Queen of Swords: The Perceptive, Just Diplomat
The Queen of Swords represents the personality that results when the watery aspect of air manifests itself in a person; the intuitive, emotional, passive, intimate aspects of abstraction and ideology. The Queen of Swords is Perceptive, able to see to the heart of the matter quickly, and is Just. She is Swift and she is also Independent and an Individualist. She is Confident and Balanced, as well asGraceful and Concerned over the treatment of others. She is Beautiful and people are drawn to her for that as well as her Wisdom. She is Articulate and to the point, able to come up with Clever and Fair solutions to any problem put before her. She is the perfect Diplomat, and one of the vehicles through which the ideals of the Suit of Swords will be brought to Earth. She is very Knowledgeable in the ways of the the human mind. She can be Cruel and Superficial sometimes, as well as Unreliable and sometimes outright Deceitful. She is Focused and will do whatever it takes to bring Peace, Truth, Order, and Justice to the world. King Solomon of Judean fame was a Queen of Swords; an empath whose feelings for others were driven by inspiration from a higher plane; in his case, God.
The Rider-Waite art shows an imposing figure upon a throne, a sword in one hand and her other hand held out either as if she is expecting something or ordering others to do her bidding. She is not afraid to do what she knows is right and must be done. She is shown (unusually for the Rider-Waite Queens) in full profile, which gives her a stern air. The Thoth art shows a reclining Queen high in the sky. She is separate and believes she is above everyone else; there is an aura of untouchable beauty about her. This card also seems to emphasize her role as a judge, as she is above everyone else and can see what is going on, and dwells in the heavens, from where she can receive the divine word.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that this personality may play in your life. Do you know anyone who acts as an intermediary between others? Who always comes up with compromises and fair solutions to conflict? Do you know any individualists who others gather around to admire both their beauty and intellect? Do you know anyone who seems to just be good at everything? Reversed, this personality is blocked or hidden; perhaps someone is unwittingly mediating conflicts and disputes between others, or perhaps someone is trying to stop being that person.
Knight of Swords: The Idealistic, Intelligent Martyr
The Knight of Swords. In the Rider-Waite tradition, this is the King of Swords. This card represents the personality that results from the meeting of Fire and Air; this card is then the Fiery aspect of Air. It is the fiery, passionate ideology that can consume one’s entire personality; the card that results from Cruelty and leads toRuin and martyrdom. This card represents the personality associated with a passionate ideologue.
The person who exemplifies the Knight of Swords is Intelligent, Clever, andSubtle; he is a Manipulator. He is at the same time Delicate and also veryFierce when his positions are challenged. He is Skillful, and is constantly moving forward; he represents Violent and Managed Motion; he fights for drastic changes that are heavily monitored. He is a proponent of Science and Logic. At times, though, he can be Incapable (reality can often shatter a philosopher’s ability to function capably when his ideas do not work) and Indecisive – he has a general plan, but the details aren’t fleshed out. He deals with and isDriven by Ideologies, not practicalities. He is willing to give his all to his cause, and so is prone to Martyrdom. His is the world where action meets thought; he has a vision of the world as it should be, and he seeks to make it that way.
The Rider-Waite art shows a King sitting on his throne. He has the detached air of someone prone to deep thought, yet also seems ready to act; he is a thinker who will act on his beliefs when necessary. His face is stern and appears to be willing to pass judgment on others. The Thoth art has a more dynamic image; a swiftly moving man with dragonfly wings on a steed, flying amongst the birds graces this image. He has a thin sword held forward; he pinpoints a problem and tries to fix it. He is also focused on his one issue of thought, and ignores what else is around him. This card in particular captures the idea of violent and managed motion. he also has the air of one leading a charge to his inevitable doom, reflecting the theme of martyrdom.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that this personality may play in your life. Do you know anyone devoted to their ideology, who will do anything to promote it, and isn’t above manipulating others to get things to be the way they feel things should be? Are they clever and crafty, moving swiftly but in a very methodical and organized manner? Do they see themselves as a martyr? Reversed, this card’s personality is twisted or hidden somehow; perhaps they long to be like the Knight of Swords, but reality stops them. Maybe they are trying to be an ideologically driven person, or perhaps they are being prevented from being a martyr.
Ruin: Excessive Abstraction, Downfall, and Martyrdom
The Ten of Swords. Ruin. Ungrounded Logic. Fantasies of Thought. Excessive Abstraction. Downfall. Loss. Shun. Mirage. Martyrdom. Victim Mentality. Stifling. Bottoming Out. The Ten of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Malkuth: Reality, the Root, the Sum, and the Origin. The Ten of Swords represents the final stage of the transformation of the energy of the Suit of Swords when it finally reaches reality and the material world. The theme if disconnect, disillusion, and despair have been themes throughout the Suit, and the Ten brings them all together and amplifies them. This card represents the ultimate disconnect between the abstract Swords and the Material Malkuth.
This card represents Excessive Abstraction, Ungrounded Logic, and Fantasies of Thought; being too lost in one’s own ideals and ponderings, and failing to see the reality before you. This card represents the state of one’s mind being lost on a different plane of thought and totally disconnected from what is going on in the ‘real” world. And what does this bring? Ruin. Downfall. Loss. Being Shunned by the sheeples of society who don’t understand. You are Stifled by the limited possibilities the world offers you. You believe yourself the Victim of the Cruelty of the world (though sometimes you may be overdramatic). You give in to the despair that the Nine of Swords brought to you, and so fall into Ruin.
The Suit of Swords can also intersect with reality in another way; if one has their head in the clouds and is devoted completely to their ideals and ideologies, they may be willing to sacrifice themselves to help others; the logical extension of some of the self-injury of the Nine of Swords. This, in turn, leads to the idea ofMartyrdom; martyrs are people whose thoughts are with abstract ideals of Truth and Justice, and when their minds interact with the world, they care not for their fleshy bodies, and will die for what they believe in.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man lying dead on the beach with ten swords on his back; the swords above his bed have fallen and killed him. He could not cope with the Cruelty of the world. In the distance, the sun rises, though, signalling that this is not the end, but only part of a cycle – which can be taken either as delegitimizing the man’s death or foretelling that life goes on. The Thoth art has ten swords all pointed relatively downwards, their blades twisted horribly out of shape around each others at the ends. The keen blade of intellect has been warped by excessive contact with reality, and the swords are all crashing down to the ground, which is already red with the blood of the world’s victims.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the meeting place of your thoughts and the realities of life. Do they match up? Are you alienated from your own existence? Are you teetering on the bring of ruin? Have you been ruined recently? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps your life has been thrown into shambles but you haven’t yet accepted it, or you are so far into your own fantasy that the disconnect between it and reality isn’t visible.
