Tarot Talk

September 1st, 2017

Ten of Cups

(The Ten of Cups Card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**

Last month we finally talked about the Tens of the Minor Arcana, discussing the Ten of Swords. Let’s reexamine the Tens, this time looking at the Ten of Cups. If you haven’t already read last month’s essay, now might be a good time to check it out. As always, here is a bit of basic foundational information about the Tens of the Tarot Minor Arcana.

A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements (sometimes called “Pips” or “Pip Cards”), with numbers from Ace to 10; the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues.

The Ten of Cups is a part of the Minor Arcana. We already know that the easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 10, and the suit of Cups, and understanding these two categories of information will give us a good initial understanding of our card this month.

First, let’s look at the traditional image of the Ten of Cups. The traditional image on this one is of a loving couple often arm-in-arm, usually with two or three happily playing children nearby. Everything around them is strong, healthy and verdant: green grass and bushes and trees, brightly-colored flowers. Usually there is a house in the distance, also surrounded by green trees and lawns and multi-colored flowers, and there is also usually a lake or pond or river, sometimes in the foreground of the image, and sometimes in the background. The sky is usually blue and clear, and there are 10 Cups in the sky, usually arranged in an arc along with a rainbow. The image is calm, serene, and trouble-free, offering an idealized version of country life and a happy family.

The number 10 represents the end of one cycle and beginning of another or a transition point from one cycle to another, closure, a plateau or rest before moving on, culmination, and attaining the level of perfect combination of the 1 and 0 energies (as the number 10 reduces to the number 1, 1 + 0 = 1). Within the Minor Arcana, the Ten cards are usually seen as offering the concept of the end result of the application of the element, the sum total of everything accomplished and learned from the Ace of the suit (which for the Ace of Cups represents the possibility to experience strong feelings or emotions or visions or dreams), or the physical vehicle of the previous nine numbers. In many ways, the Ten cards can be seen as the opposite extreme of the Aces of their suits. The effects of the number 10 are different from the number 9, which represents the completeness of the experience of the effects, rather than the completion of the process.

The suit of Cups corresponds with the element of Water. In its natural state, Water is cool and wet. When amassed, it has weight, and it tends to gather or pool at the lowest place. Because of this tendency, Water creates its own roadways or channels, and it prefers to use those already-in-place channels if it can. Water is used for cleaning and purifying, and Water can be a carrier for other substances. For instance, we can dissolve salt or sugar into warm Water, and use that concoction for other things. A body of Water can be calm and deep, or it can be dangerously churning and filled with powerful currents.

Feelings and emotions are the main correspondences of the element of Water, and the suit of Cups. Emotions flow and have currents, a powerful wave of emotions can be cleansing, emotions can be hot and expanding or they can be bubbling upward, like steam, or cold and contracting and heavy, like ice, and our emotions can affect our physical bodies (which contain a lot of Water) and our health. Often, tears appear when we feel things strongly through sadness or joy or anger, as physical manifestations of those emotions. Water also represents the Inner Voice and the subconscious, the dark and unknown depths hidden below the smooth reflective surface.

Like the other cards of the Tarot, the Ten of Cups has an astrological correspondence. The Ten of Cups represents the planet Mars when it is in the constellation of Pisces.

The image for Pisces is fish, and this sign is connected to all the correspondences of Water. Pisces is a sign of feelings of all kinds, of the suffering that brings growth, and of duality (picture a body of water; there are two worlds, one above the surface and one below the surface). The fact that the symbol for Pisces is two fish (as opposed to one) speaks to the duality of Pisces, their yin and yang sensibility.  Pisces is the twelfth sign of the zodiac, and it is also the final sign in the zodiacal cycle, and thus brings together many characteristics of the other eleven signs. Pisces people are selfless, spiritual and very focused on their inner journey and their feelings. Many people associate Pisces with dreams and secrets, which makes sense because their intuition is highly evolved. Pisces are fluid and easy-going, in keeping with the Mutable Quality assigned to this sign.

Mars is known as the “Red Planet,” and this makes sense because Mars is about energy, passion, drive and determination, all fiery personality traits. Mars is commanding, confident, and powerful, asking us to stand up and be noticed without fear. Ambition and competition are also associated with this planet; Mars encourages us to face challenges and to be our best, with honor. Mars rules our sexuality and sexual energy, and governs weapons, accidents and surgery. It’s important to note that Mars’s energy can be constructive or destructive. In the end, however, the energy of Mars can be quite useful if used properly.

