Truest of Partners: The Lovers Tarot Card

The meaning of The Lovers card and how to interpret it in a reading

lovers tarot card

Image courtesy of Instantgo Blog.

There are some tarot cards whose reputations have been mutilated and twisted by the media, such as The Tower and Death major arcana cards. Another frequently manipulated card is The Lovers-- which, contrary to its name, does not necessarily indicate true and romantic love.

Let’s explore The Lovers deeper:

  • Why The Lovers doesn’t always mean love
  • How to build a relationship with The Lovers card
  • How to interpret The Lovers in a reading

Get comfy, grab a pen and paper, and let’s get started.

Modern decks have done a wonderful job of depicting inclusive lovers images. Image courtesy of Create Magick.

The Lovers doesn’t always mean love

What are lovers? While it is true that lovers are generally in love or lust with each other, they are also equals who are engaging in a mutually beneficial, enriching, balanced relationship. While they are complete individuals unto themselves, together they create a new whole or unity that is magical.

So while The Lovers card can indicate romance it’s really about relationships that are harmonious and in balance. In a Love reading, this card will most likely refer to an affair that will go well and be healthy, if it is upright. If it is reversed, the relationship won’t work in its current condition and may be toxic. But in Money, Career, or general readings it may simply indicate a solid and harmonious relationship-- possibly with yourself.

Along the major theme of harmony, there lies within The Lovers card the chance that drawing it in a reading may not have anything to do with a relationship at all. It could be that you are facing a dilemma, problem, or choice to make that is important, and you are advised to take the slow and informed approach-- since both are often achieved by a thorough job. Giving in to the temptation to take the easy route may result in a muddied affair and backfire.

Depending on the theme of your tarot deck, The Lovers could take on the guise of famous affairs or soulmates, such as Romeo and Juliet, or Cupid and Psyche. They could also be mated swans, as in the Wild Unknown tarot deck, or Adam and Eve, as in the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Whether tragic or glorious, endearing or Biblical, The Lovers are always well-matched.

How might images like the sun and moon or death reflect the message of The Lovers card? Image courtesy of Holistic Career & Life Purpose Guidance.

How to build a relationship with The Lovers

Building a relationship with your tarot deck is much like building a relationship with another human being-- you must work at it, refresh it from time to time, spend quality time being familiar with it, and explore each other. If your tarot deck is working in sync with you, the relationship should reveal as much about the deck as the deck reveals about you.

Sounds a lot like The Lovers, actually…

Let’s start building your relationship with The Lovers by exploring some of the artwork. In the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck, The Lovers are depicted as Adam and Eve with the archangel Raphael above them and the Tree of the Fruit of Knowledge behind them. What do you know about this Bible story? What do you know about Raphael? Why is the tree whole and fruitful on Eve’s side, but on fire on Adam’s side? What might that symbolize?

If you’ve never read the story, you should read it a few times-- there are several versions of the Bible, so you should make an attempt to read at least three different versions. It might also be interesting to read and compare it to the version(s) inside a Torah, since Judaism is the original Abrahimic religion that gave birth to both Christianity and Islam. Keep a journal entry open and fill it with notes, identifying the elements from the story that you see in the card, and commentary about how it all ties into the idea of relationships, balance, harmony and even love.

Read up on a few other legendary lovers, whose myths and glories Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith would’ve been familiar and fascinated by-- we’d recommend Cleopatra and her famous affairs with Caesar and Antony, the goddess Aphrodite and her various lovers (she had a husband!), Cupid and Psyche, Isis and Osiris, and Odin and Frigg. Since Genesis is involved in the traditional artwork for this card, read up on other creation stories.

Folklore is another rich source of information, because it has the weight of generations and the niches of locality about it. There is a wonderful story called East of the Sun, West of the Moon that is definitely worth a read and a journal entry. And where do you think Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson, and the Grimm’s Brothers got their inspiration for Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Princess and the Pea, and Beauty and the Beast? For stories featuring great relationships that aren’t romantic, check out The Wild Swans and think about the relationship Elise has with her brothers. A more modern take would be Charles de Lint’s short story “Saskia” found in his second Newford anthology, Moonlight and Vines.

