Life Forces: Kelly Lee Owens Is No Stranger to the Tarot
"Remember who you are. Remember that you have this kind of divinity, which we all have within us.” In this month's edition of Life Forces, we dig deeper into the mystical energy that inspired her 'Inner Song.'
Kelly Lee Owens might very well be a “witch,” but once in a blue moon or so, even witches need someone else to read their tarot cards. The Welsh sorceress-songstress recounted the story of how she became acquainted with her deck.
“I found it in a charity shop. You know they say, ‘The cards will find you.’ It was that kind of thing. For some reason, it was in a little two-pound charity shop, but they were completely wrapped, they’d never been used before.” The moment occurred around 2017, during what she describes as a difficult time in her life. “So classic, I was in the midst of something that inspired a lot of my album and I was going into ‘dark night of the soul’ kind of energy and there they were.” The album Owens is referring to, Inner Song, released in August this year, is her second long-player following 2017’s Kelly Lee Owens and half a dozen EPs she released on her own and with Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound since 2014. She also recorded a cover of Aaliyah’s classic “More Than a Woman,” which could seem blasphemous to those protective of Babygirl, better known as Aaliyah, but her dark, psychedelic spin on it is so evidently presented in reverence, with her opening synth stabs, and singular haunting vocals.
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One can sense Inner Song marks only the early stages of a long solo career for Owens, even though she has already hit so many milestones–playing clubs and festivals like London’s fabric, New York’s MoMA PS1, Montreux Jazz Festival, and opening for The xx. Upon the release of Inner Song, there’s been no shortage of praise from fans and critics alike, and these pivotal moments in life, are certainly ripe for celebration but also a fantastic opportunity to examine the energies surrounding the situation. Owens, who tells me she consults her tarot deck for spiritual guidance nearly every day puts it plainly, “They’re super direct. They kind of just call you out and I quite like that, so there’s no beating around the bush.”
The Celtic Cross spread is one of the best tarot card configurations for exploring the energy of the current situation someone finds themselves in. Using it, one can explore unconscious and conscious, past and future energies affecting the present moment, the impact of personal factors, others and one’s environment, and the outcome. Although we just stuck to tarot in our session, the self-described “Virgo loner” was kind enough to reveal that her Moon (representing one’s emotional landscape and one’s relationship to the past in astrology) is in Capricorn. Both Virgo and Capricorn are Earth signs, and Earth energy is very concerned with the material realm—health, the body, career, and money, to name a few. It tends to be quite practical and stable. In the tarot, Earth energy expresses itself through the Minor Arcana suit of Discs, which in some decks are Pentacles. That a few Disc cards came up for her was wholly unsurprising.
However, the first card that presented itself in the ten-card spread was the Ten of Staves. Staves in the tarot represent the element of fire—connoting action, passion, and will. I often half-joke that the Ten of Staves is the “burnout card.” But there is a deep truth to this. When one has taken on too much, when there’s been too much external action put out into the world, one will very likely experience some sort of overwhelm and exhaustion. Inner Song may be out in the world, but for Owens, the work is far from over. At the beginning of our conversation, she shared that she already had two other interviews that day, and despite having to shift plans for live performances in lockdown, she’s been working on new projects and participating in live streams. She affirms how the Ten of Staves is representative of right now, “It’s definitely that period, isn’t it? The moment where things are going on, we’re coming back into that inner phase and reflecting on stuff.” The second card intersects the first card in the spread, indicating what’s influencing the current situation. The Devil showed up. To many, it can be a spooky card, but the ones we find uncomfortable or scary can point to what we need to work on. The Devil relates to attachments that we have, whether they’re physical, emotional, or otherwise, as well as really moving through the things that are keeping us in old patterns; that which is keeping us from evolving. Because Owens is clearly experiencing a period of growth, it follows that it’s time for her to take stock of the things that are no longer serving her, so that she can effectively transform.
The third card, the Six of Staves reversed, represented her unconscious energies. A reversal in the tarot generally indicates a meaning opposite to the card in its right-side-up presentation. I personally don’t always honor reversals, and it’s ultimately up to the individual tarot reader to decide. The Six of Staves is all about success, and how we share in that success with others. I related the card to the fact that Owens has achieved some exciting things lately–notably landing the cover of NME in October. Naturally, Owens offered a wonderful interpretation of the card. “The reversal is interesting because it’s making me ask myself, ‘How do I connect with people?’ That’s a question that most musicians and people, in general, are facing at the moment, and being unable to connect musically to people on a stage and in person has been extremely difficult. And so without that, what does it mean? It’s having to trust and let go and remind myself that the ultimate purpose is that I create something for others, which helps them through things in life.”
The energies coming into Owens’ immediate future are depicted in the Three of Cups. Cups in the tarot hold water, the element of emotions, spirituality, and relationships. The Three of Cups indicates a time for celebration, to be joyful, and to share these uplifting feelings with others around you. Moving on from the cross itself, the seventh card in the spread represents the individual and the personal factors they bring to the situation. The Knight of Discs showed his face here, to which Owens reacted, “Yes. That’s me summed up in a card.” As a Virgo, she’s at home with Earth energy, and the Knight of Discs, in particular, is practical, determined, and patient enough to move towards a goal step by step. Virgos also have keen attention to detail, which can lead to perfectionism. Owens identifies with it and mostly views it as a blessing. She explains, “I think it can be a curse when you don’t know when to say when. When you don’t know when something’s finished. I feel very fortunate that I listen to my intuition. I have a balance of my intuitions and understandings of myself and what’s needed, to be able to call it. I always know roughly where I’m trying to get to. So if I’m tweaking and automating stuff for hours, I know when to say when. I think that’s what a lot of people struggle with. It can be time-consuming and it can be frustrating, but I feel like it’s my duty. It’s part of my duty to deliver something that is the best it can be. It’s not for me. It’s for others.”