Cruelty: The Curse of Enlightenment, Anguish, and an Uncaring World
The Nine of Swords. Cruelty. Guilt. Anguish. Worry. Fear. Self-injury. Degenerate. Sadism. Despair. Uncaring. Implacable Fate. Heartless Passion. The Nine of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Yesod: Crystallization and the Essence of Being. The Nine, in most Suits, represents the best that the Suit of has to offer, representing the crystallization of all that is good within the suit, and the resolving of the weaknesses of Netzach and Hod. In the case of the Suit of Swords, a bleak message is sent: the best that the Suit has to offer is Cruelty. Many of the cards in the Suit of Swords are negative, and this negativity is manifested in the Nine. The Nine of Swords is very close to the Ten, which represents Swords manifested in reality. The Suit of Swords is the realm of the abstract, of thought and reason. As the Suit of Swords approaches the gates of reality, the disconnect between the material and abstract becomes ever greater, which is why the positive Swords cards tend to be earlier on, while the later cards tend to be more negative.
The Nine of Swords still does resolve the weaknesses of Seven and Eight, but not in a positive way; Futility is resolved by succumbing to the material influences of the world, and Interference is resolved in much the same way. Rather than consciously “fixing” the weaknesses above, the despair seen throughout the Suit of Swords continues into the Nine, where the mind finally gives in (the body gives in at the Ten) and surrenders to the cruelty of the world. This card represents the true and final realization that the world is imperfect, and the consequences of said realization. This card symbolizes also the emotions and mental state that lead later to the physical fall depicted in the Ten of Swords.
The Nine of Swords portrays the world as uncaring and full of heartless passion; it exists and continues to exist, but has little regard for individuals. At its heart, the world is degenerate and rife with evil and inequality. The principles of the Suit of Swords do not belong in the material world, and are incompatible with it. There is a sense of Guilt when those who come to the realization see that they cannot fix the world, and they begin to Despair about what will happen. The helplessness of Futility and Interference manifest in the more powerful idea of Implacable Fate; one man cannot usually change the world or its nature. “Enlightened” people torment themselves over their existence, and turn to self-injury. They see the Sadistic nature of the world,and they cannot stand it. The world is a Cruel place.
The Rider-Waite art emphasizes the ideas of despair, worry, guilt, and anguish. A man sits up with his head in his hands in the middle of the night, his slumber tormented by inner daemons, while swords hang over his bed; an unsafe move indicative of a lack of caring and self-injury (these swords will fall on him in the Ten of Swords). He is alone in the night, kept awake by the realization of the cruelty of the world. The Thoth art shows nine swords, all pointed downwards, glowing red. They are surrounded by what appear to be drops of fiery blood, indicating both passion and despair; but passion of a very melancholy sort, as the drops are not rising, but fallen, and are the result of a mortal wound of the mind. The blood that falls is from the injury of realization. These swords are falling, and someone at the bottom is going to be hurt.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that the realization of cruelty play in your life. Have you been unhappy lately? Worried or feeling guilty about something? Feel like you are being moved along in your life while you have no agency of your own? Are you alone in a cruel world that makes you despair? These questions are prompted by the Nine of Swords. Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted; perhaps you are denying yourself this cold realization and living purposefully in a dreamlike state, retreating to the energy of Cups for safety.
Interference: Confusion, Obstacles, and Frustration
The Eight of Swords. Interference. Frustration. Annoyance. The Odds Stacked Against You. Helplessness. Restriction. Confusion. Obstacles. Hassles. The Eight of Sword corresponds to the Sefirot of Hod: the response to the weakness of Netzach that results in a weakness itself, of Thought, Knowledge, and Intellect. The energies of the Suit of Swords react strongly to the degenerate weakness ofFutility – giving in to surrender – and instead go in the opposite direction, overcompensating. Instead of surrendering, the energy continues on and attempts to fight on as much as it can – but that fight isn’t always easy, and when one does not even allow oneself to rest and tries too hard, obstacles will get in one’s way, and hassles will make progress difficult. Tjis card represents those obstacles and hassles and their effects; frustration, a sense of helplessness and a feeling that the odds are stacked against you. You may be confused (this could also be a source of these obstacles), and feel restricted. Doubtless you will become annoyed at everything that gets in your way as well. This card represents all of the things that impair your growth – mostly intellectually and morally, but in other areas as well. This card represents all of those little things that get in your way adding up to drive you crazy.
The Rider-Waite art depicts a tied up and blindfolded woman surrounded by swords. This art emphasizes the ideas of helplessness, restriction, and the odds being stacked against you, as she is all of these things. The Thoth art shows two straight swords with several less-than-straight swords running across them, literally interfering with them. Each of the interfering swords is different, representing the idea of lots of small annoyances adding up to cause a big problem.
In a reading, this card simply asks you to examine the role of annoyances, hassles, and frustrations in your life. Have you lately felt that everything was working against you and you couldn’t get anything done? Have you been irritable and felt restricted lately? Reversed, this card’s energies are twisted or hidden somehow; perhaps the reason you’ve been unhappy lately is because of these small hassles, or maybe the things interfering with you are not what you would expect.
Futility: Defeatism, Hopelessness, and Shame
The Seven of Swords. Futility. Hopelessness. Defeatism. Unfairness. Being Alone. Shame. Surrender. Appeasement. Shame. Running Away. The Seven of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Netzach. Bliss and the degenerate weakness of the suit of Swords. The Seven is the weak aspect of the Six that manifests itself in degenerate qualities. In many ways this card is similar to Defeat, but is different in its tone. While the Five of Swords also has a relationship the ideas of surrender and appeasement, the Five’s relationship with them takes place after a struggle to maintain the Truce has already been made. Futility’s surrender and appeasement, on the other hand, is given without a fight; it is wanton appeasement and quick surrender, with no semblance of standing up for what you believe in – the antithesis of the Suit of Swords. In those aspects, this card represents the failure of the energy of Swords.
This card also indicates hopelessness and unfairness – the sense that the world is against you. When one contemplates the realities of the world – as the Suit of Swords urges us to do – it can easily make one rather pessimistic and make them believe that their whole existence is futile, and that is also what this card is about. In this way it is similar to Sorrow, but instead of despair and a sense of betrayal, this card’s energies correspond more to a resigned surrender and a sense of shame at letting yourself just give in.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man seemingly stealing a collection of swords from a group of pavilions. He is alone and set apart, and is shaming himself by stealing swords. The Thoth art shows a single sword, with six other swords all pointed down at it. The large sword in the middle is not only beneath the other swords, but is being threatened by the others. The whole world is against it, and it is pointless for it to resist; it is all by itself in a cruel world.
