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also known as Chalices

ace cups

marseilles deck

Cups are the emotional part of life, dealing with our feelings, especially where home, family and security are concerned, also our beliefs and our dreams. The character type indicated by cups is that called 'aimiable' but although the need to be loved is strong, cups indicate an emotional intensity which can make people unpredictable. Belief and commitment are key when cups are concerned, together with feeling and all things spiritual.

Cups represent the element Water and the signs
Cancer, Scorpio & Pisces. See the minor arcana page for all the associations.

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king cups queen cups knight cups page kings ace cups
author's Spanish deck
ace cups 2 cups 3 cups 4 cups
5 cups 6 cups 7 cups 8 cups 9 cups 10 cups

Ace of Cups
Aces are potential and new beginnings. In this respect, New love, or new adventure is indicated, Cups representing the emotions and feelings, what stirs us. It’s essential to note that ‘potential’ is the key word. It wraps opportunity and desire in a neat package but is just a package until you unwrap it, take it out of the box and use it with abandon. It’s something of great importance to you and brings the likelihood of a life changing, transformative event.

Two of Cups
2s are antithesis – there is a choice to be made. Antithesis in it’s simplest form is described best by the Marxist theory of history which shows us that a period under one specific direction - call it Thesis, in terms of it’s representing the way for society to move ahead, - will always give rise to a ‘backlash’ - a growing ‘antithesis’ building from the dissatisfaction of those alienated, marginalised and generally ‘used & abused’ by those who are advantaged by ‘thesis’. Indeed you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. We have in the past seen this as a period of Tory rule giving way to a period of Socialist rule. Whenever things go excessively right, the tendency is to swing back left - and vice versa. But hold on - What do David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Karl flaming Marx have to do with my prospects for romantic bliss? Look at the card, its all romantic, isn’t it? Not political? Here romance is in the air – the choice involved is whether or not to choose it. This card can indicate a proposal, a future marriage, or with romance in its broadest sense, the chance for adventure, to go off on a wild hair seeking the treasure of the Sierra Madre.
     So what happened to Marx then? Quite simply, the card asks you to consider that for some time your life has followed a particular path, you have developed ideas, principles, even beliefs - but its more than likely that these are not firmly fixed. You are ready for change, for a different way of seeing things, doing things... And what is on offer asks you to embrace change in exchange for an emotional partnership - indeed, the nature of it is the change. The chances are that it is what you want - are you prepared for the adjustments it asks?

Three of Cups
3s have a strong positive feeling. They are the potential, symbolised by the fertility which the Empress (the 3rd card of the Major arcana) confers, they are the synthesis, the outcome, the forward spread of progress promised by Marxist theory, they are symbolized by the triangle as a stable, supportive structure - think of the tripod that supports a camera or, on a larger scale, a vital survival shelter.
The Marxist theory of history gives us 1 - Thesis, followed by 2 - Antithesis resulting in 3 - Synthesis. Bear with me, it has nothing specifically to do with Communism! Lets see it as this - you have a King, one ruler, which over time becomes a tyranny and results in the rise of anti-monarchism and rebellion. Synthesis: a new ruling order. It works the other way too - a Liberal democracy can move towards anarchy and result in a call for a move back to ‘the right’ - result a coup and a tougher regime. History is littered with a continuous kaleidoscopic shifting of power structures along these lines. You can apply it a simpler level to single lives, even to issues: from two elements comes a third. Perhaps a compromise but an outcome supportive of progress.
Synthesis, then suggests a bonding, or a bond becoming secure. Apply this to Cups and the 3 is suggestive of a relationship forming – a ‘going steady’ or a movement forwards into a long term association. It shows two individuals becoming able to see themselves, emotionally, as a couple. It is also indicative of applying a rational, learned-from-experience approach to an emotional, intuitive desire which was otherwise lacking in real direction and practicality; of achieving a fusion that makes dreams and ambitions achievable.

Four of Cups
Anything new, be it a relationship, a job or a business venture, goes through a number of successive phases - establishment, consolidation, expansion... To use a business model. Linked to The Emperor card, 4s represent that part of the model which is ‘consolidation’. Something has begun well enough but now needs to grow. The Emperor is expansive. Cups are concerned with feelings and emotions, so the 4 here, indicates feelings which are maybe stifled, that a situation is a little stuck and things may be turning in on themselves. This does not mean - ‘Oh - bad card!’ It can be a timely reminder to pay attention to something began well and has simply lost its way, perhaps with other influences crowding it.

