(The Lovers Card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**
We just passed Valentine’s Day, so this might be a good time to examine the Major Arcana card known as The Lovers. Before we begin, let’s quickly define and describe some terms.
There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.
Archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.
Each Major Arcana card corresponds to an archetype, an image, a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s get to work breaking this one down.
Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is The Mother and The Emperor is The Father; we easily understand these archetypes because most of us have these people in our lives. Other Tarot Majors represent ideas or feelings or concepts or stories, rather than people. Temperance represents balance, The Wheel represents fate and Justice represents fairness, all three offering archetypes of ideas rather than people. Our card this month, The Lovers, has several archetypes: the Two Paths, the Union of Mature Opposites, and of course, Romantic Love. With The Lovers we learn how to discern and understand the interactions of duality, of the connections and interactions between pairs with strong connections, and with pairs of opposites (after all, we can’t understand light until we understand the darkness).
In keeping with the idea of duality, there are two traditional images of The Lovers. One shows a man and woman standing before an official or religious leader, with Cupid flying above the pair and shooting an arrow toward them. There is often a brightly colored sun behind the Cupid. A few versions of this image are a bit more sinister, showing a couple holding hands and another woman alongside them, sometimes seen as “the other woman.” Other times, one woman is seen as representing virtue and the other, sensuality. The other traditional image shows an angel with wings spread wide; standing before the angel are a naked man and woman. Behind them all are a blue sky, a blazing sun, and in the distance is a mountain. Often there is a tree behind the man and woman; the tree behind the man is usually heavy with fruit and the tree behind the woman contains a large serpent, reminding us of the Garden of Eden. Many Lovers cards offer other versions of embracing lovers, usually surrounded by flowers and green growing things.
The Lovers is the number six card of the Major Arcana. The number 6 represents victory over the obstacles of 4 (stability that could turn into stagnation) and 5 (movement that upsets stability), and is considered a perfect number because 6 equals the sum of its dividers (the numbers 1, 2 and 3 add up to 6). Perfect numbers are rare; the ancient Greeks only recognized four: 8,128, 496, 28 and 6. This number is also the smallest number above 0 that isn’t a prime or a square number. Snowflakes have 6 points, as does the Star of David, and honeycombs have 6 sides. Because 12 is seen as a number of cosmic order (there are 12 months in a year, and time is measured in units of 12 hours) and is used in other measurements (we use the dozen and the gross as units of measurement), 6 can be seen as representing the concept of “half.” It is also the highest number of the dice and is seen as lucky. The “sixth sense” represents ESP as well as hunches. And finally and quite appropriately for our purpose today, the number 6 is the symbol of Venus, the Goddess of love and beauty.
The Lovers corresponds with the element of Air, and thus the Minor Arcana suit of Swords, the playing cards suit of Spades, the direction of East, and the colors Yellow or Gold. Air is connected to the intellect, and to action, challenges, and a struggle that brings an outcome. This element represents the focused intent to bring forth manifestation, and many times it indicates a struggle as we bring an idea into reality. The element of Air can encourage a focus on truth and clarity, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and encourage a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart.
In astrology, The Lovers corresponds with the astrological sign of Gemini, the Twins. Gemini is about communication of all kinds, and about collecting information and stimulating the mind. Geminis are a mix of yin and yang, and they can easily see both sides of an issue. Gemini is all about the intellect, the mind, and the thinking process. They think clearly and make use of logic, and at the same time make use of their fertile imagination. Gemini is a mutable sign, and thus they can sometimes change their mind on a whim or not follow through to the end of a project, but this mutability makes them adaptable and flexible, too.
In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Lovers corresponds with the Hebrew letter Zain (or Zayin), the seventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet and a member of the archetypal group; this letter represents the spear, sword or weapon, and it is also connected to food and to sustenance.
On the Tree of Life, The Lovers represents Path 17, running between Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify) and Binah (female receptive energy and the origin of form and structure), connecting the Pillar of Balance to the Pillar of Form and the Sacred Feminine of Binah. A keyword for Tiphareth is “Beauty” and a keyword for Binah is “Understanding” so we could say that the 17th Path shows us the Beauty of Understanding as well as an Understanding of Beauty. The 17th Path is one of the paths that crosses Da’at, The Abyss, which tells us that The Lovers is not as simple as it appears on its surface.
