As promised, this month we will talk about another Six card, the Six of Cups. In the Tarot Minor Arcana, the Six cards are kind of unique, in part because of the properties of the number 6, and in part because of the properties of the Sephira corresponding to the Tarot Sixes on the Tree of Life, Tiphareth. Before we talk about the Six of Cups specifically, there is an in-depth discussion of the number Six in last month’s essay on the Six of Pentacles. If you haven’t read that essay yet, please do so now.
The number 6 offers the concept of forward momentum achieved through victory over the obstacles presented by Four (security that tends to become stagnation) and Five (uncomfortable movement that ends stagnation). These victories are often met with the healing achieved through negotiation. The Sixes of the Tarot Minors often present such concepts as equilibrium, peace, comfort, and ease (as well as the flip sides of stubbornness, excessive worry, and harmful gossip), and acceptance is a large part of these Six cards, both self-acceptance and the acceptance acquired through effective interactions with both friends and enemies. This could be seen as the source of the focus on simple joys and innocent connections that is a part of the Six of Cups; but more on that later. This number offers the concept of both vertical and horizontal balance, and the Six cards often present the corresponding element and suit at its practical best. In most cases even a reversed Six card has many benefits to offer a Seeker.
As stated in the previous paragraph, the Tarot Minor Arcana Sixes correspond to the sixth Sephira on the Tree of Life, Tiphareth. Tiphareth or Beauty is the second Sephira on the Pillar of Balance (which is the “trunk” of the Tree), and it represents harmony, equilibrium, and the epitome of balance. Tiphareth is the first Sephira beneath the Supernal Triangle, the three Sephiroth representing God/Goddess/Source, and the void known as Da’at or the Abyss, and so Tiphareth can be considered a reflection or a Child of the Supernals. We talked previously about the Divine Child in September’s essay when we explored The Fool of the Major Arcana; if you haven’t read that entry yet, please do so now.
Let’s begin the process of breaking our Six of Cups card down even further. The Six of Cups 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. Remember, while on the surface a Minor Arcana card can appear insignificant or mundane, it can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.
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 6, and the suit of Cups. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation, especially with all the cool information out there regarding the number 6.
Just looking at the number of our card, we know that the Six of Cups offers an innocent and comfortable experience. This is not a card presenting stress, but rather offering harmony and a child-like awareness, open to and awed by the actual experiences of the day without needing to color those experiences with expectations of particular outcomes. Let’s bring more detail to our understanding of this card by talking about more of its ingredients.
The suit of Cups corresponds with the element of Water. Many Tarot decks 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 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.
Astrologically speaking, the Six of Cups represents the Sun when it is in the sign of Scorpio.
The Sun is the star at the center of our solar system around which the planets revolve; it provides our Earth with the heat and light necessary for life as we know it. The arc that the Sun travels in every year, rising and setting in a slightly different place each day, is a reflection of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun; hence its connection with reflection and fertility. The Sun travels through the twelve signs of the zodiac in one year, spending about a month in each sign.
The Sun is described as benign and favorable, and is usually thought to represent the conscious ego, the self and its expression, personal power, pride and authority, leadership qualities and the principles of creativity, spontaneity, health and vitality, or simply the “life force.” In medicine, the Sun is associated with the heart and the circulatory system; in Ayurveda, it rules over the life force, governs bile temperament (pitta), the stomach, bones and eyes. In Chinese astrology, the Sun represents Yang, the active, assertive masculine life principle. In Indian astrology, the Sun is called Surya and represents the soul, ego, vitality kingship, highly placed persons, government and the archetype of The Father.
Scorpio is a fixed Water sign. In Astrology, Fixed Signs are associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. For Scorpios, these traits are found through achievement, and through going deep into the timeless mysteries of the imagination, dreams, and passions. Scorpios are powerful and willful in all they do; they stick with a task to the end, often achieving much more than Cardinal and Mutable Signs. On the other hand, they are also inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Scorpios will ruthlessly fight on behalf of their beliefs, regardless of any contrary beliefs, but they are most at home when immersed in a sustained, worthwhile situation. Scorpios are extremely loyal and will always remember a kind gesture. They love to learn about others; the curiosity of Scorpios is immeasurable, which may be why they are such adept investigators.
Let’s recap! The number 6 tells of the vertical and horizontal balance that is achieved through negotiation and acceptance; even the reversed number is still beneficial. The Sixes of the Tarot correspond with balance and beauty, a child’s ability to find innocent joy in simple things, and the ability to remember and understand events of the past, whether pleasant or uncomfortable or challenging, in order to be a better person. The suit of Cups is about experiences manifested through emotions, feelings, the subconscious, or the Inner Voice, and it is about a connection to the heart. The element of Water is cool and wet. When amassed, it has weight, and it tends to gather or pool at the lowest place by creating its own roadways or channels. The Sun represents active and outer energies that are about authority, leadership, expansion or emergence or replication, and the center or heart of the matter; you could say that the Sun represents the expression of the Self. Scorpio is about loyalty, stabilization, persistence, deeply felt (but maybe not immediately apparent) feelings, curiosity, trust and respect.
This means that the Six of Cups represents connections and innocent pleasures, the happiness to be had in the company of those we trust and care about, and love that begets itself. This card can remind us of the pleasures we get from remembering simpler times and child-like perceptions, so that we can carry those memories forward and appreciate the true fulfillment obtained from small acts of sharing and compassion. The Six of Cups encourages us to do good things for others, and to be open to noble impulses and honorable intentions; it reminds us that these good things and honorable intentions tend to be infectious when presented with passion and innocence combined. It also encourages us to accept friendship and blessings when offered by others, and to manifest compassion and love in our own lives, so that manifestation will multiply and surround us. Reversed, the Six of Cups could tell of a time of separation from those past joys (and sometimes it is necessary for us to do that); or the reversed card could be warning us that stubbornness or ego cold be creating an uncomfortable imbalance the same way that a child in need of a nap can affect an entire room.
Nice card, yes? Next time, we will talk about another Six, the Six of Swords.