Atu VI: The Lovers
Letter: ז Zayn (Z)
Proximity: Sephira #3 (Binah) to Sephira #5 (Geburah)
Pent #17 “Disposition”– Earth of 乾 (Ch’ien) The Creative, Heaven (Above/Below)
Earth of 乾(Ch’ien) The Creative, Heaven (Without/Within)
Berashith: “Elohim placed them in the firmament”
(Upper right) Fire: Hex #14: 大有 (Ta Yu) Possession in Great Measure
(Lower left) Air: Hex #13: 同人 (T’ung Jên) Fellowship with Men
(Upper left) Water: Hex #7: 師 (Shih) The Army
(Lower right) Earth: Hex #8: 比 (Pi) Holding Together / Union
Keywords (Dignified): Attraction, Passion, Union, Devotion, Sensuality, Love, Companionship, Romance, Intimacy, Sharing, Accommodation, Communication, Transformation, Mediation, Magnetism, Sacrifice, Discovery, Growth
Keywords (Ill-Dignified): Separation, Frustration, Quarrelling, Infidelity, Betrayal, Discord, Communication Breakdown.
Historical: The Lovers card is one of several paths that have been positioned incorrectly according to the Proximity Principle of Mutational Alchemy. In both the Golden Dawn and Thoth systems it is usually placed between Sephira #3 (Binah) and Sephira #6 (Tiphareth) and assigned the Hebrew letter/number Zayn (7). Zayn is the 7th letter in the Hebrew alphabet and should logically correspond to the 7th Proximity Principal path between Sephira #3 (Binah) and Sephira #5 (Geburah). Since paths are often numbered 11 –32, its positional placement is path #17, coincidentally same as its corresponding Pentagram.
Golden Dawn: Called The Lovers (Children of the Voice Divine), the Lovers card corresponds to the zodiacal sign Gemini and places between Sephira #3 (Binah) and Sephira #6 (Tiphareth) in the Golden Dawn system. While some versions of this card depict it as a Garden of Eden scene, others opt for a more combative imagery in which the Lovers are engaged in a battle against the forces of Evil. These differences seem to hinge upon slightly varying kinds of action, some perceiving the Lovers as a regenerative force, others as a more defensive/preservative one. Yet another version of the Lovers card emphasizes a third Oracular character (called “The Oracle of the Mighty Gods”) depicting the Lovers as acting under the guidance of a prophetic figure steering them through the thickets of Duality according to some grand cosmic plan. In this version we seem to have a commentary on the principle of marriage and its role in separating the gross from the fine in human affairs.
Thoth: The Book of Thoth leans towards this latter (more obscure) interpretation and draws to powerful symbols such as the Orphic Egg and the Hermit and the alchemical Lion & Eagle (among others) to hyphenate the principle of *alchemical marriage* and tie it to the Lovers card in some obtuse fashion. Still we find the symbolism of Cain and Abel, Lillith and Eve tossed into the mix so that the entire scene is a curious admixture of Christian, pre-Christian and Pagan iconography lumped together in a chaotic milieu of uncertain import. In most cases it is viewed as a transitional scene thought to find resolution through other cards still in the ahead.
Mutational Alchemy Interpretation: Mutational Alchemy is more interested in the Lovers themselves and is not especially concerned with all the biblical surrealism bombarding them in other decks. As a Tarot practitioner of many years it has been my experience that the Lovers card has a very potent intuitive resonance with most people not requiring of all this convoluted back-story to make sense of things. What the chronological ordering of Heaven Descending and Earth Ascending hexagrams bring to the table is exquisitely clear and magickal in itself and serves to validate that intuitive grasp of the card’s intended meaning. In the place of Fire we get hexagram #14 (Possession in Great Measure) which defines the heart of the matter, whereas the remaining hexagrams speak to Unity and Strength born of the bond of Love itself. This card is more about the magick of the heart than any cosmic consolidations: it is more about the strength of relationships to shape (or reshape) destiny than it is about the convergence of societal norms and protocols. The Lovers rise above all of that ruckus; they are actually perfectly oblivious to its roar and unheeding of its demands and expectations. They create perfected Universe from nothing and reduce it back to nothing at their whim. They are a law unto themselves, and in the end, all other laws are grossly inadequate by comparison. Certainly, the principle of marriage is defined here, but marriage as it occurs in Nature, not the overwhelming oppressiveness of society and dogma.
The Scene: This card takes on shades of Beast and Babalon from Crowley’s Thelemic mytho-theological structure. The centaur motif is a distinctly masculine aspect. The manticore tail is a reflection based upon Ningishzidda’s tail in Mushussu (Sumerian chaos monster) form. The dragon is depicted with a scorpion tail in several artifacts from the ancient near east, from the steatite cup in the Louvre dating back to the height of Lagash in Sumer, to the Babylonian Ishtar gate. The Beast and Babalon motif is older than Crowley’s Babalon – it conjures images of Lilith, Tiamat, Cipactli and Ammit: the divine feminine who is all-powerful, terrifying and independent. The masculine beast is the yang aspect of nature itself, paired with a feminine archetype. This exudes a Saivite or Satanic sort of “deity” of primordial nature who will trump all other masculine archetypes and therefore manages to survive the terror of ferocious and triumphant feminine deities. It represents a marriage of female and male within ourselves – no human is fully one or the other, as man is of the third part of cosm: Jen, neither Yin nor Yang but an admixture of both and still submissive to the will of heaven that lives in our spirit and consciousness. In China the auspicious dragon is that which is below the earth, representing Heaven supporting Earth and uniting. Here the dragon is a centaur, but the meaning is all the same. The Lovers have a unique and unbeatable synergistic potential that leads neatly into the next ATU.