My name in Haleigh, on the internet I go by my first and middle name Haleigh Moon, That’s my internet identity. I am one half of Babe Coven, which is primarily an online collective of witches that centres around queer community and really just a community for witches in general, but we are very much queer centric, femme centric. And we really focus on self love, sex positivity and how all of that intersects with a magical practice, but in our own way. We don’t necessarily follow the rules the way we are supposed to. But that’s what witches do, not follow the rules. So we are an online collective and community. We have an online shop where we sell goods soft goods, t-shirts with slogans like “Support Your Local Coven”, ‘Stay Home, Be a Witch” things like that. We also put on artists markets where we feature local artists and makers and give them a place to come and sell their wares and network with each other. We also put on burlesque shows where we collaborate with local performers, we always have between 15 and 20 burlesque acts ranging from people who have never done burlesque before, to people who are seasoned performers. We usually have 2 or 3 musical acts playing, whether it’s a band or a solo act. And then we have 5 or 6 vendors that fit the theme of that particular show. Every show has a different vibe, we’ve had one that was based around sexy self love, one that was based around (the genre, not the movie) pulp fiction, kind of weird, raunchy, campy stuff. So we cater the acts, the music, the venders to a theme. All of those are in the name of building community, bringing together the witchcraft community, centering queer people. We always bring femmes, non binary people, people of colour to the front, to make sure we are giving a space and a voice to the people who often don’t have that. That’s basically our thing.
When I messaged you about being a part of this deck, and when I mentioned I was making this queer deck, what did you think?
At first I was intimidated, but I’m usually intimidated by a lot of things at first. I was wowed, I couldn’t believe this person thought of us and I was really honoured. Then I looked on the website and looked at the pictures and then I was intimidated because the pictures are really good. Could I pull off something that would mesh with how creative and well thought out these scenes that have been shot? Trying to think about where I could do it and what I would do. But once I honed in on what I wanted to do and what card I wanted to portray I started to get pretty excited. This is something that definitely resonates with where I am in life right now. I wanted to feature rope which is the centre of my creative practice, a big part of my magical practice and also a big part of my performance art. So I wanted to bring rope right to the centre, because that’s a big part of what I do, as a performer, as a witch, as a person. So when I landed on this card, I thought ok that’s perfect. So then I got really excited. I went from honoured to terrified to excited. And now I’m feeling a bit of all three in the moment!
What are your performances like? What do you do in your performances?
So in my rope performances specifically, I dabble in burlesque but my real love is rope as a ritual performance. It’s very ritualistic. I get up on stage with a musical act, whether it’s a band or whatever, I tend to like to tie to slow, heavy, sexy music. So they are playing on stage, at the same time I am tying up someone else or myself. I’ve done this three times so far, twice I’ve tied up someone else and the last time I tied myself up. I create a tableau, I use a lot of candles, flowers, particularly roses. I’ll create this scene where I have the music that fits what I’m doing, in some ways I choose the music based on what I want to do and in other ways tailor my performance to the music. So I will do a tie, some variation on a decorative and restraint tie, and then I’ll incorporate flowers, whether I’m tucking the flowers into the rope or whatever. One of my performances I ended up picking up a bundle of roses and flogging the person I was tying with, and petals and leaves went everywhere, it was awesome, and I dripped wax all over her.
Do you want to tell me about the props we’ve included in the shoot?
The card I ended up choosing is the 8 of Swords so I knew I wanted to incorporate rope, which fits in very neatly with the 8 of Swords card. Then I thought, don’t have any swords but I do have other sharp objects, a couple of daggers and definitely a couple of axes. One of my jobs is as an axe throwing coach, I just started a couple of months ago and very quickly fell in love with it. So the fact that I had an opportunity to include this brand new love in with this shoot, I can showcase two of my passions in the one card and shoot. This axe in particular I just got, it’s my first throwing axe. My girlfriend got it for me for Christmas. And I really love it, it has taken me from ‘ok this is my job and when I’m at work I’ll throw’ to ‘ok, now I’m really going to to do this, I have my own axe.’ I want to compete this year, and make this a real thing that I do, not just a job. Getting this axe was the push I needed to get there. I’m glad I got to incorporate it in the shoot.
Why do you think a queer tarot deck is important?
I think queer things, in general, are important. I think finding community and a place that centres around queer people, especially non cis gay men basically, no shame obviously. Most LGBTQ communities, I feel, centres around cis gay men, so creating queer spaces for all the LGBTQ people, or LGBTIQA+ or whatever the string of letters that is most inclusive. So I think that creating those spaces in general is important, that’s very central to the work that I do with Babe Coven and our events. I think creating all things centering around that community is really, really important. I think a lot of queer people gravitate toward witchcraft because witchcraft welcomes those who are kind of on the fringes, who don’t necessarily “fit in” and aren’t welcomed into all spaces. So I think a lot of queer people end up resonating with the message of witchcraft that does centre so much around playing by your own rules, finding your personal power, reclaiming things, the word ‘queer’ is a reclaimed term and so is ‘witch,’ so I think the two marry together really well. Tarot can be interpreted in so many different ways, there’s this resurgence of re-interpretation of traditional tarot. I think doing that through a queer lens and queer people who so often resonate with witchcraft can see themselves reflected in that, and the way we interpret that as in individuals within a community is really important.
How did you pick your card and which one did you pick?
