L’Amoureux / The Lover
Union, Emotional Life
The name of this card is not, as often thought, The Lovers plural, but The Lover, singular. However, on it we see four human-shaped figures (the three individuals and the angel) and, if we really want, two entities that are the Earth and the Sun. Among them, who is The Lover? The central figure that is often interpreted to be a young man? The figure on the left, who some view as a transvestite? Or even the angel, the little Cupid aiming his arrow out of the sky? These questions arise because Arcanum VI is, along with The Tower, one of the most ambiguous cards of the Tarot, and one of those that is most poorly understood. VI represents in Tarot numerology the first step into the square of Heaven. It is the time when we stop imagining what would please us and begin doing what we like.
The major tone of this card concerns pleasure and emotional life. This is the very reason why it is so complex and so rich in conflicting meanings. It opens the field to countless projections, and a thousand meanings can be attributed to it, each of which can be right at a given moment. What is taking place with this trio? Is it a quarrel, haggling, a choice, a union? The two figures on the left are looking at each other while the one on the right is looking off into space. The whole of humanity can be comprehended through this card. The relations of its protagonists are extremely ambivalent.
Eros, Heart, Choice, Emotional Domain, Conflict, Ambiguity, Trio, Social Life, Community, Siblings, Doing What You Love...
The position of these figures’ hands is extremely interesting to observe. Five hands in various positions symbolize the complexity of the relationships in play. The first figure, on the left, has placed her hand on the second one’s shoulder in a gesture of protection or domination, either pushing him forward or holding him back. Her right hand is touching the hem of the boy’s tunic. The movement of her extended index finger can be interpreted as a desire to slide over to his penis or, to the contrary, a prohibition on doing so. The boy has his right hand pressed against his belt. In passing, we should note that this yellow belt has three bands and is the same as that worn by the woman on the left. But who is the owner of the arm touching the belly of the young woman? She and the boy both are wearing clothes with deep blue sleeves that are so closely matched it makes the movement of this arm ambiguous. In some way they make this a “commonly shared arm.” While the young man is touching the young woman’s belly close to her genitals, his gaze is directed away from her toward his right. The card will have an entirely different meaning if we consider this arm to be her own arm protecting or pointing toward her belly while the boy is holding his arm behind his back.
The woman on the right is wearing a headdress consisting of four five-petal flowers. It could represent a splendid awareness, poetic yet nevertheless solid. The violet heart of the flowers concentrates the wisdom of love, truly the ability to sacrifice oneself. The woman on the left is wearing a crown of green leaves; it is active (the red band), and if we agree that these are laurel leaves, we could say that she has the mentality of a victor or a dominatrix.
We can speculate infinitely on the relationship of the three figures: a boy presenting his fiancée to his mother; a woman discovering her husband with his mistress; a man attempting to choose between two women, or, as the traditional interpretation views it, between vice and virtue; a pimp offering a prostitute to a passerby; a young girl asking her mother for permission to wed the boy she has chosen; a mother in love with her daughter’s lover; a mother preferring one of her two children over the other, and so forth.
The interpretations are inexhaustible. All of them lead us to the conclusion that The Lover is a relational card that depicts the beginning of social life. It is the first Arcanum on which several individuals are presented at the same level (The Pope’s disciples are smaller than he is and seen from the back). This is a card of union and disunion, of social and emotional choices. Several clues present in the card direct us toward the notion of union. On the one hand, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Vav (the nail), represents union. On the other hand, we can see patches of color (light blue then red) between these individuals’ legs that also represent a continuity, a union between them. On the symbolic plane, we could say that the three figures represent the governing centers of the human being: the intellect, the emotional center, and the sexual center joining together to become one.
The ground beneath these individuals’ feet has been plowed. This means that in order to reach the VI, it is necessary to have performed some preliminary psychological, cultural, and spiritual work. This is how we manage to realize what we love and what we want. The red shoes of the central figure are the same as those worn by The Fool and The Emperor; they can be considered as three stages of the same being. It can also be noted that the ground ends between this figure and his neighbor on the right, there is only the red patch. We can then see them as representations of the animus and the anima, two masculine and feminine aspects of one single person.