If you’ve ever found yourself in the uncomfortable position of being torn between two lovers, you’ll know exactly how difficult it is to make a choice.
You may have looked at others in that situation with disdain — only to find yourself later on in the exact same predicament.
You may have been on the painful receiving end of your loved one being tempted by another, or — even more painful — having given in to those temptations.
The lovers card, for all its exciting-sounding prospects, is a card of difficult (and sometimes next to impossible) choices. It doesn’t generally refer to the kind of passionate love affairs that you read about in romance novels. No. Someone usually gets hurt. Sometimes that someone is you.
This card refers to choices that must be considered, sacrifices that must be made, and consequences that must be accepted.
It can also refer to the union of polarities, as in the Mary-el version of the card.
The figures here are about as opposite as they can get: male and female, young and old, black and white. The female figure is strong and aloof, the male passive and vulnerable, Yet they flow together in an intimate embrace.
Even so, there’s an apparent emotional disconnect in this rendition. The female figure stares off into the distance while the males gazes downward.
The angel watching over them in the background is barely noticeable. She doesn’t assist and she doesn’t interfere.
Perhaps the message here is that the decisions must be made by the parties involved, free from outside distractions.
In the Mythic tarot we see the Greek god Paris being forced to choose who among the goddesses Hera, Aphrodite and Athena is most beautiful. As you can imagine, this is a choice he doesn’t want to make. It’s a no-win situation.
Each goddess attempts to coerce him into choosing her, and each has something valuable to offer. Hera offers him his own kingdom. Athena offers him victory and glory in war. And Aphrodite offers him earthly delights in the form of romance and seduction.
He also knows that angering the two he doesn’t choose is inevitable. At one point he tries to divide the golden apple into three, so that he can award them all equally. But in the end he’s forced to choose, just as we must make a choice between the options presenting themselves when this this card is drawn.
Sacrifices are necessary whenever a choice is to be made. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We have to weigh the pros and cons and decide which choice is best for us.
We have to ask ourselves: “what am I willing to give up to attain this goal?” If the answer is something like “my friends,” “my integrity,” or “my soul,” you’ll want to weigh your options very carefully.
I interpret this card as a decision that needs to be made in relationship. It often comes up when that decision is between two different people, as in a love triangle or third party, i.e., “torn between two lovers.” But it can also relate to alternative relationships, as in bi-racial, same-sex, or poly-amorous connections.
The Lovers card in the Thoth deck makes this point perfectly.
The card depicts a literal triangle, with repeated symbols of polar opposites: male and female, dark and light, adult and child, lion and falcon. All four suits (cups, wands, swords, disks) are also present, in the hands of the two small children.
The cherub at the top and the serpent and egg at the bottom symbolize both love (cherub) and sex (serpent). The figure in the background has a veil covering his face, reminding us that love is blind.
Although there are clear aspects of “divine love” in this card (starting with Adam and Eve in the top corners), there are also aspects of choice — and the consequences of choice. Just like Paris in the Greek myth, we learn that we can’t have it all — we have to make a decision and then abide by it.
But this card does not always reference a choice between two people. It can also relate — depending on the questions asked and the cards surrounding it — to a choice between love and something else. Love and career; love and family; love and honor; love and sanity.
When this card comes up for you (either through a full reading or as your tarot card of the day), ask yourself: “what choices am I faced with in my own relationships?” and “what must I give up with either choice I make?”
A love triangle, for example, must be weighed both morally and karmically. In the end, it may be you that walks away. A relationship that others may not accept (such as same-sex unions or inter-racial relationships) could force you to choose between your lover and your loved ones. And a relationship that interferes in any way with other aspects of your life will have to be looked at in comparison to those areas. You could very well choose to stay in the relationship and give up the career, but end up resenting your partner as a result.
A decision is necessary: you won’t be able to continue in a limbo or uncertain state. But with each choice comes consequences, and in the end a more focused understanding of where your true priorities lie.
Decisions, Decisions — the Lovers Card
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