In a reading, this card advises you to look at how defeatist attitudes play a role in your life. Are you ashamed for not standing up for someone? Have you just given up fighting for what you believe in? Does it feel like you’re all alone in a cruel world? Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked or hidden somehow; perhaps you are doing something that is in reality an act of surrender or giving up, but you don’t realize it. Maybe you have already given up on life but you just don’t know it yet.
Science: (The Search for) Truth, Progress, and Unity
The Six of Swords. Science. Progress. Unity. Achievement. Truth. Logic. Discovery. Order. Moral and Mental Balance. The Six of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Tiphareth: Experience and the Conscious Harmony. Science resolves the conflict between Chesed and Geburah, and restabilizes the energy of the Suit of Swords. The Truth is restored from the effects of Defeat, and Peace is restored, allowing for the furthering of Science. Science is the best that the Suit of Swords has to offer, and represents the balanced energy of the Suit. It is the ultimate of the conscious harmonies, as this card represents the hunt for the truth of the universe, guided from above by the influence of Kether. It is the ultimate positive manifestation of the ideals of the Suit of Swords: the intellectual pursuit of Truth to be used in the name of Justice. It is the ultimate in abstract thought.
This card, then, represents the discovery and progress associated with Science, as well as the unity that comes with throwing off the shackles of defeat and re-achieving Peace. It represents the intellectual achievements that lead to the world becoming a better place, often attained through the application of Logic. This card represents also the balance between morality and one’s mental state; the two both must be in prime condition to effectively pursue Science.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man rowing a cloaked woman and her child to a far shore on a boat filled with swords. She is leaving behind the falseness of her previous life and moving on to the land of truth, though the experience may be painful. The Thoth art shows six swords – all straight, as befits the “positive” Swords cards – all pointed together at a cross with a hole in the center, attempting to complete the cross as a symbol of formal knowledge and learning (from medieval symbolism, of course). The background is filled with well-ordered geometric designs, indicating the logic of it all.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of scientific rationale and thought in your life. Have you been on a quest recently to discover the truth of something? Are you or someone you know extremely logical? How has progress or discovery impacted you? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps the search for truth and justice is present on the surface, but the real motive of the questing individual is something far different and perhaps more cynical. Maybe the heart of the problem is a lack of this search, and it needs to be done to solve the issue at hand. Perhaps you are too focused on progress, and need to scale things back a bit.
Defeat: Dishonor, Selfishness, and Surrender
The Five of Swords. Defeat. Loss. Fall. Discord. Dishonor. Selfishness. Disgust. Ineffectuality. Surrender. Pacifism. The Five of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Geburah; the destabilizing motion that upsets the stability of Chesed. The Truce is broken by Discord and Selfishness leading to some form of conflict, and inevitably one is defeated. This card represents both the conflict that leads to the “defeat” of truce and the defeat of an individual. This card is in many ways the unstable version of Truce; instead of a ceasefire on equal terms, this card represents a Surrender on unequal terms. Both cards imply an end to a conflict, but in different ways.
This defeat is brought on by Selfishness and Ineffectuality, with perhaps a lack of will to fight and a sort of Pacifism when you need to stand up and fight, which when combined with Discord, lead a most Dishonorable loss. It is not in the interest of the being who exemplifies the Suit of Swords to give up on his position of Truth and Justice easily, and when he does, he is Dishonored by his inability to do what he believes right, and also by his own Selfishness. This card also can represent the ideals of the Suit of Swords again meeting the world, but this time in the form of greed; and so the ideals of Swords are betrayed and the Swordbearer is defeated.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man in the foreground with a smug, cruelly satisfied look on his face, picking up swords from the ground, presumably dropped by his two comrades, one of whom appears to be grieving. Yet the central figure cares not for his two comrades, and continues to selfishly gather swords. He is thus dishonored and morally defeated in this way. This card also could be read as the central figure having defeated the other two. Either way, there is certainly some sort of discord between the three figures. The Thoth art shows five swords, their points all together and pushing at each other. The swords are bent, indicating great force and conflict as the swords push each other. Around the swords is an inverted pentagram; the balance has been upset. The haphazard lines behind the swords also are reminiscent of broken glass, reinforcing the air of loss and defeat in the card.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of selfishness, dishonor, discord, and even defeat or a refusal to fight when you need to in your life. It asks you to examine your relationship with others; have you been getting along? Are you not standing up for yourself? Have you been selfish? Have you been bested lately? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden somehow; selfish intentions may be disguised as good ones, or perhaps a defeat is really a victory (or vice-versa). Perhaps one has been dishonored in the face of society, but you still hold your own personal sense of honor high.
Truce: Temporary Relief, Contemplation, and Rest
The Four of Swords. Truce. Temporary Relief. Appeasement. Reassessment. Contemplation. Withdrawal. Rest. Cessation of Hostilities. The Four of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Chesed – stability, condensation, and the appearance of matter. The Four of Swords represents the energy of swords becoming stable after the dissatisfaction of the Three, the the calming of the initial heartbreak associated with the realization that the world is not perfect. This is achieved through contemplation and withdrawal; meditation that allows you to accept calmly the fact that the world is not perfect, and lets you move on with your life. However, this card does not represent a permanent and lasting arrangement; it is instead a Temporary Relief from the sorrow of the Three of Swords, and indeed, the next card in the suit is Defeat. The energy of the Suit of Swords has become stable, if only for a little while (emphasizing the transient nature of Chesed; as it is quickly upset by Geburah). This card is a return to the Peace of Binah for a short period of time, and allows one to withdraw from open conflict and contemplate on the causes of said conflict. This card represent’s the philosopher’s pondering and self-analysis, where he comes to terms with his own emotions (analyzing them logically), and may even take some time to Rest. This card can also signify a break from active fighting, in terms of appeasement andceasefire. For example, the pre-WWII satisfying of Hitler’s demands is represented in part by this card, as granting those appeasement provided temporary relief, but did nothing to solve the real cause of conflict in the end.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a man either sleeping or being dead, lying in a Church – which is a santuary – with the weapons of war hanging unused above and below him. He is clearly a warrior, but for the moment he is resting peacefully in either sleep or death, his conflict not troubling him. The Thoth art shows four swords all pointing at each other, above the flower of peace, which is blooming. The fact that the flower is blooming indicates that the process of peace has not finished, and is in progress; a Truce can be the first step to it. The swords are also not crossed like in Peace, but are not bent as in Sorrow; there is now force bending the blades. The swords are at rest, but have not laid themselves down completely – they were ready to move again the instant they need to, and are still pointed at each other.
