By JILLIAN KRISTINA
It’s not just you. Everyone feels this way. Imposter syndrome. Not good enough. Never good enough. Potential never fulfilled. Heart never accepted. Mind never respected. Body always rejected.
So how do we soothe these inadequacies – these lies? We seek external pleasure. Instant gratification: Followers on social media. Intoxicants of choice. All the hollow indulgence the wide world has to offer.
We hide behind these fleeting hits of dopamine. We starve behind them. We feed and feed and feed and yet, we’re still empty. Maybe because we’re not filling ourselves with the right food – with the proper nutrients. Maybe because what we’re eating is putrid air and rotting culture. We’ve forgotten. We’ve lost the plot. We wander through the world with amnesia, forgetting where we came from. We deny the lands and the myths that bore us. Informed us. Forged us. Now, we stumble ceaselessly, lost in a maze of muck and decay and toxicity. Because we’ve forgotten.
And yet, those lands, those myths, those gods – they haven’t forgotten us.
Verna (Carla Gugino) is self-contained. Self-assured. She is power. She is sovereign. She shapeshifts to suit the situation. The individual. The need. The desire. She is calm, and she sees right through you. She is of this world and somehow, not. In Mike Flanagan’s incendiary 2023 series based on the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, Verna is everywhere. She exists on all planes and in many guises. And she arrives on the scene at just the right time. Or rather, she creates the scene. She sets it and waits for those she’s chosen to take their seats. To accept her invitation.
“You feel it, both of you. In the air. We’re sitting outside of time and space. This is the moment luck meets opportunity.”
Verna exists in the liminal spaces. Verna is liminality. She presents Roderick (Zach Gilford) and Madeline Usher (Willa Fitzgerald) with an opportunity in a liminal space of her own making. What is this offer? Well, it would seem to be the opportunity of a lifetime. But at what cost?
“The boundaries which divide life and death are, at best, shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and the other begins? We stand on the brink of a precipice.”
All of life is a precipice. Both Roderick and Madeline, at that moment, embody the very first card in the traditional tarot system -–The Fool. This archetype not only peers over the precipice but leaps boldly towards it, trusting that life will rush and rise to support their first steps into the vast void of the unknown. And the void is vast. And hungry. And requires a blood oath before it bestows its many, many gifts.
“How many dead?
“Seventy-eight. So far.”
Seventy-eight cards in a traditional tarot deck. Seventy-eight choices – opportunities. Seventy-eight offers… invitations. There are no right or wrong choices; There are just choices that form a sequence of events. And yet, every choice has a measured and equal consequence.
“Things like this, all things, in fact, have consequences.”
And then. Verna enters her next scene. A scene dripping in lust and luxury and sex and the promise of zero consequence. A hedonistic battlefield of sorts, and she, donning a skull mask, draped in crimson, glides through the crowd, because she knows what comes next. She is both seen and unseen. Ephemeral and all too real. A phantom. A primal specter, equal parts danger and death and victory and bloodied triumph. And again, she presents a choice. An opportunity. An out. And again, a choice is made. And Prospero (Sauriyan Sapkota), the youngest of the Usher progeny, is about to meet the consequences of that choice.
Raining acid. Raining waste. Raining death. Raining blood.
“Magic showers of sorcery and compact clouds of mist and a furious rain of fire, with a downpour of red blood from the air…” Fraser, John, The first battle of Moytura, Ériu 8 (1916): 1–63.
And then, Verna descends to the battlefield, leaving her eternal kiss upon the lips of the dead.
The dead. Death. The thirteenth card in the major arcana of the tarot expresses the complexities, paradoxes and absolute transformational depths and gorgeousness of Death in all its vast and varied aspects. Death does come ripping, yes. But Death also works slowly, intricately. Death is essential to the endless cycles of life and decay and rebirth. Death is beauty, and even though it seems counterintuitive, Death is growth. Death is progression. Death is both a closed and opened door, equal parts endings and new beginnings.
Death has arrived on the scene, and the domino effect will soon gain momentum, working its way through the House of Usher, one devastation after another. A towering house of cards leveled with the gentlest, most cunning of nudges. Because all Verna does to topple these false empires is allow them to indulge in their fantasies. Their fears. Verna is the leveling. She is equal parts devastation and cleansing. She is the flash of illumination, the strike of terrifying truth as the old structures come tumbling down, ejecting those who had become oh-so-comfortably tucked away in these cushioned, yet decrepit, spaces. This is when Verna becomes the Tower, the sixteenth major arcana placement. She is shock and destruction and, much like Death, renewal. She is also a promise of revelation, of prophecy fulfilled. Of Justice done.
Revelation. Prophecy. Justice, the eleventh card in the major arcana. Individual tarot cards can mean so many things to so many practitioners. To some, they can evolve to reach beyond the archetype they depict to signify ancient deities – gods and goddesses. There is a goddess so fierce, so magickal, so terrifying and powerful, and yet, so healing. So anchoring. So devastatingly gorgeous in her sovereignty and wholeness and loudness and deadliness. She is the Irish goddess, the Morrigan and, well, She is everything. She is every color, every texture, every sound, every cry. Her chest rips open, and every emotion ever felt throughout the eons and echoes of time stream and scream forward, reminding us of where we came from. The drums and howls of warriors reverberate across the land and sky and in every one of our hearts. She haunts our dreams with efforts to wake us from the sleepwalking nightmares we’ve come to inhabit. She arrives when we need Her the most, to redirect. Reinvigorate. Refuel. Remember. She is a goddess of battle and death and bloodshed and the harvesting of gore and guts and rot and decay. But she is also a goddess of self-possession. Of self-agency. Of self-sovereignty. Of empowerment and reclamation and shattering what is not working – has not been working – to re-envision a fresh, yet ancient, way forward.
Verna also fulfills this role as well. She brings the Ushers back to their cores. Back to the shadows and shards of light that exist side by side. Verna, the raven, caws and screams them back to life, resurrecting them just long enough to witness their own deaths. Her composting lies in those moments just before she takes their lives in the cutting truths she bestows upon them. She wakes them up to lay them down, and with their battered and slashed corpses, she reaps the sludge that was strangling them all from the inside, out. She alchemizes it into lessons. Into crazed epiphanies. Into deathbed confessions.
“It’s time. It’s time. It’s time.”
It’s time to wake up. It’s time to remember our lineage, our strengths. Our integrity. Every word, every action and every choice has the power to heal or destroy. The world is bleeding. The world is being destroyed – as are we. Some see the Morrigan as a harbinger of death, and She can be, but more, she’s a movement – a radical act of rebellion. Of change. She sees life in death and death in life and knows they’re inseparable. She knows the value in each, and She helps us remember that, too. She helps us summon the strength to do the right thing and to always, always act with integrity. She supports us when we face insurmountable odds. She runs beside us as we rush into battle, fighting the good fight. And that’s what we need right now – to remember our strength, our inner warrior, our purpose because this is what the world needs right now. The world needs us – the best of us – to face down the worst of the worst. To rise to our fullest, most fierce potential and become harbingers of change – real change. Radical change.
The old gods still walk among us. All we need to do is remember.
Interested in learning more about the Morrigan? About tarot? Inquire here.