There’s not one person on earth who doesn’t have an ancestor who either lived through or perished in the 1918 flu pandemic. Today, I’m going to show you how to contact that ancestor and what you might learn.
First, a tiny bit of history. The 1918 pandemic came in three strains, with the killing one hitting America in August of that year. Although estimates vary, it’s thought that about 50 million people died, worldwide.
Letter carrier image: Courtesy Library of Congress
Just as with Covid-19, anyone who came into contact with the public was especially vulnerable. And just as today, wearing a face mask was commonplace.
If you think social distancing is unique to the 21st century, it’s not. Back in 1918, after realizing the severity of the flu, public gatherings were outlawed in many places, including churches, schools, and any other place where large numbers of people congregated.
Because one of my ancestors died of the Spanish flu, I wanted to make contact to see if she had any words of advice for those of us living through Covid-19
Prepping for Ancestral Contact
Preparing for ancestral work can take many forms. Because this is something I frequently do, my method is to do 5-10 slow, deep breathing exercises. This quickly drops me into a receptive state. Once I feel centered and grounded, I ask the ancestors if the time is good for me to connect with my ancestor who perished in 1918. I typically will hear a strong ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
If you’ve never done ancestral work using Tarot, I’d suggest you begin by doing your usual pre-Tarot reading preparation. This might include lighting a candle, working with your ancestral altar, or doing a brief meditation in which you ask the ancestors to come forward. If you know who the 1918 ancestor was, you can ask for them by name. If you don’t know, simply tell the ancestors what you are seeking, then wait to see who comes forward.
Be sure to ask if this is a good time to connect with your 1918 ancestor. If you don’t ‘hear’ an answer, draw three cards and do a simple yes-no spread. If you hear a ‘yes’, then move forward.
Quick Yes-No Spread
The easiest way to get a yes-no answer is to draw three cards. If two or three are upright, the answer is yes. If two or three are reversed, the answer is no.
If the answer is ‘no’ – try again at a later time. Not all ancestors want to work with us 24/7, so don’t be offended if the one you want declines. You have other 1918 ancestors, so if the specific one you requested doesn’t come forward, ask for another.
Once you’ve done your pre-reading preparation and received a go-ahead from the ancestors, then shuffle you cards and follow along with the spread below.
The 1918 Pandemic Spread
Because I know I lost an ancestor in December of 1918, I knew exactly who I wanted to contact. However, the spread works the same if you don’t know a name or their relationship to you. Remember, the questions are directed to one of your ancestors who lived through or perished during that time.
1. Did you realize the severity of the flu when it hit your hometown? (3 Pentacles)
2. Did you think you were taking adequate protection? (Fool)
3. When you or someone close to you passed over, were there others with the flu who passed at the same time? (Page of Swords)
4. Do you have a message for how those of us living through Covid-19? (Wheel of Fortune)
5. What do you see as the new normal post-Covid-19? (King of Swords)
6. Do you have a timeline for a vaccine or effective anti-viral to be available? (9 of Cups)
7. Do you have anything else you want us to know? (5 of Wands)
Deck: Universal Waite Tarot (U.S. Games)
Because I often hear answers, my interpretation of a card may be different from your own.
The information I received from this ancestor was that she didn’t know just how deadly the flu was and in fact she received it while attending a church service. As far as taking precautions, she took none as she felt that the flu would only have a minimal impact on her small town.
Surprisingly, I thought that when she passed, she might have been accompanied by many people, as in her county close to 1,000 people passed at about the same time. However, with the Page of Swords, I believe she was only aware of a child who passed with her.
The message that really hit home for me was her message for those of us living under the threat of Covid-19 – the Wheel of Fortune. The message was clear: If we do all that we should to keep safe – and keep those we love safe – then we will stay on top of the Wheel. If we take ill-advised chances, we’re going to fall off. If there ever was a forewarned is forearmed message, it’s this one.
As far as the ‘new normal’, we get the King of Swords who is concerned with ideas, especially as they impact organizations or large structures. I believe we are going to see a lot of thought going into new ways of doing things, as well as new structures of government. This, I believe, is going to occur first at the local level, then move its way up. How each of our communities envisions itself is going create the new norm.
Of course, I was really interested in a timeline for a vaccine or effective anti-viral. Cups denote summertime, but this summer or next? With the 9 of Cups, the best I can interpret is nine weeks into summer, which puts us at September. Again, whether that’s 2020 or 2021, I don’t know.
The last question – was there anything else she wanted us to know? With the 5 of Wands we are seeing a scene of competitiveness. Is this about the mask-wearer vs. the non-mask-wearers, or one pharmaceutical vs. another? Because it was the last message that she wanted to impart, I think we are being warned that unless we work together as a whole, Covid-19 is going to be around for a very long time.
Nancy Hendrickson is the author of Ancestral Tarot (Red Wheel/Weiser Spring 2021) and a columnist for The Cartomancer Magazine. She hands out at SageandShadow.com
If you’re interested in learning more about the 1918 pandemic, the National Institutes of Health released a video of a public research symposium involving Virginia Tech students who present their research on various aspects of the 1918 pandemic. https://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=36347&bhcp=1