[Upbeat theme music plays]
Gabby: In this week’s episode I’m sitting down with one of my favorite artists and creatives Cristy Road and we’re talking the joy in Tarot and Punk Rock.
[Arrow sound effect]
Cristy: Like, so much about revolution and change is about like, loving your community and people and like, that ability to rise up requires joy and rage because if you’re not pissed off at the system then what are you fighting against?
[Arrow sound effect]
Gabby: Hello sweet joyful babes! I’m Gabby Rivera, that anxious Virgo Tía that offers you lavender oil and ginger tea when you’re stressed out while singing “sana sana colita de rana” and this is Joy Revolution! The podcast that asks: How do you prioritize Joy?
[Theme music ends]
Gabby: Get ready because this is a moment right here, this is to me a gritty, punk, spiritual moment. My next guest is a visual artist, graphic novelist, her book Bad Habits is on my forever must-read list. She’s crafted over 100 portraits of Queer and Trans people of color for her next world Tarot card deck and fronts the Queer Punk Band: Choked up, her work has inspired me for the last 15 years.
Today we’re talking with Cristy Road about the riotous, abundant joy in Tarot and Punk.
Welcome to Joy Revolution Cristy!
[Gabby and Cristy both laugh]
Gabby: Please tell the people –
Cristy: We got the cocimientos
Gabby: [Gabby laughs] We got it all
Cristy: We got it all
Gabby: So tell the people Cristy, who you are, what, if any pronouns you’re using today. I’m using She/Her, and in your own words what you do.
Cristy: I’m Cristy and I use She/Her pronouns. And I don’t know, I’m a Gemini so I do all this stuff. [Gabby giggles] I make drawings and write and I play music and it all kind of ends up being about the same things and they all inform each other.
Gabby: You know it’s that work Cristy, it’s that Queer magic in your work that has, like, kept me alive. It deals with things like shitty breakups, being Queer, Cuban, fucking flipping off capitalism, staying Punk, and your work says: “Here, look, name your pain, release it, love each other”.
And with your Next World Tarot Deck, Cristy I gotta say, you’ve given us an oracle. The deck comes with a guide book and check out this line from the guidebook that just [exhales] it goes:
“As we are accountable, as we listen, as we cry as we let go, as we face challenges with spit and grit, we face joy unapologetically, ushering in the next world”
Cristy, tell me the roots of that, that’s a prophecy.
Cristy: Ay, me estás haciendo llorar aquí mi amiguita, me está haciendo llorar. I’m a Cancer rising so I’ll cry every now and then. My band’s called Choked Up because I get chocked up a lot.
Gabby: Oh I was gonna ask, see look at that!
Cristy: You know, you never get to hear your work read from other people until like- unless there’s some event about that; people reading your work. It’s really- it was emotional and I’m grateful that you have a connection to that part. [Gabby: Of course] That is the introduction to the Tarot Deck.
This whole quote that you said is basically the culmination of all the lessons that I have tried to teach myself and teach others through telling these stories about people being shitty to each other.
Gabby: Cristy, can you give me a concise: “What is Tarot?”
Cristy: I don’t even call it a divination system, but some people would. It’s cards that have this historical background as, um, fortune telling cards or- it was a game once and you know like a Ouija board kind of thing that mysteriously knows all your feelings. And um- but yeah I’ve just seen it exist in so many different kind of ways, different spiritualities, different Identities.
I learned- I actually wrote a thesis about it in grad school before doing the art. It was like a short written thesis and I just learned all this stuff that made me more excited to work on it because even though it was commercialized in Europe in the 1500’s and it became this thing we know with so much European imagery to represent these archetypes.[Gabby: Right] And it’s really just about archetypes it’s not about gender or about… it’s really just about care-taker archetype, stubborn- you know all these different things. But learning that it was commercialized in Europe but existed- but had roots in China and in the Ottoman empire, you know all this stuff that’s like… you know of course we attribute it to the person or the country who commercialized it and not these deep roots in spirituality and divination.
I grew up around Catholicism and Santería and not- even in my home just in the community and in people at school or people that would come up to me and know everything about my life and I’m just like “Oh” And there was always Tarot cards involved in certain Santero’s homes and practices and I would see it and I would just be like “Oh that’s cool but I don’t know, it’s intimidating”. And then I got my first reading when I was 15 and I was kinda like “Okay, these things kinda tell you what’s up, what are you stressed out about that you’re lying to yourself about?” That’s what this is telling me.
