The 5 of Swords: Victory through Dishonour

When I first began discussing the cards of the tarot’s Minor Arcana here on Shades of Midnight, I intended to save the 5’s for last.  This was done with the explicit purpose of staving off the worst until the last possible minute, but as I worked my way through the 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 7’s, I realized it was difficult to do justice to the remaining cards without first addressing the challenges inherent to the 5’s. And a challenging suit it is indeed!  The past month has been fraught with changes galore; opportunities ripe with the potential for insight and self-development, but as with all things requiring change, painful too.  As much of my experiences in the past few weeks have held touches of the 5’s, it seems only fitting that I not delay the inevitable any longer.

I won’t mince words: I abhor the suit of the 5’s. Each card is unpleasant in its own right, and the 5 of Swords is (for me), possibly the worst of the lot. This does not mean that the 5’s of the Minor Arcana do not have an uplifting, enriching message; they do, but it’s going to take much courage and the willingness to do a lot of shadow-work before the beauty within the darkness can be embraced in its fullest. Possibly the most important key-word associated with the number 5 is Change.  Negatively, change can represent instability, uncertainty, the metaphorical death of old ways of thinking and being, and challenge.  Positively, the 5’s symbolize versatility, freedom, originality, and progress. Much of how the message of the Minor Arcana 5’s will be assimilated depends on the individual’s personal philosophies in life. Optimism, faith and a steadfast belief in one’s principles can go a long way to negating the worst effects of the 5’s in the tarot.

5 of Swords from the 'Legacy of the Divine' Tarot

Cards adhering to the traditional Rider-Waite depictions show a man in a battlefield gathering up the fallen swords of his opponents as they walk away from him. The card above is taken from Ciro Marchetti’s Legacy of the Divine tarot, a stunning deck that (for the most part), conforms to the Rider-Waite tradition.  Standing upon a ravaged landscape, a man stares with defiance at the viewer, a sword in each hand and three others hanging at his waist.  The skies in the background are clouded and murky, and tattered flags (failed attempts at a truce?) are pitched into the uneven earth. We are left wondering if the three swords slung on the man’s belt are his own or if they are the purloined spoils of his opponents. Has he fought fairly in his quest to obtain his opponents’ weapons, or were deceitful means used?  The most common meaning of the 5 of Swords is ‘an empty victory’.  Were the scars and bloodshed worth the effort? Did you sacrifice your principles and integrity in the pursuit of your dreams?  And at the end of the day, when you stood before your cowering opponent, powerful and victorious, did you feel pride in your actions or only shame?

The 5 of Swords is one of the most difficult cards in the tarot because it not only deals with external change but internal ones as well. Swords as the element of Air rule over the intellect, and correspond to our beliefs, attitudes and the way we choose to communicate our most personal ‘truths’ to the world at large.  In the 5 of Swords, the mind is pitted against the ego.  Words are used with caustic purpose, to hurt and destroy those who seek to criticize or put us down. In dealing with these ‘external’ irritations (people, situations), we can find ourselves acting against values that we would normally hold close to our hearts, such as compassion, understanding and forgiveness.  It is important to remember that while the 5’s are generally an unstable suit, through our actions and words, the changes they can effect are often permanent and irreversible. In a moment of passion, it is all to easy to lose our tempers and say (and do) things we do not mean…things we wish we could take back once the anger and hurt passes. In a lot of cases, this is impossible and although the other party might forgive, the stains of the offense caused are much harder to erase and to ultimately forget.  At its fundamental level, the 5 of Swords indicates a confrontation or impasse that brings much pain to all who are involved.

“Hanging onto resentment is like letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” ~  Ann Landers.

5 of Swords from the 'Thoth Tarot'

Astrological Association: Venus in Aquarius

The Thoth tarot recognizes the 5 of Swords as Defeat, whether it is the fear of the experience or the memory of the event. In the picture we see five bent swords meeting in the middle, blood droplets trailing from each.  This suggests that the pain of defeat is not experienced by just one party but is jointly shared by all those invested in the situation.  Fear – the irrational assumption of failure – results in negative thinking and a mind-set that is geared towards anticipating the worst.  In keeping with the Swords’ connection to the element of Air, it is important to remember that fear is first and foremost a mental construct.  Only when its seeds are sown in the mind does it bear fruit through speech and action.  Fear is guided by the innate need to self-preserve, and while a certain amount of selfishness is beneficial and serves as a protective influence, too much leads to self-defeating attitudes such as detachment, avoidance and apathy.  In The Tarot Handbook, Angeles Arrien notes that, “All the twisted lines in the background are showing the function of  fear, which is to constrict, to distort, to bend one’s perspective or way of thinking.”

The 5 of Swords’ association with Venus in Aquarius merges the qualities of two opposing yet complementary planets, Saturn and Uranus.  Saturn is known as the Lord of Karma, a somber, heavy planet that magnifies our fears in the space of our imagined flaws and short-comings. Saturn is despising of change while Uranus embodies the spirit of untamed rebellion, championing progress, inventiveness and originality.  Those born with this position of Venus frequently feel conflicted by their emotional desires. On one hand, they desire security in their relationships but on another, they crave their freedom. Relationships that are viewed as too ‘serious’ or ‘mature’ (Saturn) stifle the Aquarian spirit but at the same time, a partner who appears detached and aloof (Uranus) – the very qualities that the Venus-Aquarian brings to the relationship themselves! – is experienced as threatening. Similar to the 7 of Swords and its astrological link to the Moon in Aquarius, those with Venus in Aquarius are driven by many of the same instincts. Please refer to my post on the 7 of Swords for more detail.  In both positions, the fear of failure and the fear of investing emotionally in something/ someone that might later fail to hold the interest are the greatest set-backs to experiencing life and relationships in their fullest.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~  Thich Nhat Hanh.

5 of Swords from the 'Paulina Tarot'

In the context of a romantic relationship, the 5 of Swords reflects a situation in which power plays are rife.  This card indicates a partnership fraught with ego battles and the need to constantly one-up one’s spouse/ lover.  It warns that if the need to dominate continues, then the relationship is doomed to failure.  Reading for clients, I’ve realized that the most profound message inherent to the 5 of Swords is ‘Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face’.  I’ve seen this card come up in readings where it describes a relationship in which one or both parties nurse bitter insecurities about their status in said relationship. What proceeds is one party thinking, “I’m not sure if X loves me as much as I love him/ her.  I’ll hurt X before he/ she has a chance to hurt me.”  This then results in one partner withdrawing from the other which soon after brings about a similar sort of detachment in the other who believes their partner is losing interest.  Although the distancing is done with self-preservation in mind, it is birthed by demons in the mind of one partner which later creates a similar paranoia in the mind of the other who ponders (and imagines the worst) reasons for their significant other’s withdrawal.

