This is the fourth installment of the Weekly Tarot Card. You can read the first three installments in the following links:
Hopefully by now you’ve had the chance to consider the images you noted from Monday’s exercise, and have spent some time diving into the suit of Cups and element of Water (every pun intended) to see where the essence of the 2 of Cups resonates within you.
Today we’re looking at the symbolism found in the cards, specifically in Rider-Waite and Thoth Tarot themed decks. Not all cards carry the same symbolism, and some simply do it for the sake of creating an appealing picture. However, some cards are packed with imagery with the intent of stimulating the intuitive senses. It is these symbols that I intend to focus on.
The color blue is associated with the color of water, and thus might be a common theme in the suit of Cups. However, in Rider-Waite decks, a blue sky is to represent clarity. Benebell Wen writes of blue skies, ‘Clear blue skies represent clear consciousness and cogent though: greet possibilities, creativity, and freedom of expression’ (Holistic Tarot, p. 453).
In the Rider-Waite 2 of Cups, there is a lot of yellow, both in the cups, in the clothing of the male individual, and the ground. The color yellow represents joy and happiness. It also corresponds with the element Air, and thusly corresponds to the intellect, though can sometimes refer to entitlement.
In the Thoth Tarot, the 2 of Cups features two koi wrapping around the fountain. However, these are not koi, but in fact dolphins. One features a silver eye and the other a gold eye, representing the sun and the moon, and thus the masculine and feminine energy and union.
The dolphin is related to the element of Water, for obvious reasons, and can also be associated with joy.
The Thoth2 of Cups shows the glyphs for Venus in Cancer. Venus is ruled by Earth and Cancer is a Water element, ruled by the Moon. Venus is the Roman equivalent to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. When this shows up in the sign of Cancer, then there is harmony, and want of give and take, sharing, and reciprocity.
In the Rider-Waite 2 of Cups there is a small red house in the distance on top of a hill. An interesting suggestion that Teach Me Tarot suggests is that the two figures are on a stage, and that the background is merely fictionalized. This suggests that the two are in their own made-up world, that which doesn’t face up to realities, or, reflects only what the two hope their lives together to be.
In the Thoth 2 of Cups, the two Cups are represented by two lotus flowers, though they are not the only ones depicted in the card. The fountain stems up from the center of a lotus while the fountainhead itself is also a lotus
Lotuses represent spirituality, and in their duality in this deck, they represent the love that comes from balance and haromony. Thus, they represent spiritual love.
In the Spiral Tarot, the two figures stand in a garden of red and white roses. Roses represent love, giving, beauty, spirituality, desire, and the senses. White flowers in the Tarot, such as the White rose carried by the Fool in the Rider-Waite deck, represent an innocence and purity. Thus the alteration of the red and white roses in the Spiral Tarot will be an indicator of a pure and innocent love, beauty, passion, desire, etc.
The Caduceus in the Rider-Waite deck represents Hermes, the messenger god. This is a symbol of peace and harmony, of duality and balance.
This is classically a symbol of balance and harmony. The yin represents feminine energies (passive, creative, emotion, etc.) while the yang represents the masculine (active, creating, etc.). The dot of the opposite color in either part reminds us that we are never purely yin or yang, but need to embrace and hold space for the other in order to complete ourselves.
There of course is a lot more to this very deep philosophical symbol, and I do encourage you to spend some time studying and reflecting on it. A great starting point is Personal Tao.
What symbols do you find in your deck’s 2 of Cups that wasn’t mentioned here? What do you associate with them?
I find that when I’m thinking on a particular symbol or piece of imagery, if I write out my thoughts in my journal or speak them out loud into a recording device, I can eventually develop what the image means to me, and thus gain a deeper meaning for that card.
The images represented in the cards are designed to be visual triggers for understanding. They are to assist the story, they are to stand out to you during readings. Not all the imagery will be apparent at the same time, but can show itself in the right situation.
Always remember to read the card rather than recite the meaning. When considering a question or a situation, different symbols will take on different meanings. Tarot is malleable like that.
The Aquarian Tarot in a Tin by Italian-born, American-raised David Palladini, was published originally in 1970 by U.S. Games Systems Inc, and then republished again in 2016 in a smaller size. Named after the Age of Aquarius, the Aquarian Tarot is a midieval depiction of the Rider-Waite Tarot system. The images are closer, and thus might give the impression of being more character-based rather than relying on symbolism. This intimate deck provides a stark reflection of the human condition in it’s journey through the tarot.
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.