In a reading, this card asks you to consider the effects that a period of withdrawal and contemplation may have on you. It encourages a cessation of hostilities, a short break, or a re-assessment of yourself. Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted; it could indicate that you are weighed down by something that does not allow you to take a break, or are so caught up in your conflicts that you cannot bring yourself to end them.
Sorrow: Betrayal, Inner Turmoil, and Loneliness
The Three of Swords. Sorrow. Sadness. Secrecy. Heartbreak. Betrayal. Loneliness. Inner turmoil. Chaos. Disillusionment. Perversion. The Three of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Binah; stability, the birthing ground, and the plane. Binah is where the energy of the Suit begins to take form and gain potential. In most of the suits, this position is positive, but the Three of Swords has a distinctly negative connotation. In many ways, the Three of Swords is like Geburah (chaos of motion) come early. In the realm of the abstract, corruption and morally evil things come to the fore much more readily than in the realm of the physical: and so when the pure ideas of Swords finally reach the place where they can be born, they suffer negativity much more quickly. The abstract does not mix well with any notion of the material, and its potential, while great, is easily sullied by perversions of the mind.
And so, then, we have Sorrow. The abstract ideals of the mind, when realized, often fall far short of reality, and so then we give ourselves in to sorrow. Binah represents also duality, and when this duality is combined with the energy of Swords and its principles, is not what one expects; so the duality is betrayed, andheartbreak comes to the fore. This card is the sorrow that comes with the realization that the world is not perfect. Life is imperfect, and often brings despair. That is what this card stands for; the sadness that results from the realization that great principles cannot be applied effectively to the realities of the world, and so its potential is thwarted.
The duality betrayed leads not only to heartbreak, but to loneliness andsecrecy as well; in this way this card represents the feelings one has when one’s ideal notions of a relationship are shattered. There is a sense of betrayal that accompanies the Three of Swords as well; the world (or other person) has wronged you somehow, and not lived up to your expectations; the Peace has been shattered, and Sorrow has taken its place. No more is there the inner tranquility and calm of the Two of Swords; the inner spirit is now in turmoil, and the calm has become grief.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a heart being pierced by three swords, while rain pours down from dark clouds. This artwork very clearly illustrates the idea of heartbreak and betrayal, as well as sadness and dreariness. The Thoth art shows three swords, not crossed to defend the peace as in the Two of Swords, but rather all points at the same target: a flower. The flower of peace is being threatened, and the geometrical designs of the Two of Swords are now less regular and more curved. Dark stormclouds loom in the background. The flower is wilting and losing its petals; it is dying slowly. This card strongly gives off the idea that the universe has betrayed the ideals of peace; the world is imperfect.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the roles of loneliness, sorrow, heartbreak, and other dismal states of mind in your life. Does it seem like the world is out to get you? Do things never go right? Are you in anguish inside? How have secrets been affecting you? Reversed, it asks you to look for this card in ways you might not expect; it reinforces the idea of Inner turmoil, maybe hidden from the outside. Is someone’s sorrow contained within them? Is your own sorrow hidden from yourself?
Peace: Inner Tranquility, Putting Aside Differences and Conflict to Improve the Future, and Blocking Emotions
The Two of Swords. Peace. Calm. Inner Tranquility. Putting Aside Differences. Avoiding Conflict. Blocking Emotions. The Two of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Chokmah; the first manifestation of the seed of Kether, and the original harmony and power of creation. It is the energy and idea of the Suit of Swords given original harmonious form; it is the first appearance of logic and abstract thought and ideals. What better way to express abstract ideals of truth and justice than through the idea of Peace? By putting aside differences and avoiding conflict, thinkers can come together and help build the world, making it a better place. Peace allows for thought to grow, and is the result of the application of the principles associated with the Suit of Swords.
The card’s association with inner tranquility also is the representative card of the philosopher and thinker; those individuals who commonly exemplify the Suit of Swords. These logical thinkers must block out the influence of their emotions of their thought is to be true, and so often this tranquility is emotionless. This card embodies the mental state – the abstract ideas – associated with the suit of Swords with regards to oneself, and so is the mental harmony of Swords: that is, Peace.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a woman sitting on a stone bench, blindfolded and holding two swords across her chest defensively. She is blocking herself from others, and is focused on herself and not her environment, as is seen from the blindfold. She is peaceful and calm, and also alone – she does not let her surroundings disturb her sense of calm. Behind her is the sea, which is also extremely calm. The Thoth art shows two crossed swords piercing the center of a flower and keeping it suspended and stable, while not actually breaking or destroying it; the background shows many angular geometrical patterns, emphasizing the stability and logicality of it all. Below and above this central motif are smaller swords. This card emphasizes the idea of calmness and tranquility, and self-examination and lack of conflict; the swords are not locked together to fight, but to make peace.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine your own mental state; are you calm internally? Are you blocking your emotions? It also asks you to look at your environment; is it free of conflict? Should you put aside your differences and work together with someone else to build a better future? Reversed, this card’s energies are present but hidden or twisted in some way; does a particularly rambunctious individual actually know internally where he stands? Is the banter and apparent conflict at your workplace really actually signs of putting aside differences and peace and well-being?
The Thought: Truth/Justice, Abstraction, and Mental Force
The Ace of Swords. It is associated with the element of Air and the Sefirot of Kether. As the part of the Suit of Swords that corresponds to Kether, the Ace of Swords represents the pure idea, emanation, and creation of the suit of Swords. It represents everything that the Suit of Swords stands for, untarnished and untouched by the lower Sefirot and the effectss of the material world. It is the pure abstract thought and idea that corresponds to Air and the suit of Swords.
And what is this idea? The Suit of Swords represents Principle, Reason, and Ideology. The Swords are the harbringers of Justice and Truth. They areIntellect and Abstraction, and the realm of Thought and Philosophy. Swords forms the first part of the second dichotomy found within the Tarot: that between the abstract (Swords) and the material (Disks/Coins/Pentalces). The suit of Swords represents the power of the mind, and so its Ace is representative ofMental Force; the suit of Swords is the suit of idealists, philosophers, scientists, and scholars. The Ace is the best that the suit has to offer, and so represents the best ideals of mankind; Truth, Justice, and Reason, in addition to representing the mind of man and its power.