Compromise and honest communication are the only ways to negate the effects of the 5 of Swords.  Although the reasons for one-upmanship or avoidance are rooted in the need to self-protect, it gives rise to a situation which is untrue and unfounded in fact, leading to the destruction of a perfectly good relationship in which both partners are trustworthy, their only failing an inability (or unwillingness) to expose their deepest vulnerabilities to each other.  In keeping with the premise of the 5 of Swords, both parties end up getting hurt over the unexpressed (and oftentimes irrational!) fears harbored by one or both of them.

From a career standpoint, the 5 of Swords warns of sabotage or treachery in the work environment.  I have also seen this card come up in situations where the client was unfairly retrenched, or had their employment terminated through no fault of their own.  The 5 of Swords warns of snakes in the grass, colleagues who you might think have your back but are revealed as self-serving and deceptive when your guard is down.  Resist the urge to become embroiled in office politics and to champion your stand, no matter how right it might be.  Words uttered in the heat of the moment have irreversible consequences, and despite the truth of your utterances, you might find them twisted and used against you in a way that destroys your image and career.  Maintain integrity at all times.  Digging the proverbial knife in someone’s back might make you feel better about yourself momentarily but that single lapse in judgement could prove to be your undoing in the long run.  When at loggerheads with someone, solicit an unbiased opinion from a third party or initiate a formal mediation intervention.

5 of Swords from the 'Fantastical Creatures' Tarot

With regards to finance, the 5 of Swords comes as a warning to research all options thoroughly before making a commitment, whether it is a large-scale investment or a minor purchase.  Information that comes through the grapevine should be screened, and fact should be distinguished from fiction before a decision should be made. This card augurs a difficult time financially so budget with caution and economize accordingly.  Your finances are in flux and a turbulent period lies ahead, but as with all other things in life, it is important to bear in mind that this is merely a phase and one that will pass.

In the context of health, unresolved feelings of anger and hostility come to the fore, manifesting in blockages on both physical and emotional levels.  A host of psychosomatic complaints can result.  Aggressive tendencies should be channeled through competitive sports and martial arts training.  Guard against activities that provide a ‘quick fix’ such as smoking and drinking.

Overall, the 5 of Swords is a difficult one that portends many internal as well as external challenges.  Its effects are hard (but not impossible) to negate.  Insight, patience and a liberal dash of common sense and fortitude go a long way towards ameliorating its challenges.  Above all, it is important to remember that sometimes, you just cannot win. When such a situation arises, the only thing left to be done is maintain your integrity and withdraw gracefully.

“By letting go, it all gets done.  The world is won by those who let it go.  But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”  ~  Lao Tzu.


The 4 of Wands: A Celebration of Love and Life

It’s been a while since my last post as I’m still trying to reconcile the ups and downs of October with the mounting pressures of November. Sullen skies and endless rain have been the saving grace to a tumultuous past five weeks, and this Gothic heart delights in the darkened afternoons that remind me so much of Melbourne winters.  Though I’ve left much behind and come away that much the richer for it, there are times when I look back and wonder where I might be today if I hadn’t decided to close that chapter in my life. The last week of October provided much respite from the (un)welcome gloom that seemed to permeate the rest of the month: I finally found a publisher for my collection of dark-themed short fiction and poetry (woohoo!).  A major milestone to be sure, since Necromantique‘s inception in April.  I await its release with bated breath as much as I hunger for the close of 2011, when the bright horizons of 2012 beckon like a siren’s song.  In keeping with the joys of my recent success and what I hope will be a natural completion to an unexpected creative endeavor undertaken in the beginning half of the year, what card better to commemorate these wishes than the magical 4 of Wands?

As the final card of the Minor Arcana’s numerological suit of the fours, the 4 of Wands comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air after the challenges and frustrations (internal and external) of its other brethren. With the 4 of Cups, we were faced with issues of emotional stagnation, with the 4 of Swords mental unrest requiring withdrawal from our outer and inner worlds, and blockages surrounding our perceptions of material stability with the 4 of Pentacles.  As the element of Fire, the 4 of Wands merges the stability and achievement of the fours with the qualities of Fire, which include passion, ambition, creativity and spirituality.  Grand ideals and the lust for adventure are tempered with reason and discipline; a synthesis of charisma and enthusiasm that manifests into something productive and tangible. An inherently positive card, the 4 of Wands represents a celebration of one’s skills and talents, melding a need for personal and professional development with social success.

4 of Wands from the 'Fenestra Tarot'

Rider-Waite style depictions of the 4 of Wands typically show a scene in which revelry and celebration takes place against a brightly-colored backdrop.  Tents and banners fly in the wind while people in rich frocks dance in the foreground, smiles on their lips and joy in their hearts. Absent from the 4 of Wands is the frivolous abandon of the 3 of Cups; in the former, celebration has a clear purpose, not drinking and merry-making for the sake of the activity itself as evidenced in the latter.  This is a card that portends great happiness on both a personal and social level, and is particularly welcomed by those employed in the arts due to its links with creativity, success and celebration.  Its appearance in a spread can mean any number of good things connected to the arts, important rites of passage, and the celebration of love and happiness in one’s life.  On a more esoteric level, the 4 of Wands also represents completion. Unlike Death, which often brings about a forced sort of ending to the relationships and situations in one’s life, the 4 of Wands represents completion of a more joyous and prosperous nature, be it the success of a personal project or the natural close to a chapter in one’s life. Here, the 4 of Wands can be interpreted as the achievement of important milestones in a person’s life.  Some sources also note that this card can coincide which actual physical movement in a person’s life, whether it is a change of residence or a relocation to a foreign land. In the context of celebration, the 4 of Wands is most commonly associated with births, graduations and engagements; in essence, any event that is worthy of celebrating the journey known as life.

4 of Wands from the 'Thoth' Tarot

Astrological Association:  Venus in Aries.

In the Thoth tarot, the 4 of Wands is titled Completion.  In keeping with the numerological theme of the 4’s, attainment, success and achievement are emphasized.  The wheel, in its most basic sense, represents the natural conclusion of any given cycle in a person’s life, be it a situation, a relationship, or a process.  Its circular nature symbolizes endings and beginnings; a rhythm as old as time itself.  Each of the six rods that cross to meet at the center can point to how diverging courses in life ultimately unite to bring us closer to the person we want to be.  The achievement of personal meaning and fulfillment are the crux of these individual journeys, where heart and mind become united in perfect syzygy.

The rams and doves adorning each tip of the 3 pairs of rods are symbolic of Mars (Aries) and Venus respectively.  A marriage of two opposing yet complementary forces is the result: aggression (Mars) with love (Venus), gentleness with will, and force with diplomacy. Their meeting in the middle shows how two contradicting forces can be tempered to produce a mutually beneficial, harmonious outcome for all involved.  In one of the most comprehensive tomes ever dedicated to the tarot, author Angeles Arrien observes how the wheel can be interpreted as a merging of Eastern and Western thought-forms.  If seen in the guise of a mandala (a Tibetan symbol of spiritual healing) and merged with more common perceptions of the wheel as a Western medicine wheel, the integration of differing viewpoints can be effected.  The ultimate result is a sense of wholeness and individuation that honors the different realities that make up our understanding of the world and our role(s) in it.