Mars in Pisces may seem like a combination of opposites, and in some ways this is true. The combination of Mars and Pisces tends to have less-obvious energies because a lot of effort is used at emotional and subconscious levels, rather than in conquering outer challenges. Mars in Pisces is not about material world rewards or material world ambitions, but rather about spiritual fulfillment. This combination of planet and constellation encourages activities that feed the soul rather than the pocket, and encourages altered states of consciousness, often through the enjoyment of music or art or literature (and sometimes through alcohol and other mind-changing substances). Fulfillment is found through emotionally rich relationships, and through helping (and championing) those less fortunate.

Minor Arcana cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Ten cards correspond with the sephira of Malkuth, along with the Pages of the Court Cards and the element of Earth. Malkuth is the bottom sephira on the Tree, corresponding with our physical world, and opposite of Kether at the top of the Tree, corresponding with the purest form of Deity, mostly unknowable by physical world beings. Malkuth is located at the bottom of the Pillar of Balance and is receptive in nature; it receives emanations from all the other sephiroth on the Tree. This sephira and the Tree itself show us that the physical world is created by traveling downward through the sephiroth of the Tree, and these two sephiroth can be seen as one representation of “as above, so below; as below, so above.”

The Llewellyn Welsh Ten of Cups shows a house at the end of a rainbow, located in a green valley, next to a mountain stream. The waters of the stream tumble down and around boulders, and the stream is spanned by a bridge. Near the bridge are a happy couple and two children, playing by the side of the stream, alongside 10 Cups. On the other side of the bridge and in the distance is a house surrounded by green leafy trees. This card tells of having a full heart; I love this description! It represents mature love, real companionship, safety, security, and dreams that have come true.

The Thoth Tarot Ten of Cups is not so happy as the Llewellyn Welsh Ten of Cups. The image on this card is 10 Cups arranged in the shape of the Tree of Life, and the water flows with power from each Cup. But that water is flowing with such intensity that it does not fall into the Cup immediately below, but rather overflows onto the floor. Crowley sees this card as suggesting “the morbid hunger which springs from surfeit.” He tells Lady Harris (his illustrator) to make the card menacing and to keep in mind the cravings of a drug addict. Instead of representing the realization of the potential of the rest of the Cups cards, this card is merely about fullness. Crowley blames this depressing end-of-the-line of the Cups cards on the influence of the planet Mars, which he sees as “a gross, violent and disruptive force which inevitably attacks every supposed perfection.” The divinatory meanings of the Thoth Ten of Cups reflect this influence: lasting success inspired from above and kindness, moving to pity and quietness, and on to dissipation, debauchery, wantonness and waste.

The Ten of Cups from the Gateway to the Divine Tarot offers a cozy variation of the traditional image for this card. This Ten shows a golden dog sleeping in front of a roaring fireplace. Leaning against the dog (and also deeply asleep) is a ginger cat. Hanging in front of the flames of the fireplace are the symbols for Pisces and Mars, and on the mantle shelf above and on shelves to either side of the fire are 10 Cups. Dogs and cats are associated with domestic scenes, but what makes this image so powerful is that these two creatures who are usually at odds with each other are coexisting in trust and peace. Here is the harmony, hospitality, mutual love, mutual trust, and the happy family of the Ten of Cups.

If we look back at all the information we have discussed regarding the Ten of Cups, we can see where each of the variations I’ve described arise. If we begin with the Ace of Cups and think about the positive feelings and emotions and dreams we wish to attract to us, and then move through the Cups cards and the experiences they offer, one possible end result can certainly be the traditional interpretation of this card: the emotional fulfillment of a mature relationship. We do need to remember, however, that the happy ending presented by the Ten of Cups is not about money or mansions. The pleasures presented by this card are represented by a simple home in the woods, a loving companion in a mature and fruitful relationship, and the ability to enjoy the beauty around us as it naturally appears.

The lesson of the Ten of Cups is that we should not focus solely on achieving the goal, for once the goal is achieved, there is no feeling of satisfaction. Instead, there is the letdown of “now what?” or the surfeit of overindulgence. Instead, we should enjoy the journey and understand that the goal is not to achieve something material in the future, but rather to enjoy what we have now, things like love and peace and safety, which cannot be purchased with any coin.

** This year we will be featuring the art of Ciro Marchetti as part of Tarot Talk.  You can view his work and Decks at http://www.ciromarchetti.com/ .


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