The Rider-Waite art shows a cloud with a hand extending out of it, bearing a sword which is topped by a golden crown and an ivy wreath/crown. The cloud, as with the other Aces, represents EinSof, giving the reader the power of the Suit of Swords through the Ace. The crown and ivy are both symbols of peace, power, strength, and idealism. The sword is an instrument of justice and a sign of culture; this combined with the crown and ivy symbolize the abstractedness of the suit of Swords. The Thoth art is similar, showing an upright sword with a crown near its tip, which sprays out light in many directions, symbolizing the clarity of mind. The sword is surrounded by clouds fleeing from the clarity of the mind, and so represents mental strength as well as ideology.
In a reading, the Ace of Swords encourages the reader or querent to embody the qualities of the suit of Swords, or to examine how the suit itself is present in your life; how have Justice and Truth shown themselves? How has abstract thought and principle? Does intellect play a role on your life? Do you spend a lot of time just thinking about things? Reversed, this suit’s energy is present in the situation, but it might be hidden; perhaps larger ideals do play a role in your life but do so behind walls, or perhaps you think more than… well, you think.
Princess of Cups: The Caring, Mystical Hedonist
The Princess (Page in the Rider-Waite tradition) of Cups is the court card associated representing the personality than emerges from the Earthy (Malkuth) aspect of Water. This card is the Earth of Water, and represents what is solid, practical, and material in the suit of Cups as manifested in a personality. She is water given birth.
As such, the Princess of Cups is how emotion and sensuality manifest themselves in reality. She is sweet, gentle, and tender. She is gracious and romantic, in the feminine sense of the word (as opposed to the masculine sense, which is embodied by the Prince of Wands). Emotions and feelings mean a great deal to her, and she is often affectionate as well. She also reflects some of the Queen’s mystique, and often is exploring herself, and may cause others to do the same. She acts as a mystic much of the time, trying everything she can to find out who she is. She is also, however, given to the earthy pleasures of the world, and so often is given to moments of wild abandon, where she will let herself go, and also can be in a state of perpetual rapture, having given in to the pleasures of life. She is very in tune with her own feelings and those of others, and isn’t afraid of gratifying them.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a young man (a Page), looking content and staring at a fish in the cup he’s holding. This image best represents the idea of contentment through the Suit of Cups. The Thoth art, on the other hand, represents best the idea of perpetual rapture; her head is thrown back and eyes closed in ecstasy, floating in a dream world, yet bearing in her hand a tortoise, a symbol of Earth.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the roles of personalities like the Princess in your life. Do you know anyone who is introspective, philosophical, meditative, who genuinely cares for others and does their best to help everyone. They are not afraid of losing themselves in the moment, and may be prone to taking drugs and living a lifestyle of constant abandon. They think life is good, and will try to spread their cheer to others. They may even use drugs as a means to self-enlightenment; hippies are prime examples of the Princess of Cups. Reversed, this personality is hidden somehow or is expressing itself in different ways; is there someone you know who wants to be able to just live their life as if only the moment mattered, but can’t? Is there someone who gives in to the hedonistic lifestyle in order to hide from something?
Prince of Cups: The Aloof, Genius Artist
The Prince (or Knight in the Rider-Waite tradition) of Cups is the court card that represents the personality that emerges from the airy aspect of Water; this card is the Air of Water. It is where the intellect and logical abstraction of Air and Swords finds expression through the medium of Water. In this personality, one can find someone who lives their life by the principles associated with the suit of Water. They experience emotions, but in a detached, almost logical way; the are oftenself-absorbed, seeking knowledge, power, and wisdom. They are aloof, oftenartistic and full of secrets that they prefer to keep to themselves. They are often very talented, and so are mistrustful of those around them of lesser skill. As such, they are often incomprehensible and emotionally distant from others, though they are often ruled by emotional ideologies in which they will express great compassion, but when asked to express this compassion in a more “real” sense, may have problems doing so. They are often subtle and can be manipulative. They wear a face of placid calm – like still water – but below the surface they churn and burn with a passion. They are full of disconnects and detachments from reality; they are the public speaker seeking to gain power by appealing to the people, promising to help them while at the same time putting himself above them. He is a genius, who operates on an entirely different plane of existence from most people, and so is then alone.
The Rider-Waite image shows a trotting horse bearing a knight with a cup moving forward; this captures the man’s stature and sense of calm aloofness, but says little else about him. The Thoth illustration shows the Prince on a flying chariot, calm and composed, flying above the water below him. He is lost in contemplation over the cup in his hand, and seems to pay little attention to what is going on around him. A snake rises out of his cup, showing his subtlety and hidden passion.
In a reading, this card asks for you to look at the role such personalities play in your life; is there anyone you know who seems to think on a different plane than everyone else, who often is elitist and arrogant, who speaks in broad terms about the good of everyone, yet himself rarely stoops down to actually help others? He has the good of all in his mind, yet fails to see the true reality behind it all? Is he ambitious, talented, and selfish? Reversed, this card indicates that this personality is hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps this person may appear to be a Prince of Cups, when in reality they truly do help others on a practical level, or their self-absorption and power for hunger is masked by an apparent compassion.
Queen of Cups: The Intuitive, Passive Dreamer
The Queen of Cups is the court card representing the personality that occurs when one looks at the aspect of water within water. The Queen, then, is the Water of Water; she is the Binah of Binah. She is the ultimate personality of water; she exemplifies the aspects of the suit of Cups as they may be found in a person, but she does not transmit these qualities like the Knight; instead, she merely embodies them.
As such, the Queen of Cups is very in tune with others’ emotions; she is intuitive,psychic, calm, and peaceful. She knows how other people feel and how to best solve their problem. She is calm, and can easily calm down others. She has the ability of water to reflect a person’s self back onto them, either with or without distortion. She is the blank slate upon which creation is born. She is tranquil andpeaceful, and will listen kindly and compassionately to the woes of those around her. At the same time, however, she is sometimes disconnected from reality, leaving in her own fantasy world, unable to bear the harsh realities of the world around her. She can be dreamy and easily led and influenced by others; she has very little will of her own. She is the ultimate in passivity, and will allow others to guide her. Like the Knight, she is also innocent and trusting.