4 of Wands from the 'Shadowscapes Tarot'

In the context of a love spread, the 4 of Wands signifies a deepening of bonds. If dating, there could be a decision to commit, and if in a relationship, both parties could soon find themselves living together.  This cards signifies the maturation of romance, with an added element of celebration. Whether this natural evolution in the course of a couple’s relationship takes the form of cohabitation or an engagement/ marriage, the news is much welcome and results in much rejoicing.  This card augurs well for all romantic and platonic undertakings.

With regards to career, the 4 of Wands is similarly positive.  Often times, the appearance of this card predicts a promotion or a relocation in conjunction with better job prospects.  Artists and those working in events could find a greater demand for their talents and services.  From a financial standpoint, the 4 of Wands suggests that income is derived from creative and artistic pursuits. This card favors those who are employed (or seeking employment) in fields related to entertainment, the media, and other forms of creative expression.  If a writer, this card suggests that it won’t be long before your manuscript is accepted for publication.  If an event planner, the 4 of Wands foretells of a busy time ahead with weddings, engagements and Bar Mitzvahs just around the corner. Regardless of how tiring the work can be, passion and a natural love for the job  are the only motivation needed to keep you on your current path.  Either way, your efforts begin to pay off and even if the monetary rewards are nothing to crow about, you can be assured of immense emotional and spiritual fulfillment.

On a social level, the 4 of Wands can signify a period in one’s life where attending reunions, parties and other festive gatherings take precedence over the toil of work and other mundane responsibilities. More importantly, it shows a time when love, and the various other trappings of life, are celebrated for the gifts they really are. On the whole, this is a card of pleasure and happiness where freedom, fun and fulfillment reign supreme.  While the 4 of Wands can also represent the closing of one or more chapters in a person’s life, this is viewed as a natural evolution – an inevitable conclusion – in the soul’s journey. These changes, though often-times intense and dramatic, are greeted with joy rather than with pain. Creative potential and the blossoming of other structures in life are indicated, as are the corresponding rewards of our efforts bearing fruit.

In conclusion, I view the 4 of Wands as a card of beauty, magic, and wonder.  Its message is simple yet profound: celebrate each moment and take delight in life’s most unexpected surprises. Live life to the fullest and cherish each day as if it were your last.  Honor passion and honor the creative impulse for each little spark guides us on to greater treasures of the heart and spirit, and brings us one step closer to the Divine in each one of us.

The 4 of Pentacles: Of Misers and Martyrs

Extending the theme of stability, maintenance and endurance discussed in my previous posts on the tarot’s Minor Arcana fours, the 4 of Pentacles brings the quality of the suit of fours to bear with the element of Earth. Because Pentacles represent material gain, tangible resources and the more practical concerns of day-to-day living, when coupled with the number 4, focus is placed on achieving success and stability in these areas of life. Money and property are most commonly involved, but to a less extent, health and the (physical) body are implicated as well. Unlike Water, Fire and Air, Earth is more stable element, resistant to change and less malleable than the other three. Different modes of Earth (cardinal, fixed, mutable) indicate different degrees of adaptability but as a whole, those for whom Earth figures prominently in the birth chart abhor change, preferring to stick to routine, never diverging from a set course of action for fear of failure or upsetting equilibrium. It is important to remember that a positive four shows endurance while a negative four represents stasis. With the 4 of Pentacles, the material aspects of life are stable but much of how this manifests depends upon the emotional, spiritual and mental attachments accorded to wealth and gain.

Decks adhering to the Rider-Waite tradition show a man garbed in rich robes, clutching a pentacle to his breast while two more lie at his feet and yet another is placed securely upon his crown. If our heart chakra represents our center for receiving and giving love, and to a lesser degree, an indicator of what we value, then the act of holding a pentacle (symbol of status, wealth and gain) at the level of our heart shows that love is measured in practical and tangible terms. Here, we could equate affection with the receiving of gifts, or attempt to measure our partner’s devotion through the number of resources they are willing to share though we ourselves may not be as forthcoming with the same resources. Note as well the placement of the pentacle atop his crown, indicating a mind that is focused solely on the accumulation of more wealth. At its core, the 4 of Pentacles represents greed, and an all-consuming obsession with the pursuit and acquisition of riches. Our resources, whether they be our time, energy or money, are not shared without lengthy calculation on our part. We then fall into the trap of equating material gain, whether status or income, with emotional and spiritual satisfaction. We become misers who horde our gains rather than sharing them with those near and dear to us, and in the process, we lose sight of the true meaning of wealth: inner peace and security.

Astrological Association: Sun in Capricorn

The Thoth tarot recognizes the 4 of Pentacles as Power, a card of drive, forcefulness and endurance. The square-like structure is a castle with a moat built around it, and the four inner squares represent towers and the corresponding elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Here, Air is representative of mental power, Water of emotional stamina, Fire of dynamism and spiritual vitality, and Earth of physical health and well-being. Together, the image on the card depicts a sort of stronghold of the self. The castle signifies wealth, resources and emotional belonging, which when taken together, are indicators of security and stability. The moat shows the limits and boundaries that oftentimes need to be imposed if this sense of power is to be contained and used effectively. Here, all four levels of control are essential (mental, spiritual, emotional and physical) if we are to safeguard that which is precious to us, whether these be material goods or the relationships in our life. It’s important to remember that power in this context exists not just for its own sake but for the purpose of empowering as well. Through the protection of mutual interests and resources, power can be effectively distributed not just for the good of the self, but for the greater good of all involved.

Individuals born between December 21-January 21 have the Sun in Capricorn, a placement which imbues the ego with a need for material stability. From a very young age, these people are driven to succeed in all that they do, measuring self-worth against the countless goals and accomplishments their families set for them. Conservative by nature, Capricorns have a healthy respect for the rules and regulations that keep a society functioning, and employ cautious, rational thought in the decision-making process. They aspire to positions of power and have a deep admiration of authority figures, especially those involved in politics or matters of national interest. The shadow side of the Capricorn personality is a tendency to be blinded by ambition and to become so obsessed with the pursuit of material riches that their actions can border on ruthlessness. Overcome by their need to seek security, the act of making money can assume complete prominence in their lives and to the detriment of all else. Terrified by the notion of ever being in ‘lack’, these individuals constantly push themselves to greater heights of achievement. Those with the Sun in Capricorn are often gifted with superior executive and managerial capabilities, allowing them to shine in politics, law and business but the shadow side of this placement can bring about tendencies towards unholy means to gaining wealth and status. Here, we need to keep in mind that the methods in which wealth is acquired hold as much, if not greater, weight than how much we succeed in making.

When merging the astrological qualities of Capricorn (Saturn) with the 4 of Pentacles (Power), there can be a danger of tyranny and self-imposed isolation, where the pursuit of wealth is all that is deemed worthy of your time and attention. A castle can be built to protect you’ve earned through sheer hard work and perseverance, but that very same structure can function to keep people out. Richness of pocket does not mean being blessed in love or spirit, so it is essential to keep all four elements of the towers in a perfect state of balance. For what good is wealth without the people with whom to laugh and rejoice in your good fortune?

