“Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”
– David Foster Wallace
The journey through the tarot cups continues as we move away from the celebratory energy of the 3 of Cups to the stable and balanced, yet slightly boring, 4 of Cups. Aleister Crowley titled it “Luxury.” When you look at the Thoth 4 of Cups, you see a lovely image of 4 golden cups flowing with water. Everything seems perfect, but in life, nothing is ever perfect.
This card warns us that when things get too comfortable, we have the tendency to wonder what it would be like to have a different life. What we once desired, we may not even want anymore. And what is being offered to us, we may not even see because we’re too focused on our current emotional yearning and dissatisfaction. We are all caught up in what we don’t have rather than what we already do or could have. It carries the message: The grass is always greener on the other side.
Crowley writes: “The card refers to the Moon in Cancer, which is her own house; but Cancer itself is so placed that this implies a certain weakness, an abandonment to desire. This tends to introduce the seeds of decay into the fruit of pleasure.” The theme of this card is ennui.
I once had a dream where I saw this card, and I heard a voice say “SUBURBIA.” When I awoke, I completely understood the meaning of the 4 of Cups. Living in the suburbs in a house with a white picket fence with a husband/wife, kids, and a dog could be boring at times, especially if the couple didn’t switch up their routine once in a while and make a conscious effort to stop and have a little fun.
This card makes me think of the vibrantly colored cookie cutter houses in the movie, Edward Scissorhands, where everything is the same. Stability and comfort are nice, but sometimes you want more from life. I believe we can create our most optimal life and make it uniquely ours without having to follow anybody else’s personal template for happiness and fulfillment.
The 4 of Cups asks us to ponder the existential questions: “What do we truly want from life? And when we attain those life goals, what will keep us from taking our comfortable, “happy” life for granted?” Stability is lovely to have in a relationship, a job, or life in general, but in regards, to emotions, there is no way to go but down, as stability quickly turns to stagnancy. In a relationship reading this could be showing us that the fantasy bubble has burst, the honeymoon phase is over, and now we need to figure out how to keep it from growing stagnant.
On a lighter note, this card may also represent the notion of self-love, sending the message that the love we find within ourselves is the basis of our happiness; it is the foundation from which to build a relationship. Emotional stability and structure in our core are the keys to a lasting relationship with another person.
In the book, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, Lon DuQuette declares: “Love leads to Abundance, which (left uncontrolled) leads to Luxury which (left uncontrolled) leads to decadence, boredom, frustration – and Disappointment.”
Astrologically, it corresponds to Moon in the 3rd Decan of Cancer. In regards to the Quabalah, Tree of Life, it is Chesed through Water.