Housing Tarot: The Major Arcana

0. The Fool

A stack of half-abandoned shipping containers sprout from a muddy field. Hot and cramped, they’re bad for housing, but it’s in these odd spaces that art and informal business flourish. The space of the fool is one of freedom. It’s late-night urban exploring into the vastness of the unknown. Bright-eyed excitement and naive wonder, either not yet jaded or so jaded that nothing matters anymore. Open to new experiences, to creating a new vision without a map.

Upright: Makeshift structures, amateur design, emergency housing.

Reversed: Recycling bad ideas, fads, shantytowns.

I. The Magician

In the heart of downtown, a theater is reborn with homes and terraces above. The magician transforms visions into reality, builds something out of nothing. The magician is manifestation at it’s finest with an energy that can charm anything into being.

Upright: Magic of the city, The invisible hand, Entertainment.

Reversed: Bad faith policy, Things too good to be true, Corporate welfare.

Card artwork inspiration: Proposed building at 2211 Harold Way, Berkeley

II. The High Priestess

Under the arch in the park, we watch a neighborhood revitalize, but as the rents climb, the community is again dying. The high priestess knows all the answers lie within. This is a time to look toward intuition, gut feelings, and spiritual guidance. A time to connect to elders, ancestors, and history. Fiercely pursue what you know to be true, let it be your map.

What would Jane Jacobs do?

Upright: Revitalization, Desire, Gateways.

Reversed: Gentrification, Obsession, Vacancy.

Card artwork inspiration: Washington Square Park, New York City

III. The Empress

A grand hotel brings a forest into the city under a glass dome. The empress is the forest, providing sustenance and care to an entire community. The forest creates an ecosystem that supports and loves all inhabitants.

Upright: Indoor environmental quality, Beauty, Plants.

Reversed: Air conditioning, Stunted growth, Humidity.

IV. The Emperor

An imposing tower of limestone rises in steps, capped by a golden pyramid. The emporer represents structures and boundaries. The rules. The map that says where to go and how to get there. Rules can stifle and they can also liberate. How will you hold your power?

Upright: Efficient government, Law and order, The establishment.

Reversed: Authoritarianism, Surveillance, Patriarchy.

V. The Hierophant

A bridge connects the mundane city to the heavenly city. The heirophant is a teacher, building bridges between vastly different worlds. The hierophant knows exactly what to do and why. The Hierophant has seen it all and has so much wisdom to impart .

Upright: Sacred sites, The clergy, Bridges.

Reversed: Sectarian disputes, False prophets, Bottlenecks.

VI. The Lovers

The gaytowns69 district of the city is home to dozens of clubs, bars, and other queer spaces. Love, lust, and community characterize this district. The lovers represents a partnership - buisness, personal, or otherwise. Feelings and desire are prioritized over anything else.

Upright: Festivals, Love, Crossroads.

Reversed: Riots, Shame, Gridlock.

VII. The Chariot

Amidst a worsening crisis of homelessness and shortage of housing, a lot has been set up for safe RV parking. The Chariot is the community organizer, the person who rallies the troops and makes things happen. The person who makes the plan and doesn’t stop until the goal is reached. Determination, stamina, and drive.

Upright: Vanlife, Resilience, Nomadic lifestyle.

Reversed: Homelessness, Being trapped, Feeling unwelcome.

VIII. Strength

The people united have shut down the port to demand a living wage and a union. This card is a reminder to never give your power away, to demand what’s right. We are stronger together. The pursuit of seeking accountability and providing checks and balances is necessary.

Upright: Labor unions, Solidarity, Strikes.

Reversed: Monopolies, Disputes, Lockouts.

Card artwork inspiration: Cargo cranes at Port of Oakland

IX. The Hermit

Behind gates and winding roads, a luxury compound finds a second life as a meditation retreat. This is a productive, yet restful retreat, one that leaves you feeling rejuvenated.

Upright: Detox, Quality of life, Gated communities.

Reversed: Avoiding responsibility, Exurbia and rural sprawl, Tax avoidance.

