I've been away from my Queer Tarot series for what feels like forever, because - well, because life. But I'm back!
For those of you just joining us, the story so far: Tarot is a set of numbered pictures, figures and symbols on playing cards, telling the story of a journey - and used for centuries to look from a different perspective at our own story, our own journey. The figure taking the journey is The Fool, and you can read my piece on them Here. And the faces they've met so far on their journey, as I write this series one card at a time, are the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor, and the Hierophant - click on the links to read them at your leisure, and I'll met you back here.
All done? Great, let's get going again! What modern readers call the "traditional" version of the Tarot, that most of today's rainbow variety of decks are based on, was illustrated by a biracial, bisexual lady named Pamela Colman Smith (Pixie, to her friends); and the inspirations behind the book that went with it, written by occult philosopher A.E. Waite, is pretty queer, too - but more on that another time. (and by the way, I will, and always have, used the word Queer as a term of pride, never of shame).
Anyway, this all made me think it was a good idea to get LGBTQIA+ people's perspectives on the Tarot, and feed their answers into this blog series. So let's let the Fool get on with meeting his next pair of characters - "The Lovers"!
Everything you're about to read came from LGBTQIA+ readers and seekers saying what they see in the Tarot. Let's have a look!
Whereas many people take the Lovers to the most literal sense of the word, and use them to exemplify relationships and love itself, you can think about the card as representing decisions and commitments. From a queer standpoint, The Lovers could ask us questions about how willing we are to embrace our true selves; do we decide to live life according to our identities; how does being queer, if at all, define me; how committed am I to recognising my queerness?
When this one pops up, we can think choices and consequences, informed consent, and critical decision making. It's understanding the full extent of the decision you're going to make before you make it, and I think it's a reminder to stop and read the fine print, get all the facts, consider the context, and use those factors to make an informed decision or give informed consent to a situation. Especially when it comes to fully identifying your gender and your sexuality. And even more since informed consent and critical decision making are things the ignorant and fearful transphobes and homophobes who shut us down, say we lack in ourselves and try to take away from others. Nothing could be further from the truth!
It seems, at first, to be a typical representation of a heterosexual couple - but, in true Pamela Colman Smith fashion, the angelic figure looks androgynous enough to be the Goddess blessing them; so it may say to us that love is a sacred thing and it doesn't matter if the couple is different genders or the same one.
It's a partnership; a merging together. We often see manhood/maleness/masculinity as wanting only physical attachment, while the more "ladylike"/female/feminine quest is for more than just physical attraction and gratification. The serpent, the temptation symbol who originates with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, is a bringer of separation of the two, but the two united is paradise - whether inside your relationship or inside yourself.
The Lovers is a card of choice; the trees behind are a nod to the Tree of Life (fiery) and tree of knowledge of good and evil. The angel can represent guidance. The spreading arms can be a way of making one's body into a pentagram figure- and a modern use of the pentagram is that having it "upright" (one point up, two points down) shows Spirit above matter; while the counterpart "reversed" pentagram (two points up, one point down), seen later in the Tarot on the card of the devil, represents physical over spirit. They share common parallel themes. Leading to the assumption that they are both cards of choice virtue/vice, love/lust, and finally over shadowing magical/mundane. One of the most striking parts of this card is its parallel to the Devil card. Everything is somewhat inverted and extreme but the imagery is so similar. But a wider and queerer way of taking meaning from that, is that we focus on loving who we love, not what gender their physical outer body is - who are they inside, is it different from outside, and which one are we truly in love with?
Many readers focus solely on a couple coming together. But I think an interpretation beyond "soulmates" or "twin flames" is a more wholesome add to the meaning of this card. We at times hope to find "the one" to complete us. However in reality, we first need to complete ourselves in the naked truth of who we really are. And as that insight brings with it the alignment with our universal being, we finally are able love unconditionally and be fully loved in return.
The coming together of our feminine and masculine selves, being fused together to a solid "I" where we also may face more boldly the reality and our future decisions with more confidence in ourselves. When we stay true and strong in ourselves, many believe, the more blessings and protection we get from the angelic realm. Freedom-- freedom to love; freedom to be nude, exposed, open. Sexual desire. Personal chemistry. Partnership.
This card is often assumed to be a cis heteronormative coupling, to represent unifying, and the alchemy term (which later became a psych term) "fixation" - think "fixing" dye to fabric. Looked at with the "queer eye" it (Card 6) can symbolise rising above the Patriarchal pressure (Emperor, Card 4) of Orthodoxy (Hierophant, Card 5) to define binary gender roles. This contrasts with another later card, Temperance (Card 14, right before the Devil, Card 15) where the work undertaken is a blending the gender polarities into a spectrum (with the cup of Water and Cup of Fire).
The card is often considered "ruled" by the constellation Gemini, and can easily stand for the Divine Masculine and Feminine, the inherent gender fluidity and uniqueness, in ourselves. Uniting the binary could be seen as finding ones lived gender "blend", including bi-gender, non-binary and agender mixes.
Often depicted as the uniting of Adam and Eve, (the "Gold King" and "Silver Queen", in alchemical imagery), representing both the gender polarities but also the soul and the living body or the inner and outer consciousnesses. That could work to explain the transgender "physics" of gender identity and gender incongruence, the king being overshadowed by the queen or vice versa.
I think the biggest grudge to the card many LGBTQ people have is it's heteronormative framing. However, if we take the imagery to indicate old time ways of looking at gender roles, we can see the card as depicting relationship dynamics, rather than assumed genders. There are some old languages, like Greek, with words for partners in relationships - where in today's English we would say Boyfriend & Girlfriend, or Bride & Groom - that aren't given to the partners because of their gender, but because of their relationship role - where today we would say top/bottom, sub/dom, or active/passive, whatever the genders involved.
Among people who like to mix and match the spiritual symbols of east and west, this is often the symbol - with its serpents and trees - for sacred sexual tantra, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Giving the concept of learning how to evolve and spiritually empower one another as a couple by complimenting one another.
Pleasure, desire, passion and attraction with harmony. A change of the attitudes we're brought up with about sexuality and gender identity will often lead to happier times, happier relationships - a worldview where it's our choice to be with whom ever you want to be with, it will be the right choice.
If you'd like to reach out to me for a reading of the Tarot for yourself, with all these kinds of viewpoints and perspectives as part of it,you can reach me with a message Here. And if you'd like to join my LGBTQIA+ Tarot group on bookface, you can do that Here.
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