Within the Major Arcana, The Lovers can be seen as connected to The Hierophant (which is about the group), and The Devil (which is about bondage, dependencies and addictions). Often, the traditional images of The Hierophant, The Lovers and The Devil have similarities; in many decks each often show s two people standing before some figure of authority or power. The Lovers is also connected to the Minor Arcana Two of Cups, another card that tells of duality, connections and love, and the Queen of Cups, the personification of love and compassion.
The Lovers of the Thoth Tarot has it all: a majestic priest (The Hermit of the Major Arcana), a blindfolded Cupid with bow drawn, a royal bride (who holds a cup) and bridegroom (who holds a lance). Before them are two children; on either side of the children are a white eagle (representing The Empress) and a red lion (representing The Emperor). At the very front of the card is the Orphic egg (the source of all manifestation), and around the egg is coiled the serpent Ophion (the fertilizer and protector of the egg). Above it all is an arch made of Swords. Crowley saw The Lovers as representing the alchemical process of Solution (the process that mixes a solid, gas or another liquid with a liquid, so that one substance seems to disappear into the other).
The Tarot of Bones (the awesome deck by Lupa that I reviewed last month month) Lovers card shows an image of a pair of Galapagos albatross skulls. These birds (who can live up to 50 years and who mate for life) are apart from their mates for most of the year, but in the spring when they reunite to make babies, they perform an elaborate mating dance as they greet and become reacquainted with their partners. The Tarot of Bones Companion Book sums up The Lovers nicely as “The pinnacle of romance and compatibility, bound together through mutual attraction and care.”
The Haindl Tarot Lovers card is chock full of symbolism: a red rose (love) superimposed with the Star of David (as above, so below and the four elements), with each point of the star adorned with a leaf (element of Earth, fertility, Nature); a spear (Wands, element of Fire) pointed down (ownership), and a unicorn (purity, innocence and enchantment). There is a tree on either side of the couple, reminding us of the Garden of Eden and the Trees of Life and Knowledge found there. An important symbol is the fact that the two Lovers hold each other’s hands behind a golden Cup, telling us that while we have many important personal choices in our lives, choices that can affect our physical environment as well as our emotional and mental selves, love is in front of it all.
The Shadowscapes Tarot Lovers card shows a couple who are kissing; they look into each other’s eyes and do not see the sun blazing overhead, the gold and gem-encrusted crown being offered to them. They only experience the oneness of passion and love that brings true union. This card tells of love and a union that can be based on romance, but also can be about the melding of both the heart and the mind, about communion and sharing, and it can even represent the transformative power of love.. The Shadowscapes Lovers card reminds us that this is about choice (and choosing can sometimes be a struggle) and about determining our own values.
The Lovers of the Gateway to the Divine Tarot are not quite touching. The image shows them at that moment just before a kiss that will be life-changing. Between them, Cupid’s arrow flies into the apple of desire that is growing on the Tree of Knowledge, and before them is the uncoiling serpent of awakening desire. Around them are four pillars decorated with lovers’ knots. This card represents relationships, intimacy, communication, unity, and choice, and the motivational power of love. The Lovers also can represent a choice between vice and virtue.
The Lovers presents the two halves that when united with balance are greater than the sum of their parts. This card is about love, but it is also about thinking! Remember, The Lovers corresponds with the element of Air and with the intellect and the workings of the mind. This card is about our personal values, and how they affect our choices and the promises we make to others.
The Lovers is about a one-to-one connection that we choose to allow, or not allow. We’ve all experienced both the pleasures and the pains associated with loving someone else. Trusting in the power of love, even though our minds may be giving other advice, is a very brave personal choice.
And for anyone who believes in the existence of Deity, any love that we humans may feel or experience is an echo or a reflection of the purest and most powerful love offered to us by Deity. The Lovers can be seen to bring us a true understanding of the beauty of love, an emotion which can cure us or kill us, and to show us the Divine nature of the choice to open ourselves to love.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.
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