Thursday, January 21, 2010

One Cup with Fish, Please

Does the Ace of Cups always mean a new love interest or relationship?

This question came up recently on one of my favorite sites, Aeclectic Tarot, and its forum It’s a great place for novices and professionals, scholars and seekers, the passionate and the tame to learn so much more about tarot. And it’s a good question. It’s a really good question, maybe better than the person asking it realized at the time.

If you have a deck of tarot cards, you may also have the LWB (little white book) that came with it. You may have purchased books separately talking about the meaning of the cards. Most decks of cards come with some kind of label at least identifying the card as the Ace of Cups or Temperance or whatever. Some decks print the card name in several languages. There are even decks that have interpretations of the card printed on them. These are all aimed at assisting the reader in finding meaning in their reading.

Please note that I used the word assisting. In the same way that a dictionary does not speak for you, those books and labels on the cards don’t provide the reading. You do.

Now before you start throwing your little white or other color books at me, yes, yes, a grounding in the traditional meanings of the cards can be useful. However, no one respects a “reader” who merely quotes definitions from a book. That’s not reading. That’s reciting. In the same way the “magic” of language is not contained in a dictionary, the cards don’t “speak” from these books either. The books provide examples to assist with understanding meaning.

So, the short answer to the question is, No. The Ace of Cups does talk about the essence of love, aces can be beginnings of things, cups can be emotions, intuition, spiritual matters, even the collective unconsciousness. It can also mean water, real water.

A similar question might come up, Is the Ace of Cups always a good card? Hmm, good. Good for whom? Ever have an animal or person adore you that you just can’t stand? Point of view is important too. Context is essential in the human experience.  My own joke about this is that it is no compliment to be chased by a dog. So how could the Ace of Cups possibly be bad?

I was washing my face at the bathroom sink one day and thinking about the Ace of Cups. Oh, that water felt good! Not too hot, not too cold, a real Goldilocks moment! How could the Ace of Cups be bad? And I started to laugh. The image of a bucket of water perched on a door as a practical joke ready to soak the first person through the doorway came to mind. That’s an unwelcome Ace of Cups.

When I divorced my first husband years ago, I was sad that it had not worked out. I knew it was the right thing to do. We were just too different and our bond of trust and love had been too thin and had been broken. My sister sent me a greeting card to cheer me up and it is one of the few I have kept all these years. The message, with a rather discouraged cartoon bird on the front, was, “I have licked the ice cream cone of life and it has fallen on my tennies.” After so much crying, anger and depression, this card struck me so funny that I truly laughed until I cried. Here was my own Ace of Cups which had spilled. And yet, it was so positive, too. It was just the one cup that spilled. Other cups would come. There is more ice cream. Was my Ace of Cups good or bad? Well, both. You just don’t get out of life without dripping a bit of ice cream on your tennies.

A recent reading I did for a woman started out to be fairly ordinary. She was a total stranger to me. She had come for a reading at a fair where I had a booth. I could tell from her cards that she had been through some kind of ordeal. I felt that influence was passing and she was emerging from it. She would be able to go on. Partway through the “Your Path” portion of the reading, I drew the Ace of Cups. I stopped. I stared at it. I felt self-conscious and outside myself all at the same time.

“Usually the point of the Ace of Cups is the cup, but when I look at this card, all I can see is the white dove.” I looked at her. She didn’t move a muscle.

“Is the white dove particularly meaningful to you?” I closed my eyes and pressed on. “You have something you keep with you always, like a stone or a medal or a Holy Card, something that has a white dove. It’s a source of comfort to you when you are in pain. It’s good for you, a good thing, your touchstone. It helps you keep going.”

She stared at me a moment. I realized I was having one of those moments when the reading just falls out of my mouth. Then she spoke.

“My daughter’s name means White Dove. She died four years ago.”

“Paloma,” I said. She and I nodded together. “She loves you. She wants you to know that. She will be with you always.”

What little white or big blue or other book did that come from? None. I knew what the card was supposed to mean according to the books. And I understood, in its context in that reading, what it meant to her. Was the Ace of Cups a good card or a bad card? Probably both for her. Something wonderful had happened to her when she was gifted with her white dove. Something horrible, unthinkable had happened when she was taken away. Maybe something wonderful had happened again. I knew she felt lighter when she left. I could tell by her walk. That was the best part for me. At least I could deliver the message.

One of my favorite cards is the Page of Cups, that wide-eyed messenger listening carefully to the cup he holds. In many decks, there is a fish in the cup and the fish speaks to the page. While I’ll save that for another time, I’ll just say that when it works right, I’m listening to that fish. I’m not reading the book.

Best wishes.

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