Of all the cards in the Trumps Major, The Lovers may be among the more misunderstood. Commonly, it’s associated with romantic love, and while it can stand for that in a reading, it—and the allegory it relates—is actually much more complex, and more ambiguous, than “boy meets girl.” Read closely, the card can yield many meanings.
First, consider Eve’s body language, her arms flung apart and palms outstretched. She seems to be pleading innocence—”Who, me?”—but innocence of what? Obviously, of succumbing to the temptation of the serpent who is whispering in her ear. Adam, by contrast, seems clueless in his rapt state; he seems unable to be concentrate on anything else but his beloved, and he has not an inkling of what is about to come down from on high. Clearly, the lines of communication between the first couple have broken down. In a reading, this could be indicative of a person who has trouble expressing her true feelings to others, who is too easily distracted in her relationships, who cannot accept responsibility for her actions, or who is unhealthily obsessed with a lover to the point of inviting trouble into her life.
Some of these characteristics can be defined by the astrological sign that governs The Lovers: Gemini the Twins, which can be a psychological mixed bag. Geminis can be sharp intellects, incisive wits, gifted artists and compelling storytellers, but they can also be (and I’m speaking with first-hand knowledge here) flighty, fickle, mercurial, vain and prone to needless dithering—the “Hamlet” syndrome. On the “family tree”of Tarot, Gemini is, to a great extent, the red-headed stepchild of the Zodiac; this is illustrated by the pip cards that govern the three decans of the sign. Taken together, they are arguably the most problematic in the entire deck:
More to the point, this sequence reminds us that when we open up our hearts and join together as lovers—especially as Lovers in spirit as well as in the flesh—we also open our hearts to the possibility of heartbreak and loss. This is a perfectly natural emotional reaction for us; when we lose someone we have truly loved, we feel a place of emptiness in our souls where our loved one’s presence was once felt. Problems only arise, however if we have difficulty processing these emotions, or if we continue to cling to them to the point of psychological paralysis; the Eight of Swords demonstrates how this emotional “straitjacket” imprisons and blinds the sufferer to reality; the Nine shows how it can upset our unconscious as well as our waking existence; and the Ten illustrates what finally happens to us if we refuse to “let go” and get on with our lives. When The Lovers appears in a reading in the proximity of one of these Gemini pips, it could be indicative of a deep psychic scar that the querent is still carrying around with her. Combined with a court card from fiery Wands, and it could additionally mean that she is “carrying a torch” for a long-lost love, or “burning with desire” for a new one.
In some older versions of Tarot, The Lovers are depicted not as Adam and Eve but as—in the case pictured at right—a man torn between two would-be paramours, both of whom are vying for his affection as Cupid steadies his arrow and prepares to let it fly. Just as this Tarot image implies an important choice in the offing, so too the Waite deck implies a choice to be made, albeit a choice between the “better angels of our nature” and our lower, basest instincts.In any event, another meaning of The Lovers involves an important decision or choice that the querent may need to make, or has recently made. This could be a decision of the heart, or it could be entirely unrelated to romance–an upcoming business or legal decision, for example—depending on the other cards in the spread and/or the nature of the question the querent is asking.
Finally, as we discussed in our earlier review of the card, the act of original sin and the Fall from Eden are best seen in retrospect as blessings in disguise, for if there is no sin in the world, there can be no atonement; and if there is no atonement, there can be no salvation. Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke: though he squandered his inheritance in dissolute living, he returned to his home, apologized for his misdeeds, prostrated himself before his father and offered to work as the man’s servant. Having repented of his sin, he was forgiven immediately, and a feast was summoned in his honor. God made us imperfect for a reason, and our greatest mission here is not to pretend that we are without error but that we learn from our errors—and in so doing, become a little more perfected each day.