I picked the 8 of Swords. When I was first looking through the available cards, I was having a bit of trouble because I was trying to find a card that had a more positive feel to it. One that maybe represented some power or creativity or sexuality or something like that resonated with me in a more positive way. And I was having trouble narrowing it down and landing on something. So then I switched the lens that I was looking at the cards through. When I look at my magical practice, my view of self-care, my magical practice linked back to self-care and self love, building that for myself, finding personal power and all that. For me a big part of self-care that’s often overlooked is sitting with the not so fun parts of yourself. The things you don’t necessarily like or need to work on, the ugly part of yourself, it’s not all face masks and bath bombs. It’s also sitting there asking ‘What do I need to work on?’ ‘How do I need to grow?’ So I narrowed down that I wanted to pick from the Swords suit because I’m an air sign, I’m a Gemini, so I narrowed it down to that and I was reading through them and I got to 8 of Swords and it’s being self critical and doubting yourself and being limited by that. That would be a scary card to draw. I haven’t done a reading for myself in a while but if I had in the past 6 months to a year I’m sure… I shouldn’t say a year, the last reading I did was about 8 months ago…but I wouldn’t have been surprised if that card came up for me, because that’s been a theme in my life. But especially the past year or so. I’ve been doubting myself and my abilities a lot. And reflecting on my goals for the year that’s something I really want to work on. So I resonated in the way of that’s in your face as something you need to work on. That’s going to be part of growing as a person and taking care of yourself better is to take these things and work on them. So I want to represent a card, something that represented a part of myself…
That even comes back to how I was feeling when you first asked me to participate. I kind of have imposter syndrome with every thing that I do; within the world of performing, within the world of rope, within the world of axe throwing and I’m trying to learn to play bass. Basically any creative or intellectual project I pursue, I have some imposter feeling around. Ive even dealt with feelings of that around being queer. I’ve spent many years, I don’t know, I was a bit of a “late bloomer” I didn’t really start to figure out my sexuality until my late teen years and then because of that didn’t really feel like i fit in.
I didn’t feel like I had a place to go where i felt “queer enough,” which is a silly notion, but I felt like that for a really long time. So in all things I have a lot of imposter syndrome, that is something I’m trying to work on, because I’m never going to achieve much in the fields that I want to achieve in if I can’t get over that. It’s kind of holding myself back which is part of what 8 of Swords card represents, and I really want to stop holding myself back. More than anything else I get in my own way. And I stop working on things because I’m scared of messing up or I’m not good at it right away or I think there are so many other people in the world better at it than I am, or smarter about this than I am or know more or are more this or more that. So I come up with a million excuses, instead of letting those people inspire me and show me where I could get, I let it intimidate me. And I’m trying really hard not to do that.
So what would you say to Young Haleigh as the 8 of swords?
No matter where you are in the process of learning something, that is Ok, that is enough. The process is part of getting there. Anyone who is good at anything had to be bad at it first and they had to practice and work at it. They had to do the work, you don’t just wake up one day and have this skill, it comes with time, energy and practise and work. Don’t be scared of having that practice, of messing up and failing, and have people out there doing better than you. Let them inspire you instead of scare you. Look at the people who… I went to this rope demo this week, and I was very nervous, like it would make me feel worse and ‘what am I doing.’ And then I was realizing, well first of all the person who was tying said “I’ve been doing this for 8 years” and I saw where he was and I saw where I am, and I’ve been doing this for about 2 years. A lot of the things he was doing, I know how to do the foundations of that. So there’s not that big of a leap from where I am to where he is, and he’s been doing this for years longer than I have. So I flipped the script on it, don’t let that scare you. Don’t let that stop you. If I’m already where I am, imagine where I could be in 6 years. Just trust the process, you will get there. Don’t let it scare you, don’t let it intimidate you. You are enough, no matter where you are in that process.
If a baby queer or someone new to tarot was pulling this card what would you want them to take from your picture, your tarot card?
This is the question I was most nervous for. In many ways I still feel like a student of tarot, I think everyones a student of tarot because i don’t think there’s ever an ‘ok i know everything’ so I think I am the person new to tarot. Part of the reason I want to incorporate rope in a symbolic way is because obviously it’s bondage, its restraining, its holding you in place. But for me when I tie or tie someone else it’s very much a self care practice, it’s working through stuff, it’s sitting with my body, it’s using my body as art. So while on the surface it looks like I’m restraining myself it’s such a freeing experience. I’m looking at the card as Ok it represents this self criticism and holding yourself back, it represents restraint in a lot of ways. I’m looking at it as, Ok I want to overcome that. That’s what rope represents to me in a lot of ways, it is binding, it is restraint, but for me, mentally and spiritually, it’s a very freeing practice and it was this thing that was wow, this is my art, this is a world of creativity to me that I didn’t really know existed, that i was searching for so long. That’s what I want people to get out of it.
This comes back to the card, to imposter syndrome, not holding yourself back and being self critical. Do the things that scare you. This is a thing that scared me. A lot of the things i do scare me. And I let that stop me from doing things for a really long time. And I’ve been working really hard on not doing that. And if I didn’t do any of the things that scared me I would probably do almost nothing. So do the things that scare you. Step outside of your comfort zone. That’s where the good shit happens and the growth happens and where you have more fun.*
*Transcription of Audio Interview
Haleigh – She/her, Queer, Gay
This is the first card in the series I took on my first photography trip to Chicago, Philadelphia and New York over the last two years. I hope to visit many other places in the US eventually as I continue this project. Please contact me if you would like to be photographed or if you have access to a local photographer who would be willing to shoot for this project.