“The LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:9-12, NRSV]
This may be one of the most misunderstood cards in the Tarot deck because it refers to SO much more than sexual love. The Rider-Waite version of this card draws its inspiration from the story of The Fall in Genesis 3. Arthur Waite says “the sun shines in the zenith” which I understand to symbolize the power of the Divine Presence shining upon us. There is also an unspecified “great winged figure with arms extended, pouring down influences.” While Waite doesn’t name this figure, if we take Genesis 3 as our guide it is the Divine Presence, either as an angel emissary to warn the couple of impending danger or Sophia, Holy Wisdom/Holy Spirit, who is trying to help them to “lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” [Prov 9:6]
The Lovers also includes Adam [Heb, adahm, which means “earth creature”] and the woman [Heb. ishshah, which simply means “woman” The name “Eve” does not appear until Genesis 4:1]. The artwork suggests that this is pre-Fall where they have a choice between eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil [which is right behind the woman with the serpent entwined around it] or not.
Waite states the meaning of this card quite beautifully, “The figures suggest youth, virginity, innocence and love before it is contaminated by gross material desire.” It’s interesting to note that in the passage I quoted at the beginning of this post, the “blame game” has commenced: The Divine Presence blames the man, the man blames the woman, the woman blames the snake. This is what happens when love fall apart. It get’s pretty nasty sometimes.
Seen in this context, The Lovers points to so much more than physical love. Ellen Canon Reed, in her magnificent book, The Witches Tarot, echoes this deeper meaning of the card. “The Lovers is a title which has caused many mistakes in interpretation, for we tend to think of lovers only as those involved romantically. A lover is one who loves, and that means all loving relationships, including the threefold relationship depicted on the card. All three figures on the card are you: The man is your Personality, the woman is your Individuality, the other figure is your Spirit.” This is quite an interesting way to reflect on the meaning of the card and what it is saying to you.
The DruidCraft version of it is more sensual with the Lord and Lady intertwined in an untamed embrace. There is a fawn watching them from the distance in the background. But don’t let this image fool you. Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, the creators of the deck, summarize this card by saying “At every moment you have a choice. Love is at the heart of life. All creation is born out of love.”
So when The Lovers appears in a reading it may be calling us to be careful as to who and how we love. It calls us to be “lovers” in the fullest sense of the word where our love for other people and creation is never exploitive or abusive, but is healing and transformative. It is a powerful card, indeed.
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