X. Wheel of Fortune

From around and beyond the city, buses come together on the hour in a timed transfer. The Wheel of Fortune enables this magical synchronicity.

Upright: Paying it forward, Synchronicity, Buses.

Reversed: Running from problems, Relying on chance, Missed connections.

XI. Justice

The scales of justice tilt towards the many living in an apartment building, rather than the few that live in a oneplex. The watchful avocado looks forward to all our neighbors. Justice tilts the scales to where they need to be. Justice aligns itself with what is fair and correct.

Upright: Rule of law, Lawful good, Housing justice.

Reversed: Lawsuits, Lawful evil, Exclusionary zoning.

Card artwork inspiration: California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund

XII. The Hanged Man

An old factory becomes a brewery and beer garden. This card indicates the moment before a decision or a major change. The first step in a series of shifts moving toward something better. Progress.

Upright: Nightlife, The unexpected, Gathering spaces.

Reversed: Substance use, Hangovers, Low wage service economy.

Card artwork inspiration: Classic Cars West beer garden, Oakland

XIII. Death

A freeway comes down, to be replaced by trees and homes. Transformation. The death of the old way is sometimes necessary in order to make space for the seeds of something new.

Upright: Redesigning entire systems, Major change, Freeway revolt.

Reversed: Systemic failure, Fear of change, Road closures.

XIV. Temperance

At the end of a journey of hundreds of miles, water cascades down the hill to the treatment plant. Temperance calls for balance, integration, and smooth waters.

Upright: Running smoothly, Tranquility, Aqueducts and water systems.

Reversed: Deferred maintenance, Blissful ignorance, Drought.

Card artwork inspiration: Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades, Sylmar

XV. The Devil

A huge mcmansion sprawls over fields of lawn. The devil represents greed, addiction, and vices. It also calls for a lighthearted nature, not taking things too seriously.

Upright: Inherited wealth, Greed, Corporate executives.

Reversed: Money laundering, Insecurity, Nonprofit industrial complex.

Card artwork inspiration: McMansion Hell

XVI. The Tower

Lightning strikes the Tower, casting billionaires down to the angry mob below. Disaster and destruction are all represented by this card. Despite the crisis this card indicates, it also offers protection and healing from the fall out.

Upright: Uprisings, Revolution, A fall from power.

Reversed: Billionaires, Real estate industry, Slow moving disasters.

Card artwork inspiration: 432 Park Avenue, New York City

XVII. The Star

A reflecting pool and temple mark the halfway point of water’s journey from mountain to city. The star represents replenishment, emotional health, and general prosperity.

Upright: Statewide infrastructure, Long journeys, Ecological balance.

Reversed: Urban-rural divide, Out of sight, out of mind, Environmental impacts.

Card artwork inspiration: Pulgas Water Temple, Redwood City

XVIII. The Moon

On this side of the gate, dogs walk on leash. On the other side, we howl at the moon in the wilderness beyond the horizon. The moon brings out the shadow side out in us all. The moon is characterized by instability and feeling untethered.

Upright: Unpolluted nature, Wildlife, Regional parks.

Reversed: Natural disasters, Feral animals, Lack of open space.

XIX. The Sun

From world’s fairs to new neighborhoods, the island has always been forward looking. The sun represents partnership, such as a friendship or a business partner.

Upright: Expositions, Optimism, Grand plans.

Reversed: Hidden hazards, Irrational exuberance, Sea level rise.

Card artwork inspiration: Treasure Island, San Francisco

XX. Judgement

A dead mall comes down, to be replaced by homes, offices, and rolling green roofs. Accountability is happening, those who caused harm are now going to have to pay.

Upright: Redevelopment, Entering a new era, Densification.

Reversed: Dead malls / retail apocalypse, End of an era, Doubling down on bad choices.

Card artwork inspiration: Vallco redevelopment, Cupertino

XXI. The World

Vertical neighborhoods line the street, skybridges forming gateways to more places. In order to live in a world we want to live in, we have to imagine it first. The World card lets you know much more is possible than you can imagine right now.

Upright: Downtown, Globalization, The metropolis.

Reversed: Futuristic dystopias, Sensory overload, The concrete jungle.