I am your lover, come to my side, I will open the gate to your love.
As you probably know, one of the easiest and most fascinating facets of the Tarot is how the numerology of a special day or a particular year corresponds to the cards. Of particular importance is how these numbers are associated with the cards of the Major Arcana (the triumphs).
With this system, we can use our date of birth to learn a great deal about ourselves, particularly our life’s mission. And by adding the month and day of our birth, plus any other particular year, including the current one, we can discover the general traits and patterns that may affect us in that year.
In the same way, the numerology of any one year can indicate how the Tarot’s influence will apply more globally, for everyone in that year.
This year, being 2022, reduces to 6 (by way of 2+0+2+2=6). Card number Six of the Major Arcana indicates that this the Tarot Year of The Lovers.
We last experienced a Lovers Year in 2013, and we won’t have the next one until 2031.
The Top-Down Power Cycle Ends
Using the generally accepted Western calendar, 2020 was the year of The Emperor card (2+2=4). Then, last year was 2+2+1=5, the year of The Hierophant — an archetype whose identity is about tradition, institutions, orthodoxy, and formal educational systems.
The year 2021 was the second in a two-year cycle that focused on consolidating and wielding power: The Emperor being the pinnacle of temporal, Earthly power, and The Hierophant as the ultimate spiritual authority.
Get ready, because that emphasis on the self, autocracy, and individual agency now gives way to relating to others, as well as making big changes and choices. We transition from “all about me” to “all about us.” Welcome to 2022; welcome to the year of Card VI: The Lovers.
In Part Three on Saturday I will have more to say about the implications, globally, of the ending of this cycle, and how The Lovers may guide our engagement with world events.
Meantime, I dislike the habit of memorizing keywords for the cards, but when we examine the meaning of The Lovers, instead of a reflex interpretation, “Love,” I would suggest instead, “Choices.”
That’s because it looks at how and why we make the decisions that we do. The reason for this lies in understanding the card’s iconography and history. That, in turn, will clarify what you are really seeing in Pamela Colman Smith’s artistic choices.
A Closer Look
For instance, in many decks that predate the Waite-Smith cards, such as any of the several decks we know under the umbrella term, Tarot de Marseilles, The Lover card (singular, not plural) features a man standing between two women, evidently deciding whether he will succumb to exotic temptations, or choose a more respectable (but perhaps less spicy) relationship. Some have suggested he is making a more psychological choice by interpreting the older, dark-haired woman as the man’s mother, and the fair-haired female as his potential mate.
In the W-S rendering, instead of an alluring temptress (or Oedipal dilemma), a more mystical scene is shown. And as is so often the case, there are many layers of meaning beyond what seems simple at first glance.
For example, you might instantly recognize that this is the biblical Garden of Eden story, featuring the nude Adam, Eve, an angel, and a snake twined around a fruit tree.
But note that behind the man there is second tree, with twelve flames emanating from the tips of its branches. Arthur Waite explains that this is the Tree of Life, although it is certainly not the glyph well known to practitioners of the Western Mysteries, which features ten discs (sephiroth). Instead, many have interpreted these flames to be the twelve signs of the zodiac, under whose aegis all life is conducted.
Thus, his primal, living tree matches the woman’s Tree of Wisdom. In this pairing of the couple and the trees, The Lovers offers a vision of vibrant, thriving humanity. Between the two, in the background, a single tall mountain alludes to arousal. And as she gazes heavenward, Adam looks to her.
Speaking of the Qabalah, in their essential master work, The Secret Language of the Tarot, Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone suggest that principles of both Freemasonry and Qabalah are represented in Pamela Colman Smith’s depiction of the Sun.
They note that, “The sun behind the angel is the glory of the middle way from which all opposites emerge and to which, in time, they will all return.” Below that place of beauty and unity in the Qabalah Tree of Life, all becomes openly divided into pairs of polar opposites. This is the path of The Lovers.
Furthermore, this Sun has forty-five rays, which the Amberstones explain refers to, “the numerical value of the name of Adam in Hebrew. In Adam, male and female were originally united and will eventually be reunited.”
Presiding over this tableau is an angel illuminated with sunlight, who some say is the archangel of healing, Raphael. He protects the humans from being overcome by the intolerable blaze of pure divine energy. However, a powerful case can also be made that this is the heart-centered, solar fire archangel, Michael.
In either case, after the couple has tasted the fruit of wisdom, rather than banishment and punishment, the magnificent archangel protects and blesses them.
In the sequence of the Major Arcana, The Lovers is the turning point when our journey moves beyond egocentricity, and we discover the tantalizing possibilities of Other.
As the Tarot has evolved, its message moves beyond the love triangle predicament shown in older decks. It calls for, not only choices about a particular relationship or social situation, but a chance to examine more closely how, who, and why we love.
Tomorrow in Part Two, we’ll take a look at how a Lovers Year may affect us on a personal basis. Then on Saturday, as I mentioned above, I’ll examine what the implications are for our changing times. I look forward to your thoughts and comments in the “Luminous Sparks” section of my website.