Choosing to love – The Lovers

Ooh, that Secret Tarot. Always messing with my head.

Today, I drew car number six – The Lovers.

Except it’s not The Lovers, its The Lover, and there’s one guy, apparently trying to pick between a panty-flashing read-headed hussy and a demure woman in a long blue dress (who seems to be secretly giving him the Vs?)  Both women stand at the entrance to a different stone pathway, indicating that he is not only chosing a partner/bedfellow, but an entire path in life. My money’s on Ginger.

The Lovers tarot card - from the Secret Tarot

Gli Innamorati, from the Secret Tarot by Marco Nizzoli

What does it all mean?

I’d previously interpreted this as a card about bringing together opposing parts of oneself, creating a harmonious union between our yin and our yang, creating a whole from two (or more) seperate elements. Yes, it speaks of love, marriage and all that jazz, but for me it’s more about the strength of union – any sort of union. But the more I study this card, the more whisperings of ‘choice’ bob to the surface of my memory. A quick check of the little white book gives me this: ‘Trial, exam, choice in emotional matters, need for a decision.’ Hmm!

Aeclectic Tarot is helpful:

New readers often ask, “What is the Lovers’ card about? Is it about finding love?” Yes, and no. It is possible that the original name of this card was “Love.” The oldest decks call it “The amorous one,” The Lovers being a mistranslation. So really, it’s about one person being “in love” with someone or something.

In interpretation, the card indicates that the querent has come across, or will come across a person, career, challenge or thing (a puppy, a car, a house) that they will fall in love with. They will know instinctively that it was meant for them, even if it means diverging from their chosen path (that is the “Love” part). On the other hand, their common sense must also make a decision on whether or not to go along with this psychic “choice.” There is often a measure of hardship or cost that comes with giving into this spiritual attraction.

That certainly seems to be what’s happening here. This poor hapless lad, what a difficult decision stands before him! Does he keep his family’s honour and choose the ‘lady’, who will surely bear him a fine son, or the prostitute who will show him a good time, but in doing so, will surely ruin him?

It’s hard to put aside annoyance at the whole virgin/whore dichotomy that’s reared it’s head here – in fact I’m thinking it’s enough to put me off the deck. Why is it always the male making an active choice in this card? BUT I’ll ignore it for now because I’m trying to write about one of the archetypal ideas in tarot and it’s fucking annoying when boring, overused heteronormative sexism crops up yet again and spoils the flow. Bleh.

So yeah. What we need is a different image.

Here’s one I really love:


The Lovers, by Michael Janis

For me, this image fulfills many of the card’s various meanings. On the one hand, there are two people who could be lovers. Next, their bodies part-merge like a beautiful venn diagram, indicating the union of two different (opposite) parts, but not entirely – each retains individuality whilst also merging part with the other. Then there’s the specific merging of their brains, representing consciousness – a conscious decision or ‘pshychic “choice”‘ as Aeclectic says. Finally, the two figures are facing away from each other, suggesting to me that their union may well have thrown them off the path they were previously travelling on.

I love this idea that The Lovers can indicate something that you’ll instinctively know was meant for you, something that you fall in love with.

The first thing that springs to my mind is a vocation – many of us have experienced that turning point, where we try out something new after years of working the same job, to realise that it’s all or nothing and we must quit our current position and turn our hand to a new craft. I just went to make a coffee and a stranger in my kitchen told me his story – he’d been a financial ombudsman in London and jacked it all in to follow his calling running a youth hostel in Oban, Scotland. Yowzer.

There’s another element to this card that I’d better bring in too, and that is this idea of this choice being about connecting ourselves with a higher power. In the Waite-Smith tarot (and in many other decks) there’s a man looking over at a woman, whilst she is gazing up at an angel. So in choosing to love and commit to her, the man is also making a commitment to his ‘higher self’, and choosing a righteous spiritual path.

As someone who has dubious feelings about marriage, this begs reinterpretation.

For me, then, this choice is about recognising what we need, deep within ourselves, and being unafraid to make that decision, even though the road may be rocky at first. Like the tarot as a whole, it’s about being true to ourselves. So whether it’s fast-love or life-partner, marriage or not, desk job or youth hostel, this card encourages us to make a decision about what’s right for us.

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  1. Little Red says:

    Thanks Michael. I think your tarot artwork is absolutely beautiful (I used it right back on my second or third post when talking about The Tower too) and I’m glad you liked my thoughts. In an alternative world I’m a publisher of tarot decks – in that case I’d certainly come knocking on your door! <br/>Good luck in Sunderland….and happy new year! <br/>LR x

  2. 3Jane says:

    I used to hate this card because ugh, stereotypical social roles, the guy who is a purchaser and women who attempt to sell their goods.

    But now I can also see another meaning in it. Who is it that makes a choice on this card? It’s not the man, but the women. They get two options for how to present themselves. He’s only got one: every man must aspire to be the alpha male. Granted, it’s not much of a choice that these women have. It’s a lose-lose kind of choice. A lot of choices in life look like this, choosing between the lesser of two evils, because the society doesn’t give you other options.

    Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that this card comes after the Emperor and the Hierophant: one being an enforcer who loves structure and hates ambiguity, and the other a traditional teacher who gives you an education on How to Perform Gender Correctly according to church authority.

    • Beth says:

      Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts 3Jane – that’s a really interesting point about who is presented with what choices. And especially about where it appears in the deck! I’d never thought about that.

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