Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Omily Tarot: Ace of Cups

It's a few days early, but close enough! I have for you the next interpretation: the Ace of Cups. In case you're just now tuning in, I'm writing a zine, interpenetrating my Waite-Smith tarot deck based on the journey through the numbers, the significance of the elements, and how the images themselves speak to me and each other. When it's finished, my designer/animator husband will be producing it into a book available for purchase! In the meantime, I'm sharing one interpretation per week, along with other interesting tarot tidbits...

The Ace of Cups is hands down one of my favourite cards in any deck, in terms of simply beauty. The archetypal symbolism used shoots straight through to my core every time. Where do these symbols come from, anyway? There's a lot of legends and myths floating around about the tarot being from Egypt, brought to Europe by gypsy tribes, the deck being based on an ancient book about the underworld, on the Jewish mystic system, the Kabbalah, on the zodiac, it goes on and on.

While all of these things have come to be affiliated with the tarot to some extent in the collective conscious, and these days plenty of decks reflect some or all of those connections, the history of the tarot is a lot more straight-forward, a lot less awe-inducing, and, I find, a lot more conducive to it's actual use:

The tarot is a game. It's similar to, and possibly an ancestor of, Bridge, and it originated in Italy somewhere in the 1400's, during the Renaissance. The minor arcana equates to our modern day playing cards, with the jack equating to the page, and the knight dropped from the system. The only major arcana card we still have around is The Fool, as that pesky joker you have to shuffle through and get out of the way before every game. The staves turned into clubs, the cups into hearts, the swords into spaces, and the coins into diamonds.

The major arcana were the 'trump' cards, each trumping the one before in the order they were numbered. The fool was not numbered historically, and was a wild card. By following the trumps, we can learn a great deal about common philosophical views during the Renaissance, especially if we view them through the lens of classical Greek and Roman periods, since that is what the Renaissance did with everything. I'll take some time to go through the major arcana and discuss it when I get to those interpretations. For now, your take-away is, don't take the tarot so damn seriously; it's only a game! But like Kokology, ink blots, and 'Would you rather...', it's a game that can teach you a whoooooole lot, so best to enter with your mind open...

Ace of Cups:
In every deck I’ve encountered, the ace of cups is beautiful in way that makes me arrest my shuffling for a second, longer look. What, after all, is more beautiful than the beginning of love, one of the things this card can herald? In the Waite-Smith deck, the hand is turned palm-up, and the cup, a golden chalice, rests in it, instead of being grasped. An upside-down ‘M’ is emblazoned on the chalice, and five streams of water jet up and over the sides of the cup, tumbling down into the lake or ocean below, where lotuses float. A dove dives into the cup, holding a communion host marked with the cross in its beak.
The element of cups is, slightly more obviously, water, that fluid, flowing, unstoppable force of our imagination, intuition, and emotions. In most decks, the single large cup on the card is overflowing, literally, with this precious elixir of life. A force that comes from the heart is unstoppable, and infinite! We may think the passion of fire is all we need to see a project through, but without a rich dream life to help show us where to direct that fire, as water is wont to do, we may well burn down everything in our path, whether it be obstacle or useful tool. Like fire’s tendency to take a scorched-earth policy, water does have its shadow-side. Ever been told you had your head in the clouds? Those clouds were full of rain. Getting caught up in our dreams to the detriment of ever taking action is to be trapped in Maya-the Hindu word for illusion. Richly envisioning the potential of the staves is very powerful, but without following through, you still have nothing.
In a reading, this card is traditionally said to herald a new relationship: perhaps an equitable partnership, perhaps a passionate love-affair. It could also refer to the need to incorporate more water into your life, listening to your intuition, allowing yourself to dream, and feel things out with your heart.

live Omily,


  1. Very good post! Thanks for your insight. I really appreciate the effort you put into this website.


  2. Thank you so much! It's overwhelming sometimes, trying to turn out worthwhile content three-four times a week, but the words are constantly flowing, so diverting the stream somewhere where it can do some good is a labor of love.