I find really important is, it's the card that comes right after The Tower, in the sequence of the Major Arcana. 

The Tower has that reputation within tarot, if you know about it, of being scary and devastating and turbulent and massively life changing. If you've never seen it, it's traditionally depicted as a stone tower of sorts, maybe it's made of wood or any other type of material, and there's lightning striking it and it's essentially breaking in half and it's on fire and people are falling from it. So, scary, devastating, and turbulent and massively life changing. It's scary because it's uncontrollable and unpredictable, and it shakes you up. It's not quite a curtain call like Death, I see it more like a blackout in the middle of a theatre as you watch a play. An interruption that changes what you see, and introduces the idea that what you'll see after the light comes back on might not be what you expect or what was there before. In the Slow Holler deck, they renamed it The Storm. Often when I draw it in a read, I think of earthquakes. 

I want to go back to that idea of interruption, when it comes to The Tower. A lot of us aren't great with interruptions - we find them inconvenient and bothersome. We bemoan our bodies' capacities when we get sick and our to do list gets derailed, we stress when other people don't act how we want or need them to because it throws off our plans and our needs, unexpected questions that undo what we expect make us antsy. A lot of us cope through avoidance; I know I do. We barrel through, we steamroller over, we ride roughshod through the yearning and the raw and the hurt so we can fast forward to the easy and the gentle and the joy. 

Something I've come to appreciate so much more in my late 20s and now early 30s - and if you know me well enough you've probably heard me bring it up a million times cause I'm corny AND repetitive - and what that is, is being present. If you've ever suffered loss, it can feel at times like your life after loss, no matter the length and duration, can always be thought of as after disaster. Whatever happens is kind of flattened because it happened after, in spite of, because, following. Sometimes you feel like everything is second best, because what was best was what you had, before it changed, before it was “ruined”. The Star to me is an antidote against that flavour of despair. It occupies the interruption, the pause of treating life like all it is is destinations, and it transforms it into presence. Into being with the hard shit - the yearning, the raw, the hurt, and seeing that those things sit right alongside the ease, the gentle, the joy. The Star really disrupts the rush hour traffic of your life - imagine our highways turned into fields, and imagine having nowhere to be except for under the wide open sky, on the fragrant, lush grass. 

In a lot of the traditional depictions of The Star, they're pouring water from two jugs, one into a stream, and one onto the verdant ground. In my tattoo, she also has one foot dipped into the flow of the stream. The Star is of a piece of everything that was broken and rebuilt and broken again, The Star flows and receives. I've had the immense privilege of never having (directly) experiencing a natural disaster or the aftermath*, never having experienced something like a storm or an earthquake taking something away from me. I can only imagine the immense overwhelm of rebuilding, the weight of the day to day when the only first step forward if that you might have to abandon the home you knew and everything it contained. As I write this, in 2019, deep in the belly of an international climate crisis, I realise the clock's running out on this story of mine and soon I might not have to imagine. 

All that said, who amongst us has not experienced loss? It's something we're all very very familiar with. If The Star is about being present, then the energy of that card is accessible to you any time you remind yourself you're breathing. Any time you ask, if I am not what was before and I am not what I will be after - which is something no one can know - then who and what and how am I now? What does it mean for me to be? What does it mean for me to be both broken and whole, both a part of the world and a world in myself? 

So those are my ruminations on The Star. Tell me what you guys think: should I do this again? Should I do it in a different format? I was thinking this would be great for asking for questions from people and doing reads for them. So that I can just pull a card and kind of stream of consciousness read it out and record it and share it on the newsletter. But yeah let me know what you think, and if anybody wants to see the tattoo, honestly just email me unless you're my dad in which case please forget everything you've ever heard - okay! Thanks so much for listening. I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are. 

*When I wrote / said this I was imagining floods, earthquakes, typhoons, forest fires. We have those here in Malaysia to an extent, and we also have haze which I’m more familiar with, immense amounts of trash shipped here from other countries, choking up our land and waters, so much of our iconic flora and fauna are going extinct or shrinking fast from industry and deforestation etc etc. Of course I’m affected as a person who lives here. What’s being taken away from me as an individual and as a citizen isn’t as tangible or big (yet) but it’s still being taken away.

Previously, I wrote about the things I love about being a Leo. If you'd like to subscribe, click here. If you like what I write and share and want to support that, here’s my tip jar. Please feel free to share this newsletter with a friend 💌