And then I realized they would also kind of shed light on things that I wasn’t believing or that I wasn’t seeing and then around 19/20 I got obsessed about getting readings about my love life, because I’ve had the weirdest love life. I’ve never been in a long-term relationship, I’ve had these weird things happen, and I got a palm reading once that was like: “You’re not gonna have love ’till your late 30’s or 40’s. And I’m like: I’m 22 and I need to have that baby by 27 and I’m lonely so what the fuck” [Gabby giggles] and I just became obsessed with this guidance element of Tarot and it being more than just guidance and being a communication tool [Gabby: Yes!] to spirits and to different energies and other humans too.
I didn’t realize that until after working on the Tarot deck. Just learning the history and then developing a new connection with it was really amazing for me. I read, I try not to read to myself and I do sometimes, but yeah it’s just this tool to kind of elaborate on situations in your life.
Gabby: Sharing these stories, right, and the reality of them brings in the next world.
Cristy: Yeah, and the next world is-
Gabby: What is the next world?
Cristy: It is the next world! It’s just this vision of another world that is possible-
Gabby: What is the Joy in there?
Cristy: And it’s like, that was the point, that was the reason I got into any kind of life that felt alternative to what I knew and like you know, it’s like I didn’t wanna- and so my book’s been passion about growing up working-class, growing up Latina, I’m Cuban-American from Miami and I didn’t want to-
Gabby: Shout out to Miami
Cristy: [Showting Joyfully] Oye 305!
[Gabby and Cristy laugh]
Cristy: Alright, so yeah you don’t wanna lose that [Gabby: never] and you don’t wanna lose the fucking sofrito and the abuela and you need that-
Gabby: And you literally did that! You did that with the deck, right? That’s one of the things I wanna talk to you about the deck is that-
Cristy: It’s like integrating all these worlds-
Gabby: You put all of the people, tell me about the integration and the creation of the Next World Tarot Deck
Cristy: I was really sad. I was either in love or really sad about breaking up and not having the babies by 27, that was not my plan in my Quinceañera. [Gabby giggles] I didn’t even have a Quinceañera, but that time period, that era where you fucking plan your life, that’s what I decided I was like: “I gotta have the babies by 27 cuz that’s like what my Tía did” [Gabby laughs]
And you know it was just like, this thing that even though I wanted to envision this other world and live in this other place that was like. . . Queer and radical and against the government and not romanticizing capitalism and not romanticizing these things that are harming us in the long run and how do you do that while also holding on to your culture and your life and your- without being soul sucked by punk or whatever sub culture you choose you know.
It could be poetry you know, just getting sucked into this gathering of these people who all have the same feelings and it’s so magical and it’s so important and it’s so vital to growth and to friendships. But then you get to a point where you’re like: “I wanna be around all kinds of people and I want my work to reach different people and how can we do that without the red tape of capitalism pinning us against each other”. And I fucking hated that and it was so hard to release the project to like- originally it was-
Gabby: To release the Tarot deck?
Cristy: Because yeah, nobody- originally it was a commission from Michelle Tea the author.
Cristy: While I was doing Spit & Passion, we were on tour together-
Gabby: You were on Sister Spit with Michelle Tea
Cristy: Yeah I was in Sister Spit with Michelle Tea in 2009 and we were in Europe and she was giving me all these Tarot card readings that are like: “Someday you will see the artist that the other people see” And we’d show up to these shows and all these punks with thier backpacks in fucking Austria and shit with their patch that they got of my art in 2001, you know.
And I’m like, these shows are packed they’re wild, [Gabby: I love it] but I cannot see myself. I have my head up my ass “When will I find the one? When will I fall in Love?” I totally fell in Love in Paris and then I fell in love with my Ex and you know [Gabby: I mean that’s a lot of love] I was kind of not seeing my work and just wanting grounding-ness coming from this other place.
I’m a Saturn-Libra, I was just looking for this partnership and not seeing myself or my work and then so it took me a long ass time to agree to do a fucking Tarot deck.
Gabby: Did you have the portraits yet?
Cristy: I had some, the one’s that I had done working with her look kinda like the Pamela Colman Smith deck, like the death card, temperance-
Gabby: Okay, so a more traditional deck?
