What cards in the tarot represent love?
To celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, I’ll be writing on themes of love, passion, and marriage in the cards. For each weekly post, I’ve chosen some of my favorite cards that speak to each topic.
- Love: The Lovers, 2 of Cups, 6 of Cups, Temperance (Today’s post!)
- Sex: Devil, Knight of Wands, Knight of Swords, Ace of Wands
- Marriage: 4 of Wands, Hierophant, Justice, Queen of Swords
- Lovers-themed tarot decks
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Love in the Cards
For the topic of Love, the Lovers and the Two of Cups are the standouts. But the Six of Cups and Temperance also address types of connection and affection. Let’s look at each one to understand it better and what it means when it comes up in a relationship spread.
The Lovers, Trump VI, is the purest expression of love, connection, partnership, and chemistry in the deck. The image changed in the early twentieth century when the Waite-Smith tarot introduced a more spiritual interpretation for the card. In this version, Adam and Eve stand naked in the Garden of Eden, Adam beside the Tree of Life with its flame-shaped leaves, and Eve next to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, complete with snake. Behind the two in the distant landscape is a single mountain peak. Above the two, rising from a cloud, is an angel with hands and wings outstretched, and above the angel a yellow, rayed sun. The man looks to the woman, the woman looks up at the angel. The interpretation I learned from my teacher in the early nineties is that the man looks for connection in the women, the women looks for connection in Spirit, and that through the woman, the man is elevated to a spiritual level.
All of this may or may not be useful in a reading.
Once I was reading at a psychic fair in Fort Collins and a woman sat down for a reading with me. She asked about her mother, who was in her nineties and lived in a nursing home. The mother had suddenly had her legs go weak and was no longer able to walk. The doctors couldn’t find a reason. Among the cards that came up was the Lovers. I talked at length about the spiritual meaning and the female figure’s yearning for the Divine. I focused on the idea of desire, the elderly mother was lacking desire, she felt she had nothing she wanted to move towards, so her legs no longer supported her. As we were wrapping up the reading, the daughter asked, could it be because mom’s boyfriend just died? Yep. Yes, it could. The Lovers is after all, about love, and no one is excluded for any reason, not even a 90+-year old woman in a nursing home. The spiritual interpretation worked, and had a certain amount of relevance, but the literal interpretation nailed it.
The Two of Cups
In the Waite-Smith Tarot, a young couple stands wearing Renaissance garb with wreaths in their hair, facing each other. They do not touch, although the man reaches his hand out to her. Each holds a cup in front of them. The background landscape features rolling green hills and a small house with a red roof tucked away among the full, leafy trees.
Centered above the couple, a caduceus is topped with a winged lion’s head. The caduceus is called the Staff of Hermes and on one level represents healing. Without going into a detailed analysis, the symbol of the staff and lion’s head can be mapped onto the qabalistic Tree of Life where it signifies the conjunction of opposites and represents bringing passion under the control of the spiritual will.
Whereas in the Lovers card the woman looks up toward the angel, in the Two of Cups, the woman looks to the man. This reinforces the human element of this card, speaking more of reciprocated emotion and less of spiritual connection.
The Six of Cups
An older boy stoops slightly to hand a cup containing a star-shaped white lily with abundant green leaves to a young girl, whose smiling face beams under yellow curly hair. However, she is not reaching toward the cup. Has she just handed the cup to the boy? The boy is centered in this image, and his head is bent toward the flower as if to sniff it. The girl’s pleasure-filled face could be her own happiness at giving a gift. Five other cups are also brimming with greenery and white blooms. Although the cups and cascading vines in the foreground show fruitfulness, the yellow dirt courtyard, cold brick buildings, and pale sky bring coolness to the image.
It is interesting that in this card numbered 6, the lilies, which normally have six petals, are shown with five petals. The number six corresponds to the Sun and represents perfection and changelessness. Associated with funerals, the perfection of the lily can become stagnant and represent death. Quartz crystal points have a six-fold symmetry as do snowflakes. Interestingly, fivefold symmetry is not possible in minerals, but is in plants. This leads to the symbolic idea that six represents death but five indicates life. The number five represents change and growth. It is associated with the planet Mars, and most commonly can signify conflict or aggression. However, challenge creates opportunities for growth, so it is considered living. Roses and apples have five-fold symmetry. The five-petaled lilies, combined with the children in the scene, indicates something that once was stagnant but now is growing again. I’ve turned over this card and found that it indicated a relationship that was on a break would become active again.
The card can represent childhood, memory, and the innocence of love. This type of love is exemplified in the openness and trust of childhood friendships. When a little girl moves in next door, you are automatically best friends with her for no other reason than that’s the way it works. There is something honest about this card that represents true love for me. Because there is no sexual component implied in the card, the relationship is predicated on emotional connection, trust, and sharing.
Trump XIV, Temperance, shows a winged angel standing with one foot on land and one in a pool of water, holding two cups and pouring liquid from one into the other, a symbol of reincarnation. The irises next to the angel represent the goddess of the rainbow. The path in the background leads to a crown-shaped rising sun, symbolic of Kether, the highest sphere on the qabalistic Tree of Life. The upright triangle on the front of the angel’s gown represents the element fire, while the glyph on the angel’s forehead is that of the Sun. The ineffable name of God is hidden in the folds of the angel’s robes.
On the Tree of Life, Temperance is associated with the Path of Samech, leading from Yesod, Foundation, the astral body, to Tiphareth, Beauty, the higher self. This is one of the paths on the Middle Pillar, the column of balance and equilibrium. The Middle Pillar paths advance from lower to higher. When the Tree is mapped onto the body, Yesod matches the genitals and Tiphareth represents the heart. Together these symbols signify the rising from the lower level of sexual connection to the higher level of heart connection, with the implication of rising again to the highest level of spiritual connection teased by the distant crown.
Usual meanings for this card include balancing opposites, being temperate, and rising into the higher self. As a card for love, it suggests a love that grows beyond the chemistry of sexuality and ascends to the level of the soul. It harmonizes differences between individuals and prepares a path for the sacrifice of the lower so that the higher can be revealed. The card indicates that the relationship brings out the best in both partners. It is a soul deep connection.
If you’d like to learn to read the tarot with no memorization or books, simply letting the cards speak for themselves (not full of tedious detail as in this post, but fresh and creative!) check out my upcoming Magician’s Tools: Beginning Tarot class, Sundays, February 12-March 19, 2017, 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Isis Books and Gifts, 2775 South Broadway, Englewood, CO 80113.
If you’re getting started and want to know the best beginner deck, please take a look at my post on 50 Beginning Tarot Decks.
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into the most active and one of the largest tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a reader and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2017 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.