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ash and stardust

Ash and Stardust x: Ashytober

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by energy worker and artist/writer DHIYANAH HASSAN explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. You can read the rest of the series here.

For October, I came up with a personalized tarot-inspired inktober challenge that I named after this column, #ashytober. I drew a card for each day and then illustrated my response to that card. The result is a series of digital art illustrations that gave life and ambience to the vibrant things that pulsate vividly beyond the surface of my days. Save for a couple of lags, I spent my October making art that I had no chance to plan for since each day’s prompt only happened when I pulled a card from the deck. I documented the work and shared some insight about the process for each piece on my Instagram (they’ll also be up on my website once that’s back out of its hiatus).

The ways in which I work has changed. Instead of squeezing effort to make things, I’m more focused on allowing things to happen. There’s so much that wants to come through me, so much that’s getting ready that wants me to be gentle with it.

Working on #ashytober after months of light sketchbook work allowed me the space to let the different parts of my work – my art, my training as a healer, my words, my aspirations – find their own ways to integrate and merge. I also found out that working intuitively was a great way to allow old strategies of art-making to adapt to where I’m at now.

Like how with each piece of #ashytober, I was building – finding – a fantastical world that housed its own cosmic cartography with strange landscapes, multiple suns and moons in the sky, and characters living diverse lifestyles.

Building up a cosmology for magical worlds – like building up the narrative behind the theory behind the symbology of a series – is something I’ve grown so accustomed to in my work as an artist. Except that I used to pressure myself to the point of paralysis that not much of this work gets to see the light of day. And so it was really delightful – like unwrapping candy to find a surprise toy packed inside with it – to see an entire universe of characters and narratives being spun out so spontaneously with each piece.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust x: Ashytober”

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Ash and Stardust ix: Recalibrate

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by energy worker and artist/writer DHIYANAH HASSAN explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. You can read the rest of the series here.

While our Northern and Southern hemispheres exchange weather, monsoon rains pour its threats and blessings on the equator. Toasty lands find relief with aid from migrating clouds, storm winds push the haze in and out, rising mud ring in flowers along the roadsides like celebration, bursts of heat and humidity break any rhythm we might try to tame with reason – the combination is calming, chaotic, and languid. Our eyes are sleepy from rain then watchful for floods and typhoons while our trees and shorelines swell with volume. Sometimes an irrational anxiety stirs our body, coaxing us to consider our roles with each other in unexpected ways. Other times a cloud inside us wrings itself dry, releasing its burdens and we find ourselves drained from feeling it all.

Rain drumming against awnings, earth, and windows bring old lullabies back to the heart.

As seasons change, so do our daily habits, our bodies adapting and compromising with us. Temperatures shake up circadian rhythms, stunting or catalyzing growth within the myriads of topographies making up our bodily beings, emotional terrains, and mental health. Our pendulum of awareness may swing from one side to the other with frightening intensity. We breathe to find our center, then we keep breathing – devoting ourselves to Earth’s gravitational pull to keep us steady.

We were made to feel our seasons, our weathers, personally.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust ix: Recalibrate”

Ash and Stardust viii: Cosmic Shift Spread

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by energy worker and artist/writer DHIYANAH HASSAN explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. You can read the rest of the series here.

We are now at the dusk of eclipse season and scrambling for stillness. Restless, we tend to be unsure how to be when all that’s being asked of us is, “Rest, now.” We’ve been going at it for so long, haven’t we? Each year a solar return, each decade a collection of milestones, each century a tome, and each millennium a prophecy for the apocalypse. Sometimes we tell each other stories in fragments because that is the only way we remember them as timeless.

Picture each card in a spread as one fragment of a story so expansive, no linear sequence could contain it. Each symbol and suggestion a check-in with the intuitive self, each placement a closer look into the familiar or the unknown. A spread laid out in front of you like an offering of what the bigger picture could look like if it was something you can touch. And why not – why not believe that you can demand the bigger picture reveal itself to you, to shuffle and cut and pull stories out of thin air so that you can set what’s necessary into motion.

