The Lovers is one of the most ambiguous cards of the Tarot. Quite a few Tarot readers – especially the beginners – experience difficulties interpreting it. So let’s have a closer look at this card as it appears in readings.
- The Lovers
Element: Air. The sign associated with the Lovers is Gemini, astrological ruler – Mercury.
Keywords: Love, union, relationships, attraction, affection, harmony, passion, partnership, intimacy, Eros, establishing bonds; emotions, feelings, desires; ethics, choice, responsibility, tests, temptation; youth, innocence, beauty, social life.
Usually we can see two human figures, male and female, standing naked before each other, reminding us about Adam and Eve, depicted in this card. The huge angel in the sky above them is blessing the union of the two. This angel is believed to be Raphael. The sun shines brightly over the couple, surrounding them with warmth and security. The figures suggest youth, virginity, innocence and love. The two human beings stand on green and fertile grass. Behind the man we can see the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is behind the woman; the serpent is twining round it.
According to B. Wen, the male figure in the card represents the mind and rationality. The female figure is for the heart and emotion. The Lovers points to a choice that one must make between the mind and the heart. Often this choice can test our moral integrity.
The snake in the fruit-bearing tree behind the woman reminds us about the story of Adam and Eve and the temptations of the world. Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility and creative life force. The snake here also points to hidden danger and temptations.
However, in the Marseille Tarot on this card we see three individuals. Who is the Lover among them?
The Lover will be one of the figures on the card, chosen by the subject of the reading, whose relations we analyze. Whatever the question may be, know that the central Lover remains the large white glowing sun, which shines on all living things without exception. (A. Jadorowsky)
According to A. Jadorowsky the sun is the source of the universal love that guides us to the unconditional love.
So what does Arcanum VI mean in a reading?
The major theme of this card concerns our relationships and our feelings. First of all, it refers to love.
As usual, a lot of depends upon the question asked before the reading. Obviously, the meaning becomes strongest when we have asked about a possible relationship. If the querent is asking about love, the Lovers card can be a great indication, representing the romance and partnership.
Often, the Lovers can refer to different stages of loving relationships when it appears in a reading.
Let us not forget that the RWS picture depicts two naked figures – that might suggest that they really are what they truly are without any inhibitions and pretence but they are also vulnerable.
As already mentioned, the Lovers corresponds astrologically to Gemini, and Gemini is about communications. As Mary K. Greer points it: since marriage counselors usually begin with communication skills, this could be what you should pay your attention to, when we see this card in a reading.
Your own sense of self-worth may be mirrored by the way a partner treats you. If you don’t love yourself most probably you will not be able to find a partner who will love you without any conditions.
Jadorowsky shares the similar opinion – this ambiguous card suggests us to question our emotional state: how our own emotional life is going? Are we content or experiencing conflict? Does this situation have roots in our past, and if so, what are they? It is significant that, according to A. Jadorowsky, this card can refer to questions concerning the place we have been assigned within our family unit and to work identifying the projections we cast on those around us at present time.
Doesn’t this remind you of some episode in your own life?
Let us have a look at the earliest interpretations of the Arcanum VI. In her book “Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot” Rachel Pollack has investigated the early meanings of this card. There we can find a surprising variety of ideas (with “Love” being only one of them).
The manuscript discovered by Pratesi tells us that this card symbolizes love.
The Comte de Mellet in the essay published in 1781 also refers to love but he also writes about the choice between vice and virtue.
Eliphas Levi is a Tarot investigator who lived in the 19th century. He also refers to vice and virtue but also speaks about union.
Arthur Edward Waite (1857 – 1942) especially emphasizes attraction and union. While most of Waite’s major Arcana pictures are very close to the traditional images as they are found in, for example, the Marseilles tarot, the Lovers is among two distinctly different. In Waite’s sequence the kabbalistic attribution for VI -The Lovers, is the Hebrew letter Zain, corresponding with the zodiacal sign Gemini. It is A. E. Waite who altered the scene and reduced the number of persons to two, a woman and a man. Reducing the traditional three persons to two admit corresponding the card to Gemini.
Let us speak about the Marseille Tarot separately because it is quite an autonomous system in itself.
Now we call this card “The Lovers”, but the French name “L’amoureux” means “the lover” – a singular term. The cupid above the central male figure may suggest that he is in love.
As already mentioned, the traditional tarot image of the Lovers depicts three persons at a crossroad, a young man standing between two women, a younger and an older one – or vice and virtue – making this a card of choice. The choice was seen as between something appropriate but perhaps dull, and something desirable but amoral.
