Personally, when the Ace of cups comes up in a reading, I always get excited, no matter the topic. I have always held space for the Cups, as we all should. They are the waters that run through us, our emotions, our intuitions, and thus, the Ace of Cups is our beginning down the journey of developing such things. They are our placement with those around us.
Find various images and depictions of the Ace of Cups. Examine the depictions and write down what you think and feel about it. Don’t interoperate the cards, but just pick out repeating images you notice, things that stand out to you, and allow yourself to concentrate on those things.
Here are some cards to get you started with.
The Ace of Cups in the Rider-Waite Tarot shows a hand emerging toward the left from a cloud on the far right side of the card. In the hand is a cup with an upside-down M on it,* with five streams of water flowing up and over the top. A dove is at the top of the card over the cup, facing downward, carrying a white disk with an equal-armed cross on it. Around the stem of the cup, several Yod fall to the water below. The water is littered with lilly pads with pink flowers. To the bottom left of the card in the distance is a green hill. The sky is grey.
*While it’s debated as to whether the letter on the cup is an upside-down M or a W on it, I believe it’s an M, given my knowledge of fonts. If you study it carefully, the thin sides of the middle correspond to an M rather than a W.
The Spiral Tarot shows a large urn acting as the cup. From it yellow light and sparkles bellow from it. A woman stands near it, as her clothes and hair blow from the energy the urn produces, part of her white dress revealing a naked breast as she looks inward. In her right hand is a key. She and the urn are in a leafy, green space, presumably a forest. On the urn is a double-spiral, one spiral, creating a similar shape to an S.
The Faerie Tarot is a purple card, and within it is a green frame with 10 cups around it. Within the frame is green growth and flowers in the corners. Beyond the growth is the ocean, from which a dolphin jumps over a cup, which sparkles with five little stars. The Vampire Tarot shows a goblet with a bact decorating it. Red liquid splashes within it, and several dots of blood come from it. Behind it is a black coffin, and below it is a red sash.
The Thoth Tarot shows a blue cup with two handles. From it energy emerges, radiating out in a way that mimics the patterns of clams. On the cup itself are three circles. The stem is obscured by a lotus, which sits atop a pedestal of light. From the top of the handles down, the background continues to radiate from the cup, but with only round, waving edges.
The Prisma-Vision deck shows a fountain in a wood. From it are seven streams of water tumbling down the four tiers of the fountain. Behind it are bushes rising up into trees, whose dark branches take over the top of the sky. On the left side of the card, through the trees, the full moon is seen. On the right side of the card, the sky dissolves into a rainbow of color.
The Impressionist Tarot alters a piece from Claude Monet: The Clouds (1903). The image is of a bird bath in a pond. A few leaves sit on the surface of the pond, and one leaf in the birdbath itself. Behind are tall trees giving way to a blue sky, which is reflected in the still waters of the birdbath and pond.
What cards did you use to reflect on the Ace of Cups? What stood out to you that you hadn’t previously seen? Let me know in the comments.
The Decks Used
Faerie Tarot by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc, 2008. Hertz is a French artist, and the creator of several other beautiful tarot decks. The Faerie Tarot was ‘inspired by the flora and fauna of the French countryside,’ and ‘invites you to see the world in a delightful new way…blending fantasy, whimsy, and nature.’
Impressionist Tarot by Arturo Picca (artist) and Corrine Kenner (author), published by Lo Scarabeo in 2015. This deck takes works of classic impressionist paintings and recreates them to fit the meanings of the tarot. It pulls from works of Edonard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gough, and Paul Gauguin. A truly beautiful deck, especially for those who have interest in the art world.
Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, 3rd ed., published in 2016. The deck itself is beautiful, though perhaps not for the beginning tarot reader. The suits all fit together to create a master picture displaying the energy and progression of the suits. The figures and images flow from one card to the next, showing movement within the stationary cards.
Rider-Waite by A. E. Waite. The deck used in these photos is currently out of print. I won’t say much about this deck, as it is fairly standard and probably one of the most produced decks. It serves as a standard for many tarot readers and artists, depicting classic images relating in part to the original playing cards that tarot developed from.
The Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon. With turn-of-the-20th-century style art, this deck takes from the classic Rider-Waite deck and brings it up to the late 1800-early 1900’s, a time of industry and contemplation for the western world as it moved forward into a more technological era. I am a little biased toward this deck as it’s been my main deck for 15 years. The cards are thick with additional symbolism that can be tricky to pick out of the traditional Rider-Waite, and adds layers of Greek myth throughout the Major Arcana.
Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley (designer and author) and Lady Frieda Harris (artist), published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc., in 1978. This deck takes from most esoteric imagery, and requires the reader of the deck to have deep, initiate knowledge of the symbolism used. There is nothing within the cards that is without meaning. However, on a more surface level, the deck draws from Egyptian symbolism and from the style of the Marseille Tarot (mostly seen within the Minor Arcana). For those looking for deeper understandings of the universe, I recommend this deck. I would caution that this deck is highly advanced, and might be avoided for the budding reader.
Vampire Tarot – by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. in 2000. As mentioned above in reference to the Faerie Tarot, Hertze is a French artist who gained her notability through the publication of her tarot decks. The Vampire Tarot was a bestselling deck upon its release, and plays on more gothic symbolism, providing more jarring interpretations to allow for the accepting of negative forces within the world to compliment the positive forces. The deck brings together myths and legends in the form of vampires, which ‘gives tarot readers a macabre passport’ into the world of divination.