While it seems like the meaning of the Lovers card in a tarot spread is obvious, it is in fact a highly symbolic card that has meaning beyond relationships. The Lovers is a major arcana card in decks based on the Latin tarot, also known as the Tarot de Marseilles. When it appears in a spread, its symbolism tells the querent much about his or her life.
Symbolism of the Lovers Tarot Card
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck and others based on the Latin tarot, the Lovers depicts the Garden of Eden as told in the Creation story in the book of Genesis (Genesis 1 and 2). Adam and Eve stand nude in the garden underneath the watchful eye of the Archangel Raphael.
Eve is on the right side of the card (which represents conscious choice), standing in front of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil around which the serpent who will soon tempt her is wrapped. The tree contains four visible apples. Adam stands to the left (which represents subconscious choice) in front of the Tree of Life, which has 12 fruits visible.
Eve looks upward at the Archangel Raphael while Adam looks at Eve. Raphael hovers in the sky above the garden and underneath the sun, while clouds have formed between Adam and Eve.
Placement in the Major Arcana
The Lovers are the seventh card in the major arcana of the Latin Tarot, although the number of the card is VI (six) because The Fool is the first card and numbered 0 (zero). The card is placed between the Hierophant (V) and the Chariot (VII).
This position is intentional, as are all placements of the 22 major arcana cards, which depict a soul's journey from innocence to wisdom and experience. The Hierophant represents the first step in a more spiritual and emotional part of the journey moving beyond earthly needs, and the Lovers card continues this journey, suggesting entering heart-centered wisdom in making choices.
In numerology, the number six represents love, balance, and responsibility. Other numerology that appears on the card includes four (the number of fruits on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), which represents harmony and balance, and the 12 fruit that appears on the Tree of Life, representing the 12 signs of the zodiac or 12 months of the year.
Garden of Eden and Genesis
The book of Genesis depicts the Garden of Eden as an idyllic place until the Fall of Man described in Genesis 3 when at the serpent's urging, Eve eats fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In that moment, Eve's decision has significant consequences as the two are cast out of the Garden.
The serpent represents temptation, wisdom, risk, and choices, while the trees and the Garden of Eden represent utopian ideals. The fact Adam and Eve are nude reflects openness and vulnerability. The imagery on the card captures Adam and Eve moments before Eve succumbs to temptation and brings about the Fall of Man, when the possibility for endless bliss still exists.
However, the serpent is there, already suggesting the choice for the fall can be easily made, and the presence of clouds between Adam and Eve suggest the potential for the loss of the garden's idyllic circumstances should the wrong choice be made.
Raphael watches over Adam and Eve. Raphael is the angel of healing and love, and he is ready to bring healing to the situation. His position between the sun and the Garden shows he acts as a conduit of light and higher wisdom to Adam and Eve. Therefore, Eve looks to Raphael instead of Adam, as if understanding that in order to make the most beneficial choice for the situation, she needs his spiritual guidance.
Meaning in a Spread
All these symbols show that, while on the surface the Lovers might seem to be about romantic love, the card is telling the querent he or she has a choice to make about something significant.
The card also suggests loving guidance is available, and in order to make the most beneficial choice, one must be centered in spiritual wisdom and love. The choice may be about love and relationships, or it may be about some other aspect of life, such as career or friendship. Whichever aspect of life the choice reflects, however, its results will be far-reaching.
When the Lovers card is reversed in a spread, it suggests difficulty in relationships or it may suggest you are making a choice from ego instead of from spiritual wisdom.
Roots of Creation
The Lovers card offers the opportunity to create a situation anew through spirit and heart-centered choices. When this card appears in a tarot reading, chances are a significant choice will soon be upon you.