My name is Raushanna, and I am addicted to the Tarot. From that moment in 2005 that I spread before me the cards from my very first Tarot deck, the Morgan Greer Tarot, I was hooked. So many beautiful and frightening and serene and powerful and thought-provoking images, all packed into 78 cards! So many symbols to understand! Thus began a journey that has only intensified with each new deck I examine and with each spread I throw. My efforts to understand how the elements and numbers and astrology and the Hebrew alphabet and the Tree of Life and the other components of the Tarot can all work together with the particular theme of an individual deck are ongoing, to this very day. I have my personal favorite cards, and I have cards that personally call me to deal with uncomfortable issues; each deck offers a new shade of meaning for them all.
The Tarot may seem overwhelming when first examined, but I have found that by breaking each card down to its most basic ingredients we can begin to apply a more customized message to our interpretations. We can add to the breadth of our understanding of the message even further by examining the same card from different decks. This is a never-ending process, for we each perceive and understand these most basic ingredients that make up an individual Tarot card through our own unique life experiences. Thus, my Thoth Tarot Nine of Cups interpretation will not be exactly the same as your Thoth Tarot Nine of Cups interpretation, nor will my Thoth Tarot Nine of Cups interpretation today be the same as my interpretation of that card one year from today. My Thoth Tarot Nine of Cups interpretation could vary from my Legacy of the Divine Nine of Cups interpretation as well. And the interpretation of the Nine of Cups by someone new to the Tarot or the Thoth deck can be as exciting and innovative as the interpretation of someone who has studied the cards and offered readings for years. Can you see where we are going here? Learning about the Tarot can be a lifetime endeavor, and the learning begins as soon as you pick up and look at your first deck.
Before we begin, let’s define exactly what we will be talking about. A Tarot deck has 78 cards. 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, as well as a representation of the family unit (usually called “Court Cards”); the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues. 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 also many divination decks and oracle decks out there, and they are wonderful (I even own a few myself), but in Tarot Talk we will be talking about the Tarot and the cards that make up a standard Tarot deck, which is set up in the fashion described above. Okay then, introductory stuff done!
The Nine of Cups is a great place to start our meandering journey through the Tarot, so let’s break this card down! It is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.
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 9, and the suit of Cups. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.
Let’s look at the number 9 first. I see the number 9 as representing the fullness or completeness of effect or manifestation. We are talking about completeNESS here, not compleTION or the winding up of a cycle. The number 9 represents our perceptions as we reach the limit of our understanding of or experience of a situation, just before we wind up the process and take another step up the ladder, in order to begin the whole process again. In our spoken language, we say that we are going to “go the whole nine yards” when we intend to experience something to the fullest, and that is what the number 9 can tell us in the Tarot.
So just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Nine of Cups is going to present a rich and textured experience. This will not necessarily indicate to us that we are done with the experience, but rather that we are at the “peak of the wave” just before the wave tips over and disseminates its energy onto the shore. Now, we narrow down our interpretation by looking at the suit of the card: the suit of Cups.
The suit of Cups corresponds with the element of Water, and this makes perfect sense. Many Tarot decks (including the Thoth Tarot, referred to above) use images of cups and water on their Minor Arcana Cups cards, and that will make it easy to connect with the symbolism of this suit. A nice place to begin is with the element of Water itself.
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.
You can see just by examining the paragraph above just how easy it is to connect the element of Water to our feelings and emotions, and indeed, feelings and emotions are the main correspondences of the element of Water, and the suit of Cups. Emotions flow and have currents and eddies, 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. If we were to sit beside a lake on a calm, clear day, we can understand this connection. As we look out on the surface of the lake, we will see a reflection of the trees and hills, and even the clouds and the sky, on its surface. If we step closer and look down, we will see an image of our face and upper body, just as if we were looking into a mirror. If we were to step into that lake and keep moving away from the shore, we will discover the hidden depths of that lake, not visible from the surface. We can’t tell how deep the center of that lake will be by looking at it from the shore; it might be shallow and easy to cross, or it might be deep and dark and cold, the home of mysterious creatures. To many of us, the subconscious is deep and dark and frightening, and a body of Water makes a perfect metaphor for the hidden segments of the Self.
We know now that the Nine of Cups tells of a completeness or fullness of experience or manifestation, and we know that this completeness or fullness of experience or manifestation is connected in some way to emotions, feelings, the subconscious, or the Inner Voice. That is a lot of information, and we haven’t even looked at an individual card or a specific image!
The traditional image of the Nine of Cups shows a nicely dressed, slightly chubby, rosy-cheeked man, sometimes with his arms folded in front of him in a self-satisfied manner, sometimes with a smile on his face, surrounded by nine cups. He looks very happy with who he is and where he is. You can easily see from this image why the Nine of Cups has been nicknamed the “Wish Card”! This guy looks like he has gotten his wishes! Of course, nothing this good comes without a warning, and the Nine of Cups does have its own warning. This card offers the possibility of getting what we wish for, but often we find that once we have it, that wished-for item is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The Nine of Cups has, as do all of the Tarot cards, an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Nine of Cups represents the cusp or connecting area of the signs of Aquarius and Pisces. Aquarius is a sign of connections of all kinds from friendships to love, and it focuses on the group rather than the individual, and on the higher good of that group. The image for Pisces is fish, and we all know where fish live, in the Water. Pisces is a sign of feelings of all kinds, of the suffering that brings soul growth, and of duality (picture that lake; we have two worlds, one above the surface and one below the surface). Now we also know that the emotional fullness represented by the Nine of Cups can be connected to the support of a group, the successful efforts to manifest the good of all, or the balancing of the inner self with the outer self!
Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Nines correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Yesod. Yesod is the first sphere out of (and the last sphere into) the sephira that represents the physical world, Malkuth. Yesod is about things such as emotions and feelings, which are directly connected to our physical existence, but not actually physical themselves. Yesod is also the home of our life force, our personality, and the Self. It is only above Yesod that the Tree begins to branch out. This reminds us that emotions and feelings and an awareness of our life force and our personality are natural processes, and that exploring them and understanding them is an important part of our own evolutionary process.
That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!