There’s power in reclaiming agency with the smallest of gestures. A little goes a long, long way.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust viii: Cosmic Shift Spread”

Ash and Stardust vii: Checkpoints

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by artist, writer, and energy worker DHIYANAH HASSAN, explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. You can read the rest of the series here.

What was supposed to be a two-week hiatus at the beginning of July bloomed into a one-month break from all digital screens. I turned off notifications, stuffed my phone in a drawer and only flipped its case open to check a couple of windows when a specific urge took over – always when a message came in that I needed to read. For most of July, I was alone with myself and yes, it started out lonely. My hiatus was triggered by a heartbreak and concluded with another. Each a checkpoint marking just how much can change and evolve once you remove distractions and allow life to happen on its own – and let me tell you, life is fast.

I can’t count how many times I’ve written, “Everything is, once again, different.” Because it’s never not true. Nothing on Earth stays the same, ever. From moment to moment, worlds collide and expand and change and die and manifest and transform and bloom and it can be so ecstatic, so disorienting that it’s easy to forget that a planet’s retrograde is a cosmic trick of the eye. That what we think we need, we really just think we need. What is important is to come back to this body – this one that changes from moment to moment.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust vii: Checkpoints”

Ash and Stardust vi: Mars and Saturn walk into a teahouse and are ambushed by the Moon with Neptune cackling on the roof

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by artist and writer DHIYANAH HASSAN, explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. These are personal essays and articles sharing experiences of growth as someone who has recently found a deep connection to tarot. You can read the rest of the pieces here.

As a Scorp Sun with Cap rising, this Mars Retrograde plus Capricorn full moon has been at the forefront of my headspace. It’s proving to be a groundbreaking combination for energetic upgrades. Nevermind that since Neptune stationed retrograde, I’ve spent most of my night-time hours getting deeper into dream work. Maybe I’ll write more about that one day – I’m mostly reeling from how absolutely sublime and affirming these experiences are and although I do feel like sharing about them, I still tip-toe around the language for it, hesitant for now. Mostly I’m just allowing things to unfold while my body nags me to both get some work done and to take time off so it can fully catch up with everything.

This Mars Rx reminds me a lot of the Knights cards in reverse, particularly the Knight of Wands. A warrior in reverse is a warrior that performs best in the shadows – observing, strategizing, recharging. Forced into action, this warrior might catalyze chaos via misunderstandings, accidents, or battles with no victory in sight – but not all chaos is unnecessary and a warrior can hold this knowledge well in their body when they’re able to get out of their own way. One way to override self-sabotaging habits is through intention setting and gratitude journaling.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust vi: Mars and Saturn walk into a teahouse and are ambushed by the Moon with Neptune cackling on the roof”

Ash and Stardust v: The World Turned Upside Down

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by artist and writer DHIYANAH HASSAN, explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. These are personal essays and articles sharing experiences of growth as someone who has recently found a deep connection to tarot. You can read the rest of the pieces here.
In the past month, I saw my childhood dream of having a conventionally successful art career – this dream that kept me alive through overwhelming traumas – die off. I made the decision to orphan myself from the biological family because they still couldn’t respect my boundaries. This country I’m in saw its first ever government change in the recent elections and despite the hope sizzling in the air, I still felt like it was trying to kick me out. Hope tends to follow change, it’s true, but so does apprehension.

These were the background noises weighing down on me for the past two weeks, as I worked through illness to meet deadlines, rummaging resources in search of plant-based remedies that could help alleviate all the gross ways stress had affected my body. I was thick in the overwhelm and it felt both familiar and foreign at the same time.

fullmoonscorpiotides_forAshandStardust.gif
GIF snapshot of ocean waves, taken a day before the full moon

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust v: The World Turned Upside Down”

Ash and Stardust iv: The Care in Chaos

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by artist and writer DHIYANAH HASSAN, explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. These are personal essays and articles sharing experiences of growth as someone who has recently found a deep connection to tarot. You can read the rest of the pieces here.

