The suit of Cups in the tarot represents the feminine element of water. Cups, also called Hearts, Vessels or Chalices, reflect the nurturing, emotional aspects of the human spirit. If Wands is the suit of conception, then Cups is the process of gestation. For example, in terms of a new project, The Ace of Wands is the initial spark of an idea while the Ace of Cups develops and fleshes it out. Wands are passionate; Cups are sensual.
Cups are compassion, thoughtfulness, caring and mothering. Cups are accommodating and flexible. Cups take the life force of Wands and channel it to the human level.
Cups in Mythology
It is tempting to connect the Latin ‘cuppa’ meaning ‘vessel, cask, barrel’ with ‘cupere’, desire (from whence comes Cupid, the Roman god of love and lust, but they have two distinct etymologies.
The most famous chalice myth is, of course, the Holy Grail, the cup that Joseph of Arimathea used to collect the blood of Christ upon his death.
The job of the cup-bearer in ancient times was a very important one. Poisoning was a common method of murder so the cup bearer was a deeply trusted individual who had charge of wine and other beverages which were specifically intended for important personages.
Some cultures believe that the human body is but a vessel that contains the soul. When the vessel is destroyed the soul continues until it is reincarnated into another body. Therefore the suit of Cups can be thought to hold the soul, the source of emotion, feeling and compassion.
This suit encompasses the three water signs of Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio. The meaning of a Cups card can be a little slippery and elusive to get a hold on because of water’s ability to fill the shape of the vessel holding it. Therefore a person born under one of the water signs can be as calm as a peaceful lake or as unpredictable as an ocean storm. And those undercurrents can be very well hidden. Remember too, that water takes on several forms: steam, mist, fog, snow and ice.
Cups personalities run the whole gamut of the personality spectrum from cool to warm. They tend towards introversion and introspection. They are sensitive, intuitive and imaginative. They are passive, rather than active; they make decisions based on feeling and instinct rather than logic and reasoning.
Cups and Love
Cups and hearts are the emblems of love, so it’s no surprise to find that this suit represents love in all its forms, from romantic first love to established familial love. Cups are about affection, but can cross into the realm of passion also. Cups can represent children and childhood, as so many of our childhood memories are based on, and colored by, our feelings.
Cups at Work
People with Cups characteristics are suited to creative endeavors. Design, art, fashion, theater and music are connected to the water signs. Cups need to express their inner feelings, and dance is a way they can do this. They are excellent listeners so make good counselors, therapists, psychologists and other professions connected to mental health. Cups people are natural nurturers, therefore working with children is an excellent career option.
Cups and Money
Cups people are far more concerned with personal fulfillment than making money. As long as they have enough to get by, they are happy. However, their excellent intuitive senses aid them to make good financial decisions. Additionally, their negotiation skills help them secure the best deals.
Cups and Spirituality
To a Cups person, life is spiritual. They understand that great power lies in emotion and feeling, therefore they learn early on how to use and protect these fragile gifts. Cups need time to connect to their spiritual selves, hence the necessity for them to sometimes be alone in order to recharge their batteries.
Several Cups Cards in a Tarot Reading
If more Cups appear in a reading than any other suit, then the reading takes on an emotional and spiritual dimension. Answers to questions lie in the realm of the soul, and attention should be given to these aspects of the seeker.
Cups and Wands (water and fire): Emotions and passions run deep
Cups and Swords (water and air): Thought and communication is emotionally based.
Cups and Pentacles (water and earth): Feelings are mixed up with practical matters.
Negative (Reversed) Cups
The negative (reversed) side of Cups is difficult. They are so involved in their feelings that, if unable to express them in a healthy way, it’s possible for them to become addicts and/or obsessive. They see themselves as being compelled to follow through on their emotions. Inactivity is another negative for ‘cupsies’: they become stagnant if they cannot see a way forward.
Reversed Cup cards may indicate a tendency to wallow in self-pity, or to withdraw from other people. Heartbreak can expand to fill up years of doleful introspection. Sad anniversaries assume great importance that can affect their ability to function. Depending on the card, problems can be shown to originate years ago, possibly in childhood. Old hurts hang around effectively hampering personal progression.
Suit of Cups Keywords
Ace of Cups – The first stirrings of feelings and emotions
Two of Cups – Initial attraction, romantic love, friendship
Three of Cups – Groups, friends, parties, dance, fun
Four of Cups – Withdrawal, low-level depression, introspection
Five of Cups – Loss, grief, pain, emotional challenges
Six of Cups – Childhood, children, nostalgia for people and places
Seven of Cups – Dreaming, creativity, choices, overwhelm
Eight of Cups – Sacrifice, new direction, emotional detachment
Nine of Cups – Fulfillment, pleasure, satisfaction
Ten of Cups – Familial love, security, emotional support
Page of Cups – Exploring emotions, creative beginnings, young sensitive person
Knight of Cups – Messenger of love, romantic liaison
Queen of Cups – Sympathetic, empathetic, intuitive person
King of Cups – Mastery of emotions, calm exterior, safe harbor.