Elle Cornell (left) and Rachel Isaza. / Photo by Divine Ikpe

Tarot and the God of Self

How the divination tool is empowering queer femmes to find faith from within


When it comes to the world of magic and divination, there is no tool more popular and well-recognized than the tarot. The tarot is a deck of 78 cards separated into two groups. The minor arcana are made up of 56 cards, 14 of each suit: cups (water, emotion and intuition), pentacles (earth, the material world), swords (air, thoughts and intellect), and wands (fire, passion). The major arcana are 22 named and numbered cards representing the journey of the Magician, starting at 0 (the Fool) and ending at 21 (the World).

The tarot is intended to represent the universal cycles of the human experience and is used by readers to help them navigate those cycles and their own Magician’s journey. For many young queer people, tarot offers the opportunity to foster a sense of spirituality and an unconditionally loving connection with themselves that traditional religion often gatekeeps from them.

That is the case with Elle Cornell and Rachel Isaza. Both are young queer femmes, people of color, artists and makers, and tarot readers. I sat down with Elle and Rachel to discuss their relationships with tarot and how it’s helping them carve out a space for them not only to unapologetically be themselves, but also to find the divine power existing within them.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.


Tell me about your personal tarot history.

E: tarot found me when I was in a really vulnerable space. I was going through a really bad mental health crisis, and I was introduced to it by two older men that were helping guide me through it. They showed me my tarot spread, they did a Celtic cross, and they used a normal deck of cards for it. My other friend was traveling to Thailand and thinking of something to bring back for me, and she brought me a deck of cards … [This friend] gave me my reading during this period of time, and they were able to reassure me that this was an initiatory process. They introduced me to tarot in a way that made me feel so understood. There was a lot going on, and I was really up in the air about everything. They were able to give me this gift, and I’ve been using it ever since.

R: I found [tarot] out of the blue. A friend of mine asked if they could do a reading for me. We did just a three-card spread and had a nice conversation about centering yourself. After that, it just kept popping up in my life to the point that a friend gifted me my first deck. It all felt serendipitous. It was a choice to keep practicing.


If you were speaking to somebody who’s never heard of tarot, how would you describe what it is?

E: Tarot is a mirror. It reflects what you put into it, it reflects what you ask of it. It’s a tool for you to guide yourself or ask different questions or just gain a deeper understanding through the symbols, through the spread, through the intention you put into it, through the setup, all of it. I pull some cards, whether that be for a question, an affirmation, or some insight, and I look at the symbols, pictures, people, colors. I really try to use what I’m feeling to pull more from the card.

R: You can use it as a tool to communicate with one another. It’s a portal to a vulnerable space. I definitely describe it as an introspective state, and that’s also how I describe astrology.


I’ve always believed tarot to be a source of personal empowerment based in this belief that we are our own gods in charge of creating our own narratives and reality. Can you talk about the empowerment of tarot?

R: It’s just nice to pull out the wisdom that I already have within me. It’s very relatable in the way that it just makes me feel seen. There’s a lot of deep-seated things that I’m constantly being thrown around by, so to get some light in the fog means a lot.

E: I’ve been uncovering a lot within my ancestry … I do feel like I venerate my ancestors when I call on tarot, especially when I’m calling on the ancestors that want the best for me and my highest self. [Tarot] is about going back to the wisdom that has existed far beyond what exists now, what’s been conditioned for centuries.


Organized religion has been a source of hostility toward both the queer community and women/femme-presenting people. Can you talk about your faith backgrounds and how tarot provides a space of self-acceptance as queer femmes?

R: It pulled me out of the agnostic state because I was raised Christian. I have a lot of practice with being spiritual and believing and having that hope. Instead of ignoring that side of me, it’s nice to have it channeled. I feel like I am very loyal and disciplined and I do believe in things I can’t see. Being able to anchor that has been really helpful.

It just gave me a personal space to be myself. I gave that to myself … [That space] has always been there, and now it’s available in a way that’s not clouded by fear and conditioning. Being able to have that solace is something that the Christian faith didn’t have a lot of. Having [tarot] resonate on so many levels with me is something that I was always looking for with God, who I never thought was relatable because it was just a white man.

E: I grew up Catholic, and I didn’t connect with it as much as I wanted to. Tarot helped [teach me that] everything will be what it is, everything will work out. That’s how I want to live my life … The only constant is change and chaos.

R: Going back to that original power of all these archetypes that have been recorded for so long that are still being felt to this day just gives a lot of power to emotions. The hardest thing about being queer and POC is actually being allowed to feel the emotions because it’s so much easier to ignore it at this point. It can give a liberating feeling to life as opposed to feeling like everything is out to get you and always will be.