IT IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK…
lIt is very easy to assign a literal meaning to THE LOVERS card. After all, it is a concept we encounter almost daily and the meaning seems to be a shoe-in. Alas, how wrong we would be.
In fact, the early versions of the card (i.e. the Marseilles deck) named this card “The Lover” and showed one man between two women. It was not until later decks (i.e. Rider Waite and its followers) that we see a man and a woman, and romantic overtures in THE LOVERS card.
In fact, THE LOVERS is not about the union of a man and a woman. It is about the union of opposites in oneself. Carl Jung stated that neurosis is a result of tensions between the ego (the ‘I’, the conscious) and the subconscious. It is only when the two are united that we become whole.
And so it is in THE LOVERS card. In this card, a man, Sun is self-consciousness. A woman, Moon is the subconsciousness. They are opposites. Yet, when they united as the Yin and Yang, they compliment each other and become ONE. Here, we are reminded of THE TOWER and THE HANGED MAN. Both of those cards, very clearly tell us that the ‘I’ must die (i.e. merge into the ‘we’) in order to reach the true reality, the ONE.
In the words of Rachel Pollack, “When we feel most human – week, vulnerable, struggling – we must embrace our own divinity. When we feel most angelic and powerful, wise, archetypal, we should make sure we embrace our humanity. And these two aspects do not simply join together, they love each other. This too is the message of the card” (Rachel Pollack ‘Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings.)
On the Tree of Life, THE LOVERS is the path between Tipheret (beauty) and Binah (understanding). It is through the beauty (marriage) of the union of opposites that we reach Binah (understanding of ONE). It is only when our dualities are united by the Spiritual Self that we reach what the ancients would call ‘the Garden of Eden.’ In another path, the TEMPERANCE card encouraged us to integrate our Personality in subordination to the Ego. Here, in the LOVERS, we integrate the totality of the Self. Basically, TEMPERANCE is the balance of the Lower Self; THE LOVERS is the balance of the Higher. (Robert Wang, “The Qabalistic Tarot.”)
In this card, underneath the Yin-Yang is a road split into two. A burning bush is ablaze in between them. The burning bush represents Shekhina (God’s wisdom – divine Anima.) It reminds us that THE LOVERS is all about choices and options.
In a Tarot Reading, THE LOVERS can represent one of the following:
- Union of opposites
- Lover affair