The Rider-Waite card shows a Queen upon her throne, contemplating the cup before her, lost in its intricacies and details. She understands the complexity of life, yet sits on her own island, separate from it; she is both at once in tune with and out of sync with her surroundings; she is the silent observer on the outside. The Thoth art shows the Queen sitting before a pool of water, exemplifying the idea of creation and the blank slate, while the Queen herself is hidden behind a veil, her face not completely seen; she seems mystical, with symbolism similar to that of the High Priestess (II). She knows secrets about the world, she ismysterious, and yet she is also separate from it, existing in her own ideal world behind the veil. On the outside, she just goes through the motions.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of people with the personality of the Queen of Cups; a passive, dreamy person who is willing to help others when asked – and only when asked – but who spends most of their time disconnected from reality. By her sheer lack of any other personality, she can help others discover who they are. She is easily led and therefore easily abused, but is also understanding and often knows what to do, even if she might not actually do it. Reversed, this personality may be blocked or expressing itself in unusual ways; is the personality of someone you know just a “front” for the hidden personality of the Queen, which they keep locked away so that others cannot see it?
Knight of Cups: The Wealthy, Isolated Only Child
The Knight (or King in the Rider-Waite tradition) of Cups represents a personality defined by the meeting point of Fire (and Chokmah) with Water. The Knight of Cups, then is the Fiery aspect of Water, and this card represents the personality that this aspect of water produces. This card is the active, masculine, creative, and passionate part of passivity, emotion, and reflection.
As such, the Knight of Cups exudes the qualities of the suit of water, projecting them from himself onto others. He is graceful, sensitive, amiable, and cultured. He is somewhat fleeting; he does not endure. Something only holds his attention for as long as it interests him. He is innocent and pure, and at the same time is often prone to self-sacrifice; his love and caring for others will lead him to do whatever he can for those he cared about. He is in many cases kind as well. He is also quick to respond to emotion and do what needs to be done with regards to said emotion.
On the less positive side, the Knight of Cups can sometimes be superficial, overlysensual, and idle. He is like the only child of wealthy parents, who dote on him and protect him from the influences of the outside world. He learns the rules of society and knows how to act, and is taught how to be kind, yet he lacks the experience necessary to remain attached to most people, to truly understand what is going on, and often sometimes may lack a work ethic.
The Rider-Waite art shows a King upon a throne holding a cup. Honestly, there is not much to glean from this artwork. The Thoth art shows a young man in green armour flying atop a pegasus. In his free hand he holds aloft a cup, upon which there is a crab; Cancer, and the symbol of water. He appears to be clean and well-taken care of and is unarmed; he is a King who does not understand the harsh reality of the worlds, and wants to help others – or at least wants to feel like he helps others. He is on a winged steed, and so his presence comes and leaves rapidly; he does not stay long.
In a reading, this card indicates the presence of a strong personality that mirrors that described above; is there someone in your life (or are you yourself) who is innocent, willing to sacrifice himself for others, with a fleeting presence or attention, whose acts of kindness might be superficial, yet who everyone gets along with as they know all the rules of polite society? Is there anyone you know who is cultured, sensitive, and yet sometimes idle or sensual? Reversed, this card asks you to look for these traits of personality in unusual places, or expressed in ways you might not have thought of; or perhaps it indicates that these traits are only present on the surface of a person, and that their true personality might be different.
Satiety: Having Too Much, Tiredness, and Midas’ Touch
The Ten of Cups. Satiety. Tiredness. Having too much. Being overfed. Contradictions. Midas’ Touch. The Ten of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Malkuth – Reality. The sum, the root, the origin, and the completion of the cycle. This is where the abstract ideas of the suit of Cups meets reality – and proceeds to fall flat on its face. Happiness is good as a concept, but when applied to the “real world,” rarely ever works out the way you think it will. This card represents the contradiction inherent in having too much happiness; eventually it will all seem fake, and having everything you want makes life boring, and will lead to unhappiness and discontent. This card represents the rich man (weather materially or spiritually) who has all he desires, and so feels as if an integral part of himself is missing. He has missed out on some part of life. This is also the stomachache one experiences after having eaten too much. One grows tired of having all that they want; their life is not truly complete. What someone thought they wanted more than anything in the world turns out to not be their true heart’s desire. And from this sense of incompletion can arise something new; a drive that can lead one to find what one is missing from their lives, and so return back to Kether and the Aces.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a family – mother, father, and two children – happily embracing and dancing beneath a rainbow. This illustration, I believe, clashes with the meaning of the card in many ways, and instead is a more accurate representation of the previous card, Happiness. It shows fulfillment, joy, and pleasure; not Satiety. The Thoth illustration, on the other hand, shows ten cups overflowing to the brim, spilling out the light of happiness and wasting it. The cups are no longer content with what they have; and are getting rid of some of it. The red and orange background also gives off an ominous feel of impending fire.
In a reading, this card indicates that you might have too much; more than you know what to do with, and more than you are comfortable with. It asks you to re-examine your desire – are they really what you wanted? Are you truly content with what you have? Are you missing something? Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked, and you might believe you are happy on the outside – but inside you feel hollow, and maybe even feel slightly guilty for having everything while others may have nothing.
Happiness: Blessing, Emotional/Wish Fulfillment, and Joy
The Nine of Cups. Happiness. Blessing. Emotional fulfillment. Contentment. Joy. Wish fulfillment. Having what one needs. Sensual pleasure. The Nine of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Yesod; the Essence of Being and Crystallization. This card is the balancing, central point of the entire energy of the suit of Cups; this is the best the suit has to offer: Happiness. Emotional and wish fulfillment. Sensual pleasure. Contentment. The churning and changing emotions and states of being seen previously have all come together into one, stable, balancing, solid, crystallized energy. The weaknesses of Netzach and Hod have been resolved; Overindulgence and Disrespect have resolved themselves into a sense ofFulfillment and Contentment, Surrender and Corruption have turned about to become a Blessing, and Joy has been restored after a period of fantasy and weariness. You have all that you wanted or need, and are content with where you are. You truly are blessed, and have sensual and emotional pleasure. This card is shining poster boy of the Suit of Cups; it is the essential balance of the suit, and the final positive culmination of its energies.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a fat, happy man sitting in front of a row of gleaming cups. He seems pleasantly satisfied, like a hunter that has just caught a large bit of prey and his licking its chops. He seems almost predatory, but he very clearly has gotten what he wants, and is content. The Thoth art depicts nine orderly, arranged cups, each spewing out glowing water from its brim onto the rest. The water is pure and there isn’t too much of it; the entire system seems to be at a joyous equilibrium, and while there isn’t a a huge overflow of water, there is also a surplus of it; this happiness can be spread to others.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of happiness, joy, and fulfillment in your life. Are you content? Are others content? Is your life well-ordered and full of pleasure and having what you need? Are you blessed? Do you have anyone to thank for your blessing? Reversed, this cards energies are blocked; you are on the verge of achieving this happiness, but something is stopping you, or the happy and joyous energy is twisted and perhaps corrupted somehow; is your happiness hurting others?
