The Mythic Tarot - The Lovers


(time to get this study group going again!)

The Lovers – the Judgement of Paris

Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite have a dispute over which of them is the fairest. Zeus, knowing that he cannot judge this contest, directs Hermes to find someone who can fairly choose among these goddesses. He finds Paris tending his stepfather’s cattle and fairly awards a prize to another bull rather than his own.

Paris has been directed by Hermes (not shown) to award the golden apple (of Discord) to whichever of the 3 Goddesses before him he deems fairest – a choice that he knows he doesn’t want to make. He tries to offer the prize to all, but no, Hermes tells him a choice must be made. Each of the goddesses bribes him – Athena with power in war, Hera with promising to make him king of all Asia. But Aphrodite promised him the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife. Paris is only a teenager – what choice do you think he’s going to make?? Married woman and an entire civilization at war be damned.

Classically, this card has always been about choice. In the Mythic Tarot, a couple of other facets are introduced:
1. Paris if forced to choose. He tries to get out of the situation, but to no avail. Aren’t there times in our lives where we all have to make a choice that we really don’t want to make, and try our best to find a way out of it?
2. Is Paris even able to make a real decision? Having an unbiased eye for cattle is one thing; a teen-age boy making a level-headed decision about beautiful women quite another! Might there not also be times when we might have to make a choice that we’re not qualified to make? What to do then? Taking the best offer/bribe isn’t always the best choice.
On the other hand, this part of the story is about moving a pre-gone conclusion to fruition. Paris never really had no other choice than to choose Aphrodite, ever. Athens needed a pretext on which to wage war on Troy, and a captured wife is a good one.
3. In this version of the card, I think of Hermes as the (absent) cupid-like figure. He’s pushed Paris into this position. Trickster gods and love often act alike J

Choices are actions. Actions always have consequences. This card also reminds us to think about that. (I’m suddenly thinking about Aretha Franklin coming out from behind the counter and saying “you better think about the consequences of your actions….. you better think…..”)

Free Flight

Hi Aja

I agree totally about getting this group started again.

Can you by any chance attach a link of this card?

When I look at this card it seems each of the ladies has something different to offer. Beauty, Intelligence and spirit. One offers him an apple. More than any other deck I see the Lovers in the Mythic Tarot about overwhelming choices. How can he choose as you say, he is so young.

What would I do in that situation. Sometimes I feel I would be totally unable to make a decision here so perhaps all the choices being offered are not the best.

Just some thoughts for the moment


Aphrodite is in the middle. Makes me wonder if the choice is not already made. I say that because Aphrodite seems to be the one that seems to be a foot in front of Athena and Hera. Aphrodite also seems less rigid than the other two. Maybe my eyes are playing me tricks...


I agree with you Annik.

Even if Aphrodite's foot isn't ahead she will always be the winner. Anyone caught up in the Lover's energy will always choose the Aphrodite energy over the others. Whether or not that is the best choice in the longrun is the question and remains to be seen.

As usual it often turns out that it wasn't the wisest choice? Why is that? Why can't we have our cake and eat it too?


Paris stands before Hera, Aphrodite and Athene holding a golden apple that he will present to the woman he deems the most beautiful. Hera holds the globe of the world as her reward for being chosen. Aphrodite holds the chalice of love as her reward. Athene holds the sword as symbol of the mightiest and most just of warriors as her reward.

  • symbol of the shepherd
  • authority, guidance, jurisdiction, mercy, faith
Golden Apple
  • prize for the winner of the beauty contest that Paris judges, it became the “apple of discord” (bone of contention) once given to Aphrodite
  • fertility, joyousness
  • knowledge, wisdom, divination
  • eternity and immortality
  • “small choice in rotten apples” means that when faced with two or more equally undesirable options, it matters little which one you choose
  • the worldly authority and ethical perspective of Zeus
  • absolute authority, dominion over the earth, power, far-reaching dominion
  • the most beautiful woman in the world
  • the cup of love, symbol of relationships
  • associated with the heart; love offered
  • the mightiest and most just of warriors
  • the cutting power of the mind; the keen vision and decisiveness of the mental realm
  • authority, decisive judgment, insight, penetrative intellect
  • before his birth, it was foretold that he would be responsible for the downfall of Troy, so he was abandoned on a hillside
  • he was suckled by a bear and raised by a shepherd
  • as a young man, he married the nymph Oenone, who had the gift of healing
  • Zeus decided that Paris would judge which of the three goddesses was the fairest; although he knew he was in a no-win situation, Zeus wouldn’t let him get out of it, so in what became known as “The Judgement of Paris,” he chose Aphrodite, earning the enmity of both Hera and Athena
  • as reward for choosing Aphrodite, he was given Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world; this led to the Trojan war and the downfall of Troy
  • the Judgment of Paris reflects the first of life’s great challenges – the problem of choice in love, which reflects one’s values because those choices are a mirror of the kind of person we wish to become
  • young and ruled by his hormones, Paris is incapable of making a mature decision; this choice highlights the problem between free will and the compulsions of the instincts
  • the consequences of choices in love are huge because they affect all levels of life
  • the contest is forced upon him, just as life forces challenges on us before we’re ready
  • he represents that part of us that is ruled by the need for satisfying desires but that can’t see that choices have consequences for which we are ultimately responsible
  • only by passing through this trial by fire can we understand how to create our futures instead of blaming fate, chance or other people for what happens because we didn’t reflect first before choosing

Written in my workbook on 5 Aug 91:
Paris's tunic reflects his immaturity, his hair reflects his youthfulness. His skin color reflects the uncertainty which accompanies youth. In one hand he holds the apple of growth while in the other he holds the staff of fear. Hera's robe represents the strength and self-assurance needed in order to partake of the wealth of love of her crown and globe. Her skin relfect the permanence of true love. Aphrodite's impermanent body is barely covered with lust and passion. In her hand she holds the cup of desire. Athene is armored with the clearness of thought which is necessary on top of the joy of love. In her hand she holds the swords of determination which is necessary to make love last. Skies of indecision blend into the fields of spiritual growth, which is necessary if one is to be capable of love.

My key colors were black (stealth, energy, strength, self-assurance), scarlet (hate, anger, lust, passion), light blue (clearness of mind, thought or purpose; truth) and jade (growth, Spring, fertility).