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Surrey UK based Tarot Reader, Astrologer and Creative Artist.
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The tarot suit of cups is ruled by water.
Water symbolises the emotions due to the bonding quality of water. Take the water, or liquid, out of any substance and it falls to disintegration. It is therefore these bonds which hold the universe together. We recognise these bonds, as symbolised through water, as a kind of love which keeps people together. It is only the bonds which people form that create attachment to people, places and things.
In tarot the suit of cups symbolises all of the emotional bonds which the individual creates throughout this lifetime as well as the residue, and often inaccessible memories, of emotional attachments from previous incarnations.
Throughout history water has been used as a symbolic form of binding in many religious ceremonies, especially during the Piscean age and Christianity. If you look at a traditional Marseille tarot deck Ace of Cups you will notice how similar it is to a baptism font. The ceremony of pouring water over the babies head, or submersion of the body into water, symbolises the individual’s bond into the church and its doctrine.
There are many myths and legends which use the cup to symbolise love and pure emotion. Probably the most famous of these is the story of King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail. Although many knights go on the quest to find the grail it is only Galahad who is eventually found to be worthy of it due to his purity of heart.
In tarot the Aces are the pure form of the energy symbolised. Hence the ace of cups symbolises the bonding quality of love and our ability to make and sustain positive emotional contact with people, animals, places and things. This is, however, the type of love which anticipates something in return. It is the “I will love you if you love me, or feed me, or whatever.” Unconditional love, in which nothing is expected, or anticipated, by return comes under the realm of the Sun card.
The ace of cups therefore represents the heart chakra and when the card is upright we are able to experience positive emotional connection and when the ace of cups is reversed the heart chakra is damaged or blocked.
In practice the ace of cups will show that the individual is receptive and open to loving emotions and has a caring nature. It does not necessarily mean that the questioner is “in love”, or even has a personal relationship in their life. Sometimes it can refer to the desire, or readiness, to explore a new personal relationship.
In a tarot reading the ace of cups reversed indicates that the emotions have been damaged, that the heart is blocked and that the individual has difficulties connecting to other people. Often a client will express it to me as an inability to feel anything or a numbness. It is, what we might commonly call, a broken heart.
There are several reasons why the ace of cups might be seen reversed. Shock, as depicted by The Tower, knocks out the heart chakra, and if the cards are close together then this needs to be considered. Depending on how long ago the shock was will emphasise the degree of severity. If the shock was last week then a healing is still naturally taking place, however, if the shock was years ago then the entire body will have become debilitated and the questioner may require various forms of help in order to bring about a healing. Many people feel numb, or “not right” and have no idea why, so the ace of cups reversed is an extremely good indicator to start exploring the possibility of long term residue from shock. When I saw this for one client we eventually discovered that it was the shock she had experienced in the womb when her father had died. She had experienced the trauma through her mother and therefore never considered his death the reason why she had felt “empty” all of her life.
Some people choose to consciously “switch off” their heart chakra after broken relationships. They go around saying “I will never love again” and that is the signal which permeates through their entire consciousness. They end up having no desire to love, or “open up”, even though others might passionately love them. The water in their cup has become stale and stagnant, and until they can release the stuck emotion they will remain trapped and in the negative side of bonds which is bondage.
The ace of cups reversed also comes up frequently when people remain in loveless relationships, or when they are heart broken through a partners infidelity. To heal the broken heart one needs to go through a positive process of release as depicted by the Star card, or walk away from a situation, as symbolised by the Moon.