Indolence: Surrender, Disrespect, and Weariness
The Eight of Cups. Indolence. Surrender. Disrespect. Sloth. Loss of will. Disease. Moving on. Weariness. The Eight of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Hod; knowledge, intellect, structure, and the intellectual weakness that comes as a reaction to the degenerate weakness of Netzach. After the degenerate nature of Debauch, the energy of the suit of Cups shifts violently to counteract this; instead of living in an overindulgent and corrupt fantasy world, the Eight of Cups represents a more “grounded” aspect of the energy of cups, but instead of the degenerate weakness of Debauch, responds with a more intellectual weakness; a weakness of the mind as opposed to the spirit.
This weakness is, of course, Indolence; sloth, disrespect, surrender. Not willing to fight for a cause, if indeed you have one. This card is in many ways the antithesis of the passionate fire of the suit of Wands. Corruption becomes Disrespect (for others, in a similar way to corruption, but more abstract), Overindulgence becomes Surrender (after one has had too much, their will is eventually sapped out of them), and Fantasy gives way to Weariness; for no matter how nice a fantasy might be, there is always something missing, and one will eventually tire of it. This card is in some ways representative of a disease of the spirit, will or mind, sapping energy and replacing it with laziness and surrender, and takes away what respect you may have had for other human beings.
This card, in its aspect of surrender, also illustrates the idea of wearily moving on; one has tired of something (perhaps the Debauch of before?) and is moving on, leaving the past behind them. They have surrendered to the flow of timeand moved on simply because it is the easiest thing to do.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a man carrying a walking staff and wearing a thick cloak, turning his back on an ordered and structured group of cups. The image that comes across here is that of a weary traveler finally moving on and putting the past behind him. Note that the pile of cups seems to be incomplete; the man seems to have given up. The Thoth art is even less positive; eight cups are shown against a darkened sky and sea, and though water pours from flowers, it does not reach every cup; an air of defeat and surrender surrounds the card, and the water seems lazy and not particularly energetic.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that surrender, loss of will, disrespect, and weariness have played in your life. It asks you to consider whether or not the time has come for you to move on and surrender; or maybe it encourages you not to do this. Have you been slothful? Lazy? Disrespectful? Are others looking down on you for this? Do you look down on others? Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked, hidden, or twisted; are you in reality being disrespectful when you feel as if you aren’t? Are you hiding your laziness? Is someone else hiding theirs? Are you weary in the inside, but not letting yourself move on and put the past behind you?
Debauch: Corruption, Overindulgence, and Fantasy
The Seven of Cups. Debauch. Corruption. Indecency. Overindulgence. Fantasy. Dissipation. Options. Profanity. The Seven of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Netzach; Bliss or degenerate weakness. The Seven of Cups very clearly illustrates the “degenerate” aspect of Netzach; debauchery is by definition degenerate. At the Sefirot of Netzach, the energy of the Suit of Wands weakens and becomes twisted, so that its most degenerate and weakest side is shown. The energy of the suit up until this point as been about emotions, pleasure, and desire. This card represents the worst, most degenerate and horrifying aspects of these energies in the weakness of Netzach. Harmony becomes a harmony maintained by false pretenses; Corruption. Satisfaction is taken to the extreme and becomesOverindulgence. The simple joy of life becomes so great that it transcends not only simplicity, but also reality, to become Fantasy. This card represents the ideas shared by wealthy elite with no regard for those below them, who isolate themselves in a world of their own making devoid of any semblance to the outside reality. They live in a fantasy in which their every desire is more than attended to. This card is profane and leering; it represents depths of pleasure that are indecent and often amoral. One could argue that wealthy clientele practicing S&M exemplify the energies of this card exceedingly well; they descend to profane, indecent, and overindulgent methods to live in a pornographic fantasy. This card also can represent the availability of many options before the querent; however, remember that debauchery can often blind you to the outside world, and so often only one choice – the wrong one – will be visible.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man standing before seven cups, each one promising him a prize of some sort. He seems overwhelmed (a nod to overindulgence) and confused by the amount of choices he has before him. Some are good prizes and others bad; this cards association with choice comes from this art. The Thoth art, on the other hand, stresses the indecent, corrupt element of the card; the flowers have wilted due to a lack of care, and the water seen in the other Cups, previously pure or even shining with an inner light, has turned green with corruption and putrescence. The card resembles to me a melting candelabra.
In a reading, this card serves as a warning to insure that you do not take more than you need, and asks you to reassess your relationship with reality. What role does corruption or profanity play in your life? Indecency? Have you suddenly been given many choices? Reversed, this card’s energies are twisted, and may ask you to look for corruption in places you might not expect it, or perhaps is trying to tell you that your reality is fantasy and your fantasy reality.
Pleasure: Harmony, Satisfaction, Joy of Life
The Six of Cups. Pleasure. Well-being. Harmony. At ease. Satisfaction. Joy of life. Sexual fulfillment. The Six of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Tiphareth;crystallization, conscious harmony, and experience. The energy of the suit of cups, experienced positively under the conscious guidance of Kether (which feed directly into Tiphareth), manifests itself in Pleasure; this is the crystallization of the suit of Cups, and is some of the best the suit has to offer. It resolves the conflict between Chesed (Luxury) and Geburah (Disappointment) by merging stability with motion, to produce pleasure. On the surface, this card is very similar to Luxury, but differs in several ways; Pleasure is more focused on emotional well-being than the more materialistic Luxury, and Pleasure is also more stable and longer-lasting; it does not depend on being free of responsibilities. Pleasure is more harmonious, and takes into account the possibilities of disappointment; though one’s luxury might be upset by destabilizing motion, if one maintains a sense of joy about life, they will still experience pleasure.
The idea of loss in the Five turns to one of Satisfaction, grief becomes the Joy of Life, and unexpected disturbances become Harmony. The motion that upset the stability of Luxury has been resolved, and a more stable, positive energy has emerged as the conscious harmony of the suit of Cups. This card also expands upon the theme of intimacy between two people, and can indicate also sexual fulfillment.
The Rider-Waite art shows a large child-like figure handing a cup of flowers to a smaller, older figure, indicating kindness and harmony. The Thoth art shows six evenly-spaced cups, each one close to a flower, showing harmony in this way, and giving of a feel of golden radiance; joy, happiness, and satisfaction. The image is very stable, and in many ways comforting.
