Tarot Talk

Seven of Cups

(The Seven of Cups card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)

We’ve been talking about the Cups cards for a few months now. Let’s continue and talk about the Seven of Cups this month.

The Seven 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. We should remember however 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 traditional image of the Seven of Cups is a fascinating one: it shows us the silhouette of a person (we see the person as if we were standing behind him or her) viewing seven golden cups, each filled with what appears to be a treasure, however a few appear to be potentially dangerous. Traditionally the cups contain a laurel wreath, a treasure hoard, a castle or tower, a dragon, a human head, a snake, and a shrouded glowing shape. Some decks offer variations: rainbows, flames, a green and verdant vine, a dove, brilliant light, a butterfly, or a heart with wings. All the Cups are floating on a fluffy cloud or floating in a blue sky, as if they were being imagined or dreamed of or wished for by the person viewing them. The person appears uncertain or confused; which cup should he choose?

There are meanings ascribed to the contents of each of those Cups. The laurel wreath represents victory, but if we look closely at the Cup we see the shadow of a skull, perhaps warning of the danger of vanity. The treasure hoard represents wealth and abundance. The castle or tower represents power and stability, or perhaps one’s birthplace. The dragon can represent fantasy, magick and the supernatural, but it can also represent anger, envy or bad luck. The human head represents a potential companion or love interest. The snake could represent animal passion and desire, or it could be offering knowledge and wisdom. The shrouded shape could represent the seeker’s need for self-understanding, or of hidden information.

What makes this card’s image even more interesting and powerful is that there is an astrological correspondence to the contents of each of the seven Cups, and the contents of each cup corresponds to a Major Arcana card. The laurel wreath represents Saturn and The World, the treasure hoard represents Jupiter and The Wheel of Fortune, the castle represents Mars and The Tower, the dragon represents our Sun and The Sun, the human head represents Venus and The Empress, the snake represents Mercury and The Magician, and the shrouded shape represents our Moon and The High Priestess. This indicates that even though this is a Minor Arcana card, the choices being presented could very well have Major Arcana effects and consequences!

We already have a lot of information, and a good way to get a deeper understanding of our Seven of Cups is to examine its number, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 7, and the suit of Cups.

In the Tarot, the number 7 tells of that period of time when effort and growth are running out of gas, and degeneration or a period of ebbing is approaching. A perfect illustration of this concept is the way it looks when we toss a ball in a high arc; at first, the ball soars upward with power. Soon enough, the upward motion slows, then ceases, and the ball travels parallel to the ground for a bit. Then, inertia begins to affect the trajectory of the ball, and it begins its descent to the ground. The Tarot Seven cards describe possible effects during that period when the ball is traveling parallel to the ground; not enough power to continue growth, but enough to keep degeneration on the sidelines. Often, the Seven cards tell of some pause or assessment that happens as growth (created by the Motion of the Fives and the Harmony of the Sixes) begins to approach the end of its lifespan.

All of the Tarot Sevens offer this pause or slowing of activity in order to learn something. We have the realization of something achieved and the fortitude to stay with that achievement and defend it (Wands), we experience the pause to assess the readiness for harvest of the fruits of our labors (Pentacles), and we have the pause that comes when our mind and our intellect perceive the approach of a change that we believe may not be beneficial (Swords). In the Seven of Cups, we have the pause that comes with a choice between many seemingly beautiful and desirable offerings, each with the possibly of containing some hidden peril.

We have talked about the suit of Cups in detail already, but let’s go over it all again. Many Tarot decks use images of cups or chalices and water on their Minor Arcana Cups cards. This makes sense because the suit of Cups corresponds with the cardinal direction of West, the color blue, the playing cards of Hearts, and the element of Water. In its natural state, Water is cool and wet. Water has weight; picking up a gallon of water proves that. Water tends to gather into or flow to the lowest place; it will use already-in-place channels to get there if it can, but will create its own roadways or channels if necessary. 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.

The element of Water corresponds to our feelings and emotions. Emotions flow and have currents and eddies, and 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. Our emotions can affect our physical bodies (which contain a lot of Water) and our health. Often, tears appear when we feel things strongly, as physical manifestations of those emotions. Water also represents the Inner Voice and the mysteries of the subconscious. That calm body of water can reflect the trees and hills, and even the clouds and the sky around it, on its still surface and hide from our view the dark and cold depths inhabited by mysterious creatures. In order to explore those silent depths and discover the mysteries there, we must break the surface and enter this quiet and hidden realm.

