This is Part 4 of the weekly series. This week’s subject is the Ace of Cups. Be sure to check out Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
Table of Contents:
Happy Thursday! Today we are going to look at the specific symbolism within the Ace of Cups. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I use a few decks to think about the definition of decks so that I can collect different perspectives to add to my understanding. Thus, in this post we are still doing so, looking at the Rider-Waite Tarot, The Sprial Tarot, The Thoth Tarot, The Vampire Tarot, The Faerie Tarot, The Primsa-Visions Tarot, and The Impressionist Tarot.
If you’d like a description of each the cards used from which I’m pulling theses symbols, check out Monday’s post on Description.
Bird and Disk with Equal-Armed Cross
In the Rider-Waite Ace of Cups, a white bird flies downward carrying a white coin with an equal-armed cross on it. Birds are able to rise high, and thus, whatever they cary with them rises high as well. This brings the meaning of elevation.
In this particular card, the bird is a white Dove carrying the Host (as specified with the cross on it). The dove in itself represents spirituality, grace, and love. The carrying of the Host down into the cup is a reminder to spiritual or divine love. The Host, in Christian tradition, represents the body of Jesus, and thus, a reminder of physical actions that are divine or pure of spirit.
There are three prominent colors in all of the cards with the exception of the Spiral Tarot Ace of Cups and the Vampire Tarot Ace of Cups.
Blue is the color of Water, but also of clear thinking, and of spirituality. It is a color of depth, and in the Ace of Cups, is a representative of the subconscious, sinking deeper into intuition. The Ocean is blue, which is another representation of intuition and emotion.
Green is generally the color of fertility and creation. It is the color associated with spring, and the promise of bounty from that which grows through the rest of the year. Green also corresponds to the Heart Chakra.
The grey sky in the Rider-Waite deck represents a neutrality. This card is neither positive nor negative, neither of action or stagnation. It simply is the essense of the element and the suit, and thus from it’s essence the other elements of the following cards can be born.
In all but the Ace of Coins, there are hills or mountains depicted somewhere. In each Ace, there is a differnt ‘difficulty’ level of the appearence of the hill. The Ace of cups shows an easier looking hill, one which might invite people to climb and have their lunch on without much difficulty.
Hills or mountains generally represent a task that needs to be completed, and it’s diffuclty level. Some might call them obstacles. In the Ace of Cups, they are far in the distance, and thus are something that the Querent need not deal with just yet, though will need to at some point.
Letter W/M (reversed)
In the description of the Tarot cards on Monday I explained why I thought that the letter on the Cup was actually an inverted M rather than a W. However, I wanted to add in here that upon further reserch on the matter (as many have hmmed and hawwed over this, I wante dto find out if anyone had any concrete backing to their opinion), Mary K. Greer writes the potential meanings for each letter as contenders on her blog.
She lists for W:
She lists for M:
- Mem (Hebrew for Water)
Since all of these things are wrapped up in the Ace of Cups, it would seem to me that the ambiguity of the lettering represents the ambiguity of the card itself between emotion and intuition. Often times we can feel passionately about something and mistake it for intuition, and thus there is ambiguity in it.
Lilies are often associated with the cups. They are the flowers of the water, that which blossoms into something beautiful. The pads provide shelter for creatures, as well as a resting place in the sun.
The beauty of the lily gives a feminine attribute, and the protective aspects mentioned above give a masculine attribute, making it a representation of wholeness and health (since health is a balancing of aspects within the body, so too is the lily a balance).
lilies grow from water, making their way up to the surface to embrace the sun. They are a plant of the water, and thus, encompass the element and essence of the Cups.
In the Thoth Ace of Cups, the cup’s stem is engulfed by a double lotus. This has the same meaning as the Lilies, just a different depiction.
Water is the element of the Cups, and the reprsentation of the subconscious and intuition. We see this in astrology, with Pisces being seen as one of the most ‘psychic’ of signs, and Cancers being highly intuitive. It is also the element of emotions, which can be complex and turbulant or nurishing and soothing.
In the Rider-Waite Ace of Cups, there are five streams coming from the cup, which correspond to the five senses. The number Five can also represent (Hu)Man, as we have five limbs and a head. it also corresponds to the transition from lower to higher, from the mundane to higher elements such as emotion and thought.
Yod, sometimes depicted as leaves in the tarot, is a Hebrew letter which corresponds to the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The Yod is the first letter in the word for God, Yahaweh: YHVH. It represents beginning, but more specifically, the beginning in the presence of divinity. This divinity is the message that the energy of the Ace of Cups is coming from something higher than the mundane. All the Aces have Yod present with the exception of the Ace of Pentacles, which deals only with material matters.
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.