Monday, 26 March 2012

Musings on the Celtic Tarot: Cups

Cups suit from Celtic Tarot, Davis, 3rd edition 2002
The Cups do not lend themselves immediately to a continuous story, as the Wands suit does. There is a thread that runs through them, though. Each card features cups suffused in a kind of effervescent glow, suspended in front of a circular pattern reminiscent of a rose window. The groupings of the Cups and a few subtle cues in the rose window are all the clues you get, really, to help you interpret these cards.




Ace of Cups features one cup at the centre of a Celtic cross. This is a Celtic deck, and so the inclusion of the Celtic cross is not amiss, but I do find it a bit jarring. I can't help but get a Christian vibe from this card-- to me, the kind of emotion or love that is seen in this, the card representing the full untapped potential of emotion and love, is agape, the unconditional love of God or Christ for mankind. It is the kind of love that Christians are encouraged to foster within themselves, and is considered the highest and purest love. I suppose it makes sense in a Celtic deck to use the cross to represent the purest emotion, just as the Ace of Wands, to me, suggested the splitting of the atom to represent the purest potential energy.

The 2 of Cups shows a beautiful rose window, illuminated with amber light, and within its circle we have two cups. It is easy for me to see the usual interpretation of a love shared by two in this card. The spiral design in the window doesn't contain any black markings or cuts, but is a continuous flow, which suggests unity.

Things get a bit more difficult for me as the cards progress. The 3 of Cups is traditionally taken to mean a celebration among friends, etc. In this card, each cup has its own rose window with 4 whirls, bisected by black markings that remind me of dragonflies or birds. The design of the window is busier, more decorative, and creates a sense of activity for each cup. The windows are close together, edges touching but not overlapping. When compared to all the other cards, the background of each window is the 'busiest' with color and bisecting black lines, an abstract suggestion of confetti and party atmosphere, perhaps?

The 4 of Cups presents a challenge for me, as I usually interpret 4 of Cups in RWS decks to have something to do with boredom or stagnation. In the card, four rose windows have merged together, their edges interlocking in Celtic knot fashion, designs becoming blurred and indistinct at the intersection. If you study the 3 of Cups and imagine a party, then move to 4 of Cups, you get the sense of excess creating blurred vision and confusion. Things run together. It all starts to get a bit samey. A whirl that blurs into the background. The LWB is particularly unhelpful with this card, suggesting: 'An offer is made which requires some compromise. Hold onto what has already been gained.' Right, thanks for that. I will stick with my own thoughts about this card, thanks! I see it as a kind of jaded boredom, sense of being played out, etc.

The 5 of Cups at least offers the expected overturned image, although there's only one cup out of kilter here. Because the overturned cup is centered under the other cups, it becomes the focus--just as the figure in the RWS decks is focused on the overturned cups and ignoring the standing cups. So this card is about disappointment and skewed perspective.

There is absolutely nothing in 6 of Cups that speaks to me of either its dignified nor ill-dignified (which I tend to refer to as 'shadow') meaning. For me, this card must be interpreted from pure memory of book meaning, and it is hoped that some flash of intuition would occur during an actual reading.

The 7 of Cups does remind me somewhat of the idea of making a choice, the top cup representing the observer, and the 6 cups in a jumble at the bottom representing the many choices being faced.

The 8 of Cups, however, does not make me think instantly of the notion of 'moving on' from a situation, unless you really stretch the imagination. There are two rose windows here, each containing four cups. The bottom window has three overturned cups with one balanced on top, yearning as it were, toward the four upright cups in the upper window. So...the trend is moving away from the negative, toward the positive. Not there yet (as not in the upper window), but yearning toward. Is that too much of a stretch?

There's a striking new detail in the 9 of Cups to help differentiate it from the other cards. Here we have three cups each in three interlocking rose windows, all upright in balanced formation. The new element is the detail what reminds me of a sliced orange segment. It reminds me of fruits and flowers, ie, abundance. So the 9 of Cups here is easy for me to translate into satisfaction, alignment, abundance, and so on.

Finally, the 10 of Cups again has one cup per window, which we've only seen in Ace, 3, 5 and 6, but the difference is the windows are interlocking, as seen in 4, 7 and 9. The balance is of distinctive individuals rather than a blend of elements, as seen in 9 of Cups, and so makes me think of individual people coming together, whereas the 9 of Cups makes me think more of a mind-body-spirit connection in one person.

Overall, I find that a background knowledge of RWS/traditional meanings is helpful in interpreting this suit in the Celtic Tarot The goal for me is to NOT have to dredge from memory the RWS image before I can interpret the card. I'm working on it.

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