Matters of the heart are one of the most popular reasons that people tend to seek out the services of a Tarot reader and even in non-love related readings, the appearance of The Lovers card is generally met with a frisson of delight. However, should we be so ready to assume that The Lovers is a herald of romantic interest or does it have some other meaning hidden up its sleeve?
Looking At The Lovers
Each of the 78 cards of the Tarot Deck tells part of a story. In its entirety, this story is known as The Fool’s Journey; a tale that represents our travels along life’s path and all the lessons we have to learn and the challenges we must face in order to reach our full potential. Each card has its own, unique picture and portion of that tale to tell. In order to understand the deeper meaning of The Lovers, we must start with the artwork.
In most decks, The Lovers are represented as a man and woman, standing naked by two trees. Often, one of the trees is flowering. However, other decks show The Lovers as a man standing between two women. Also present is an angel or cupid, often depicted as an ethereal being, looking down on the two figures. This character may also be shown as a more earth-bound being, but is unmistakeably angelic.
The Story Of The Lovers
According to this part of The Fool’s Journey, the Fool comes to a crossroad. At this point in his development, he is confident, full of energy and with a definite purpose in mind; he knows already which of the roads he is going to take; the one marked out by the flowering tree. However, the Fool comes to a sudden halt; standing by another road marked by a fruit tree, is a woman. The Fool has already had encounters and relationships in his past and some of the women he has been involved with have been far more beautiful than this one. Yet, looking at her, the Fool falls completely in love. As he speaks to her, the feeling grows stronger; they appear to have so much in common. The woman seems to know what he’s thinking and can even finish his sentences for him; it’s as though he’s discovered a missing part of himself.
The Fool’s original plans are rocked. While he’s aware that, by becoming involved with her, he’ll have to forgo his original purpose, there is something divine about their meeting. Although he knows that becoming involved with the woman will bring its own problems and dangers, he decides to choose her, rather than adhere to his original route. They leave together, following the road marked by the fruit tree. Like the fruit, the Fool knows that the woman will sustain him through times of trouble.
Initially, the card seems to be all about love; all the ingredients are there and the story it tells seems riddled with romance. However, the earliest name given to this card was ‘Love’ and it is occasionally referred to as ‘The Amorous One.’ Love is a two-way street, so there is the strong possibility that this card is about one person’s feelings, rather than two; that one person is in love with someone or something.
The Importance Of Choice
Another theme of The Lovers is choice; the Fool has to choose between the woman and his original route. Early depictions of the card had a cupid figure aiming his arrow between the pair, as though he was choosing which one to shoot. Subsequent decks showed a man having to choose between two women or a man being introduced to the woman by a third party. The angelic figure is generally believed to a representation of the archangel Raphael. Raphael was believed, in the Jewish and Christian faiths, to be an angel of healing whilst in the Islamic faith he was perceived as a herald of Armageddon.
Raphael is strongly associated with the planet Mercury and the element of Air. Mercury is also associated with the star sign Gemini; the Twins. In biblical references, Adam and Eve are often seen as twins, separated on Earth. In the story of the Lovers it is as though those two twins have been reunited to complete each other on a profound level.
However, the association with Gemini has further meanings and this is where we can gain a greater understanding of what lies behind The Lovers. Looking at the card, the traditional symbols for love and passion are absent; love is typically represented by water and passion, by fire. Gemini is an Air sign and the element of Air is most often used to symbolise the higher self or psyche; it’s all about communication on a higher level.
The Conflict Of Emotion And Reason
Using these discoveries to inform the way we see the card, we can begin to piece together its true meaning. The Lovers is not about love as we understand it. Rather, it is about spiritual attraction; the arrival of something in our lives that appeals to us on a deeper level. It may not be a person at all; it may be the offer of a new career, the decision to get a pet or the discovery of that perfect house on the market. The thing to which you are attracted can be large or small, but the choice to go with it will have some bearing on your life to come.
In addition to the ‘gut feelings’ that we all experience about certain things, the card reminds us that, ultimately, we will have to make a conscious decision about which route to pursue. The Lovers symbolises the regular conflict between our emotional and our rational selves; while something might speak to us and register on an emotional level, there may be other factors that we need to consider. While The Lovers can represent the arrival of a soul mate, it tends to suggest that we will become enamoured of something and have to decide whether it is worth the risk to get involved with it.