On Agency and Rage – A short relationship spread while resolving an argument
“will you draw a card for our relationship, I want to see how it compares to the card I’ve drawn…”
You’d think I’d be the one to ask this. The tarot reader. Nope. My partner asked me this while clutching a card from Manara’s Erotic tarot.
I went and got my new Voyager deck. One of the best relationship readings I’d ever received was done with this deck, so I was excited to use it. I pulled the must vengeful looking four of cups I’ve ever seen.
“what do you think when you see this card?” They asked me.
I spared a moment to feel some pride. Look at them, dishing it like a pro. I taught this person how to use these cards. How to ask these kinds of questions. How to temper the answers.
And now that I was ready to wring their neck and not all-the-way understanding the motivations that led to me being pretty angry at them, I appreciated this gesture a lot. I may not understand them, but I understand tarot. With tarot, I know what I’m looking at.
At first, this worked against me.
I answered in obscure astrological data: this card tells me to note transits related to my Mars and Venus placements in the sign of Pisces. I haven’t taught my love this system, and it’s not one they will pursue. They stare blankly at me. My fascination with the stars has no home in this conversation. I try again.
I see Mars. I see aggression. But it’s spear-headed by power. Anger here is powerful. I point to the triangle at the top of the card. What did you pull?
They pull out another four, the four of fire.
At first, I fall down an astrological rabbit hole, noticing that this card represents Venus in Aries. It seems to reference my Venus placements yet again. It also seems to reference this hellish Venus retrograde we’re in. Then I see the card for its art.
I love it when a deck communicates a message that no other deck would communicate. This was one of those times. The Erotic tarot has things to say about power and agency that no other deck could evoke.
At the same time, depending on your relationship to the erotic, the messages in this deck might get lost in a triggered or fearful response. Especially since the Manara is hyper-hetero-sexualized. I don’t always have the space to hear about power through that lens.
I used to use the Erotic tarot. It was my second ever deck. I hated this card, the four of wands. The aged person in the image reminded me of clients (this last said like a dirty word). I mean that in the I-used-to-strip way. It’s not that clients are bad or that stripping is bad.
It’s just that when I stripped, I was younger and vulnerable. Uninsured when I needed medication. On the verge of homelessness and unable to finish paying for school. Clients were the people with money and insurance and all the power in the world and always tried to take something that wasn’t on the table from the dancers. They were something to constantly guard against and negotiate with.
Now, with more experience and more personal power, thus more words to articulate, there’s space for a new interpretation of this four of fire. Agency. This is the word that comes to mind. And not just the agency of the youthful cis-woman in the image, also for the older person.
My love tells me about their fears and how this card called those to mind. They told me about how these fears affect how they interact with me. Just like that, I’m back in a consent intensive I took a few weekends ago when the teacher said “differences in power and the agency it affords us compromises our abilities to consent.”
I was struck by how neatly our experiences mirror each other, as did the cards. We’re both experiencing power differentials. We both pull fours, the minor cards associated with the Emperor, who is very much concerned with issues of power. We both pull cards that show us how we’re feeling in the relationship at the moment.
The way the elements interact in the two cards, as well as the astrological context at the moment for each of us (you better believe I pulled up EVERYBODY’S chart), gives me enough information to decide what might help us experience more agency without triggering one another any further.
But even without all that, we feel better.
Just on the strength of having talked. Having heard each other and been heard. Having felt seen. Having succeeded at doing something together, however small. And just like that, this two-card pull became one of the most powerful relationship spreads I’ve done.
In case Venus retrograde is playing with your love or partnerships (the way it’s playing with mine) I figured I’d share this with you.
Two decks. One deck. Doesn’t matter.
Tarot readers. Complete Newbs. Doesn’t matter.
Take any excuse to tell someone that matters how you’re feeling. Y’all could probably draw pictures if you don’t have a deck.
Note that if you aren’t naturally aware of your breath and body, light some incense, some candles, make a ritual of it. This will help you make connections between relevant information and feelings that otherwise might have evaded you.
Try it out.
If it goes weird, talking about how awful or awkward it was is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.