In a reading, the Six of Cups asks you to examine the role of simple enjoyments in your life. It asks you to look at how much you worry, how much you enjoy things, and how satisfied you are. It indicates a sense of emotional well-being and harmony, and may ask you to examine relationships with those around you, are advise you to make them more harmonious. Reversed, this energy is twisted or obstructed somehow; something is perhaps preventing you from enjoying life, something is upsetting your harmony; or perhaps you are upsetting the harmony and well-being of others.
Disappointment: Grief, Loss, and Unexpected Disturbance
The Five of Cups. Disappointment. Regret. Loss. Grief. Unexpected disturbance. Matter over mind. The Five of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Geburah; the first sign of movement, and the motion that upsets the stability and balance of Chesed. A change occurs. When luxury, comfort, and the good life is upset, it leads to a sense of loss, disappointment, and a regret and longing for the past. There is a grief for what was lost. The Five’s association with the upsetting motion of Geburah is directly seen in in the card’s association also with an unexpected disturbance. In many ways, I believe that the Five of Cups directly mirrors Geburah more than any other card. This card represents the triumph of “matter over mind” to me as well; the emotional state of comfort and happiness that we saw before has been overcome by the realities of the world.
The Rider-Waite art clearly depicts the ides of grief; a man is seen clad in mourning blacks looking at three fallen cups; yet behind them there are two still standing. Though there may be sorrow and unhappiness, do not forget that not all is lost. The Thoth illustration shows five cups, empty, with no water flowing into them; the bounty of the previous cards has been lost. The card also has a darker feel, and the very cups themselves are shrouded by lily pads instead of flowers. The cups form an upside-down pentagram, indicating a lack of balance (it balances on one point instead of two) and a disturbance.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine how a loss has played a role in your life; how was grief or regret shown itself to you recently? Have you been thrown off guard by something unexpected that has thrown you into the depths of despair? Reversed, this card indicates that the energies of Disappointment are concealed or twisted somehow; perhaps an unexpected change has made you happy on the surface, but inside you feel hollow? Are you denying your grief? Your regret?
Luxury: Comfort, Self-Absorption, Lack of Responsibilities
The Four of Cups. Luxury. Comfort. Apathy. Indulgence. Self-Absorption. Lack of responsibilities. Being care-free. The Four of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Chesed; stability, growth, condensation. It is the appearance of matter, where the energy of Cups finally fully comes to solidity. When the joy of fulfillment, emotional ease, and happiness come to solidity and existence, it manifests itself as luxury; an ability to enjoy life for its pleasures, to indulge in it, to be comfortable, and not have a care in the world to bring about negative emotions. Luxury is a very nuanced card, and unlike most of the other fours, and has both powerful positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, Luxury indicates “Hakuna Matata;” a no worries, carefree attitude, where everything is supplied for you and you have no responsibilities. It represents comfort emotionally and physically. However, often with these things comes degrees of indulgence, apathy, and self-absorption. This card represents a stable emotional and physical life, but at the same time serves as a warning to not let yourself get caught up too greatly in these comforts.
The energies of the suit of Cups become material in this card, and show themselves as the ideas of the suit of cups, but more grounded. A sense of community turns into the more realistic and often seen case of self-absorption, happiness becomes comfort and to some extent apathy, and surplus and abundance become luxury and indulgence. The intersection of emotional abstract and some semblance of the material world is not always pleasant, and in many ways this card represents this disconnect.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man sitting beneath a tree, seemingly meditating, while a cloud with a hand holding a cup out to him floats by his side (mirroring the art of the Ace). This card most clearly shows apathy and self-absorption, focusing on those as its primary attributes; the shifting of emotion away from those around you and towards oneself. The Thoth art shows four cups receiving water from a flower (like Abundance), but unlike its predecessor, none of this water is wasted; it all flows into the bottom two cups. It is important to realize, then, that this card does not represent over-indulgence or too much luxury; that concept comes later. Rather, this card just represents the pleasurable aspects of indulgence and self-absorption; but its darker colors serve as a foreshadowing and ominous warning.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the roles that self-absorption and apathy might be playing in your life, as well as how indulgence shows itself. It tells of comfort and luxury present, and a lack of real responsibilities that allows you to be emotionally at ease. Reversed, this card asks you to look at how these energies might be twisted or distorted, or hidden in your life. Does someone you know have a carefree attitude on the surface, but instead is a churning mass of hidden emotions? Is luxury and physical comfort present, but emotional comfort absent? Do you enjoy your life, yet always feel a sort of guilt about living it?
Abundance: Community, Surplus, and Happiness
The Three of Cups. Abundance. Bounty. Community. Friendship. Happiness. Surplus. The good things in life. The Three of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot of Binah, and so represents the passive, receiving side of the initial energy of the suit of Cups. As the suit itself represents this same idea of passivity and reception, the Three of Cups reinforces and brings this quality in the suit to the fore. It represents the plane, and focuses on the positive emotions of intimacy and the fruits of passivity. The Three of Cups is where the energy of Cups figures out where it’s going, stabilizes, and begins to understand itself.
Intimacy extended beyond two (which in terms of Cups, actually represents the singularity) become three of more (the binary of Cups), and this then becomes Friendship. Less powerful of a force (which is fiery) than love, friendship is a more passive relationship; intimacy with less of a drive. This ties in with ideas ofCommunity and Happiness as well; good friends make one happy. This idea is the next step of the energies expressed in the Two of Cups.
The Three, however, goes on further to introduce the ideas of happiness in terms closer to the physical world, as corresponds to its relationship with the plane; it also represents Surplus, Bounty, and other “good things” in life. The card itself does not directly represent these things; it really represents the feeling of living a good life, having friends, community, and everything (and more) you need to be happy. This is really the card of happiness (the card of “joy” comes later).
The Rider-Waite art shows three wreathed figures drinking and having a good time together, apparently dancing happily, while surrounded by good food; more than they would need. The Thoth art shows three cups in the shape of grapes (a common symbol of bounty), with flowers pouring water onto them; the reverse of what would be expected. This bounty (of water) comes from an unexpected source, and the cups themselves do little to achieve this bounty.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role good friendships and communities play in your life, as well as your happiness with them and your surroundings. It also asks you how a surplus of what you need affects you, and indicates bounty. Reversed, this card serves as a more ominous warning; where does this bounty come from? Is it really benefiting you? Is perhaps some part of the duality of bounty – surplus and friendship – missing?