Learning to Love
I’ve been invited to join a new Tarot Blog Hop! The Tarot Rebels Blog Hop works with non-traditional decks – that’s what makes them rebels. This is a good stretching exercise for me. I’m a Waite girl through and through.
I do have an extensive deck collection. I’m excited to dust off my tarot shelves and reach for the decks that I don’t tend to use in professional readings.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, our assignment this month is to contemplate Major Arcana 6, the Lovers. To see what other bloggers did with this topic, click on the badge on the bottom of this post.
The Lovers card examples I am picturing here are, from left to right, The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson, Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark, Chrysalis Tarot by Holy Sierra and Toney Brooks and Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts. (All are published by US Games Systems, Inc.)
Each of these four Lovers departs from the Waite image of the man gazing longingly at the woman while the woman seems to long instead for the angel.
The Hermetic Tarot Lovers is based on the “Esoteric Workings of the Secret Order of the Golden Dawn”. The card pictures Andromeda tied to the rock, while Perseus comes to her rescue. The card’s Esoteric Title is “Children of the Voice Divine”. This title highlights the concept of communication that is so important to this card.
In the top middle of the card we see a bow and arrow that reminds us to study the card of Temperance, related to Sagittarius, as we study the Lovers. I have often contemplated the similarities between Gemini-Lovers and Sagittarius-Temperance, but had never before seen anyone else draw this connection. Perhaps I need to study the Golden Dawn tarot traditions more seriously!
Celestial Tarot is based on astrology. Here we see the Lovers simply illustrated as the Gemini Twins.
Chrysalis Tarot pictures a couple in nature, surrounded by animals. At the center of this card is Cernunnos, the Celtic God of fertility and animals. Of the four, this is my favorite illustration. I love the art of Holly Sierra, yet I often struggle with the rebellious nature of Chrysalis Tarot. I honor Cernunnos and understand his symbolic place here. Nonetheless, I bristle at illustrating the airy Lovers with earthy Cernunnos.
Finally, Ancestral Path Tarot shows a nude couple embracing. It has only been within the past four decades that we commonly see decks with the Lovers card bearing obviously sexual images. We can see the Great Rite in this card. In divination, a card with such a romantic and sexual image easily speaks to the passion and romance that is so often ironically missing in more traditional versions of the Lovers.
Other modern decks that depict the Lovers in a sensual pose include Ciro Marchetti’s Gilded Tarot, Kay Steventon's Spiral Tarot and the Morgan-Greer Tarot.
Now that we have seen a variety of depictions, we have to ask, what can this card actually signify?
As Key 6 of the Major Arcana, the archetype of the Lovers is the syzygy, or “Divine Couple”. That lends credence to the decks, readers and authors who depict and describe romance, sex and marriage in this card.
For me, Major Arcana cards all teach us specific, significant, unavoidable lessons along life’s path. Every tarot reader knows that questions about love and romance are top of list for many of our clients. What can we learn about love from the Lovers?
To me, the deeper lessons of the Lovers can be found in its numerology and astrology.
I see Six as the number of service, glory and success. When thinking about the Lovers, I put an emphasis on “service”. All truly functional long-term couples know that the success and glory of a relationship can happen only when each partner is truly dedicated to serving the other.
The Lovers as Gemini, so artfully illustrated in Celestial Tarot, speak to us of balance and integration, of yin and yang and the union of opposites. Here we can clearly see why The Hermetic Tarot would have us look to Key 14, Temperance, and its process of sacred alchemy. When properly blended, the product is greater than the sum of its parts. A divine relationship, whether of love, business or collaboration, can feel like that. We are each better with each other than we are without.
Related to Gemini, the elemental association of the Lovers is mutable Air. When I was a much younger tarot student, this was my first clue that the Lovers card cannot always be interpreted simply as a predictor of romance (which would be more of a Water thing) or of hot passionate sex (definitely a fire thing).
Air relates to the powers of the mind – to integrity, communication and decisions.
Here is where the real lesson of the Lovers lies for me. Whatever relationship you might be working on, or whatever you might be trying to integrate or balance within your life, you will never get far without honest communication and wise decisions.
Finally, there’s the name of the card “The Lovers”. Lover is an interesting word. In the days before marriage equality, “Lover” was often used in the LBGT community to describe your same-sex partner, whether it was a casual hookup or a lifelong partnership.
Recently, I’ve been struggling to learn to play the Pete Seeger song “Old Devil Time” on my guitar. (I’m a wiz at tarot, marginal at music.)
In this song, each verse ends with the words “My lovers gather ‘round and help me rise to fight you one more time.” The devils being fought are time, fear, pain and hate.
I don’t think Pete Seeger was referring to a polyamorous pod when he sang of his lovers gathering ‘round.
In this context, I see “lovers” as the opposite of “haters”, and as synonymous with “loving community”.
Can Major Arcana 6, the Lovers, teach us a lesson about agape – our love for Spirit, and Spirit’s love for us, or philia, which is brotherly and sisterly love?
Of course it can, and the directive is the same. When we, like the twins of Gemini, see ourselves in the people around us, no matter how different we may be one from another, we find our commonality and community.
Forget Valentine’s Day; for me this card teaches more than romance, it teaches peace. At a time when our world is polarized and divided, the Lovers can help us find a way to unite and live and work together in harmony.
That way is not the sweetness of romance, nor the heat of passion. That way comes from the logical decision to communicate with each other and trust each other.
It is only from that place of commitment, communication and trust that we can ever hope to truly love one another.