Looking for fantastic beasts? The New York Historical Society might just be the place to find them. This past fall, Harry Potter: A History of Magic opened, offering the perfect place for Potterheads to get their magical fix.

Up until the end of the month, this exhibition showcases an enthralling mix of ancient historical artifacts and materials from J.K. Rowling's personal archives. From early texts that depict the first examples of witches to interactive games where patrons can read their own tarot cards, there is certainly no shortage of magic within the Hogwarts-esque corridors of this exhibit.

Muggles travel from classroom to classroom, as the sections of the exhibit are themed by their subject and professor such as Potions, Herbology, and Care Of Magical Creatures. It is hard to imagine that anything from the wizarding world could derive from history, but by examining the artifacts on display, one gains insight as to the extensive research J.K. Rowling conducted when creating her iconic series.

Museum-goers are invited for an up-close viewing of Nicholas Flamel’s tombstone, the Alchemist who tried to create a stone that could turn any object into gold and provide eternal life. Fans will also recognize terms like “Mandrake Root” in 13th-century botanical references, and spell books that provided the names for many of the charms we hear in the films.

Fact melts into fiction, however, as the show also displays witty exhibitions like the real-life “Cloak of Invisibility” and portraits of Hogwarts faculty by illustrator Jim Kay and Rowling herself. “I had the urge to actually see these characters that I was carrying around in my mind” Rowling states in a quote accompanying an early doodle she did of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville during their first year at Hogwarts.

Although the larger than life paintings of magical creatures like Fawkes the Phoenix and virtual cauldrons where one can mix their own Memory Potion are sure to make any Potterhead giddy with excitement, it is the original drafts and outlines of the beloved series that makes one’s heart flutter. To see the Escape-from-Gringotts scene scribbled in an old notebook, or the line edits from the original draft of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is to experience true magic.

With Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling invited us to jump into the world of magic, to experience the unimaginable, to find a place we could call home, and it all began with a few simple words on a page. As Professor Dumbledore states in the final book of the series, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”


Illustration by Mya Wang

In 2016, the Bay Plaza Barnes & Noble in the Bronx closed. Despite the efforts of 3,000 protesters and over 10,000 petitioners coming together to save the store, this closing left 1.5 million people without a single bookstore—until now. The Lit. Bar is opening its doors, providing an indie bookstore-wine bar hybrid to the Mott Haven community and the Bronx as a whole.

“The Bronx is no longer burning...except with desire to read,” says Noëlle Santos, founder, and owner of the Lit. Bar. A millennial, Afro-Latina woman from the Bronx, Santos dreamed of creating an independent bookstore in her home that would bring the community together as well as endorse creativity and the arts. At The Lit. Bar, customers can both purchase books and enjoy social gatherings and “intellectual entertainment.”

Second place winner of the New York Public Library StartUP! Business Plan Competition, the Lit. Bar offers a space for community members to support local artists and authors. According to an article published by amNewYork last May, Santos wanted to provide books by authors of color that featured protagonists of color and members of marginalized groups. Among the store’s goals are to “create original media content, which emphasize local interest and diversity for all ages.”

Local businesses keep the diverse, culturally rich beauty of New York City alive. With the impending Amazon takeover of Long Island City looming over our heads, it is important to recognize the threat big corporations pose on businesses such as independent bookstores. Literature lights a fire within us that in turn urges us to light up the world and create change. Thanks to women like Noëlle Santos and her team at The Lit. Bar, we are seeing these changes come into fruition.

To learn more visit www.thelitbar.com.

Infinite looping around the edge

of the brow

Sword crossed on wand, framing

the fixed gase

Cup floating below and above

The coin held

in the hand

Bleeding light yellow and blue

up and down the face

Not fixed;

elemental, vibrating potential

I sit down at my desk with my journal and tarot deck, shuffle the cards two or three times, spread them out face down, and draw intuitively. Sometimes I wind up with five cards and other times I only look at the one at the bottom of the deck. Whatever feels right. As my initial reaction to the card(s) in front of me seeps to the margins of my consciousness, tugging at memories and emotions, I write the suit and number of the card in my journal in a location on the page that corresponds to where the cards appear on my desk.

Then I record my initial reaction to the card(s), their interpretation per my deck’s booklet, my reaction to that interpretation, and any resonances I feel between those three things and different aspects of my life, whether that be academic, social, familial, or mental health. I write in short statements or single words, to leave room for a fluid interpretation if I decide to come back to the reading at a later time to see how my initial assumptions have evolved.