Cristy: Yeah, the Rider-Waite would be the popular commercial product name but Pamela Coleman Smith was the artist and- but this was the first commercial deck in the 1500’s and it’s just really traditional imagery so I was excited to do stuff that was kind of similar. There’s a few others that look a lot like it but I just got away from that. The Two Of Swords is one of my favorite cards but it looks, it’s a girl with a fucking blindfold holding two swords [Gabby: Yes, oh my God, yes] But that’s the very original art, it looks just like that except mine is on a toilet and you know she’s got tattoos and um. . . it was originally a more loose vision of a queer deck.
And then when we parted ways it became like my memoirs but instead of it being about channeling my mom or my culture or my family or Green Day [Gabby laughs] or punk or healing from trauma which is what so much, Bad Habits, [Gabby: Right so much of everything] So much of it has been unmarketable because it’s too much about, you know, my genitals and healing from trauma-
Gabby: I mean, I love your genitals and like, yeah-
Cristy: Yeah it’s important to deal with stuff through your books, and then nobody wants to deal with it cuz it’s too much real talk but then I don’t know, the same with the Tarot deck this was during 2013/14, people weren’t trying to shake the system, they were just complacent with the things that were working better. And the industry wasn’t buying stuff like this. They’re still weird about the deck, too much like [in a rough jokey voice] “Untangle your white supremacy” but I mean big publishers and stuff [Gabby: Oh Okay] and people are excited about it but they’re not trying to publish it.
Gabby: Leaning on that, what guidance would you feel comfortable sharing? Just some general guidance for folks that are trying to use Tarot to connect with their spiritual selves?
Cristy: I’m gonna just say what someone told me that was really- it’s so down to earth, it’s like: if you believe in it and you have good experiences receiving readings and you want to learn, you kind of just need to memorize the card meanings and get some books and study them. If you’re exi- I was so excited, I would wake up…there was a website called crystal reflections,[Gabby giggles] it’s got all, the card descriptions are just so wild and over the top and then the whole… I’m just saying that it’s really in your hands to take it on if you love it.
Learning the definitions and then learning spreads and learning different things. There’s so much text out there to learn. Learntarot.com it’s super bare bones looking website and I loved it, it explained how to read the Celtic cross in this way that I really liked.
And that’s the thing there are so many different ways to read, different spreads, to make spreads so people get intimidated. But it’s like “No, it’s the opposite!” [Gabby: Yes] You can do whatever you want. You can decide that the card on top of the diamond shape means your position; the card on the left means your boss; the card on the right means you and your Boss’s dynamic; the bottom cared means what to do with your job that you hate, you know?
You just develop a spread and I actually learned that from a woman named Suzy X who’s awesome, who’s a writer and a journalist and she read my cards when I was real sad in like 2011 and she had this little booklet that she made and she’s like just a real casual Virgo and she’s like: “These are just some spreads I made myself” and I’m like” You can do- You’re allowed?!” You don’t have to call the coven?
And approve them?!
Yeah so it was just a revelation that you don’t- people don’t tell you that!
Gabby: That right there, that’s like the meat, that feels like why so many of us, Queer Trans People of Color are deeply connected to Tarot because it has room for all of us, and there isn’t like, these restrictions and these rules and this idea of you sinning. What have you heard other folks say? What do you think, why do you think we’re so connected and excited about Tarot cards?
Cristy: I think it’s because it’s not just the awareness and the therapy and all this stuff but it is also this deeper connection to the ethereal realm and the astral realm and ancestry. And those are things that I think religion, and structured religion take away from us and we don’t- like I did not grow up thinking I would ever be able to make an altar for my abuela. I was just like: “I’m just gonna be at the punk show or the night club being gay.” Or being like a sad Pansexual with no dates. [Gabby giggles] And you know, I’m just gonna be this weirdo that’s lonely and confusing and then yeah, the second that I realized there was portals that are like. . . available to everyone in the world.
Also, the connection with Santería and with African diaspora magic and not just Catholicism and these things I learned through Catholicism, but it’s like different. If you look at the magic of all your ancestors, not just the white ones, it’s really important to just be like: This is the shit that is you know- this is the shit that like makes humans, their souls and auras and all these things that colonizers consider hoakey. And that shit was taken away from us.