“It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.


“Where there are friends there is wealth.” ~ Titus Maccius Plautus.


In a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly-governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” ~ Confucius.


The 4 of Pentacles’ appearance in a tarot spread can show a desire to attain (or maintain) a strong financial base and the corresponding danger of sacrificing one’s principles or values to acquire (or sustain) it. A certain degree of possessiveness over one’s resources is associated with this card, as is greed and material ambition. As with people who are forever pushing themselves to greater heights, achievement of one’s goals does not mean satisfaction or contentment. This card warns of being so overcome with the desire for material gain and stability that you forsake the beauty of your relationships and the truth of your heart in your quest for richness. Apart from resources, the 4 of Pentacles can also indicate a tendency to cling to the status quo. In keeping with this card’s astrological association with Capricorn (conservatism, lack of risk-taking impetus), the 4 of Pentacles encourages us not to fear change but rather embrace it. While the traditions and customs that have kept society functioning are to be honored and respected at all times, true progress comes with being willing to accept new modes of thinking and behaving, and not clinging to outmoded styles of living.

In the context of a love reading, the 4 of Pentacles can indicate holding on to a relationship even though it has outlived its usefulness. Here, the querant may be clinging to their partner not out of any great love for the person but because he/ she has gotten used to a certain level of comfort being in a committed relationship/ marriage has afforded them. Fear of change is implicit in this card, and it is important to remember that a deep-rooted fear of abandonment can keep you chained to a partner who may very well be as miserable as you, but is holding on for the sake of financial if not emotional security. When a relationship breaks up, there are a number of factors to be considered. First, if the partner has been the sole breadwinner, than the dissolution of a partnership can effect a drastic reversal of your financial security. Secondly, there are the expectations of family and culture to consider, where pleasing the status quo can be motivation for staying in an unsatisfying relationship. With the 4 of Pentacles, issues of material gain, status and security are emphasized.

In a career-related spread, this card can point to staying in a job that breeds nothing but discontent, but because it pays the bills, the querant grudgingly chooses to live with the ennui. Again, the Capricornian qualities of conservatism come to the fore: it is better to be safe than sorry. Dissatisfaction with current job circumstances are preferable to the uncertainty of unfamiliar opportunities that cannot guarantee concrete returns. In keeping with the theme of the fours and their concern with thebuilding of foundations, long-term goals must be considered if true happiness is to be achieved. Sometimes, this can mean staying in a dull job for the sake of financial security, because the circumstances and the status quo just do not permit otherwise at this point in time.

From a financial perspective, the 4 of Pentacles indicates someone with a miserly disposition. It frequently describes a person who has all the comforts that money can buy but despite their incredibly stable financial status, refuses to share their bounty with anyone. Abundance is infinite, Mr Scrooge, so why so stingy?

In a health reading, this card comes as a sign that any physical manifestations of illness are often closely linked to your attitudes and beliefs about money and security. Capricorn rules the bones, joints, teeth and skin, so ailments that affect these parts of the body can be seen as psycho-spiritual symptoms of deep-seated neuroses. Constipation and migraines are also common, and point to a need to learn how and when to let go. Is their a particular value system you are clinging to?  Do you stay in unhealthy relationships because you are afraid to face the truth that change brings? Or do you harbor negative emotions such as anger, pride and envy? Because of the 4 of Pentacles’ tendency to hold onto things that have outlived their use, the message with this card is to release all that no longer benefits you, be they possessions, beliefs, or memories. Once this is achieved, all your aches and pains will vanish as if by magic.

“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” ~ Henry Ellis.

The 4 of Swords: Rest, Rejuvenation, Resolution.

It is important to remember that when any of the Minor Arcana fours of the tarot crops up in a spread, the card in question can positively represent stability or negatively indicate stagnation.  All fours are concerned with structure and operate within tight, defined frameworks, deriving power through discipline, control and order. At its best, fours represent achievement and attainment. At its worst, rigidity and a dull, sluggish state of mind and being will prevail. With the suit of Cups, the free-flowing nature of emotions is brought to a standstill. With the Pentacles, we exercise tight control over our resources, and with the Wands, our passion is contained and given structure. The more Yang suits (Fire and Air) benefit from this sense of ‘order’ as the active, aggressive qualities of Fire And Air are tempered with patience and control. The more Yin suits (Water and Pentacles) however suffer as the receptive qualities of these elements become fraught with stasis, resulting in frustration and apathy.

4 of Swords from the 'Mystic Dreamer' Tarot

The 4 of Swords marries the inertia and passiveness of the suit of fours with the tempestuous element of Air, bringing all mental processes to a (much-needed) standstill. Here, the mind is quieted and peace reigns supreme over our thoughts. We withdraw from the external pressures of our lives and even our own internal dramas to gain objectivity into our situations. From a more spiritual perspective, the 4 of Swords heralds a time when we need to retreat and seek our own answers from deep within our soul because it is only in the tranquil solitude of that space between mind and heart that the most profound insights can be found.

Traditional depictions of this card show a man lying on a bed or pallet, three swords suspended above him while a fourth either rests under him or at his feet. In the Rider-Waite deck, much as is shown as in the Mystic Dreamer version above, the person lies upon an altar in front of a stained glass window, in a setting that could very well be a church or monastery. There are strong religious themes associated with this card, as shown by by the images etched upon the stained glass, as well as the glow emanating from behind the window. A few of the things that come to mind when I gaze upon this card are rest, recuperation, reflection, introspection, meditation, and solitude. Do note that this card cannot be read as either positive or negative without a thorough examination of the rest of the surrounding cards. At its best, the 4 of Swords represents the attainment of deep spiritual insight after a period of withdrawal and challenge. At its worst, it signifies a time of convalescence due to poor health or misfortune.

Whether internal or external, the 4 of Swords points to a need to escape the travails of daily life. This card frequently crops up when the querant is nearing a point of collapse, exhausted by the various demands upon their time and resources, frustrated by circumstances and overwhelmed by the countless burdens of their personal and professional responsibilities.  This is especially pertinent if present with the 7 or 10 of Wands. This card comes as a message to slow down because if you don’t, circumstances will conspire to make you do so, through depleted resources or  poor health. The 4 of Swords signifies a need to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul, so take a vacation or schedule a retreat. Get more sleep and take up activities that help align you with your Higher Self, perhaps through dream-journaling or meditation. The key is to focus on achieving a state of inner peace, so choose serene,  tranquil environments and activities/ partners/ careers that help you slow down.

4 of Swords from the 'Thoth Tarot'


Astrological Association: Jupiter in Libra.