Five of Cups
Fives are linked with The Hierophant, the major card that represents the status quo, the way things ‘should be’, with doing the right thing’, and with higher learning which, traditionally, has an adversarial element. Knowledge is not a stagnant pool but one constantly refreshed by new enquiry and new ideas. Introducing these is a combative process, one of ‘positive conflict’, if such a term can be used for the process of argument and debate through which our understanding - often little more than a consensual agreement - of the world and its wonders grows. All the 5s represent this process of positive argument and discussion towards greater understanding and the Cups, representing feelings, have a 5 which represents a challenge to how things are, creating a positive, but initially combative, process which can advance understanding of an emotional situation. There are links to nostalgia with the 5, invariably looking back to a simpler time when there were less issues to clutter the matter. Going back is not an option and as this card often appears in make or break situations it has accumulated associations with break-ups and divorce, neither of which are directly a meaning of this card which simply describes a process which would necessarily be a part of such situations but not exclusively so.

Six of Cups
Sixes always involve an element of choice and an element of sacrifice. It isn’t as major and life changing as when their parent card, The Lovers, pays a call but has a significance nonetheless. Cups represent the feelings, emotions, the spiritual. A typical 6 of Cups situation would be choosing to settle into a long term relationship as opposed to trying to keep it at the high revving intensity of new love or switching off and watching tv instead. It would involve, invariably, some shared belief, interest or even beginning some form of quest or adventure - finding a bond on a different level. The nature of the relationship changes, its emphasis changes - and this can be very subtle, barely perceptible: one such change can involve moving towards unconditional love, that rare Holy Grail of relationships characterised by comfort and trust, and by sincerely wanting what is best for your partner, whatever that involves. Ideally, of course, this is reciprocal, but life is rarely so perfect, however the contentment found in simply giving unconditional love is rare and special. The 6 is a forward looking card that shows achievement and harmony, a stable platform from which to move forwards.

Seven of Cups
Surprises are the stock in trade of 7s. They are linked to The Chariot, the major arcana card that represents our ability to take things in our stride, to stay balanced and in control, and our tendency, unchecked, to become tyrannical and controlling - rare enough, there is always too much to check this tendency! Applied to the suit of feelings and emotions, the nature of the surprises should not be assumed to be dark. Life has an endearing quality for throwing unexpected delights into our path just when we are at our lowest ebb, just as it can strew banana skins when we think we’re on a roll. Surprises they are, and surprised we are - but, if we’re honest - not quite as much as we make out. We’d sort of seen it coming, a bit, hoped for it - its not totally out of the blue. This card then has a deeper connotation - this surprise could link up with our recent daydreams and fantasies, indeed almost certainly does. Consciously or sub-consciously we have been making our own luck, maneuvering ourselves in a hope of catching the fruit when it falls from the high branch... What is important now is to set the daydreams and fantasies firmly on one side - this is reality time, and hopefully we have not been entertaining unrealistic expectations. Our imagination and self-control has got us this far, now we need to get to grips with the real situation.

Eight of Cups
8s link with their major arcana ‘boss’ Justice, but in some decks with Strength. There are elements of both. With Cups relating to the emotions, the feelings the 8 usually refers to a bond - be it a relationship or a belief, that has achieved a near invulnerable strength, but it could be that too much emphasis is placed on strength, strength of belief, strength of bond. It c an be tempting to stick at this level - many do, even when it may be illusory. Real completeness and fulfillment is still a step or so away and pushing on from here can be a gamble. Relationships can function very well at this level but will be compromised if one or other feels they need to go further, or if one or other is not really as committed as they seem. Its the point where believers waver and fade, stop questioning, or go on to become true believers.