‘How do I connect with people?’ That's a question that most musicians and people, in general, are facing at the moment, and being unable to connect musically to people on a stage and in person has been extremely difficult.
As the next card was shown to Owens—the Ten of Swords reversed in the conscious energies position—she nodded along knowingly before I could even begin my spiel. Swords in the tarot are associated with the element of air and often represent what’s going on in our minds. The Ten of Swords depicts the end of a battle, a need for making peace within ourselves or with a situation. Due to its reversal, I sensed that there may be certain parts of Owens, intellectually, that are preventing her from moving on from a particular state of affairs. Another reversal came up, this time representing Kelly Lee Owens’ past energies influencing her current situation. The Seven of Discs reversed. Upright, this card is about everyday life. I lovingly refer to it as the “keep on truckin’” card. Yes, our quotidian tasks can seem mundane, but they’re important in cultivating stability and bringing us closer and closer to greatness. The reversal here indicated to me a form of resentment towards everyday life. Like many musicians who perform live, Owens had shows and other exciting plans postponed or canceled this year. In the past few years, the musician grappled with many things in her inner world and felt “ready to be out there,” as she puts it. The work on herself in the past little while consisted of talk therapy, and notably body trauma release therapy, describing her experience as “the most transformative and the most immediate.” She also credits the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes as an important tool “to remember my spirit and re-wild my creative soul, and understand myself as a woman in this world and the different phases, and all the rage that I was experiencing–knowing that rage can be creative and valid.”
Rage can be creative and valid.
It's part of my duty to deliver something that is the best it can be. It's not for me. It's for others.
The High Priestess, one of Owens’ favorite cards, showed up in the Celtic Cross’s eighth position, which represents one’s current environmental influences. After offering my interpretation, Owens mused, “I think back to my own power, my inner essence and spirit, and the feminine. It’s a good reminder. That has been coming through the last couple of days. The High Priestess energy has been really like, ‘Remember who you are. Remember that you have this kind of divinity,’ which we all have within us. Right? We get so caught up in the mind, in the mundane, and all of these other things and it’s more about that higher self and ways to connect to that.” Interestingly enough, a major part of Owens’ physical environment is a poster of Jackson Pollock’s “The Moon Woman,” which she pointed out on the wall behind her during our video call. Next up was the King of Staves, representing hopes and fears Owens might be grappling with, in this current situation. The King of Staves is a master of fire energy—of action, passion, and will. I got the sense that while she’s not necessarily afraid of taking action, there could be an interesting opposition within her; integrating and balancing both masculine and feminine energies.
Kelly Lee Owens received a beautiful card for the outcome of her present situation—The Sun. Feeling the Sun’s warmth in the tarot indicates new beginnings and heart-centered energies, which Owens heavily identified with, a certain sunny optimism she is already carrying with her about 2021. “Me being Virgo, the Capricorn combination I’ve already got it all sorted and planned out,” she explains. “There’s going to be something coming almost every month for the first half of next year. I won’t say what those things are, they’re different things.” She outlines how the first half of next year will be devoted to reminding people of the record, reconnecting to people, and just kind of keeping things flowing. She then goes on to tease “some shows booked for next year,” including summer events like outdoor festivals. “I am confident that the live stuff will happen from next summer onwards. I think it will be an almost religious experience, like the Summer of Love all over again.”
Her other upcoming plans include learning how to speak Welsh fluently. “I think it’s more important than ever for us to connect to where we came from,” she says. Grateful for the extra time to spend on new creative projects this year, she’s also been writing music for films and TV, a dream of hers in the making for the past little while.
Although the Celtic Cross was done with, there were quite a few bonus cards that came out while I was shuffling. I typically don’t ignore those, as they often impart wisdom that’s just as significant as the main spread. Firstly, the Seven of Staves, the unofficial “blocking out the haters” card. A reminder to stand up for what one believes in, to forge ahead even though there might be people poking their staves at you. Then a pair of cards emerged, the Eight of Discs and The Tower. Together, they could be interpreted as a restructuring (the Tower) of one’s career (Eight of Discs)—which Owens emphatically affirmed. Finally, a grand finale quartet—Death, The Moon reversed, The Emperor reversed, and the Queen of Cups. Interpreted chronologically, the Queen of Cups can be viewed as Kelly Lee Owens herself. Right now, there’s some sort of ego death, or death of a part of the self, needing to happen relating to femininity (the Moon) as well as the structure and the way things work in society at large (the Emperor). So again, there’s a message emerging of integrating the masculine and the feminine in order to grow into the next phase of her life, fully embodying the powerful sensitivity and empathy of the Queen of Cups.
With Inner Song, its vibrations and words transmuting so much personal experience and emotion into a language deeply felt, Kelly Lee Owens has shared with us an album that invites us all to expand our own awareness and imagination, to understand ourselves better, and offer more compassion inwardly and to those around us. From the emotional arpeggios of the Radiohead cover that opens the album to the pulsating dancefloor bliss of “Jeanette,” named after her grandmother, to the nocturnal techno hymn “Night,” these ten tracks can truly become some of your closest companions if you let them.
Inner Song is out now on Smalltown Supersound. Support the artist on Bandcamp.
Bianca Giulione is a writer, Tarot reader, astrologer, and founder of Life Forces Incorporated. Find her on Instagram.
Gabriel Massan is a visual artist based in Berlin. He has previously collaborated with NTS Radio, Kaltblut Magazine, and designer Lucas Leão.
Published December 09, 2020. Words by Bianca Giulione.