In the Thoth tarot, the 4 of Swords is known as Truce, and corresponds astrologically to Jupiter in Libra. Those born under the sign of the scales are concerned with justice, equality and balance. Librans are motivated to seek peace and harmony in all their relationships, and often make skilled diplomats and mediators. Aside from a talent for conflict resolution, Librans are also interested in matters of social reform and fairness, and can often be found working in humanitarian fields such as counseling, psychology, social work, law and advocacy.  As a philosophical planet, Jupiter enriches the mind and broadens one’s horizons through foreign travel and study. In the sign of Libra, the interests can be geared towards politics, ambassadorship, and law. If the 4 of Swords represents the negotiation of the mind (Air: Swords), specifically the introspection of one’s values, then to ensure that the negotiation is successful, the qualities of Jupiter must be embraced to their fullest: open-mindedness, generosity of spirit, and a willingness to be flexible and consider multiple options/ viewpoints. Oftentimes, this requires not taking an extreme stance but rather keeping to the principles of Libra to achieve balance and equilibrium in all domains of life.

‘Truce’ can be understood as an opportunity to resolve conflict, signified by the chaotic yellow webbing in the background of the card. These indicate collective issues that await resolution. In The Tarot Handbook, author Angeles Arrien refers to the process of achieving truce as the four-fold way. This is indicated by the four swords meeting at the middle of the lotus blossom, encompassing all four levels of consciousness: emotional, mental, spiritual and physical. The four-fold way experience includes:

1. Being present

2. Paying attention

3. Upholding the truth of the matter at all times

4. Detaching from the outcome.

The fourth principle is possibly the hardest of all as it requires one to divest oneself of all emotional attachment to the situation. Those with Water and Fire strong in their charts will struggle with this but for those whom Air features prominently, will be better equipped to detach emotionally. Here, we are being asked to surrender to Divine will and to have faith that the Universe will work in our favour to manifest a harmonious outcome for everyone involved.

4 of Swords from the 'Tarot of Dreams'

When the 4 of Swords makes an appearance in a love/ romance spread, it can point to a state of mind rather than an actual situation. The querent may perceive themselves as alone and isolated and even if committed, could feel a lack of warmth and intimacy in their current partnership.  Sometimes, this card comes as a message that taking a break from the relationship could prove beneficial and that time spent alone will help put recent hassles/ difficulties into perspective. Schedule a quiet retreat away from your partner for a week or two. You may just find that you return to your relationship with a renewed zest for it. If single, because of this card’s association with vacations and trips, can suggest meeting someone through travel. Holistic health and wellness spas are indicated, as are meditation retreats. Check the surrounding cards for confirmation.

From a financial perspective, this card can herald a time when income flow is static. While frustrating, the message is to use this period of inactivity to revise your budget or long-term financial plans. While it may seem endless, bear in mind that the situation is only temporary. The 4 of Swords also points to delays in the receiving of promised payments and from a career standpoint, indicates stalled activities and projects that have difficulty progressing. Disappointment and dejection in work is common, so put some much-needed distance between an unsupportive environment or unsatisfying prospects, focusing instead on projects closer to your heart. Usually, this card signifies a much-needed break from the dullness and routine of daily life. By revamping your priorities, you could find that you return to your job with a much more creative outlook and fresh ideas.

4 of Swords from the 'Vampire Tarot of the Eternal Night'

When the 4 of Swords crops up in a health spread, the message is usually a negative one. Poor health, low vitality, and periods of chronic lethargy are some of the common manifestations following emotional trauma or overwork. Sometimes, a long period of convalescence is indicated especially after acute illness or surgery. Meditation, counselling and psychotherapy are more beneficial to achieving holistic balance than traditional medicine. Use this time to reconnect with the inner self through journalling, guided art/ image therapy and reading.

Overall, the 4 of Swords is one of those cards that is best interpreted in the context of its surrounding brethren. Taken alone, it is neither positive nor negative; rather, it points to a period in which a step back from the pressures of love and work is advised if a rejuvenation of perspective is to be achieved.

The 4 of Cups: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

The qualities of the numerological suit of the fours include the building of foundations, order and stability, work and discipline, tangible achievement, and practical attainment. The fours are concerned with the endurance and maintenance of their elemental domain, and with the 4 of Cups, the flowing, abundant qualities of Water are married with rigidity and structure. It helps to imagine a river, flowing unfettered through the hillocks and valleys of a quiet little village. Now let’s assume that a team of real estate developers visit the village and after a meeting with the council, propose to transform said village into a burgeoning township, replete with all the contrivances of modern living. One of the key changes proposed is to create a dam where the river runs past the village for the dual purposes of irrigation diversion and flood control. While all this is being implemented in the name of progress, it will inevitably upset the natural balance of things. If a dammed river impedes the natural flow of water and if we think of water as the element ruling our emotions, then the 4 of Cups can be equated to emotional stagnation, or a block at the level of the heart chakra. In its most simplistic terms, the 4 of Cups shows a perception of lack in our lives, whether it refers to the giving or receiving of love.

4 of Cups from the 'Tarot of Dreams'

Traditional depictions of this card show a man seated under a tree, three cups at his feet, gazing with mixed parts wistfulness and longing at a fourth cup floating just out of reach. The 4 of Cups from Ciro Marchetti’s Tarot of Dreams is one of my favorites, as it perfectly captures the look of desire on the man’s face as he gazes upon the glowing ‘treasure’ drifting in front of him, failing to see the ‘gifts’ in the three other cups placed before him. The emotional nuances of this card are a mixed bag of apathy, passive acceptance and dissatisfaction. With the 4 of Cups, we can get so caught up in chasing the end of that proverbial rainbow that we fail to stop and wonder at the miracle that is the rainbow. We are constantly distracted by new dreams and opportunities, neglecting to acknowledge and appreciate the evidence of successes already achieved. In this sense, the 4 of Cups represents the eternal malcontent who believes the grass is that much greener on the other side.

4 of Cups from the 'Fenestra Tarot'

When this card crops up in a reading, it can mean one of two things. First off, the querant could have an abundance of choices awaiting their selection but considers each to be without merit. Gifts and opportunities presented are met with disdain; nothing and no one will ever seem good enough. The 4 of Cups can coincide with a period in a person’s life where they become jaded with the good life and regardless of what comes their way, all opportunities for happiness and personal/ professional growth will be dismissed without further thought. The second way in which this card can be interpreted is when the skills and resources already at your disposal are undervalued. Here, the self and all its capacities are underappreciated and deemed less than worthy. The success of a project or the stability of a relationship are viewed as inconsequential. Where structure was once experienced as comforting, it now becomes stifling. A partner who is devoted to meeting your needs is now seen as a bore and a nuisance.

The 4 of Cups highlights the inconsistency of feelings, a decided paradox given the 4’s rulership over order and structure, and shows us how emotional stagnation can result regardless of whether we have something or we don’t. The challenge inherent to this card is that we may yearn for something yet when that wish is so generously fulfilled, the feeling that we once experienced as longing becomes transmuted into rejection and revulsion. At its best, these emotional blocks manifest as a nagging sense of apathy that though intense, are transient in nature. At its worst, it results in an embittered state of depression that simply can’t be shaken off til radical changes in perspective are implemented.

“So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects that too little attention is paid to the passive sins such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating effect.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt.