If nonfiction is more your style, The Journal of the Mythic Arts has a wonderful nonfiction archive chock-full of resources on myth, legend, folklore, art and more. The Sacred Text Internet Archive is another fantastic resource-- they have digital copies of anything sacred, spiritual, mythological and more in various languages and versions, as well as scholarly articles and books about them.

As you read, and think, keep a journal. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Why do you think Adam and Eve were chosen to represent The Lovers in the RWS deck? Aren’t they problematic?
  • Do you know anyone personally in your life who would represent The Lovers to you?
  • How can you internalize The Lovers and build a better balance and harmony within yourself?
  • What do you think were your best relationships, both romantic and non? Where was the balance/equality/harmony?
  • Why did your worst relationships not work out-- where was the problem located?
  • What is your ideal relationship like? Write down your answer, then come back to this question repeatedly and assess how your answer changes.
  • Find paintings of lovers-- what do they have in common?
  • How does your tarot deck’s artwork for The Lovers differ from the traditional? How has the symbolism changed?
Think about the meanings of these two cards. How might they relate to each other? How does the artwork link them? Image courtesy of Stars and Tarot.

Interpreting The Lovers card in a reading

Let’s do a practice run interpreting The Lovers in a reading. Perhaps you shuffle the cards, asking: “What do I need to know right now?” You pull the 3 of Cups, the 2 of Swords, and The Lovers. Maybe for kicks and giggles, you pull the card at the bottom of the deck for clarification-- it’s The Chariot.

Wow-- that’s a pretty little balance of major and minor arcana. But hey, sometimes that happens.

Your notes (because every good tarot reader keeps notes on their readings) should look something like this:

  • 3 of Cups-- harmony, celebration, good times-- three is a common sacred number-- my closest friends and family
  • 2 of Swords-- decisions, choices, use your head-- two is duality, polarity, choice-- swords are intellectual
  • The Lovers-- balance, harmony, relationships, attraction-- soulmates
  • The Chariot-- movement, control over forward trajectory, victory-- be careful lest you crash-- the rush won’t last forever

Step back and look at the bigger picture. Jot down any intuitive or immediate messages you get. For us, here’s what we see:

How do friends and family relate to decisions? Probably they give you advice. In this case, you’ve been listening to them about your relationships, possibly romantic ones. They’ve heavily influenced your decisions in the past. Did they lead to happy endings, lessons good/bad? The Chariot indicates that something is just barely controlled, but chariot drivers had to master not just their horses, but guide them through how to maneuver the chariot. Perhaps the message is that you’ve let your friends and family have too much influence over your decisions, particularly regarding relationships. It’s time to trust yourself to know your own heart, and make up your own mind.

Let’s try another reading, but this time, we’re going to ask you questions to guide your thought process a little. Share with us in the comments what you make of it!

This time, you’re having some health issues. Nothing major-- just some digestive trouble like a bubbly stomach and gas. You haven’t been sleeping well either. Your diet has been all right, but lately you’re eating more carby things to soak up some of the acid and try to calm your stomach.

You’ve made a doctor’s appointment, but you decide to do a reading, because you sense there is more to this than you realize. You shuffle and get these cards:

  • The Lovers Rx
  • The 5 of Swords
  • The 9 of Swords

First, jot down any intuitive thoughts you get from feeling the cards and looking at them. Then check the guidebook meanings (if you don’t have them memorized-- and don’t feel badly if you don’t!) and jot down keywords.

Step back a minute. Where do each of these cards apply in your life right now? What story do the cards seem to tell? Think about what is in common with the meanings of these cards-- how do they relate to each other?

Write your answers in your journal, and revisit as more information comes to light. This will also help build your relationship with your tarot deck.

How does the artwork relate to the meaning of the card? Image courtesy of Neil V. Fernando on Dribbble.

The Lovers card is often considered a very fortunate card indeed, primarily because of its connection to love. But the card isn’t always a love card, and we hope that this article has given you some ways to see what it means when it pops up in your readings.

Jean Linder

Jean Linder is a writer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.
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