Major Arcana Six, the Lovers, is an interesting card in that is has many more possible interpretations than its name might suggest.
If you look at some modern depictions of the Lovers, there seems to be a lot of passionate embracing going on in the card. This is a very different concept from A.E. Waite’s, and also from earlier depictions.
Many tarotists, both modern and ancient, ascribe the concept of love and marriage to the Lovers.
In Waite’s “Pictorial Key to the Tarot,” he speaks of his own transformation of this card. Waite presents his Lovers as replacing a card depicting marriage. About that transition, Waite had this to say.
6. The Lovers or Marriage. This symbol has undergone many variations, as might be expected from its subject. In the eighteenth century form, by which it first became known to the world of archeological research, it is really a card of married life, shewing father and mother, with their child placed between them; and the pagan Cupid above, in the act of flying his shaft, is, of course, a misapplied emblem. The Cupid is of love beginning rather than of love in its fullness, guarding the fruit thereof. The card is said to have been entitled Simulacyum fidei, the symbol of conjugal faith, for which the rainbow as a sign of the covenant would have been a more appropriate concomitant. The figures are also held to have signified Truth, Honour and Love, but I suspect that this was, so to speak, the gloss of a commentator moralizing. It has these, but it has other and higher aspects.
Related to the sign of Gemini and the element of Air, it makes sense that Kabbalistic tarotists ascribe qualities such as balancing and integrating opposites, discrimination and intelligence to the Lovers.
The Golden Dawn’s “Book T” gives the Lovers the esoteric title of “The Children of the Voice; the Oracles of the Mighty Gods.” “Book T” also gives this as a brief interpretation: “Inspiration (passive, mediumistic), motive power, action.”
So how do we interpret the Lovers in a reading? Of course this card may describe or predict a love relationship. But if our understanding of this card begins and ends with romance, we miss a lot of the complexity and wisdom this card has to offer.
The Lovers reminds us to have self-esteem. We must nurture a good relationship with self.
The Lovers reminds us to make good decisions, and stresses the importance of good communication. These are two incredibly good pieces of advice for any love relationship.
The Lovers speaks of integration. In any sort of relationship, we must weave our lives together with another person or people. The Lovers does not tell us how to accomplish this, but reminds us that it must be done carefully, in a logical and fair way.
That the Lovers is related to the element of Air is paramount in understanding this card.
The element of Water is related to emotion.
The element of Fire is related to passion.
Either of these elements would seem a more appropriate choice for the Lovers card.
Air is the element of logic, reason, decisions, intelligence, integrity and communication.
One can see the greater wisdom of this, when we consider how often we are illogical, unreasonable and stupid when it comes to love!