4 of Cups from the 'Thoth Tarot'

Astrological Association: Moon in Cancer

The Thoth tarot recognizes the 4 of Cups as Luxury. However, this card comes as a warning that we are in danger of rejecting all that is good for us out of sheer boredom or spite. We begin to take the good life for granted, and neglect to count our blessings. On the surface, this card can represent someone who is blessed enough to receive love, affection and devotion; a person who enjoys the unlimited bounties of emotional and material prosperity. Nevertheless, as all good things do, Luxury comes with a caveat: when we become accustomed to receiving the gifts of love and devotion, we fall into the trap of taking that affection for granted. We become too settled in the knowledge that the source of love will never change or be depleted, and thus, we begin to forget those moments when we knew loneliness, or cried because we felt unloved and unwanted. We neglect the gentleness and compassion that others invest in us, and repay their love with cruelty and disdain. Our partners are viewed as barriers to our freedom, people who do not love us but seek only to possess, choke and stifle. We begin to experience their love as a leash that keeps us tethered to their side, preventing us from wandering off to explore pastures anew.

The Moon in Cancer is in its natural position as ruler of Cancer, amplifying the positive and negative qualities associated with this lunar placement. Positively, those with the Moon in Cancer are intuitive, sympathetic, nurturing and protective. The shadow side of this placement, however, produces secretive, evasive, grudge-bearing manipulators who are not averse to emotional blackmail to get what they want. Lunar Cancerians are highly imaginative and sentimental, valuing intimacy and affection above all else in their personal relationships. Each life experience is encoded with the richness of heart and woven with the glittering strands of meaning, creating powerful emotional impressions that become rooted within their psyche. This placement of the moon bestows one with a spectacular memory for real or imagined past hurts, and while a lunar Cancerian may forgive, he or she will never, ever forget. In the context of the 4 of Cups, the Moon in Cancer is playing out its shadow side in which the evasive, malcontented qualities of Water are being given expression. It is important to note that with the 4 of Cups, regardless of how transient or fleeting that experience of apathy is, while it is in effect, it is extremely intense. With regards to emotional wellbeing, this is not a card to be taken lightly. A responsible tarot reader must walk the querent through each nuance of the 4 of Cups, ranging from a slightly moody disposition to a full-blown onset of clinical depression, to uncover the reasons behind the emotional stagnation.

4 of Cups from the 'Fairy Tale Tarot'.

In the context of a love reading, the 4 of Cups suggests dissatisfaction and disillusionment in a current relationship. A commitment or long-term partnership can be experienced as stifling and because no honest communication is forthcoming, resentment continues to brew with one or both parties. Take care that you’re not neglecting your significant other out of boredom or spite, or entertaining visions of what love could be like with someone else because chances are if you achieve what you’re longing for, you might realize it’s not at all what you want.  If uncommitted, this card can point to frustration with being single. However, it also suggests that you have a wealth of romantic opportunities available to you but you’re simply not interested. So if a lack of suitors is not the problem, perhaps a little soul-searching is in order to determine what it is in a potential partner that you’re looking for.

As a health card, the 4 of Cups points to blocks stemming from emotional and spiritual malcontent. A pervasive sense of malaise ensues, so seek counseling or the services of a pastor to help uncover the reasons behind your unhappiness. Choose dialogues that marry the need between heart and spirit, and give traditional medicine a wide berth. Sometimes, depression can be indicated with the 4 of Cups but look to the surrounding cards for confirmation. The Moon is one such indicator, as is the High Priestess (another Moon-ruled card) but with the latter, spiritual rather than emotional/ hormonal factors are involved.

With regards to career, the 4 of Cups comes as a message that the monotony of every day routines has drained you of energy and motivation. Your lack of contentment with your present job or work environment is not earning you good steed with your colleagues and employer. Figure out what you want and start making the changes you wish to see happen. Are your talents being utilized to their fullest? Do you see room for improvement and development in your current place of work? Remember that the way you perceive yourself has direct bearing on the quality of your performance. If you don’t feel supported, look elsewhere for what you need. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, be proactive and beat the stagnation blues.

With respect to finances, the 4 of Cups advises you not to overlook the obvious when seeking new sources of income. This is the time to reconsider proposals that you rejected in the past, or take a second look at investments that didn’t appeal to you six months ago. Why chase after that elusive fourth cup floating out of reach when three beautiful ones sit at your feet, awaiting your notice? Still bummed out over that editor’s rejection of your manuscript? Revise a few sections and polish up your grammar, and then take a chance by sending it out to someone new! Upset that your proposal for the ad campaign was pushed aside in favor of someone else’s? Market your ideas to a different company or agency! Take a leap of faith and make the most of the resources available to you, and watch as the Universe open its arms to support your new change of heart and direction.

The 7 of Wands: The Fight Must Go On.

As the final card in the numerological suit of the sevens, the 7 of Wands comes as a fitting end to an intense week, the energy of which looks to carry on into the coming fortnight. If I could choose one word to describe the events of the period post-Mercury retrograde, it would be ‘challenging’.  Between hurdles cropping up at home, niggling nuisances that continue to persist health-wise, and a constant need to defend my goals and values with regards to career, my life has been not so much touched by the 7 of Wands as engulfed by it. Wands, being the element of Fire, are yang and masculine in nature, thriving on challenges and deriving inspiration from hardship. Importantly, Wands are action-oriented and always geared towards resolving, opposing and overcoming any difficulties that might arise. Because all sevens are rooted in wisdom borne of the mind, the 7 of Wands represents triumph over the mundane through experience, power, and perseverance. With this card, life can feel like a competition in which you constantly need to strive to prove your worth. Constant vigilance is necessary to defend your position and values, as opposition is possible from all sources and directions.

7 of Wands from the 'Gilded Tarot'

Most decks adhering to the Rider-Waite fashion show a man perched on a cliff-top, a wand held aloft in his hands, assuming a defensive stance against the onslaught of six other wands. He wears a look of determination on his face; this is not a man who will be cowed into submission, or brow-beaten into backing down from something he believes in. When I first started reading for clients, it was tempting to interpret this card along the lines of the 5 of Wands. However, the core difference between the 5 and the 7 is the absence of playful fun inherent to the 5. In the 7 of Wands, this is no longer competition for competition’s sake. The stark truth of this card is that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and only the fittest have any hope of surviving. After the victory enjoyed in the 6 of Wands, we are reminded that we can’t rest forever on our laurels. Rather, we need to maintain the position we have achieved against others striving to attain the same success and status that we now possess.

