Tarot: Symbolism of the Lovers

Hermit’s view on Oisin and Neave as the Lovers:

Card 6 in the Revenant Tarot deck.
Card 6 in the Revenant Tarot deck.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in our opposites. Oisin, a weaponsmith from old Boreas, a calm and peaceful man, one day found Neave, a fiery-tempered scholar from the Western Isles. From their union came Esper and Kaillte, twin boys. This is the theme of the Lovers: the many becoming the one. Ideas coming together to create beauty. Communication, relationships, love, and choice.

There is very little about this card that is reminiscent of the Rider-Waite deck, except, of course, the apple tree in the background. In Druidic lore, the Apple tree, or “Quert” as they call it, is a tree associated with air, and communication. It is a tree that teaches us that choice, while not easy, is necessary, and that choosing not to choose is not a choice. Acres of apple orchard may look the same, so it may be easy to get lost, if one does not choose a path and follow it. The same can be said for love. One can get lost in infatuation if one does not put forth the effort to make a commitment.

In the apple tree are six fruits, one for each of the senses. Taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing, and knowing. In Druidic lore, apples provide nourishment not only to people of this world, but also to the denizens of the Otherworlds. As such, the apples in this tree provide nourishment to the people, just as each of the senses provide nourishment to physical relationships, as well as loving ones. Groves of apple trees are also said to be gateways into the Otherworlds, just as physical attraction can be a gateway to love. It isn’t, always, but therein lies the choice.

Another element that this card and the Rider-Waite lovers have in common is a snake in the tree. Obviously, the original card was meant to be a nod to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, but in this deck, there’s more to it than that. In ancient Nordic traditions, the giant serpent Jormundgandr was in charge of keeping the oceans in check, binding them to the earth so they didn’t rise up and swallow the land. In this way, the snake is a symbol of the bonds of love, be they physical – like the matching ribbons in each person’s hair – or the spiritual. The snake also is a well-known symbol of eternity and immortality, with the ability to shed its skin to renew itself. In this way, it is a symbol of the eternal nature of true love, and the need to shed old ideas when people change. It is a reminder that sometimes, arguments are necessary in relationships – of all kinds – to clear the air and make way for new growth, like a snake shedding its skin.

This card, as opposed to the Rider-Waite card, is missing a large element: the Archangel Raphael, the angel of Air. In the original, he presides over the rest of the scene, purple robes fluttering in the wind as a reminder that communication is the key to many things. There are no angels in this version of the Lovers, only Oisin, Neave, the snake, and the tree. However, Oisin and Neave both wear the distinctive purple of royalty that Raphael wears in the original. They also face each other as equals, and are holding each other, looking into each others’ eyes, as opposed to the two figures in the Rider-Waite Lovers, who are on opposite sides of the card and looking at different things. Combined, the purple clothing, and the poses of Oisin and Neave, represent the idea that the mystical and spiritual can be found within, that each person is as important as any deity, and that communication, verbal and non-verbal, is the key to any successful relationship. The fact that the pair are facing each other as equals is also a representation of balance between masculine and feminine energies, the creative and the logical, the forceful and the gentle.

The zodiac for this card is Gemini, the twins. The twins in this particular equation don’t make an appearance in this card, except as a result of the union between Oisin and Neave. As said earlier, Esper and Kaillte are their twins. Gemini is a sign that is all about conversation and debate, as anyone who has ever had a chat with one knows very well. It’s never idle chatter with one, either. All of a Gemini’s conversations come from deep in their mind. They are perfect mixes of yin and yang, masculine and feminine. This can also contribute to an inability to make up their minds, which reinforces the decision-making aspect of this card. When two minds come together, it can be a tough thing to compromise.

The rune on this card is Gebo, the crossroads, or the gift. It is a complex rune, that can indicate unions by oath, contract, heart, or spirit, or the presence of forces beyond understanding, that bring the gifts of magic and awareness. It is a rune of balance, that can be used to learn how to traverse in the Otherworlds – which goes back to the messages of the Apple tree earlier – and how to use our personal tools effectively, like those of speech and thought. It is equality, give and take, which are important aspects of any relationship or venture. One must give time in order to heal, give effort in order to create something of value. At the crossroads, one must make a choice as to which path to take, just like when one enters an orchard, or draws the Lovers. Inevitably, the choice comes down to this: heed the call of change, or continue on your merry way? That is the crux of this card.

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