“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.” – from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Last year I designed a spread that was meant, according to my earlier notes, for days when you’re “intellectually and emotionally fucked up.” I named it the Chaos Spread. Here’s how you use it:

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Ash and Stardust iii: Reversed Readings

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by artist and writer DHIYANAH HASSAN, explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. These are personal essays and articles sharing experiences of growth as someone who has recently found a deep connection to tarot. You can read the rest of the pieces here.

Slow your breathing, get upside down. Go ahead. Find a comfortable seat, couch, or bed to lie on where you can dangle your head, shoulders, and half your torso upside down. Your arms over your head spilling to the floor. If this feel awkward, stay with that feeling.

Stay with it for a couple of minutes, the bowl of your skull filling up with blood. Then slowly, taking care of your back, rise. Close your eyes. Keep breathing. Feel the juices in your body waterfalling back into alignment.

You learn this in yoga, to let the blood flow in the opposite direction for release. Getting into positions that make you feel trapped in your own body, trembling from uncertainty – where the only instruction is to slow down, breathe. You learn to involve yourself with the situation rather than with the idea of escape. Make friends with the conundrum and that will give you the tools you need to return to yourself.

I do this – sit upside-down and breathe – to relieve headaches or migraines. It doesn’t always get rid of the pain but it helps me manage it better. This is how I view reversed readings in tarot spread.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust iii: Reversed Readings”

Ash and Stardust ii: Trauma and The Lovers

Ash and Stardust, a monthly column by artist and writer DHIYANAH HASSAN, explores the intersections of tarot with healing and creativity. These are personal essays sharing experiences of growth as someone who has recently found a deep connection to tarot. You can read the first piece here.

On a night I was forced to lose a war to my father’s rage, I stopped myself from crying by carving the word ‘HATE’ into my leg. The conclusion of these encounters with either of my parents had never meant the end of physical abuse. Their anger grew inside me like an infection.

A huge part of my history is that I grew up with adults who couldn’t protect me from their own ugliness, who refused to remember what they did after the fact, who until today won’t say anything when decades of their choices landed me in hospitals and finally on the disability spectrum.

Since childhood, I was not given the tools necessary to know how to love myself. What I saw in my parents’ eyes as my body absorbed impact after impact was what I mirrored back to myself; hate. And that ruined so much of my life, as this still does to countless children all over the world, crying quietly in places they have to call home.

Children know things on a raw and intuitive frequency before they find the language for articulation, so I knew there was something wrong with it all. To cope with the terror no one else could see, I developed imaginary worlds I’d submerge myself in for hours – days, even. In this world, I was loved by a group of adults who’d co-parent me through the perils of daily life. In the external world, I couldn’t talk about what was happening to me without being pegged as too difficult or ‘too much.’

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust ii: Trauma and The Lovers”

Ash and Stardust i: Here We Are

This is the first instalment of Ash and Stardust, a monthly column exploring how my tarot practice intersects with self-care, healing, and creativity. Note: I don’t claim to be a tarot expert! This is me learning as I go, overcoming creative blocks along the way.

“Everyone deserves an outlet; a reservoir of safety – a comforting warmth in the ribcage – the space surrounding the heart.”
– from the guidebook of The Next World Tarot by Cristy C. Road

I can’t say exactly when I was introduced to tarot. It would appear or get mentioned in passing here and there during my teenage years. I remember once-upon-a-time friends spreading cards on bedroom floors to articulate desires and what-ifs. They’d ask if I wanted a reading done and I had always said no. It didn’t feel right. I don’t mean that I had trouble with the idea of cartomancy – the mystical world fascinated me. I was, however, having trouble seeing myself as someone who could hold these archetypes in my hands, to shuffle and create a narrative out of them that can serve not as divination, but as guidance – or even to satisfy curiosity.

In those earlier years, I was nowhere near okay enough to claim my own story, let alone see it as part of something bigger.

Continue reading “Ash and Stardust i: Here We Are”

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