Because of the feeling of ‘opposition’ implicit to this card, the 7 of Wands also represents blocks and obstacles to success. Frequently, our values and beliefs with regards to our personal and professional life are called into question, and we now need to defend the choices we have made against others in our environment.  While the 5’s point to external as well as internal unrest, the 7 of Wands is more indicative of pressure stemming from an external source. It’s interesting to note that in the process of facing up to this challenge, we need to summon our internal resources (courage, determination, self-confidence) in order to remain on the path we have chosen. In this way, all 7’s represent a bridge between the internal (self) and the external (other) that help us clarify our motivations (Wands), desires (Cups), beliefs (Swords) and resources (Pentacles). Bearing in mind that the numerological suit of the sevens has powerful associations with the mind and related mental precepts, the 7 of Wands can come as a sort of wake-up call in which we are being asked to assess what drives us to do the things we do. For instance, do we know what we’re fighting for? Is this just action for action’s sake or are we defending a position/ person that we truly love and value? Clarification of motives aside, the appearance of this card in a spread can also come as an assurance that you’re on the right path. You have the resources necessary to maintain your position, and with a little persistence and perseverance on your part, can ensure the continued success of the project/ relationship you are inquiring about.

7 of Wands from the 'Thoth Tarot'

Astrological Association: Mars in Leo

In the Thoth tarot, the 7 of Wands is known as Valour, and corresponds astrologically to Mars in Leo. Given that Mercury has just completed it’s retrograde phase in Leo (2nd-26th August, 2011) and enters the 1st degree of Virgo today, the 11th of September, the issues that have surfaced during the trickster planet’s stint in Leo are slowly but surely achieving closure. Take a look at the central wand laid atop the crossings (oppositions) of the other six: it comes as a reminder that if we have the courage to stay our course and hold strong to our values and beliefs, we will experience a blossoming of the self, as shown by the lotus buds and butterflies at the tip of the wands. The middle of the 3 pairs of opposing wands bears the symbol of the Eye of Horus. The ibis heads are representative of a new clarity of vision, and advises us to honour our new-found sense of direction and stay true to the path we have chosen because it merges the desires of the heart (lotus buds) with the unfolding of the soul (butterflies).

Mars in Leo is a powerful position for personal expression, driving us to seek creative satisfaction in our personal and professional endeavors. People born with Mars in Leo refuse to settle for second best, and because their ego is so closely tied up with their work and relationships, tend to take mishaps personally. Those with this position of Mars are idealistic and quick to defend their principles if challenged. They follow the path of the heart in all that they do, and are driven to shine in both private and public spheres of life. This is a vital, dramatic placement for Mars and those born under its influence are charismatic performers and skillful orators, able to take a stance on any matter and defend it to the death as long as it has personal (ego-related) meaning for them.

7 of Wands from the 'Tarot of Dreams'

When interpreting the 7 of Wands in the context of a love spread, this card often points to a relationship in which one party frequently feels the need to defend his/ her beliefs against the other. Frequent arguments, petty disagreements and nitpicking can mar what would otherwise be a perfectly amicable relationship. Because Mars in Leo has direct bearing on the ego, hurt pride can be the result of relationship unhappiness rather than any true underlying cause. If one party feels he/ she is being oppressed or subjugated (whether this is actually the case or not), a defensive attitude can result leading to friction and squabbling. If choosing to interpret this card as a block to success, then the 7 of Wands comes as a message that the querent is feeling stifled in their current relationship as a result of their core needs and values not being met. For singles, this can mean a relentless quest for the perfect someone only to meet with frustration at every turn. Remember that Wands represent our motivations and drives, and are always active and oriented towards movement and resolution. Is a relationship what you truly need at this point in your life? Or is it just what you think you need in order to find happiness? With the 7 of Wands, a clarification of goals is essential before action can be put into bringing about your heart’s desire.

With regards to career, because of Mars in Leo’s gift of showmanship and spectacular oratorical capacities, the 7 of Wands can indicate a career in theater or the dramatic arts. I have also seen this card feature in the spreads of those who teach or lecture for a living, given the Wands’ natural inclination to spread knowledge through enthusiasm and passion. Mars in Leo is very much driven towards creative expression and needs an arena in which their personality can shine through without constraint or limitation. In that respect, this card can also suggest a desire to be self-employed. Check to see if supporting cards are present before action is taken. The Empress and the 9 of Pentacles serve as good indicators that self-employment is a viable option. With regards to work, the 7 of Wands also asks if your current career needs are being met and if not, if a continued slog in a job you despise for people you don’t respect is worth it. The message is to take a leap of faith and follow the path of the heart, regardless of what people around you say.

Financially, the 7 of Wands portends a bit of a struggle before things begin to look up. The key is to remain faithful to your vision and not allow yourself to be sidetracked by situations or people that distract you from your main goal. Remember that one of the core words associated with this card is maintenance. The ‘physicality’ inherent to this card also advises the adoption of a martial arts training program, Tai Chi or yoga for health purposes.  Whether financially or health-wise, the appearance of this card in a spread serves as encouragement to continue on your current path as it will take you far. A belief in yourself and a steadfast devotion to all that you hold true and sacred will weather the worst of storms and keep you safe and protected when the dark night of the soul descends.

The 7 of Cups: When Dreams and Delusions Collide.

It’s been a soul-sapping, mind-numbing, emotion-draining one week post-Mercury retrograde. Opportunities and events that surfaced during the retrograde period between the 2nd-26th of August are now being revealed for what they truly are: pipe dreams. While not all of these have proven to be not much more than smoke and mirrors, we are now being asked to honestly assess whether the people and situations in our lives are what they are, and not merely what we wish them to be.  A lot of us have been presented with opportunities during Mercury’s backward stint in Leo to express our creative side in unique and novel ways, and to find greater joy in sharing the creative facets of our life with the world at large. As the ruler of Leo, the Sun is warm, passionate, vital and generous, bringing much pleasure and joy into our lives through individual and creative expression. The dark-side of Leo is a tendency to be childish, self-absorbed narcissists with a penchant for temper tantrums and sulking when they are not the center of attention. Megalomania, ruthlessness and a pompous, snobbish mien are but a few of the less pleasant aspects of the Leo personality.

7 of Cups from the 'Arcus Arcanum' Tarot

How does the Mercury retrograde of August 2011 tie in with the 7 of Cups in tarot? Reflect back upon the 3 weeks in which the planet of communication was retrograde. As ruler of the mind, a retrograde Mercury scatters the mind and distorts the thinking process. We tend to be more intuitive than rational at this time, preferring to rely more on our emotions than cognitions to make decisions in our personal and professional life. In Leo, this tendency becomes exaggerated. Leo, as the element of Fixed Fire, merges the enthusiasm, spirit and freedom-loving qualities of Fire with the individualistic, active and self-expressive qualities of Leo. As a Fixed sign, Leos are concerned with the long-term endurance of their investments, be they spiritual, emotional or material. With a preponderance of planets in Leo, we are more motivated to view the people and situations in our lives as extensions of ourselves. Our jobs and partners become direct reflections of our ego and status; our most private dreams and wishes are given outward recognition through the words and actions of others, for better or for worse. Therefore, planets in Leo are concerned with the maintenance of the ego and status. Mutable Mercury, ever-fickle and capricious, as changeable as the winds, shatters these illusions by effecting change, a concept that all Fixed signs abhor. When retrograde, Mercury detaches the mind from logic and rational thought, giving the emotions, spirit and ego precedence. Once the retrograde phase is complete and Mercury resumes its forward motion, we experience a shift in perspective. All that we valued during the three weeks of the trickster planet dancing backwards through the heavens is revealed in the cold light of morning to be naught more than fool’s gold.