Astrology is another available tool that can offer further information about our card. The Seven of Cups corresponds to Venus when it is in the constellation of Scorpio. The planet Venus is seen as representing the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure. Venus is a feminine planet, which means its energies are inner and receptive in nature. Venus is associated with feelings and well-being and gentleness, friendship and fidelity, relationships of all kinds, youth, lust, fertility, travel, and an appreciation for art, social life, and beauty. And yes, sex and sexual pleasure are a part of this too. Venus is often seen as being a twin planet to our Earth, and is the second brightest object in the night sky, the Moon being the brightest.

Scorpio is a fixed Water sign associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. Scorpios manifest these traits 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 the other signs. They are also inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Scorpios are extremely loyal and will always remember a kind gesture. They love to learn about others and about themselves; the curiosity of Scorpios is immeasurable. Scorpios are intense and passionate, even if they appear quiet on the surface.

Venus and Scorpio are not always a comfortable match. Scorpio is not superficial and prefers deeper relationships that go below the surface, rather than the social niceties, friendship and affection of Venus. The energies of Venus and Scorpio give us a bit of a reality check, whether we want one or not. Power struggles can happen, and deep dark secrets will be brought into the light, perhaps not willingly. Intense for sure, but there is a good possibility that all the intensity will bring powerful transformation.

The Tree of Life offers us further insight into the Seven of Cups. All of the Sevens of the Tarot Minor Arcana correspond with the sephira of Netzach (which means “Victory”). Netzach is the seventh sephira, at the bottom of the Pillar of Force (the masculine side of the Tree). When you think about the concept of Victory, you will realize that it tends to bring a bit of inertia into the picture. Often, when we succeed (or think that we have succeeded), we cease focusing on the reason for the conflict and focus instead on maintaining the status quo. Netzach is also about dreams, feelings, and visions, connections with others, and an appreciation of Nature, the pleasures of the flesh, beauty, creativity, and art.

The Llewellyn Welsh Seven of Cups shows a young woman seated on the ground surrounded by butterflies, looking at seven Cups each containing something different, floating in the sky. This card represents dreams, a fertile imagination, window shopping for possibilities, realization of a long shot, and being bemused by options or possibilities. Reversed, it tells of clouded judgment, exaggerated dreams, being ruled by emotions, or extreme effects of alcohol or drug addiction.

The Shadowscapes Tarot Seven of Cups shows a couple standing precariously on top of a hill, with Cups arranged at their feet. The woman, pointing to a castle floating in the sky, is not watching where she steps but rather is looking upward, entranced by the floating castle. The man is examining the real castles on the nearby hills and examining a map that might get him there. The card tells of indulging in fantasies, having too many desires, or too many paths to choose from.

The Thoth Tarot Seven of Cups also has a non-traditional image. It shows seven lotus flowers that are rotting away because of too much water. Crowley sees this card as representing delusions and addictions, and the sinking into the mire of false pleasures. Way too much of a good thing!

The Legacy of the Divine Tarot Seven of Cups shows seven crystal cups filled with treasures lit by a golden light, arranged for our viewing pleasure. We are warned that we need to do our homework before choosing because some of these gifts may not be what they seem to be. This card represents fantasies, romantic illusions, too many choices, and viewing things through rose-colored glasses.

All these interesting choices presented by our card may create a sensory overload of sorts, but we are told again and again, through looking at the image of the Seven of Cups, the meaning of the number 7, the suit of Cups, the astrological correspondences, and the sephira on the Tree of Life that we need to pay close attention, do our homework, and not depend on luck to save the day, when the Seven of Cups shows up in a reading. Visualizing our goals can be beneficial, but not when we become so distracted by possible future achievements that we step into a hole and break our ankle.

There are good possibilities here, but there could be some dead ends as well. The Seven of Cups reminds us that while it is fun to imagine being able to take all seven of those Cups, perhaps our time would be better spent in a more practical manner by carefully examining our choices and their potential consequences. If we do our research and if we are careful not to grab more than we can carry, we may end up happy and content in the end.

** 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/ .


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding