In the ancient Marseille Tarot, a young male lover is caught between Virtue and Vice, about to choose one over the other. Above his head lurks Cupid, which means choice is actually illusory. I like this analogy for choice because the truth of the matter is that we don’t know how much we are actually exercising free will in most our choices. So many of them are informed by well-covered bottom layers of our psyche.
In the Smith Waite Tarot (Giant Rider Waite card to the left above), we see Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The angel hovering above them is none other than Archangel Raphael, Guardian of the East, ruler of the Element of Air, as well as Patron of travellers and soul mates.
This is what A.E. Waite says about The Lovers in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot:
The sun shines in the zenith, and beneath is a great winged figure with arms extended, pouring down influences. In the foreground are two human figures, male and female, unveiled before each other, as if Adam and Eve when they first occupied the paradise of the earthly body. Behind the man is the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is behind the woman; the serpent is twining round it. The figures suggest youth, virginity, innocence and love before it is contaminated by gross material desire. This is in all simplicity the card of human love, here exhibited as part of the way, the truth and the life. It replaces, by recourse to first principles, the old card of marriage, which I have described previously, and the later follies which depicted man between vice and virtue. In a very high sense, the card is a mystery of the Covenant and Sabbath.
The suggestion in respect of the woman is that she signifies that attraction towards the sensitive life which carries within it the idea of the Fall of Man, but she is rather the working of a Secret Law of Providence than a willing and conscious temptress. It is through her imputed lapse that man shall arise ultimately, and only by her can he complete himself. The card is therefore in its way another intimation concerning the great mystery of womanhood. The old meanings fall to pieces of necessity with the old pictures, but even as interpretations of the latter, some of them were of the order of commonplace and others were false in symbolism.
The astrological correspondence for The Lovers is Gemini, known as the most chatty sign of the Zodiac, which is apt since communication is said to be the key to successful relationships. Incidentally, the Archangel corresponding with Gemini is Raphael (Mercury, Gemini, Virgo).
In the Frideborg Tarot, we have two lovers in an embrace, with Luna watching over them, alluding to ‘great mystery of womanhood’ as stated by A.E. Waite. On the ground there are apples. One of them has surely been bitten already, leading to the necessary fall from grace and ignorance to redemption and knowledge. There is darkness all around – The golden glow of Paradise has been replaced by night. Desire and the urge to merge opposites is in focus.
In the Motherpeace Tarot, two geometric figures – one black and one white – spring forth from two ancient Greek jars, uniting to form a rainbow in the middle. The pink ground is the colour of the heart chakra, as is the green ocean in the distance. According to the author, the card represents ‘choice and rushing headlong to whatever the heart desires.’ Tilted back there could be hesitation due to a lack of belief that we can have what our heart truly desires. Tilted forward, we could go about manifesting our choice with great faith in our own ability, by asking someone out or applying for that dream job. Reversed, this card speaks of a falling apart, conflict, separation, power struggles, and the age-old battle of the sexes, which has its roots in Patriarchy.We are our choices. ― Jean-Paul Sartre Click To Tweet
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