In the Marseille Tarot the women on the man’s sides can be linked to a story about the mythological Greek hero Heracules. According to an allegorical parable, when he was sent to tend cattle on a mountain, he was visited by two allegorical figures—Vice and Virtue—who offered him a choice between a pleasant and easy life or a modest but glorious life: he chose the latter.
So in the Marseille Tarot tradition the Lovers is at a crossroads. The French school emphasized the aspect of choice and in some books this card is even named “The Two Paths”. Often the Lovers card in a Marseille deck may mean a choice between possible partners.
The meaning of the Lovers card much depends upon what cards are next to it. E.g. If the Hierophant appears next to the Lovers, the combination may refer to a marriage; with the Empress – sexual fulfillment, pleasure.
The Lovers represent harmonious union. Often it speaks about strong physical attraction, deep desire and passion. This seems to imply that nothing but good can come of this union, but we have to remember that this is a dualistic card which always has the potential for a not-so-happy ending. We must always keep in mind the potential for conflict despite encouraging beginnings. Love is like a flame that must not be left unattended.
Love has so many colors and nuances.
But, as it is mentioned above, the Lovers card is not just about love and sexuality; it has other meanings which are all related to the duality that we see in the image of the card. So the card is also about an ethical choice, a choice between vice and virtue, about choosing the right path. One might be struggling with temptation, facing an ethical or moral choice, or choosing between right and wrong.
As already said, in some decks, the Lovers shows a man torn between two women – a virgin and a temptress. We need to recognize that this triangle symbolizes the larger dilemmas we face when we are tempted between right and wrong.
It is never an easy task to make an important choice. When the Lovers card appears in a reading, it is important to consider all consequences before acting. The fact that the Lovers is a Major Arcana card indicates that our decisions or choices are very significant so it is essential to choose the right path.
Often, it could be a choice between two possible lovers, or your spouse and someone who you have fallen in love with.
How can you make this choice? Look inside. Trust your Inner Voice. Stay true to yourself. And be completely honest with yourself about the situation.
Another possible meaning of the Lovers card is adolescence: the time when we are entering the grown-up world.
All of these meanings lead us to the conclusion that the Lover has potentially several aspects.
The Lovers Reversed
Keywords: disharmony, discord, emotional conflict, separation, dispute; ideal and reality, imbalance; wrong choice, temptation, interference; moral dilemma.
The Lovers Reversed means, first of all, not love. If someone asks, “Will I meet a partner next month”?, or “Will this relationship become serious?”, or “Does he love me?” the reversed Lovers card says, “Probably not.”
When the Lovers card is in reverse, the serpent becomes the significant symbol.
In a relationship reading, the Lovers reversed indicates that there may be some imbalance. You may feel that a once perfect union is starting to pull to pieces. You might be starting to realize the differences between you and your partner. Someone may be too controlling, or you are both in a struggle for dominance. You might simply need more space right now.
The Lovers reversed may also indicate that the feelings are not mutual. It could also speak about jealously, envy or hurt emotions of one or both of the partners. Also it can be the case that one may be reluctant to open his or her heart to the relationship because of fear of getting hurt. The reversed card might point to stagnation in the relationship. It might be that the third party is interfering into the relationship of the two.
The Lovers reversed often can speak about communication problems in the relationship. It often can point to a relationship that is unhealthy, inharmonious, or challenging.
Mary K. Greer writes that the Lovers Rx may show an intangible union, a blending of spirits rather than bodies. It might be that material circumstances keep the partners apart.
It can also point to some kind of sexual problems.
So one might be experiencing some problems in this relationship but it certainly does not mean it is all over! That may simply mean you need to work on your relationship.
Sometimes the Lovers reversed card can indicate splitting up, separation, or divorce.
Both the upright and reversed Lovers card can indicate the choice between vice and virtue, and an ethnical or moral dilemma that needs to be solved. While upright card may speak about ethical or moral choice already made. In reverse it suggests a temptation to make the opposite decision that is a bad choice. Or it can point to a bad choice already made. You might make bad choices leading to regrets and guilt. That is especially true if someone else is involved.
Sometimes it is about having trouble making a decision. The Lovers upside down also can indicate a hard choice or someone who avoids such a choice.
Often, the reversal of this Major Arcana card indicates a need to bring your attention and energy within, so that you can effectively master the spiritual lesson contained in this card.
If the card speaks of a young person, it may indicate a difficult adolescence.
Also we should always study carefully the flanking cards – they will bring more clarity into the reading.
In any case, the reversed Lovers points to some problems in the relationship.
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