Nine of Cups
Ah, The Wish Card! Well, not exactly as simple as that. The 9 of Hearts, of which this is broadly the equivalent, is known as The Wish Card in Gypsy Fortune Telling. It’s real association, as a 9, is with being on the verge of fulfillment or completion of a project, one last obstacle removed from the end of a long process which is closely connected with your ambitions, your realizable dreams. Its from here that it becomes The Wish Card. Cups represent the feelings and the Nine of Cups usually refers to an emotionally fulfilling situation, such as the strengthening of a romantic bond, the solidification of a friendship or even to the consummation of a sexual relationship. It shows that joy and happiness are certainly within your grasp, and that you probably already have them. It is a sign to enjoy the abundance of life for as long as it lasts. Feel each of your emotions as if you had never felt any of them before. Take some time to value every person you love - and all those who love you back. See the perfection all around you. On a more physical level, this card signals delight and pleasure, contentment with what you have and a steady foundation for the future. Your worries are all but in the past, and you can look forward to a bright future. You’re probably expecting a ‘but’ - here it is: Don’t overlook that this is a 9. There is still a way to go but this brings the finished process so close that you can see every detail - what this card represents, often at a time when its most needed, is the inspiration to go the extra mile, the last hundred yards... Whatever is fading, failing and on the point of stopping you in your tracks receives a timely boost.

The Ten of Cups
10's represent completion and the opportunity to 'stick or twist' – you have reached the point which you set out to reach, now you can sit there or you can move on to new things.
The 10 of Cups is all too often read as a ‘domestic bliss’ card. 10s, as pointed out above, represent a completion of something - cups refer to the emotions and the feelings and can often be closely attached to concepts of home and loved ones. It isn’t a ‘given’ though. Other readings of the 10 Cups can included the climax of an adventure, attaining a goal / finding an answer in some form of emotional or spiritual quest. It is generally a card associated with the happiness in reaching such a point, but sometimes such completions bring sadness, remorse, disappointment, anti-climax. The key lies in the position of this card and its relation to the other cards.

The Page of Cups
He often shows a side of yourself that you need to manifest. This is increasingly common as humanity becomes more and more detached from its imaginative side in a world of technology and practicality. The Page's appearance tells you to never stop listening to your intuition and believing in your dreams. If you cease to dream, he tells us, then your dreams shall never come true because they do not exist anymore. In your darkest moments, dreams can often provide a ray of hope through with the Page of Cups can manifest. Dare to dream and all things become possible.

Also: indicates Child – quiet, dreamy, needs reassurance, Communications about spiritual issues. Poetry/art, love letters. Prayer.

Knight of Cups
Ah, Romeo Romeo - wherefore art thou etc etc. And this card often represents the object of your affections, the desired soul mate. That is, though, an interpretation of its broader meaning. Knights bring things to you - opportunities, challenges, things that need to be dealt with in order to move forwards in a particular direction. Cups represent the feelings, the spiritual, the romantic, the intuitive. In the present or future, this is indicative of romantic adventure, of spiritual engagement. In the past, it is the same but represents something of that nature which has been lost, has ended, or has been missed. It can also be something looked back to, as for comparison as a nostalgic memory.

Queen of Cups
Think carefully about how you use the vast stores of spiritual wisdom you have access to all the time. She can be a sign that you should use your intuition to guide you - or she can be a warning that you are thinking too much with your heart and not with your head. This can cause your dreams to grow out of control... and out of reach. Like all of the Cups court cards, the Queen encourages a moderate approach to intuition and wisdom. The heart may see farther, but sometimes you will have to look at things with your eyes.

King of Cups
Cups represent the element Water and its association with feelings and desire for adventure. The court cards stand apart from the association with events and directions that the rest of the minor cards have and are more indicative of mood and identity. The Kings represent the life skills more associated with the masculine side, with hunting and foraging, competition, gaining and exercising power, technical masteries. Many readers have problems with males amongst the watery, spiritual cups and with females amongst the fiery, charged wands and sharp, heavy swords. Which is, of course, plain daft. We all have this mixture of skills within us but a cultural predisposition to favour some as opposed to others, it doesn’t always split along gender lines. The influence of the King on your feelings and emotions is to make you suspicious of them, question them and want to work out where they come from. The Queen will happily accept a dream and follow the intuitive response she gets from it, the King will want to know exactly what symbolises what and why, and where did it come from and why now? The dream will remain important to the Queen for a long time, to the King until the next dream. A further influence of the King is to be secretive and withdrawn about your feelings, for whatever reason you are unable to bring your intuition to bear and are happier keeping your feelings to yourself for now.

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© Jeremy Rogers 2007 Document made with Nvu