Hebrew Letter: Zain (sword)
Key Words: analysis/synthesis, careful planning of an important decision, union of opposites, solution, mercury
It seems that the Lovers is one of the most misinterpreted cards of the tarot. And yet, the dualistic interpretations fittingly balance one another. Let’s begin with the lesser discussed, perhaps more original meaning, of the Lovers.
This card should really be called the Brothers, as it’s Zodiacal sign is Gemini (the twins). Further, as Crowley writes in Liber 418 (The Vision and the Voice), Cain was the offspring of Eve and the serpent, and God did not listen to the offspring of man until the first shedding of blood, when Cain murders Abel. Crowley identifies the “mark of Cain” as that of the mark of initiation (Crowley, p.80). Certainly, the variant aspects of the story of Cain and Abel alone could more than fill an entire post (there are books!) but this legend is certainly worth mentioning in relation to Atu VI.
The card itself depicts the marriage of the Emperor and the Empress, presided over by the Hermit from Atu IX, as well as Lilith, Eve, and Eros. This is a marriage of opposites, the binary further extended by the dark and light skin of the Emperor and Empress. Cain and Abel attend them and “hold in their hands the symbols of the different planes to be affected by the transformation; body (club), intellect (spear), emotions (cup), and spirit (flowers)” (Ziegler, p.27). The red lion and white eagle represent the male and female energies, the “tinctures” of the alchemical merging of the Empress and Emperor.
The orphic egg reappears at the bottom of this card. The orphic egg is said to contain the universe (Snuffin, p.30) and also represents the union of the emperor and empress, or the “creation of the world” (DuQuette). The snake coiled around it might reflect back to the above story of Cain, though that’s my own speculation.
The card also has alchemical meaning solve et coagula “solution and coagulation,” which is also linked to the union of the two figures. The card (and by extension the tarot itself) asks “Of what are things composed?” and having answered that question: “How shall we recombine them to our greater advantage?” (DuQuette).
On a personal note, this card brought my cycle of going through the cards to a halt, though it was never far from the surface. I continued to pull this card in my daily draws, (including Valentine’s day!) and even my partner began to draw it. What I thought was a blockage at first was actually a pause, a moment of reflection, and though the above details of the card are not to my complete satisfaction in their ability to fully interpret this card, I feel the pause must end, that time must be reinstated (or begin to be counted once more), and that it is time to move on.
Veritas Vos Liberabit!