Creativity as "an act of reclamation"
A conversation with Eryn Johnson, queer breathwork facilitator and writer
I’ve been suspended in a dreamlike state since seeing the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to observe the universe as it was 4.6 billion years ago, to connect the present with the distant past. It’s powerful, it’s terrifying, it makes me smile, it makes me cry.
I felt a sense of deep awe the moment my eyes traced the curves of star birth and death. Everything in my body told me to get curious, to turn towards that overwhelming feeling instead of away from it — my heartbeat, my skin, my breath, even the sensation of my eyelashes connecting as I slowly blinked. My body processed what my mind could not.
Curiousity and creativity are inextricably linked, and tarot has helped magnify my curiousity about the universe, and about myself. I’ve been feeling it this week more than ever.
In today’s newsletter, Eryn Johnson (she/they) talks about tarot as “an act of reclamation” — a way to reclaim your sense of self, and your creativity.
Eryn is a queer breathwork facilitator and writer based in Philadelphia. They write to remember, to heal, to process — to explore the impacts of religious trauma and cisheteropatriarchy, to tell stories of survival and of becoming. They’re also the host of Living Open, a podcast that explores art, trauma, sexuality, magick, reclamation, deconstruction, and other topics that are relevant to those who feel caught between the beauty and the violence of our world right now.
I’ve been getting monthly tarot readings from Eryn for over a year, and sitting with their reflections has become a favorite ritual. Their voice is soothing and ethereal (just listen to their podcast and you’ll feel it, too) and their card interpretations are deeply compassionate, refreshing, and inclusive. Eryn was one of the first people I reached out to about becoming a contributor for The Rebis, and I’m so grateful for their poetry.
We’re featuring a poem of theirs in our upcoming print edition of The Rebis, which will be entirely focused on the Wheel of Fortune. (Which, by the way, is on track for a late September release — the editorial content is finalized and we’re entering the early stages of magazine layout… I can’t wait to share more with you all soon.)
Happy full moon, and happy stargazing,
P.S. I’m always looking for people to interview, art to explore, and ideas to consider for The Rebis. If you have a recommendation, or if you’d like to chat, please email me — firstname.lastname@example.org
Eryn Johnson on creativity, healing, and tarot
I started working with the cards when I was first getting into energy work through the laying of hands, and something about the energetics and imagery of tarot called to a deep place inside of me. Simply working with the tarot as someone raised in a strict religious home felt like a tiny act of reclamation, of moving more towards myself.
I find myself turning to tarot to soothe my anxiety, when I need a reminder of the bigger picture, and when I need to ground into the knowing that all things are cyclical and all things change.
My relationship with tarot, like all of my healing and spiritual practices, ebbs and flows. I go through phrases of pulling a card every day, phases where I only do a spread every season or so, and everything in between.
I believe we’re all creative people and that connecting with our creativity — especially if we’ve been told throughout our lives that creativity is only for some people and not for us — can be an act of reclamation, of healing, and becoming. We create and we become and we create some more. The creative process is magical, but can be so messy, nonlinear, and lonely at times.
On overcoming creative stuckness
I’m often coming up against the questions: What is hard, and it’s the right kind of hard? What is hard, and it’s the wrong kind of hard?
It’s more complicated than that binary, but to me, the wrong kind of hard is the hard that moves me further from myself. A lot of creative stuckness for me is getting clear on what will move me more towards myself. Is it pushing through to tell this story, to make this thing, to keep creating even if it’s messy, it’s shitty, it’s hard because not everything that’s to be is easy? Is it honoring rest, softening, becoming more soft and fluid, like all the elements of the Earth, because we move on nonlinear timelines?
Only I can really know — but I do believe that all things flow in seasons, and while some seasons are for living and creating, some seasons are for living and becoming the person who is going to create the next thing.
How tarot plays a role in my creative practice
I often use tarot to guide me along the way and orient me toward the story I’m trying to tell. I also lean on tarot when I’m feeling creative stuckness, imposter syndrome, or a vulnerability hangover.
And in a less tangible way, I’m often noticing the energies of the cards swirling around as part of the process: Ace of Wands when the burst of inspiration comes through, the Empress when I’m letting ideas move through me and holding them in a soft container, the 8 of Pentacles as I show up for the nitty-gritty of creating something big step by step.
A recent moment of creative inspiration
I recently took a class with Cheryl Strayed, and she said this about sharing our stories that really landed for me:
“For some people it will be too much. For some people, it will be the thing that saves their life. For some people it will be the thing that makes them brave. For some people it will be the thing that allows them to forgive themselves. And you get to be the person that holds that story out to the world.”
Recommendations & resources
Eryn’s deck recommendation: Hollow Valley Tarot
Cards they’re currently drawn to: 8 of Pentacles and The Lovers
A favorite Living Open podcast episode: Episode #181 with Carolina Arevalo on healing through creativity and art, play, and building reciprocity. Caro has such a grounding, lovely presence and our conversation really leaned into the expansiveness of creativity as healing, working in unity with the Earth, and connections between creativity and spirituality.
Recommended reading: Right now, I’m really adoring Annika Hansteen-Izora’s writings on Substack, Raechel Anne Jolie’s writings on Substack, and Andrea Gibson’s poetry
Editor’s note: Follow Eryn on Instagram, and check out their blog for more — the love notes for your creativity series “connects some of the dots around curiosity, creativity, imagination, and aliveness for anyone who needs some support in their creative process.”
Eryn also recently released a book of poetry called moon sign, a collection of poems that swirl around themes of homecoming, of death and rebirth cycles — “a story of the liberation of wholeness and embodied queerness.” Here’s one of my favorites from the book, shared here with Eryn’s permission:
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I absolutely loved this, especially Eryn's perspective on the right vs. wrong kind of hard. I've struggled with the idea of, "Should I push through because this is teaching me something, or is it a sign that I should seek more ease?" So I love their idea of evaluating whether it brings you closer, or further away from yourself. External influences and societal expectations can so easily creep in, so that's a lovely north star to use. :)