I was recently at dinner at my mother’s house and we were talking about how different her childhood was from my sister’s and mine. My grandfather was in the Navy, which meant Mom went to a lot of different schools over the course of growing up. Contrasting to that, my sister and I lived in the same town from second grade for me, first for her, till we graduated from high school. We were talking about the idea of reinvention, and the way changing schools was a good way to begin again with a clean slate. Mom was able to reinvent herself a few different times over the course of her early years. My sister and I only had that opportunity once, when we moved from our smaller middle school to the large high school that multiple middle schools fed into. Although a fair few of the students were the same, the influx of so many new faces and a new environment allowed for some shifting. (In case you were wondering, that was when I started getting so weird. I saw the goths and fell head over heels in love.)
That conversation stayed with me and as I was contemplating what to write about today, the card I drew from my tarot deck was Judgment. The Judgment card is about moving out of darkness and into the light. It means dealing with your shadows and burdens, finally resolving them, and shifting into your next phase. It’s a resurrection of Self, a rebirth into a better and more harmonious form.
The pandemic inspired many things – most destructive, some useful – a true Pandora’s Box. One of the useful gifts from calamity I’ve observed has to do with identity. Without spending as much in-person time with our families and long-term social circles, lengthy introspection became possible. I do not think it is some strange coincidence that many members of my community have taken on different names and are more fully embodying their gender and sexual orientation now. We had some time to think. Some of us realized, in the stunning quiet of an empty social calendar, that the music we were dancing to no longer worked for us.
For those of us working the thread of identity, the pandemic ended up being a strange blessing. We were able to explore new ways of being while in the safety of our own homes. We became more comfortable with parts of ourselves we had been suppressing. This happened to everyone on a macro scale of course – our world collectively went through a big, isolating piece of trauma that is still influencing how we live.
The upshot? Everyone is different now. Some of us are very different now. Judgment Card indeed.
So, how do we embody our identity now? A big part of my magickal Work in this world is supporting the integration of spirits and the bodies they dwell in. We disassociate very easily in the United States – many of us view our bodies as somehow separate from us, a strange appendage that is only tangentially part of who we are. The thing is, our bodies are just about the only thing we have in common – we all have one! In my personal faith path, our bodies are a component of the soul. They matter and they are part of the big picture of Self. Connecting with our bodies in a healthy, affirming way is an incredibly healing thing to do. And, whether we realize it or not, bodies are how we recognize each other as well.
This means that identity gets communicated first through the senses: what we can see, smell, hear, and touch. So, let’s get sensual: how do we express through the senses the truth of who we are?
Sight: Many of us changed shape during the pandemic, which means it’s time to shift the wardrobe a bit anyway. This doesn’t have to be an expensive gambit. When we are working with a new identity, thrift and secondhand stores like Goodwill are a great way to experiment with how we show our identity through clothing. Questions to sit with:
- What are your colors? Not the ones your Mom told you look ‘nice’ on you. What are the colors of your identity? When you sit with your true name, your Self, what colors come to mind? Are they bright and flashy? Muted and calm? Are they shades of gray and charcoal? Are they the blues and greens of the sea? Are they the gold and red of glowing coals?
- How do they feel? Are they sleek and fluid? Full and billowy? Squared-off and stable? Tailored and crisp?
Once you have an idea of color palette and form, you have a starting place for Sight – for a way to show your identity when someone looks at you. You can look for those colors at the secondhand store and play with cut and style to find a better expression of your identity. Remember, most of us register sight first. Integrating visual cues with our evolving identities is a powerful way to communicate who we are to other people.
Scent: Scent is one of the most powerful triggers humans experience. A certain smell can bring us back to different times and places, inspire strong emotions, and calm or energize us. And, scent is one of the things we notice about people without realizing it. When I put on my best friend’s hoodie, the presence of her scent almost makes it feel like she’s there with me. Because it’s such a strong anchor for how we identify the people we love, it’s a wonderful thread to work.
The scent we give off is a combination of our body’s natural fragrance and the products we use. The former is not particularly negotiable. The latter definitely is. You probably haven’t thought about your deodorant or hair products in a while – those are autopilot for a lot of us, but they contribute dramatically to our scent. Cologne, perfume, and essential oil blends make up the balance of a person’s bouquet. The question for this sense is simple: What scents fit your identity now? Are they citrusy and bright? Smoky and musky? Herbal or spicy?
A plethora of scents are possible in self care products. We can even order unscented products and then add essential oil blends to them ourselves. If you would like to try a different cologne or perfume, I personally recommend Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Most of their scents are available in testers called ‘imps’ and they specialize in more unusual blends. Wanna smell like burning leaves or cotton candy? They’ve got you.
Changing your scent to match your identity is a subtle but effective way to show people who have known us for some time that we have changed. Your friends and family will register a different scent even if they don’t do so on a conscious level. That difference will then translate to them taking a closer look in an attempt to figure out what they’re noticing.
Sound. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was lucky enough to work at a New Age superstore called Esoterica in Leesburg, VA. My boss liked to wear the hip scarves decorated with dangly metal ‘coins’ common to belly dancers. When I hear someone walking and wearing a hip scarf, to this day I think it’s my beloved boss. This example is quite pronounced, but all of us have a sound or series of sounds people associate with us. On a more subtle level, I could identify my mother by the sound of her keys when I was little. Nowadays, I know the notifications my friends use on their phones. Consider the sounds that surround you. Questions to sit with:
- Do you wear jewelry that jingles or rattles? Would you like to? If what you wear makes sounds, what tone do want them to have?
- What audible notifications go off on your devices? Do they reflect your identity?
Touch. Like scent, texture is one of those funny signals that often passes beneath conscious thought. We do tend to notice when we touch something we like – soft jersey knits, fuzzy surfaces, velvet, etc. If your identity includes other than human attributes (gorgon, panther, snake, mermaid), texture can be a wonderful way to express those traits. So, what textures speak to you? Which ones resonate with your identity? When you touch your own clothing or accessories, what do you want to feel?
And one last thought while I’ve got your attention. Working the thread of identity is GREAT – it’s incredibly important. Holding space for others who are doing similar work is also vital. Remember – everyone you encounter now is different, even the folx you’ve known for years. I’m going to go back to the Tarot here for a moment. The Pages are the explorers, the apprentices, the learners in the face cards of a tarot deck. They have Beginner’s Mind, and their curiosity and enthusiasm are their greatest strengths. Shifting our perspective from Warrior or Ruler to Page allows us to meet people where they are. It also models how our friends and family can meet us where we are. So be curious. Notice what your senses are telling you about your circle. It’s a whole new world out there, with new aspects of identity rising to meet it.
So, what changes are speaking to you right now? What are you interested in demonstrating through the senses? Or, what other ways of supporting a new Self have you found to be helpful? Hit me up in the comments. Let’s explore this brave new world together.
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