At Valentine’s, when love is in the air, we may be aware of the quickening of our desire to be ‘plugged in’ to something that will call us into consciousness through body centered exchanges of energy. The archetype of The Lovers as depicted in the Tarot speaks to us of the exchange of life force either between two people or within our selves. This is not only experienced as physical passion fulfilled, but also as spiritual intimacy and engagement.
This card has become symbolic of romantic sexual love, and has often been used as a foreshadowing element in films. The fortune teller turns over The Lovers card and we immediately know what is coming. When we take a closer look at the classic image, some interesting messages begin to be revealed that take us to another level of understanding of human relationships.
The two figures are naked, and like Adam and Eve in their innocence, they are fully revealed. There is no need to hide anything of their true nature, and in this exposed state they are vulnerable and free. They are standing on fertile ground that has yet to be ploughed or planted, and their arms are held in an open gesture of invocation. Their bodies form a triangle pointing towards an Angelic figure above them. The man looks at the woman and the woman looks at the angel. Perhaps each of these figures represents an aspect of our consciousness.
The feminine aspect within us (our right brain receptive nature), has direct access to the mysteries, whereas the masculine (left brain, active nature) must engage with and ‘enter into’ the feminine consciousness in order to share this knowledge. This is the Sacred Marriage, and although there is no denying that sexual union has long been considered sacred in many cultures, this is also an internal experience.
Perhaps our masculine-mind-based consciousness needs to engage with and explore the emotional, body centered subconscious nature, in order to access the ‘Angelic’ super-conscious that will lead to spiritual bliss. Harmonious spiritual consciousness depends upon a good relationship between the conscious and subconscious, the mind and the body.
The woman may represent the Primal Mother Tree. Medieval alchemists thought that if only they could understand the essence of the World Tree, or Woman’s mysteries, that this would give them access to the cosmic mind and the secrets of all creation. Behind her, five apples hang from the Tree of Life awaiting harvest. They represent earthly fertility, sensuality, and the gifts associated with the cycles of life, death and rebirth. The serpent twined around the tree — which is also the tree of Knowledge — represents the sexual Kundalini energy spiraling up the body into spiritual consciousness, which in humans is accompanied by strong physical sensation, similar to orgasm.
There are flames on the tree behind the man and his tree of life is consumed by passion, desire for action and his intellectual pursuits. There are 12 flames, which indicate time and the zodiac, suggesting his actions are motivated and guided by by cyclical time.
The angel, which is depicted as Rafael, Angel of the air element, could be seen as blessing the union of the man and woman. Angels were originally female divine beings, “dispensers of bliss”, the ever-desirable sexual partners for those men who had gone to their heavenly pagan paradise. Biblical angels became masculinized, and were then considered vulnerable to the “wicked” temptations of mortal women. In all cases angels originally had a strong association with the temptation to sexual union, either as a sin, a reward, or as a sacrament.
The Angel stands in the shape of a ‘Y’ like a fork in the road. Perhaps we are being offered a choice between the sacred or profane, vice and virtue, but which is which? Perhaps the virtue is in the acceptance of choice itself? We must chose to make our sexuality sacred rather than judge it as something shameful. Then every choice-as long as there is no harm done- is sacred, including any sexual preference. We each have the power to chose whether to express our sexuality or hold it in reserve.
The Angel functions like a prism through which the sunlight creates a rainbow spectrum of color, a symbol of the bridge between heaven and earth. The rainbow’s colors are also the colors of the body centered energy centers, or Chakras. The body is a channel for sacred sexual energy, which must move freely through our body to maintain the life force. This also reminds us of the need for personal intimacy, the clear communication between all aspects of our selves. We must cultivate true intimacy with ourselves if we wish to achieve it with others.
In the Tarot, mountains usually represent obstacles, or attainments, which are often intertwined. Perhaps our main obstacle here is the limiting concept of “sin”, which can prevent Adam and Eve from consummating their desires. if they can conquer this obstacle they can climb the mountain and gain a higher perspective. When we have encountered the Tree of Life and the Kundalini serpent has risen, then our sexual power is revealed. When we have knowledge of our sexuality and the nature of union between the sexes, we are empowered in our bodies: we have sacred body knowledge.
The Christian Church wasn’t keen on this concept and called it Sin, creating guilt, shame and repression. In fact the word Sin is the name of a primitive lunar deity of Arabia, who was represented by a mountain crowned by the horns of the moon, with it’s shaft reaching to the underworld. The Lovers card also talks of the basic bisexual nature in all of us. We all contain masculine and feminine energies and impulses in varying proportions. Perhaps as we grow in spirit we can overcome ego based prejudice regarding differences in sexual preference and expression and ‘conquer’ sin that way.
The Lovers are in a state of choice, as we all are, developing intimacy within the self, and exploring the power of sexuality as one of the many paths to spiritual unity.