4 of Cups: Luxury

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

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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.

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3 of Cups: Abundance

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“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” – Winnie the Pooh

The 3 of Cups appears in a reading when we are living in a state of joy and pleasure. It is the celebration card. If the Ace of Cups is the seed, and the 2 of Cups is the bud, the 3 of Cups is the blossom. Aleister Crowley titled it “Abundance” and stated it was: “The fulfillment of Will of Love in abounding joy. It is the spiritual basis of fertility.”

In this card, we see pomegranates adorning three cups. The pomegranates represent Persephone, the goddess of the underworld and wife of Hades, the god of the underworld.  These are symbolic of marriage, fertility, abundance, and rebirth.

In the myth of Persephone, Hades was madly in love with her and wanted her as his wife, so he tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds. She didn’t realize that for each pomegranate seed eaten, she would have to spend one month a year in the underworld with Hades.

According to the legend, she lived with Hades as his wife for six months out of the year, and stayed with her mother, Demeter, goddess of the earth, for the other half of the year. Crowley, the true pessimist, gives us a subtle warning with this card that emotional fulfillment may have a shadow side to it: All that glitters is not gold. He states: “The good things in life, although enjoyed, should be distrusted.” Talk about a buzzkill!

In the Thoth 3 of Cups, eight golden lotus flowers are displayed. Lotus blossoms symbolize rebirth, regeneration, and reincarnation. Lotus flowers grow from muddy water. During the day, they open to allow the rays of the sun to give them life. In the evening, they close as the moonlight shines upon them in their deep slumber. Every morning, they are brought back to life by the sun.

The three chalices may represent specific people, emotions, or situations where we experience good times. It may show up in a reading as a girls’ night out, a party, a first date, a committed relationship, or as a message that we need to experience more joy in our lives. It’s the card that tells us not to take life too seriously and to have a little fun. Life is to be enjoyed to the fullest.

In regards to a relationship, after much analyzing and introspection, I’ve realized that the 3 of Cups may represent the two people in the relationship and the separate entity that is the relationship itself. Two people create the relationship. The relationship is their baby, in a sense.

Through their effort, they make the relationship into whatever they choose it to be. It requires both of them to make the union work. Each person must put in the same amount of effort as the other for it to be balanced. All three cups must be flowing with equal amounts of water, otherwise there’s going to be an imbalance in the relationship. Since each chalice is overflowing with water (emotion/love), it may be a message that for a relationship to truly last, each person must love himself/herself first.

It corresponds astrologically to Mercury in the 2nd Decan of Cancer. In the Quabalah Tree of Life, it is Binah through Water.

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2 of Cups: Love

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“We loved with a love that was more than love.”
– Edgar Allan Poe

If the Ace of Cups is the emotional offering, the 2 of Cups is the connection that follows. It represents love, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s about harmony and emotional union. In this card, love has a focus. It takes two people to love the other for there to be a true flowing connection. There is an exchange of balanced emotional energy here.

The 2 of Cups often times alludes to a romantic love, but it may show up as a friendship or familial love as well. Some of our closest friends are our soul mates. We love them even if we are not romantically involved with them. It symbolizes any connection that touches our hearts as much as we touch theirs.

The most important aspect of this card is mutual feelings. This is not a card that would appear in a reading about unrequited love or somebody giving more in a friendship than the other person. This is all about balance and the feeling that you get back as much as you give in this relationship.

Aleister Crowley titled this card “Love” and described it as “Love under Will.” He believed it was the harmony of the feminine and masculine. In the Thoth version, there are two heraldic dolphins (pink with yellow fins) entwined around a pink lotus. Water flows onto their heads and gushes out their mouths to fill two large gold chalices. The dolphin and chalice on the right side mirrors the pair on the opposite side. This signifies mutual emotions, a truly balanced union of love.

Something to note: The dolphin was sacred to Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of Love. It was also the companion to both the god Apollo (the Sun) as well as Aphrodite (the Moon.) The Sun is masculine energy whereas the Moon is feminine. In shamanism, dolphin personifies balance, harmony, playfulness, and love. It teaches us to connect to our emotions and not be afraid to swim in the depths of them. The 2 of Cups embodies that notion, because it is about two people emotionally open enough to connect on a deep, meaningful level.

It corresponds astrologically to Venus in the 1st Decan of Cancer. In regards to the Quabalah Tree of Life, it is Chokmah through Water.

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Ace of Cups

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“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

The Ace of Cups is the seed of the suit of the Cups. It represents new beginnings, emotional openness, renewed emotion, an outpouring of love, or an emotional offering. This card shows up when there are no obstacles in the way. There are no emotional blocks within the person or situation. Everything just flows.

Cups represent emotions. When the Ace of Cups shows up, it is telling us that we are ready to give and receive love.  We are not held back by our past hurts. Whatever we’ve been through that wounded and temporarily closed our hearts is over, and now we are diving into the fresh waters of unlimited emotional possibility.

The Ace of Cups tells us to live in the moment of that refreshed emotion, as if we are playing in a fountain or letting a waterfall cool us down on a blistering summer day. Moments of emotional bliss are what make our lives beautiful and rewarding: It’s a kiss on our cheek from our mother, a hug from our best friend, or a passionate embrace with our lover. The Ace of Cups symbolizes that feeling of love in that perfect moment. It is powerful, because it is pure emotion and connects us to our hearts. It is so special that nothing comes close to duplicating it.

Regarding the Thoth version of this card, my tarot teacher observed that the golden cup looks like a woman holding her hips. There is an element of femininity and beauty to the card. It’s as if a woman is letting her true emotional self shine through. The Divine light that pours out of her is love pulled from the depths of her soul. This light creates an intricate web of positive energy, which surrounds the chalice as it sends out waves of love.  Love is healing. Love is a blessing. Love transforms.

Astrologically, it corresponds to the water signs (e.g. Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio.) In regards to timing questions, it would point to either of these three signs. In the Quabalah Tree of Life, it is Kether through Water.

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