Continuing our series on the Tarot, we turn our attention this week to the Lovers card. One of the most desirable cards in a reading about love & romance, the Lovers signify union, choices and relationships.
The card depicts a naked couple on a beautiful day. The sun shines down on them warmly, the sky is blue, the landscape is green and fertile. The couple represents relationships, union and balance. The harmony between masculinity and femininity is further emphasized in the contrast between the phallic mountain and the fertile valley between the lovers. The Lovers are ruled by the sign of Gemini, the Twins, and so represent duality as much as union of opposites.
Recall that Gemini is an Air sign which governs communication, and then notice the billowing cloud at the center of the card, as well as Archangel Raphael—ruler of communication—hovering above. Air, Raphael and the billowing cloud represent the central importance of communication in a relationship. Communication between two partners is essential to any relationship—be it romantic, professional or platonic.
The divine sunshine from above as well as an angel of God offering benediction illustrates that although the union of these two lovers is physical, sexual and sensual, their relationship is nonetheless blessed as long as there is balance & communication. Here, we’re being taught by the Tarot that finding union with others is one of the most direct ways to experience oneness with God. Other cards in the Tarot depict the dangerous outcomes of misallocating your sexual energy, but the Lovers symbolizes the ideal expression of physical desire in a healthy, balanced relationship.
Notice the tree behind by the man: it is barren except for twelve burning flames, signifying the limitless passions of earthly life and the barren existence they lead to if indulged. And behind the woman, there is another tree, one which may look familiar. Ripe red apples sit nestled among fertile green leaves as a serpent coils around the trunk of the tree. Upon noticing the serpent in the apple tree, you might realize that the couple in the Lovers card is none other than Adam & Eve.
The serpent and the apples represent temptation of earthly sensual objects. The world’s sensual delights are at best a distraction to the spiritual seeker, and at worst a prison of self-indulgence. The serpent reminds us that sensual pleasures can become crippling obsessions unless channeled in a healthy way as the Lovers have done. Of course, the serpent also represents choice, free will and the dilemmas that come with it. That’s why the Lovers card also symbolizes major life choices where the decision will have huge consequences for many years to come.
Also notice that while the man gazes longingly at the woman, the woman gazes instead at the angel above. These stares show us the progression of the spiritual seeker's attention from physical matters (represented by the man and the tree of burning passion) to emotional matters within (represented by the woman), and then finally up to spiritual matters (represented by the angel). By turning our attention away from the sensory delights of the physical world, then inward to emotional matters of the heart and inner world, only then can we transcend the mundane to reach the celestial realms of enlightened knowledge.
When the Lovers appear in a reading, they can symbolize a healthy relationship where communication is clear, intimacy is deep and the passion is hot. So if you’re trying to get a read on your relationship and you pull this card, rest assured that you’ve picked the right partner. In these situations, the Lovers can indicate that you’ve found a soul partner worth building a life with.
Internally, the Lovers signifies a time to align your moral compass and determine what you value. As the Heirophant taught us the traditional moral values that have been handed down to us, now it’s time for us to determine for ourselves what’s valuable to us and what’s not. The Heirophant taught us the rules, while the Lovers asks us to figure out for ourselves which rules are worth adhering to and which aren’t. If you receive the Lovers card in regard to yourself, consider that it’s time to figure out who and what you value.
As a challenge card, the Lovers could indicate a dilemma or major life decision on the horizon. This decision is not trivial and there is a definite right and wrong answer. The Two of Swords and the Two of the Coins can also represent choices, but the major difference is that those cards symbolize false choices, or choices where the opposing outcomes are not really all that different. The Lovers signify choices where the outcomes are not the same at all and will have profound consequences on your life going forward.
In reverse, the Lovers shows imbalance, a lack of communication, and a deteriorating relationship. In relationships, it means that communication has broken down. Imbalance could manifest as one partner falling in love as the other loses interest. Or the imbalance could be financial: one person always paying for everything. Whatever the imbalance, it’s a serious roadblock that must be addressed for the relationship to be saved. Does a reversed Lovers card indicate that your relationship is doomed? No. There’s still time to save it, as long as you communicate clearly and diligently, and fix whatever imbalances there are. But this card in reverse is certainly not a good sign. It means there’s serious trouble that needs attention and it may lead to a realization that you and your partner do not share the same values.