The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of James and Lilly belongs to ribkaDory.
Traditional Meaning of The Lovers
Ah, the Lovers card. Who doesn’t want this card in a reading! In the Lovers, number VI in the Major Arcana, we see two people, a man and a woman, standing naked in a strange garden. They stand facing both frontwards and towards each other, hands open and slightly out to their sides. The woman’s head is turned up towards the angelic figure above, while the man looks directly at her. At their feet lays a lush green carpet of grass and a mountain rises (wink wink) in the background between them. Behind the male figure is a tree with leaves of fire, and behind the woman, an apple tree with a looooong green snake wrapped around it. (Can we say Adam and Eve ya’ll?). Above them is a luminous figure rising out of the clouds, its red wings spread wide, its arms spread even wider, wearing a purple robe. This being’s hair looks like fire and blends in with the sun it sits in front of.
This card is chock-full of symbolism and meaning. Firstly, there is the association with the story of Adam and Eve from the Christian Bible. According to the story, Adam and Eve were created by God as perfect mates for one another. They live blissfully in the Garden of Eden until Eve is tempted by the serpent, eats the forbidden fruit, and causes their ‘fall’ from grace. This story hints at some themes for this card – namely that in love, we have times of perfection and utter happiness, but also times for trials, arguments, and potential moments for complete betrayal and heartache. Love is never a straight road and it takes work and working together to make it last.
Other symbols in the card offer more insight into the message of the Lovers. The third figure in the card is Archangel Raphael, who is associated with healing and love. He offers the advice of following your heart and making a commitment to be there for another person. The fire tree represents the passion of love and its flame-like quality, while the apple tree with the snake represents temptation and wisdom, as well as sticking to the boundaries created in a healthy relationship. The garden floor represents potential for growth and a healthy, vibrant relationship. The mountain can represent virility and sexual conquest of one another, or possibly obstacles to overcome in order to come together. The naked figures communicate vulnerability and openness. Overall, this is a card that speaks to love, perfect union, soulmates, and a meeting of hearts. It signifies more than a simple relationship, leaning more towards a person to whom you have an intense soul tie or twin flame aspect with.
James & Lilly Potter as The Lovers
There’s no shortage of couples in Harry Potter. We have Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, Lupin and Tonks, Molly and Arthur, and Bill and Fleur, but the relationship that most represents the deep connection of the Lovers card is that of Lilly Evans and James Potter. Their love was typical in some ways, but in others, it showed itself to be the kind of sacrificial love that many of us can only hope to have. Even in death, the love of Lilly and James, and the manifestation of their love – Harry himself, lived on and was able to withstand the darkest magic ever seen and eventually defeat it. Pretty powerful if you ask me!
If we compare the image of the Lovers with the image of the Potters, we see a few similarities. Firstly, we see a couple in love, being both vulnerable and sensual with each other. Their hands are openly touching, and Lilly is looking up at James, while James is looking directly at her. What really strikes me are the leaves falling around them, which are the same shape and color as the leaves of fire (and the angel’s hair) in the Lovers card. James and Lilly are definitely a more modern representation of the Lovers, less allegorical and more realistic. One addition thing to consider is the snake imagery. Much like the snake is wrapped around the tree in the Lovers card, we know Voldemort (hello snake connections – Slytherin, Nagini, snake-like face) is lurking just beyond the perimeters of the picture, waiting to strike and ruin this perfect union.
As ‘soulmates’ James and Lilly had an ironically bad start. They meet during their first year at Hogwarts, where James and his friends are bullying Lilly’s best friend Severus Snape. James is described as conceited and spoiled, yet smart, a good friend, and an even better Quidditch player. Lilly is described as kind, clever, good at potions and charms, outgoing, with solid principles of fairness and equality. In their 5th year, James intensely bullies Snape, and Lilly lets him have it. (There’s more to that story, but for Lilly and James I’ll leave it at that). Although James has had a crush on Lilly for a while, it hits full force after this. By their 7th year, he has matured and grown out of most of his cocky ways and manages to snag a date with Lilly. She must see good in him, because they fall madly in love, marry right after Hogwarts, and have Harry shortly after.
