- Pictorial Key to the Tarot
- The Tarot
S. L. MacGregor Mathers
- General Book of the Tarot
A. E. Thierens
Attraction, love, beauty, trials overcome.
Divinatory Meanings - Reversed
Failure, foolish designs. Another account speaks of marriage frustrated and contrarieties of all kinds.
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.
6. The Lovers or Marriage. This symbol has undergone many variations, as might be expected from its subject. In the eighteenth century form, by which it first became known to the world of archæological research, it is really a card of married life, shewing father and mother, with their child placed between them; and the pagan Cupid above, in the act of flying his shaft, is, of course, a misapplied emblem. The Cupid is of love beginning rather than of love in its fulness, guarding the fruit thereof. The card is said to have been entitled Simulacyum fidei, the symbol of conjugal faith, for which the rainbow as a sign of the covenant would have been a more appropriate concomitant. The figures are also held to have signified Truth, Honour and Love, but I suspect that this was, so to speak, the gloss of a commentator moralizing. It has these, but it has other and higher aspects.
The Lovers - Wise Dispositions, Proof, Trials Surmounted.
Divinatory Meanings - Reversed
Unwise Plans, Failure when put to the test.
Symbolism of the Keys
The Lovers - This is usually described as representing Man between Vice and Virtue, while a winged genius threatens Vice with his dart. But I am rather inclined to the opinion that it represents the Qabalistical Microprosopus between Binah and Malkuth (see my Kabbalah Unveiled), while the figure above shows the Influence descending from Kether. It is usually considered to mean Proof or Trial; but I am inclined to suggest Wise Disposition as its signification.
Description and Meaning
From the original meaning of the sign Virgo, the virgin matter of the cosmos or world-ether, to that principle which makes 'lovers' is rather a long step, but we will observe that all these Tarot symbols relate to human points of view and human life in particular, i.e. cosmic principles seen from this particular standpoint which gives more of a practical image than of abstract reasoning, the abstract cosmic significance, however, being imbedded fairly accurately in them. So in the human constitution the sign Virgo means the nervous system and everything acting as an organ as well as the relatively 'virginal matter' which is extracted from the food and will serve to build up the body. So this house is known to rule health and sickness. It is further known to relate to the principles and materials of our work. And so the card of the Lovers must in the first place symbolise these things. It does indeed. Papus says it is connected with the Hebrew letter Vau in its significance of "the eye, and all that relates to light and brilliancy. The eye establishes the link between the external world and ourselves; by it light and form are revealed to us." In fact 'the eye' is a very ancient symbol for the idea of 'organ'; the Neoplatonists repeatedly used it. When saying it "establishes the link," we must be aware, however, that it is not yet this link itself but offers the elements for it. And again this card does not say 'love' but 'lovers' (in the French edition of the cards the singular is used: l’amoureux). Evidently the meaning is this: what makes man feel 'amorous' is his sensuousness, the word used in the strictly philosophical and biological meaning of receptivity of the senses for agreeable, caressing, benefic, gratifying vibrations. The same receptivity, however, exists on the other hand for disagreeable, painful, disturbing, malific vibrations. The receptivity and the condition of an organic centre in its double possibility of experience is only the phenomenal expression of the same in organic existence in general, consequently stamping the whole of manifestation with the law of duality of 'good' and 'evil.' The latter is well illustrated by the picture on the older cards where a youth is represented standing between two women, the one appearing to be benefic, the other malific. This sensuousness indeed can lead to a lower sensuality or can be the means of demonstrating love. A sort of angelic figure (Cupid?) is seen shooting an arrow: symbol of the ray of light. The card which was drawn on the authority of Mr. Waite shows a man and a woman in a state of paradisical nudity, and over the two hovers the figure of an angel. It confers much the same meaning, of course. "This is in all simplicity the card of human love, here exhibited as part of the way, the truth and the life." (Waite) And we shall find, that the same force which makes us love, physically, is at the back of all the work we do. Because it is the material response to the fiery and central pushing power and includes actual possibility on the basis of practical knowledge, experimental knowing. Waite did well to show the Tree of Knowledge in the drawing, it being the symbol of Nature in general and of the seed or seminal elements.