Learning the Tarot is like learning a foreign language; each card contains symbols, and every symbol represents words with different meanings.
Understanding symbols is an important part of reading Tarot cards.
Fortunately, most symbols immediately trigger messages and ideas when you start to interpret the cards.
With a bit of practice, and most often common sense, you can steadily increase your vocabulary of symbolic meanings and thus uncover hidden messages and new insights.
The cups depicted in the Suit of Cups symbolise feelings, emotions and often matters of love.
We can read more about the meaning of each cup card in the way cups are placed in the image.
In the Rider Waite Tarot for example, the Five of Cups depict three turned-over cups while two are still standing upright.
This suggests that not all is lost, and there is still something to be joyful about, but we need to make the effort to see it.
The court cards in the Suit of Cups express love and emotions through the style of each individual’s cup and how it is held:
The main feature is the fish in the cup. Fish symbolise instinct, going with the flow, being guided by underlying currents and dreams. In this image the fish also seems to symbolise a surprise, a bit of fun, something unusual and unexpected (would you ever expect to find a fish in a cup?).
The Page looks at the fish with curiosity, and there also seems to be some communication without words going on between the fish and the Page, which indicates intuition and following your senses.
The Page is holding the cup at a bit of a distance, not sure about its unpredictable content or what to make of it, but still attentive and open to new emotional beginnings unfolding.
By looking at the fish, the Page may look at his mirror image; is he a fish out of water?
For the Knight, the cup represents the Holy Grail of love, the ultimate goal of his quest. The cup is held as a token, a gift, an offering and acts as a guide and focal point on his journey.
The Knight seems to reach out to the world with his open cup, expressing romantic idealism, and vulnerability (anyone can fall into that cup and be showered with this Knight’s love and affection with uncertain outcome).
Holding the cup as a guide and focus makes this Knight determined to find love and follow his dreams.
This cup is an object of beauty; ornate, intricate but also complex and fragile. A slight knock and those angelic embellishments could get damaged, suggesting sensitivity and vulnerability.
The intricacy of the cup could also be interpreted as complicated, the work of a highly-strung artist, who mastered her skills through years of experience.
This cup is made to be shown off in a display cabinet (the Queen is comfortable showing her emotions), and it reminds me of a samovar, a water-heating device for tea-drinking ceremonies in Russia and the Middle East.
The samovar symbolises the social nature of ceremonial tea-drinking, which emphasises the Queen’s ability to counsel with empathy and compassion in an informal setting.
The size of the cup also suggests generosity and abundance. Resting on the palm of her hand, the cup indicates a giving nature, openness and receptivity.
The King’s cup is a simple yet robust design. Replacing the orb as a symbol of his ruling power (holding the sceptre in his left hand), the cup expresses his mastery and control of his feelings and emotions.
The King is holding the cup with a relaxed yet confident grip. It is resting on his lap surrounded by his arm and body suggesting emotional protection, support and steadiness.
For a king we might expect an embellished cup similar to that of the Queen, but the simplicity of this cup highlights the uncomplicated nature of the King of Cups; he’s no longer interested in playing games with people’s feelings, drama, tension or out-of-control passion.
His rules in love are straightforward, open and honest. What you see is what you get. No hidden agendas beneath precious stones and intricate patterns on his cup.
How are you holding your cup of love today? Like a Page, Knight, Queen or King? Shuffle the Cups court cards and draw one to find out.
Christiane – Cosmic Faery’s Journal