We know they were deeply in love, but one thing to consider about James and Lilly, and what makes them so representative of the Lovers card, is that their love for one another is immortalized in time. Let me go a bit further…
We don’t actually get to ‘meet’ James and Lilly in the books. Not as presently living, breathing characters anyway. We are introduced to bits and pieces of them. First through Harry’s eyes in the Mirror of Erised (a fantasy), then through the photo album Hagrid gives Harry (frozen memories). We hear Lilly’s scream when Harry meets the dementor on the Hogwarts Express (PTSD/Trauma). Next we see them in the wedding photo Sirius gives Harry (frozen memory), then in the Occlumency lessons taught by Snape (flashback), through the words of Lupin, Sirius, Dumbledore, and Slughorn (recollections), then in the Penseive (memories), in the Priori Incantatem spell (not ghosts but not alive), and finally though the Resurrection Stone in The Deathly Hallows, which is probably the closest to their being alive we get.
All of this is important because just like the theme of love, especially romantic love, so much is dependent upon fantasy vs reality. James and Lilly obviously loved each other. They were willing to get married during The First Wizarding War, defy Voldemort three times, and go into hiding while Lilly is pregnant. James loves Lilly and his son so fiercely that he willingly faces Voldemort unarmed to give them time to flee. We know he loses his life, and then Lilly, who is given a chance to save her own life, refuses, dying for her son – which you know, sort-of created the entire situation for the books. Harry himself is the manifestation of James and Lilly’s love; he is a symbol of their soul tie, and this is why they both die trying to save him.
However…what is often not considered, in new, exciting love, is the other side. What would have happened had things gone differently? Lilly and James were only 21 years old when they died – extremely young. Did they really have time to delve into the darker themes of the Lovers card, like temptation, growing apart, resentment, and just…time? We see them immortalized as this ultimate loving couple, and while my personal opinion is that they really were, it does raise the same concern as the Lovers card does, which is whether or not two people have what it takes to make it for the long-term. Unfortunately we don’t get to explore this idea thoroughly with James and Lilly, but, what we do know of their relationship majorly connects to the initial themes of the card. They really do seem like the perfect match. Lilly inspires James to be a better man, and he provides her with love and support. Heck, even their Patronuses are the perfect match – Lilly’s is a doe and James’ is a stag. This actually reminds me of the imagery on the Druid Craft tarot’s Lovers card (see below). In Harry Potter, the message of the Lovers card is clear: Love conquers all. Literally. Harry IS James and Lilly’s love personified and in the end, this is what vanquishes evil and makes life worth living for.
How James & Lilly as The Lovers Helps Us Read Tarot
Lilly and James as the Lovers helps us read tarot because as we think about how these two were so perfectly matched despite their differences, and how their love transcended time, space, and even death, we can think about the same themes in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about James and Lilly’s relationship. They are asked with the couple and the Lovers card in mind:
- Were Lilly and James a perfect match? If so, what made them perfect for each other?
- What made Lilly and James’s relationship such a good one, according to those who speak about them in the book?
- How did Lilly and James’s love ‘heal’ others throughout the series?
- Lilly and James were married very young – do you think if they had lived their relationship would have changed? If so, how?
- What challenges did Lilly and James face as a couple? What joyful moments did they have?
- Do you believe it was love at first sight for James or Lilly? Why or why not?
- What kind of work do you think went into Lilly and James’s relationship behind the scenes (the ‘real’ stuff we don’t see through all of the rose-colored remembrances)?
- What statement does James and Lilly’s relationship make about the nature of true love?
How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves
As we ponder the above questions about James and Lilly, we can turn this questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Lovers card comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Lovers appear in a tarot reading:
- Do you believe you have a perfect match? What will/does make someone a perfect match in your eyes?
- What makes a relationship healthy and happy? What traits can each partner bring to the table for a ‘good’ relationship?
- How can real love bring healing to your own life? To others?
- How has your idea of ‘true love’ changed throughout the years? How do relationships grow and change as you get older?
- What challenges have you faced in your relationship(s)? What are some of your best relationship moments?
- Do you believe in love at first sight or soulmates or twin flames? Why or why not?
- What is some of the hard work that goes into relationships that we often don’t consider when in the ‘honeymoon’ phase? Are you ready to put in this work? Do you do it already?
This post should get your started thinking about the Lovers, James and Lilly’s relationship, and the Lovers themes in your life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Lovers card in tarot!
Next week we will explore the Firebolt as card number VII, The Chariot.
Listen to the podcast episode of James and Lilly as The Lovers :