Reclaiming Identity and Intimacy - The Lovers, The Chariot, & Strength
The Lovers, The Chariot, and Strength from my personal deck. I chose to use ribbons of water, reins, and strings of “fate” or human connection to illustrate intimacy and our sense of control on these cards.
As many of you know, I have been reading 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack and I have been LOVING it. I just finished the section on Strength, and it raised some thoughts for me about this triad of cards and how they apply to social justice and intimacy.
The Lovers, as described in the book, speaks to the role that sexual and romantic unions fill in our journey to enlightenment. The text explains how originally the card was titled "The Choice" and spoke to choosing between the previously established sense of self one had developed (mostly a product of parents/social norms), and deviation, which was represented by a mysterious, powerful, and sexual woman. This alteration of the card from one of the demonization of sexual experience to one that celebrates sex and love as a part of personal development is very interesting to me. Waite's change (though he didn't intend this) allows The Lovers to be much easier applied to the experience of love and sex in the development of queer identity.
Next comes The Chariot. This card contains a sense of victory, and triumph over struggle. It ends the first line of seven cards, and as talked about in the book, is often where people feel accomplishment ends. You move through the archetypes of the first 5 cards, learning the strict rules of society. Then The Lovers gives you a taste of spirituality and individuality through love and intimacy. And finally with The Chariot one attains control over these aspects of their life, and feels a sense of accomplishment and grounding. But at what cost? And is this truly the last step in development? And when one moves into The Chariot from The Lovers, does one forget the intimacy and vulnerability of human connection?
This reminds me so deeply of how often times money, "success", and oppressors are tangled together. Success as capitalism defines it demands prioritizing money over humanity in many ways. And though individuality is important to becoming your own person with goals to achieve, this sense of enlightenment falls away often in favor of conformity and the "security" of being devoted to your own personal advancement instead of coexistence.
So in the context of queer existence and social justice, we see a conundrum. When we peer behind the veil of society and feel that primal and spiritual intimacy with another that The Lovers brings, we begin to see the flaws in the path laid out for us, and seek more of these vulnerable experiences. But as I said, society demands success to live. If we want to eat and pay rent, we must perform The Chariot in many ways. We must hold our two selves together like the black and white sphinxes, and use our conscious will to hold opposites at bay. We have our day jobs, and our night lives. We live divided in many ways. If our grips on the reins are not completely equal, our chariot veers one way or another. We become too much involved in the illusion of success and normality, or we become too isolated from the world in our identity to even critique the system that causes our sacrifices. As the book references, the Sphinx is a symbol of life's greatest riddles. And the riddle here is how long one can hold this balance without truly reconciling our polarized lives?
This is where Strength speaks, the first card of the second line of the majors, and the first step past The Chariot. Strength asks us to change the dynamic. No more are we holding ourselves divided. We now see our subconscious desires and fears represented in the lion, bound to our conscious self not by reins, but by a wreath of flowers. This is a card of kindness, but of direction. It is an analysis of the subconscious desires, and a dive into self. We are no longer divided into opposites, but compliments: the conscious and the subconscious. We work with ourselves to untangle our sense of self from our sense of control, and begin to see the value in the oftentimes messy subconscious. Strength, as the book mentions, is also connected esoterically to sex magic, returning us to an elevated form of The Lovers. The same enlightening intimacy we experiences in The Lovers is present in Strength, but instead of it happening to us and around us, we wield our own sexuality as a tool for... you guessed it... MANIFESTATION.
When we first encounter the freedom and intimacy of sex and/or love, we feel overwhelmed with the deviation from the path we previously took. For queer people, myself included, this often is the first experience we have with validation of our identity and/or sexuality. But often times this is contingent on another person's involvement. And while interpersonal intimacy can be amazing, it can quickly become unbalanced. In the first relationship I entered after realizing I was queer, I had no control. My validation was completely in the hands of my partner. I was unable to recognize this because I was closer than I had ever been to what I desired, so I let it continue on. Strength speaks to the reclamation of our intimacy and desire. It asks us not to settle into unbalanced interpersonal relationships simply so we can experience the validation and spirituality of sex and love. WE CONTAIN OUR OWN LOVE. Strength is our self love. It is both bubble baths and self improvement. It is both holding ourselves accountable and enjoying our own company. And most importantly, it is NOT the separation of ourselves for the convenience of others or society. It is the reconciliation of all the masks we wear, and a truthful hard look at who we are and what we want.