While I go through the drawing process fairly quickly to allow for maximum spontaneity and to give myself space for unexpected card combinations, I know I am not ultimately looking into the cards for answers. As Hunter Oatman-Stanford outlines in his article for Mental Floss, “Tarot Mythology: The Surprising Origins of the World’s Most Misunderstood Cards,” despite stereotypes of divination and fortune-telling, “the ability of [the cards’] small, static images to illuminate our most complex dilemmas and desires” is the source of their true power.

Especially in the 20th century, new decks incorporate the number and symbol of each card into its illustration which adds a “strong narrative element [which] gives readers something to latch onto...it is relatively intuitive to look at a combination of cards and derive your own story from them.” These fixed, external objects become pivot points around which one may move to observe their own anxieties, insecurities, and desires as they manifest in different areas of their life. With that knowledge, I understand that, regardless of the card(s) chosen, there will be an emotional or intellectual reaction that will lead to a realization or recollection.

The Magician is Possibilities Revealed, the reminder that all new things require skill and faith.

With self-confidence, willpower, and discipline, one’s own capacity to speak and manifest their desires becomes the breeding ground for promising new ideas and creations.

In this way, I can meditate on The Magician, for example, and see a multitude of connection emanating from the ideas held in the card.

There is my having finished my first semester of college during which I learned new ways of being that I did not have the capacity to know where possible. They reaffirmed the intuition that catalyzed my initial leap of faith when I believed that New York was the place in which I could be subject to and participate in intense, necessary, beautiful growth, on both a collective and individual level.

There is the transition of attention to different aspects of my life which call for a continued commitment to sitting in discomfort and embracing being wrong for the sake of broadening perspective. There is a necessity for remembering how that practice has been and will continue to be vital.

There is the new found joy in trusting my artistic instincts as I discover the motivation behind different impulses as I become aware of different belief systems and witness their intersections, divergences, and continued mysteries.

And, among all the other examples I could list, there is my deciding to write this column. My hope is for it to become a space where I can intertwine information about the history of tarot with a demonstration of my own practice. Each piece will be based on a card whose meaning will serve as an intersection between a part of the cards’ past and my present understanding of where those themes and ideas are acting on me in the present.

However, I have to have faith here as 2019 will be the first full year in which Tarot is a part of my life. I, too, am still in the early stages of learning all the different forms in which it has appeared across history and the intricacies of my own practice. The faith is that there will be many things to write and learn as well as people who will come on this exploration with me (that is you, dear reader!), and that my own present ignorance in some areas will allow my knowledge in others to become more prominent as I strive for a balance between wanting to know and understanding the impossibility of knowing all.

My skill will be my curiosity and determination to present what I find through embodied, experiential, and academic research, as well as what I know already. Since I know there are individuals much more knowledgeable than I concerning tarot’s past and present, I count on having moments of doubt (I already have while writing this first article) in which I feel unqualified to write this. Yet, and I hold this as a just as important understanding, I know that the way I will combine all of these things in each of these pieces will be a new combination of the old knowledge.


Illustration by Jooyoung Park

The work of legendary musicians is sometimes tainted by controversial behavior outside of their art: John Lennon hit women, Kanye West supports Donald Trump, and Post Malone appropriates black culture. Their behavior leaves music fans unhappily pondering the question, “Can I enjoy this artist’s music without overlooking their heinous personal shortcomings?”

Chicago rapper Noname doesn’t require that her listeners answer such a question. She went by Noname Gypsy until March 2016, when she dropped the “gypsy” upon learning that that the word, referring to the Romani people, is debunked as inaccurate and disrespectful. When domestic violence allegations came out last month against artist Bryant Giles, who made the cover art for Noname’s new album Room 25, she promptly announced that she’ll be changing the cover art. Her tweet read, “I do not and will not support abusers, and I will always stand up for victims and believe their stories.”

Noname comfortably follows her own morals even when it’s not practical for her career, showing that she’s aware of the impact her words and actions make when they’re visible to thousands of people. Her simultaneously easygoing and radical style is equally present in her songs: each verse teems with imagery and word play thanks to her background in spoken word. On the self-titled track from Room 25, she says, “No name look like you/No name for private corporations to send emails to/’Cause when we walk into heaven/Nobody's name gon exist.” Despite a stage name that espouses anonymity, Noname crafts a vivid identity for herself as a musician and lives up to it in her daily life too.


Illustration by Janie Peacock

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