I created Deities as a way to destigmatize the reality of abuse while also trying to provide help or comfort to survivors. I chose to mimic the concept of tarot cards due to the physical closeness and emotional vulnerability people connect with their feelings, just like how it feels to express your personal memories to another person.
Tarot cards are universally understood as both personal and spiritual, which is how coming to terms with understanding abuse feels, for both the listener and survivor. I focused specifically on deities as my primary representation because throughout my experiences with abusers, I constantly faced myself with questions like "Why did this happen? Why did they seek me out? Why do they keep lying? Why do other people not see who they are?"
Deities not only offer the truth that it was not my fault, but also offer a sense of spiritual protection. Someone wise, older, and stronger who I can rely on when the weight gets too much to bear alone. Someone who hears me and believes me unconditionally.
Each item, pose, color, and shape I illustrated hold meaning, describing without words the tactics abusers use, how alienating it feels, and how I was able to survive.
Created with Adobe Illustrator, and Autodesk Sketchbook. 2020-2021.
Present within each image is the stark contrast of black and white, multiple lines spreading outward from the deities to represent holiness, and the label of which form of abuse the image represents on alternating corners.
Trigger Warning: ABUSE
Within traditional tarot, the pentagram is a symbol for the physical. I chose to show this deity pouring water out of a filled container branded with this image as this was how I resisted this form of abuse. I saw the area, I felt the pain, and I breathed in the truth, and then I let it flow out of me. Just as the pain dispersed, so did my trust or connection with that person, and I mentally put a barrier up, effectively putting an end to any hold they had as I imagined them drifting away. Physical abuse was much more easy to recover from and recognize from a personal standpoint, as the pain couldn't be explained away, and there was no way to "take it back." This happened to me, this is fact, and this is what I can do about it. It was the first time I could see what was happening and cut that person off, as the escalation to physical was the final step I needed to see the truth. The deity is depicted sitting on a tree stump, as it represents the support I started to receive inside me as I was able to hold fast against any attempt by that person to try and trick me when I knew who they were and what they did. It was the first time I was able to see the abuse behind me and recognize it for what it was.
The act of abuse in the form of neglect is one where the support, comfort, and love a child is supposed to receive is absent. I had to learn to love and care for myself, represented in the cloth that is wrapped loosely around the deity. The people who neglected me I had to set myself apart from, and learn to create a boundary between their toxicity and my own happiness. This required a constant balance between learning when to say yes and when to say no, hence the sword this deity gazes at. The strongest person is the one who knows when to pick up the pen and when to brandish the sword, as the saying goes. Swords also represent intellect within tarot, as I had to learn and understand my worth was my own, however I made it.
Here, the deity has no recognizable characteristics that define themselves as either traditionally male or female. They hold two cups (symbolic for emotional), one positioned over the groin and one near the temple as representation for what parts of me were affected when this occurred. Yet, the deity does not cower or hide themselves, as I learned to accept what had happened to me did not define me, and I could be fully proud and accepting of my body. I chose the cup representation as this was how I was able to overcome my experience, by truly feeling, believing, and accepting the "dirty" emotions I had felt.
This is perhaps the most dangerous in my personal experience, because not only did this type of abuse tend to follow every single one previous, but this came most frequently in the form of friends; people with whom I formed a bond where we mutually agreed to care and value one another equally. In the world, most warn of the abuse of family or strangers, but there should be just as much attention to the act of friends. Wands represent creativity, as that was how I was able to express the pain this form of abuse caused me, and in doing so was able to heal from it. The walls around the being are crumbling, and while that did make me more vulnerable, it also allowed me to become more whole in my own being. I became strong enough to realize I could trust my intuition. The problem was not the abusers seeking me out, but that I didn't trust what I saw, believing them instead and allowed them to stay.