Convo with the Queens

Where the icons of the four tarot suits discuss how to survive late-stage capitalism.


The ladies and I recently spent an evening gathered around a backyard fire. I availed myself of the abundance of wisdom to ask their opinions on matters of national angst. Wine was poured for a few, while Swords and I partook of a particularly sharp ginger beer.

What Would a Tarot Card Say?

“My fellow Queens,” I began.

“‘Fellow?'” asked Swords. “There is neither crown on your head, nor regal elocution on your lips.”

“Hon, there are more definitions of royal than you could imagine,” Wands said after a sip of a wine.

“Actually,” I said. “You could see my crown in the Breaking the Rules Tarot deck.” Swords gave a snort that could have been due to either derision or ginger beer, I could not tell which. Nevertheless, I proceeded with my question.

“Let’s start big,” I said. “How do we deal with the daily dread of living in a society that is deep into late-stage capitalism?”

“Wow, girl,” Cups said, her eyes wide. “You are a LOT.”

“So is late-stage capitalism,” I said.

“You toss that term around like you know what it means,” Swords said. Pentacles stood and stoked the fire with a long stick she kept in the backyard for just such an occasion. Wands skewered long, wood-handled metal forks with big, fluffy marshmallows and handed one to each of us.

“You’re right, of course,” I acknowledged. “I’ve heard about it on TikTok videos, which have left me both all fired up and depressed beyond belief. Any clarification you could provide would be appreciated.”

The Queen of Pentacles Explains It All

“In the words of my husband,” Pentacles said as she held her marshmallow just above the fire’s flames. “Late-stage capitalism is an advanced phase of the capitalist economic system which is characterized by intense focus on profit, materialism, and resource exploitation. It often leads to growing wealth inequality, environmental concerns, and the need for individuals to prioritize financial stability in an increasingly competitive and consumer-driven society.”

From her reclined position on a chaise lounge, Swords raised her hand to point vigorously at Pentacles. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “Well done, Penty.” She swiveled her head my way. “How I would deal with the hopelessness which that situation engenders is to focus on critical analysis of the issue and its constituent parts, followed by a step-by-step breakdown of possible avenues for improvement. Then I would advocate for change to be made from within the system.”

“Ha!” Wands spilled some of her wine as she laughed out loud. “Within the system is so much more idealistic than I would have expected from you, Swords.”

“Really?” Swords said. “I hardly think revolution would be more my style.”

“That does sound more like you, Wands,” Cups said as she slowly rotated her marshmallow over the fire.

Wands sat up from reclining on her own chaise. “What I meant,” she said evenly, obviously holding back annoyance. “Is that I don’t tend to associate our friend Swords…” Here she waved her glass in Swords’ direction. “…with the idea of limiting herself.” Satisfied, she flopped back onto the lounge chair and closed her eyes.

Cups, Pents, and I looked at each other, then turned to Swords, who nodded and revealed a hint of a smirk. “True,” was all she said.

Macro and Micro Thinking

“There are actions one could take on multiple levels,” Pentacles said, returning to my original question. “Community action is important for society, of course, but if I understand our friend’s question correctly, there is a personal, psychological toll that the masses are paying, as the few folks at the top of the capitalist food chain reap all of society’s benefits.” I gave Pentacles a thumbs-up sign.

“Yes!” Cups said brightly. She pulled her marshmallow from the flames and sandwiched the perfectly roasted treat between two chocolate-covered cookies, which she then handed to me. “My suggestion is to find emotional balance.”

“Here we go,” whispered Swords.

“Nurture your inner peace, practice self-care, and cultivate empathy,” Cups continued, oblivious to Swords’ commentary. “By staying connected to your emotions and fostering compassion, you can navigate capitalism’s challenges with grace.”

“Absolutely!” Swords exclaimed. She sat up and waved her own marshmallow fork about so wildly that it barely felt the campfire’s heat. “Grace is the thing that will get our entire society through any catastrophe.”

There’s my girl,” Wands whispered to no one in particular.

“You could make an argument for both approaches,” Pentacles offered. “Macro and micro, if you will.”

“Ooh, cheers to Penty! The Great Mediator!” Wands said.

“I approve, actually,” Swords said after a moment.

“As do I,” said Cups. Pentacles beamed at the others. We sat in companionable silence for a minute, as each queen prepared a s’more in a different way.

The Queen of Wands Has the Answer

“You didn’t give us your answer to the question, Wands,” I said. The others startled after not hearing my voice throughout the discussion. “Uh, ma’am.” I added belatedly.

Wands stood and held out her glass towards the rest of us. “Be bold!” she said. We all groaned. “No, listen to me.” She leaned towards us conspiratorially, so we leaned in as well.

“Be bold, but be bold in surprising ways.” She turned towards Cups. “Offer compassion freely and publicly, so that your actions spur those around you to prioritize empathy as the best response when people share their own distress.”

She turned to Swords. “Use your vision for a better future to teach and inspire others to apply their knowledge and expertise and change the system from within.”

Finally, she sat down on the bench next to Pentacles. “And recognize that financial and material resources – which are so limited for the masses right now – are not the only resources that can help improve peoples’ situations.” Pentacles turned her head to look directly at the fiery queen, as her smile grew knowingly.

“You have fostered relationships with friends and neighbors,” Wands nodded towards Cups. “Misery shared is misery halved, after all.” Then she turned to Swords.

“And you have created a network of doers and thinkers, with the capacity to make the decline from peak capitalism more manageable for the rest of us.” Swords continued to smirk, but a brief tilt of her ginger beer indicated her approval of Wands’ comments.

Cups turned to me. “How do our responses make you feel, dear?”

“Better!” I said happily. “Though I’ll probably still pull some cards for advice.” Their unsmiling faces showed that sometimes royalty just did not appreciate a good jester.