Choose / XOR (6: The Lovers)

Postmarked February 14, 2001   (From Somerville, MA)

    The 6th card of the Traditional Major Arcana is "The Lovers."
    Early decks depict a man choosing between two women, two potential lovers. Some decks depict Adam and Eve, standing before the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge (entwined by serpent), with an attendant angel overhead. More recent decks often depict a couple at the altar, or otherwise consummating the romance, sometimes attended by an armed cupid.
    Traditional meanings of the card run from youthful fickleness to marriage/union to the choice between the Sacred and Profane. The astrological assignment is Gemini, the Twins. Two or more choices that may seem identical and interchangable but truly are not, ask any twin.
    For me, it is a card of choice, perhaps not so extreme as sacred and profane, but certainly between competing heart's desires that cannot coexist. As I rambled about it with Jason at the Diesel Cafe, he responded in programming terms. "The Exclusive Or! Yes! That's It!" Selecting one means by definition rejecting the other option.
    The hard part was coming up with a design.
    Depicting it as a man choosing between two women becomes a poster tarot card for people who aren't monogamous. This isn't the most suitable meaning for the card.
    Depicting a pair of humans may put too a heavy emphasis on the sexual potential of the card, and hey, that's not what The Lovers is really about! You have an entire suit (cups) to deal with that. Getting The Lovers in your reading does not automatically mean that a true yin/yang, sacred/profane union is going to happen with your latest crush (unless perhaps you *also* get a lot of Cups). So while the Cosmic Tribe tarot is pretty and socially progressive by offering three variations on the union (girl-girl, girl-boy, boy-boy), it distracts you from the point of the card: you must choose.
    So how to present the Exclusive Or? ("XOR" when seen in code.) I had vague ideas of someone airborne having to choose between two ledges before I settled on the idea of the choices both being the part that would complete a heart. In each half, I intended to fill the half-hearts with symbols that would could interchange with each other. I considered including references to the red pill and blue pill in The Matrix and maybe montages with serpents and trees. But, ah, entropy.
    The first design looked very plain. I had neither a working DSL connection at home, nor much of a great personal image library at my disposal. Or more to the point, I didn't have enough time to set up the scanner and sort through boxes of images. But I did have some quick digital photos of an abandoned puzzle along my walking commute. And - the pieces would work well, being suitably abstract. They reflected my renewed zest for puzzles and games at the time I created this card. Being a mental activity, they reflected the Air Sign significance of Gemini.
    I discovered the hard way just how quickly I forget how to use Photoshop and how abominably slow it runs on my Mac. It's a G3, dammit. I read most of Understanding Comics while waiting for the processor to catch up with me.
    (And wow, Kinko's may be wonderful, but they're not cheap.)
    If I were to redo this card, I'd add wings to the heart, since the real angel of truth is in one's heart of hearts. In the hemi-hearts, I'd make the whole puzzle piece the contrasting one (I had just figured out those filters and flattened some layers when this occurred to me, exactly too late.) I'd hope to switch in real arms and hands, one wrapped in flowers, the other in snake.
image of tarot postcard

Photography & Design: Julia C. Tenney

photo of found puzzle

Puzzle pieces on a Cambridge sidewalk, February 2001

Previous Tarot Cards
Three of Swords
0: The Fool

Previous Valentines
Candy Hearts
Burning Love
Three of Swords
Love is Dead

The Next Postcard

Updated: May 2001