Amuletic cards for safer passage

Naomi Segal

Content notice

Below the cards is paratext alluding to trauma recovery. It has one overt mention of trauma and numerous mentions of survival.

How to play

This piece is best viewed on desktop.

Click and drag the cards to organise them in any way that is meaningful for you. Bring what you need within reach and hold it close. Consider what you need to release. The power is in the choosing.


deck one

What is held after the end of a world?

What is a means of choosing, carrying, and sharing tools to survive this moment?

If I am vulnerable to every encounter, what forms of protection must I hold close?

If trauma is a foreclosure of worlds, then I need to find an opening – an entry-point or point of departure into a safer passage.

deck two

The story belongs to you and is yours to tell, so how can we enshrine more safety in the telling?

At what points does a story need holding, beholding or withholding? How can “the right to opacity” and “the dignity of being known” be held at once? The power is in the choosing.

We have been handed down weapons of shame and neglect, trained to keep wielding them on ourselves. Together we can shed what we never needed to carry. We can enshrine each other’s safety while refusing to self-abandon.

Our passages are entwined. We can insist on a place in this world and the alternatives being proposed. We can surprise each other with new options.

Remember: we can transform spaces as well as being transformed. Our stories hold potential, and telling them may widen or shut our impressions of safety, trust, liveability. What repair may we need if we were to take the chance?

deck three is yet to be known, because resolution can hold many meanings: determination; a choice or commitment; a measure of clarity (though not always detail); and potentially, closure.


A boundary somehow became porous. ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ Certain materials can be pressured and punctured to become more manipulable. Think of how a creased piece of paper can fold with less resistance or tear from a perforated edge. Recently I felt recognition in a definition of tensile stress: the force an object can withstand until being ripped apart.


At the end of what I could do I summoned a meeting. ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ I learned to stay hidden, to behold and not be held. ▄ ▄ ▄  I learned that being afraid was my fault. ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ Some years just short of a lifetime passed this way, carrying what never belonged to me.


At the end of what I could do, and with support all around me, I summoned a meeting. My whole self insisted on being known, so I read aloud seven passages: ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ In that moment of falling, in deepest terror, I advocated for myself. ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ When collectively held, something became more palpable – the potential for worlds to change.


The chance to be understood is careening beyond me, towards you. ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▄ It is unknown what you will choose. All I know is the meaning in the attempt.


deck one

“I permit myself to be illegible + opaque” is indebted to R-Words: Refusing Research by Eve Tuck and Poetics of Relation by Édouard Glissant.

“There is no boundary between our inner and outer worlds” is partly informed by Thongchai Winichakul’s Siam Mapped.

“I am vulnerable to every encounter” and “There is support all around me” emerged from too much to name here.

“I am open to un-knowing + surprise” distills some learnings from queer reading practices: close reading in Jane Gallop’s The Ethics of Reading: Close Encounters; vulnerable reading in Julietta Singh’s Unthinking Mastery; ‘bad’ reading in Tyler Bradway’s Queer Experimental Literature; and paranoid and reparative reading from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. They all remind me I’m porous to things I pore over.

“Soon this will just be a memory” was originally a text message from Chaya and became something I held close as a way to outlive distress. After encounters while on residency, I decided to make another version, more open-ended, omitting “just”.


deck two

“We can surrender our weapons and rest our hearts” is inherited from emoeba h♡rtbridge’s installation Surrender ur Weapon & Rest ur Heart exhibited in Open World at Pari. Em, thank you for honouring fury.

“My healing / My safety / My limits / My terms” stems from Chaya. It is an honour to be alongside you. Thank you for entwining your healing journey with mine.

“We are vulnerable to every encounter”, using the first person plural, draws partly from Intentional Peer Support. IPS is an alternative to medical models of relation – proposing mutually transformative relationships, a rethinking of ‘risk’, and a shared movement towards what we desire.

“There is meaning in the attempt” is one of many life-sustaining reminders from Tash. Thank you for helping me wayfind towards safety, remembering and peace. Thank you for being you.

“The right to opacity”, once more, is an axiom from Glissant’s Poetics of Relation. Its complementary card “The dignity of being known” is from Teddy Cook’s speech to parliament advocating for the recognition of trans lives. I encountered it via Mika Benesh’s wink at me, a choose-your-own-adventure essay on gay love, trans becoming and time travel. 

“All we need to survive is already here, waiting” is a slightly rearranged line also from wink at me. Mika, the world feels larger and more meaningful every time we speak. Thank you for teaching me to choose life. A boundless eternal has sustained us to this moment – and will sustain us far beyond it.


On inventories, I enshrined Christina Sharpe’s lecture What Could a Vessel Be?; a choose-your-own-recovery field guide The Integral Guide to Well-Being; Anastasia Murney’s critical entry-points into carrier bag theory; and the Bag of Spilling trope in Epic Battle Fantasy.

On worldbuilding, I explored Alex Quicho’s essay Without World, Mark J. P. Wolf’s book chapter Beyond Immersion, and Aurora Levins Morales’ poem V’ahavta.

On (be/with)holding stories, I have been impacted by more than I can fathom or tell here. To give some coordinates, this piece drew from Jackie De Lacy’s reading group Holding as Beholding (which borrowed its title from Christina Sharpe’s And to Survive); Moses Sumney’s song lyric “I know what it's like to behold and not be held”; and Indigo Daya’s survivor-led approaches to safety and alternatives to silencing.

On citation, I pored over longtime companion texts including Yanyi’s The Year of Blue Water, Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life and Jackie De Lacy’s Spells: towards non-committal text, pure sentimentality, reading magic and locating community in text ✨.

Finally, I am indebted to a much earlier self who distilled the healing she knew into an essay called Gathering and a comic called Companions. These modest texts are still my guiding lights.


To Nolan, Donna, Pem, Mika, Chaya, Hareen, Bec, Tian, Celine, Hayley, Kal, Rainer, Fei, Amy, Jeyne, Sam, Joel, Alex, Rory, Lachlan, Ava, Aud, Yaz, Em, Dian, Carla, James, Carol, Morgan, B, K, O, M, T, N, G and innumerable other companions: thank you for everything. I wish you all a safer passage. May we stay within each other’s reach.


Thank you Riana and the Runway Journal team for considering and safehousing this work.

Thank you Bea for your patience, listening and glowing insights. With your blessing I felt emboldened to go through tunnels and sidequests – unexpectedly finding myself even more grounded in the cards.

Thank you Mike for holding my visions and vulnerability to meaningfully translate them into a digital realm. Thank you for your clarifying questions that moved me towards a resolution.

Thank you Yuanyu for joining our party with your incredible and skilful support.

Thank you all for expanding what I thought possible.


Earliest versions of amuletic cards were first published in LUCKY, guest edited by Kim Lam for LIMINAL Magazine in 2022. Thank you Kim and Leah for your patience and trust while I focused on surviving. In falling short of a comic, my work arrived somewhere new.

The cards were first printed with the assistance of Abdul Dube at ook_visitorZentrum, documenta fifteen, using paper inherited from Tian Zhang’s Collective Personas exercise.

By chance, there were seven amuletic card designs in this first deck.


I acknowledge the Gadigal, Wangal and Burramattagal on whose sovereign lands I humbly live, work and heal. I extend respect and solidarity to Elders, Knowledge Holders and communities who have continuously cared for Country since the beginning.

Sovereignty was never ceded: this always was and always will be Aboriginal land.


My first longevity peach bun was from my old lady. I will thank her elsewhere in the way she can receive it.


To those I cannot yet name: I hope we all receive the repair we need.


Dedicated to all survivors.