And then it’s also like this thing where- What if you’re really super religious people that think it’s super real but then they don’t give it to the gays! So it’s like well yeah, they’re all being spiritual talking to dead people but I’m gay so I can’t talk to dead people. I’m gonna go to the nightclub.
And like yeah, realizing Tarot is such a small thing you know, it’s a tool that connected me to that awareness that I can have this, and I’m allowed to have this. And I know a lot of people that have the same experience.
Gabby: And we are, we are allowed to have this just as we’re allowed to have joy, you know? And when I think of joy and when I think of everything that you’ve talked about there is a lot of bounciness and excitement, there’s also a lot of rage. There’s a lot of rage in everything. So, what can you say about joy and rage existing at the same time?
Cristy: I think it’s really vital to fighting the revolution, doing these things that you believe in, changing the world. But then also, surviving and staying healthy and taking care of yourself and learning how to love. So much about revolution and change is about loving your community and people and elevating people on the margins, elevating people who need you and like. . .that ability to rise up requires joy and rage because if you’re not pissed off at the system then what are you fighting against? And then if you’re not excited to live, how are you gonna get up in the morning to go fight the system?
So it’s just kind of these two things that really need to inform each other if we live in this world you know? And you don’t have to- it’s not about being pissed off all day it’s just about being aware and also having a pulse when shit goes to shit and you see some terrible thing on the news. You know, if you’re only crying for Notre Dame and not for the rainforest it’s bullshit. It’s just like, where are you showing up? Where’s your heart? So, I’ve got rage and love tattoo’d on my knuckles and-
Gabby: [laughing joyously] Yes you do!
Cristy: I got it, it is a Green Day reference, joy to me also kind of informs love [Gabby: You got it] cuz it’s so much about being pissed but allowing yourself to not get stuck in the impostor syndrome, in believing you can’t show up for people because you can’t show up for yourself. I think it’s a lot of bullshit that we learn that: while we’re fucked up and figuring ourselves out, we can’t be there for people?
That’s bullshit, I think we can all be there for each other at all these stages and that has created so much joy. That’s what punk was about to me all these fucked up people fucking smelling like ass all hanging out [Gabby laughs], 20 people live in this house and we don’t have any place to go. We’re not romanticizing being poor. We are doing this because this is what we found to keep us alive. And that’s joy, and yeah.
Gabby: Cristy your are so amazing, thank you so much!
Cristy: Thank you!
Gabby: We’re not done yet though!
[Spacey transition music]
Gabby: What’s coming up is lightning joy
[“Lightning Joy” sound effect]
Cristy Road you have 30 seconds to answer as many questions about Joy as I can throw at you, you got it?
Cristy: Yeah yeah, I’ve watched so many game shows growing up. Like, I know this.
Our producer Kat Lazo, how we doing on that timer?
Kat: 30 Seconds on the clock!
Gabby: Ready? Go!
Okay Cristy Road, if joy was a Punk band what would it be called?
Cristy: Green Day [Laughs] yeah Green Day!
Gabby: What instrument does Joy play?
Cristy: Um. . . uh- An organ
Gabby: What Tarot card would joy pull?
Cristy: Um. . .um- strength
Gabby: Yes! What is joy’s astrological sign?
Cristy: Gemini with a Leo rising
Gabby: What does joy wear to sleep?
Cristy: Wait maybe…I don’t know.. wait sorry what?
Gabby: What does joy wear to sleep?
[Thunder sound effect]
And that is the end of the lightning Joy!
Cristy: It doesn’t wear anything to sleep
[Theme music begins]
Gaby: It has been an absolute dream come true to sit here with you. Thank you so freaking much! If you are listening out there which I know you are, please follow Cristy on Instagram @croadcore follow her band @chokedupnyc on Instagram there’s a new album coming soon with a video dropping for home, which is the first single off the album coming just in time for Libra season. And I know you want that Tarot deck, you can find Next Word Tarot at www.croadcore.org
For this week’s episode as always a big big beautiful thank you to the Joy Revolution fam, we’ve got on audio our god Marcella Carbajal, Julissa Contreras: Studio Manager, Music genius Angelica M Rodriguez and Producer extraordinaire Kat Lazo.
I’m your host Gabby Rivera you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @quirkyrican and if you haven’t already, remember to jump on the joy ride and subscribe!
[Gabby: Ooh that felt much better too!]