Tarot In Praxis: The Storytelling of Matthew Shepard’s Tale on the Anniversary of His Death

 

This is the story of the aberrant unveiling of a nation’s apathy and homophobia, a nation’s remorse, a nation’s sorrow, an innocent soul lost to the earthly realm, and his parents’ courage, strength, and honor.

 

This is the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death by hanging on a fencepost in the rural outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming, October 12, 1998.

 

Three of Swords, Pagan Otherworld Tarot (c) Uusi, 2016

 

Even through our sorrow, we have to tell our stories. It’s how we cope and how we try to heal. It’s how we try to communicate our feelings and emotions—our hurts and our incensed anger—to our fellow neighbors and community members and our fellow citizens. It’s how we try to define the justice that we wish to see in our world. It’s how we draw and ask for empathy. It’s how we build the cords of connection and construct the epic tale of our collective experience. That even through heartache and in the face of approbation and dismissal and belittling for our otherness, we dictate our stories, recite them as a litany of mercy and appeal to the great fellowship of man…

 

The Fool (0), Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

There once was a young boy, naïve, a fool. Too trusting, said some. Too reckless, said others. Too big for his britches, too flamboyant, too adventurous for a rural community… When in truth is was we who were too prone to projecting a character onto a young boy whose only excess was looking for the same thing we all search for—happiness and joy.

 

The Devil (XV), Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

Unfortunately, the boy-fool met two devils in sheeps’ clothing, disguised as potential rapture and camaraderie. Their horns were not visible through the rose-colored glasses worn by the boy-fool, ready to leap into friendship and connection.

 

The Hanged Man (XII), The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

Instead the devils took advantage of his goodwill. They took him outside the city, to the edge of a farm, stripped him of his clothing, and strung him up to a fencepost, wherein they beat him to unconsciousness. They forgot that hanging innocent young men could turn them into martyrs and saints.

 

Ten of Swords, Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

Death came slowly. The boy had time to weep, causing rivulets through the blood that covered his face. But as his father reimagined in this statement to the court during the trial of his son’s murderers, this drawn-out suffering, also gave the boy time for several gifts:

 

“By the end of the beating, his body was just trying to survive. You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone. There were his lifelong friends with him—friends that he had grown up with. You’re probably wondering who these friends were…

 

The Moon (XVIII), Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

“First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope…

 

The Sun (XIX), Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

“Then, he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one more time—one more cool, wonderful autumn day in Wyoming. His last day alive in Wyoming. His last day alive in the state that he always proudly called home…

 

Four of Wands, Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

“And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind—the ever-present Wyoming wind—for the last time. He had one more friend with him. One he grew to know through his time in Sunday school and as an acolyte at St. Mark’s in Casper as well as through his visits to St. Matthew’s in Laramie. He had God.”

 

Ace of Cups, Pagan Otherworlds Tarot (c) Uusi 2016

 

Today, let us remember and honor the life of an innocent boy, Matthew Shepard, who blessed a nation with his heartbreaking story and shed new understanding on the need for acceptance and compassion of LGBTQ people. For another truly wonderful reflection on the insights we can still learn from Matthew Shepard’s death, please click-through to this blog post by Theology and Education PhD student, Alfred Pang, at the Bondings 2.0 website.

 

Matthew Shepard

 

The icon feature image at the top of this post is titled “Passion of Matthew Shepard” by Rev. William Hart McNichols, a Catholic priest-artist, who dedicated this icon to the memory of LGBT youth who commit suicide, and to the countless others who are injured or murdered.

 

Tarot card images are from the newly released Pagan Otherworlds Tarot deck by Uusi © 2016. You can find their products at their website, uusi.us.

 

 

 

 

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