The Lovers: Dante & Beatrice

First of all, dear readers, apologies for the absence. Whilst the Christmas holidays should have brought a deluge of posts, I have been lagging behind. I have been busy with re-launching the Electra Tarot website for your pleasure : ) But let’s get back into the blogging.

I used to never pull the Lovers card. There are a few of decks of mine where I have never had to read this card. But recently, the card has been appearing left, right, and centre. First with the Tarot of Delphi and now with the Victorian Romantic Tarot.

I pulled the Beatrice and Dante’s version of the Lovers this morning whilst completing Tarot Toska’s Self Improvement Tarot Challenge on Instagram (@BrittaMcBride, check her out!).


Day 16: What am I at risk of missing out on during this life?



A pretty serious question. As I was shuffling, the word “relationships” came to my mind. I can be guilty of ignoring relationships as I am very goal-oriented. During this morning’s 12 houses reading, I pulled the Tower in my 6th house. Are my relationships crumbling down? Recently I have cleaned up my social life and let go of negative people in my life. But such a trim down always feels harsh. Have I been pruning my relationships too much?

In addition, my 12th house was represented by the King of Coins: legacies of previous lives indicate money, wealth, success, and power. But what about love and relationships? Are these lessons I should learn right now?

So pulling the Lovers as the experience I could miss out on makes perfect sense. As I studied the image in more detail, I was overwhelmed with sadness. The Victorian Romantic Tarot contains two Lovers cards: one dark, serious (Dante and Beatrice), and one upbeat and dynamic (Swept off her feet).




The Dante and Beatrice card is decidedly nostalgic. Dante supports Beatrice’s hand, but she looks up, distracted. Is she in love with someone else? Is he too devoted to her, smothering her with love and flowers? This is unrequited love to the fullest degree.

Looking more deeply into Beatrice and Dante’s story, I learn that the 13th century poet only met her twice: once when he was nine and she was eight, and once nine years later. In the meantime, he made her the object of his courtly love. Courtly love is described as a secret, unrequited, and highly respectful form of admiration for another person. Courtly love was at its height in the Middle Ages, when knights would promise the world to damsels in distress, yet (allegedly) expect nothing in return.

Unfortunately Beatrice married a rich banker and died at the young age of 24. But Dante never forgot her: he made her his muse, and heroine of many poems and plays. After her death, he plunged into intense studying and introspection. Their encounters fulfilled a poetic vision, and blurred the line between actual and imaginary love.

Indeed, the veracity of their encounters is highly doubtful. It is convenient that they met nine years apart, a form of verse commonly used by Dante. In his autobiography Vita Nuova, Dante gives a rich account of his second encounter during which Beatrice, dressed in white, waives at him. Dante is so shocked that he immediately falls asleep and dreams many poems.

The encounter on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio is immortalized in Henry Holiday’s 1883 masterpiece, Dante and Beatrice.




A third encounter in death, more lugubrious, is added by by Elisabeth Sonrel in 1916.




The theme is picked up by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Beata Beatrix (1864-1870), remembering his eternal love for his muse Lizzie Siddal. Beata Beatrix is a visionary Pre-Raphaelite image, a masterpiece that vibrates with sorrow and emotion. Beatrice sits in a death-like trance, and we can barely see the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo of Florence in the background.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Beata Beatrix, ca 1864-70.


What can we make of Beatrice and Dante’s love in divinatory readings? To me, the card echoes the 7 of Cups: are we in love with the idea of love itself? Is our love real or imaginary? From a modern perspective, Dante’s love is obsessive and stalkery. Nowadays, we only expect teenagers to pine over an encounter for nine years. But isn’t there something magical about loving someone (or our mental representation of them) so much that they inspire us for the rest of our lives?

Dante and Beatrice belong to the pantheon of mythical lovers, such as Anthony and Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet. They speak of the salvational and inspirational powers of courtly love. Being in love with love is part of being human, because we are in love with life.