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Meaning of the Tarot card The Lovers


Some frequent keywords are:

Love relationship ----- Union ----- Passion ----- Sexuality

Pleasure ----- Humanism ----- Desire ----- Personal beliefs

Individual values ----- Physical attraction ----- Connection

Affinity ----- Bonding ----- Romance ----- Heart

Following the Marseille Tradition, also there are:

Choice ----- Doubt ----- Difficult decision ----- Dilemma ----- Temptation

The Lovers shows a young man and woman; most usually side by side, and often naked. The Rider-Waite-Smith card shows them as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; the Tree of Life appears behind Adam and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil appears behind Eve, complete with Serpent. The sun shines directly overhead, underneath which is a winged figure with arms spread.


In the original Italian traditions the card was called Love. This card was generally designed to give an uncomplicated allegory of love. The picture usually denoted a couple, with Cupid hovering above their heads. The Marseille tradition, originating in the 16th or early 17th century, introduced a new element in the form of a third person. The card now presented some permutation on the theme of "choice" or "temptation", where one lady had been portrayed as more modest, and another as more sensuous. During the 17th century, as the French card makers began to print titles on the cards, they named this card "L'Amoureux" - The Lovers. Waite's deck eliminates the third figure bringing us closer to the Italian tradition of a male and female place side by side drawn together by love. He chose to keep the Marseille name for the card.


In some traditions, The Lovers represents relationships and choices. Its appearance in a spread indicates some decision about an existing relationship, a temptation of the heart, or a choice of potential partners. Often an aspect of the Querant's life will have to be sacrificed; a bachelor(ette)'s lifestyle may be sacrificed and a relationship gained (or vice versa), or one potential partner may be chosen while another is turned down. Whatever the choice, it should not be made lightly, as the ramifications will be lasting. The Lovers is associated with the star sign Gemini, and indeed is also known as The Twins in some decks. Other associations are with Air, Mercury, and the Hebrew letter ? (Zayin).

Mythopoetic Approach

The Lovers represent the impulse that drives us out of the garden, towards adulthood. Sometimes, that impulse manifests as curiosity (Eve, Pandora, Psyche); sometimes it manifests as sexual desire (most horror and teen movies); sometimes it manifests as duty (a soldier heeding the call). Could even manifest as the intense desire to go on an adventure botany quest. The quest for the Other. Whatever it is, once we have stepped passed the threshold, there is no returning to the garden. The Lovers is associated through its cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Devil (Tarot card), Key 15. He is often the source of the impulse, or that thing inside of us that responds to it. The Devil's energy is absolutely necessary, absolutely deadly. The Lovers also represent raw desire. The Buddha teaches us that all life is suffering, the root of suffering is desire, and that desire can be overcome. The Buddha provides one path back to the garden - or to a better garden. Hajo Banzhaf suggests that if the Major Arcana is seen as a map of the Sun's circuit of the Sky, The Lovers is high noon. Consciousness at its fullest. Frequently, cards show the Sun in the position of noon. Two trees, bearing fruit and flame, the intoxication of the material world. When The Lovers appear in a spread, it typically draws the Querant's attention to what ever impulse drove her from home. What ever impulse made him move out, reject the faith of the fathers, made him accept the call. That original impulse should be honored, but if it dominates the Querant's life, it will grow tiresome; reliving the glory days like Al Bundy reliving multiple touchdowns in one football game, reliving the intoxication of a first love. The call must be renewed. It can signal an examination of the Querant's relationship with the garden is needed, be it exile or absence. Sometimes, it can be useful to go beyond Eden and talk about other gardens: the bittersweet Kingdom of Logres built by Arthur too keep back the rising dark for a generation, the idyllic Hobbits' Shire (Middle-earth) village of Lord of the Rings, or just a happy childhood. Look for misty eyes of memory, or bitterness at the lack of a past paradise. The Lovers are also a reminder that we need others to become fully human. Lovers, friends, adversaries -each one teaches us, each ones stretches us. Each can kill us. Each can break our hearts.

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