Meaning is multi-faceted in The Lovers, as it is in all major arcana, but in The Lovers we find exceptional versatility. Whatever deck you usually prefer, the symbolism used in the Rider-Waite illustration is worthy of a few moments of close consideration because of the very specific messages contained within.
The angel Raphael has taken different guises in the Tarot through the ages, including that of the mere Cupid, but in this classic RW interpretation, the angel of the air is an important emissary of the Radiant Solar Energy represented by the Sun in the background. Translated from Hebrew, Raphael literally means “God heals”, and in Islam this angel is Israfel, blower of the trumpet. Recognition in three major world religions lends a powerful credential to the importance of the symbolism of Raphael in the sixth triumph. Raphael symbolizes Superconsciousness, and suggests a connection between the forces found in this card and the state of unlimited possibility found in The Fool. The discussion of Superconsciousness that began in he preceding Hierophant continues here, as well.
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The presence of the angel in relation to the positions of the figures below contains an essential lesson about the nature of the human psyche: We cannot look directly on the face of the Divine. To enter higher consciousness, one must channel the conscious mind to turn to the subconscious, where it is possible to discern messages and clues. In the sixth triumph, Raphael radiates a promise that the seeker who approaches in this manner will be answered in a voice that is larger than just one’s own. Harmony between the inner and outer lives is the prevailing message of The Lovers.
It is here that the Great Work is introduced, symbolized by the mountain. The potential for every person to create something that is greater than the personality is a vital component of The Lovers. The Great Work is specifically referred to by the mountain seven times in the major arcana. It can be illuminating to consider the cards together; lay out triumphs 6, 8 (Strength), 9, 14, 17, 20, and 0. What do they have in common?
The nudes are another symbol that appears five times in the major arcana. The last four are contained in the final few triumphs, after the personality and life experience have been well established, while the naked Lovers burst early onto the scene of personality development, demonstrating that an open heart and mind are vital for a healthy psyche.
The trees behind the Lovers hold some interesting meanings, as well. The lush garden setting is evocative of Eden, and therefore, the man of Adam. Behind him, a tree with twelve flaming fruits represents the signs of the Zodiac and the personality types associated with each one. Three branches of each flame indicate the possibility for three different types of expression, or ultimately, 36 different types of personalities. On Eve’s side, the apple tree suggests the five senses, although in the RW version, only 4 are shown. This Garden of Eden symbolism also brings up the idea of Eve’s Choice. Perhaps that’s where the fifth apple went. The idea of choices, and whether they be for good or for ill, has long been closely associated with The Lovers.
The idea of marriage is frequently a possibility when The Lovers appears in a reading. Mary Greer writes that The Lovers has to do with relationships of any kind, and that it associates “the cards on either side in a reading in balance or attraction”. She also emphasizes that the personality found in The Lovers is able to apply “the moral responsibilities learned in the Hierophant to human interactions”. This card could represent a successful love relationship, or a group that works together harmoniously. Six is the number that is most in balance with all other numbers, and social consciousness is a strong quality of this triumph.
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A person represented by The Lovers will have a cheerful, positive attitude and the virtue of patience. A good listener, this is an intelligent person who radiates warmth, sensitivity, and kindness. The ability to settle disputes may be suggested, as well as a love of domesticity. This is someone who is in touch with both the creative and intellectual aspects of their personality.
Meditate on The Lovers to strengthen the spirit of Cooperation.
Give some thought to your own Great Work.
Many thanks to Killian for sharing her great collection of Tarot decks!
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