In tarot, the 7 of Cups is the card of temptations. At its best, it represents big-hearted ideals and the generosity of spirit but at its lowest, signifies dancing with dreams and delusions to the behest of all else. This is the card of the wishful thinker and the foolish dreamer: under the influence of the 7 of Cups, we view the world through rose-tinted glasses and are perfectly content to build castles in the sky despite knowing our resources should be best invested otherwise. The suit of Cups, being emblematic of emotions, is at odds with the natural quality of the 7’s, which is the analytical mind’s ability to detach, rationalize and be objective. When the cold logic of the 7’s collides with the effusive outpouring of emotions that are the domain of the Cups, what results is a tug-of-war between head and heart. We are being seduced by intangible desires that promise to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be, but with the 7 of Cups, we are also being asked to consider if once that chasm between the Actual and Ideal Selves is closed, we’ll be happier than we were before.

7 of Cups from the 'Legacy of the Divine' Tarot

Most decks following the Rider-Waite tradition show a figure in black situated in the foreground, gazing upon 7 cups floating upon a cloud, each bearing a different ‘gift’ or ‘treasure’.  Taken together, each cup is supposed to indicate the plethora of choices that we are being offered at any given time. However, it is up to us to decide whether these ‘gifts’ are rooted in substance or are merely illusory seductions that will fade with the coming of the dawn. Oftentimes, these cups are depicted as placed on a cloud, or floating against an insubstantial background, thus highlighting the dream-like, almost transient qualities of its contents.  In collective terms, each of the seven cups shows what all of us, regardless of age, culture or creed, strive to achieve and attain. The primitive desires of human nature are exposed in all their superficial, wanton glamour in the 7 of Cups.

The Castle represents material wealth and home. Ownership and the need to belong are emphasized.

The Jewels are representative of abundance and riches. Some sources accord the contents of this cup to beauty and youth.

The Snake heralds the expression of passion and sexual desire. Sexual gain and conquest are indicated, as is knowledge that is transformative in nature, with the dual ability to heal and to destroy.

The Mask/ Human Head represents the ideal mate/ partner. This is a reflection of ourselves, honored and expressed by a significant other.

The Shroud indicates a need for self-awareness, and the subconscious (hidden) desire to view ourselves and all that we value in the most positive glowing terms possible.

The Laurel Wreath represents status, victory and honor through conquest in our public life. The contents of this cup show our need for recognition and achievement.

The Dragon is indicative of occult wisdom, and signifies triumph over the baser aspects of human nature such as anger, pride and envy.

7 of Cups from the 'Thoth Tarot'

Astrological Association: Venus in Scorpio.

In the Thoth tarot, the 7 of Cups is known as Debauch. Here, the emotional abundance of the suit of Cups is fractured and a state of emotional indulgence prevails. This can range from working ourselves up into a manic frenzy of action and excess when we are feeling good about ourselves to wallowing in self-pity when things are not going our way. There can be a sense of bipolar activity associated with this card and a corresponding vacillation between emotional extremes. Oftentimes, this card represents being addicted to our deepest wishes and desires, resulting in a state of being where common sense is thrown to the wind and we are divorced from all rational thought and action. In readings, I have seen the 7 of Cups turn up in spreads where a client is struggling to accommodate self-destructive behaviors with a range of (ill-planned) coping mechanisms. Whether binge-eating, smoking, drinking, sexual excess or substance abuse, ‘debauch’ points to a state of mind where feelings of being victimized assume prominence over the ability to view our behavior in an objective, rational light. Look to the surrounding cards for more information when seeking insight into the type of addiction the client is struggling with. When the 7 of Cups is paired with The Devil, promiscuous behavior or drug-abuse is indicated. When present with a reversed Temperance, alcoholism and over-eating are possible.

The 7 of Cups’ association with Venus in Scorpio marries the indulgent dissipation of emotion present in this card with Scorpionic traits of obsession, perversion and self-transformation. Pluto, as the ruler of Scorpio, challenges us to plumb the depths of our psyche in order to facilitate cathartic release of the darker emotions that keep us chained to our various vices and grievances. Through an in-depth exploration of ourselves – akin to a literal descent to Hell and back – we gain insight into our weaknesses and fallacies, transmuting these ‘sins’ into acts of goodness and light so that we may be released from temptation and thus reborn. Indeed, it helps if we view the contents of each of the seven cups as a different kind of ‘sin’. The Dragon can be corresponded to Wrath, the Snake to Lust, and so on. Those with Venus in Scorpio are never satisfied with the simple or superficial; they are always seeking to uncover hidden mysteries about themselves or their partners. These are not people who believe in playing it safe; their relationships and interactions are rife with danger, and there is a very palpable aura of controversial hedonism around Venusian Scorpios. These individuals are intensely attracted to exploring that which is labeled ‘taboo’ or ‘forbidden’, throwing themselves into a variety of activities that trample the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in order to get closer to their true selves. In the process, they succumb to temptations of the flesh, flirt with the Devil, and make the trip down to Hades far more times than the rest of us can ever imagine doing so. The enlightened few emerge revitalized and reborn, with a new sense of self-worth and being. The rest will continue to exist in a continuum of excess and dissipation, trapped within a world of their own addictions and desires, spiraling ever more out of control.

7 of Cups from the 'Paulina Tarot'

When the 7 of Cups shows up in a spread, choices are imminent. The challenge lies in distinguishing the good from the bad, and selecting an option that will bring not only emotional fulfillment, but bring you a step closer to who you wish to be and what you want to achieve. Because the emotions tend to be so powerfully engaged in the making of this decision, the 7 of Cups cautions us against the dangers of acting on impulse. We need to guard against being seduced by a host of potentially misleading opportunities, couched in a veneer of sparkle and glamour, and to see beyond surface appearances to what lies beneath. We are also being advised that our dreams will remain just that until some form of concrete action is executed, and to avoid being so overwhelmed by the ‘what ifs’ that we fall into depression.

In the context of a romance/ love question, the 7 of Cups indicates that you may be in danger of falling in love with love, and not seeing your partner for who he or she truly is.  In some instances, it can also point to the inability to commit. Are you viewing your relationship through rose-coloured glasses, unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge that flaws exist and must be addressed if true happiness is to be achieved? Or are you dissatisfied with the present state of your love life but are unable to move forward, chained to a partner or a situation because you can’t decide what it is you need to feel truly fulfilled?  I have also seen this card crop up in love spreads where the querent is spoiled for choice. When presented with numerous romantic options, each promising in their own right, a decision still can’t be reached because the person simply does not know what they want! In such cases, the 7 of Cups comes as a suggestion that a good deal of soul-searching must be effected before a choice can be made.

When reading about career, the 7 of Cups can point to a profession in film-making or the arts. Given this card’s association with imagination and fantasy, it can indicate a foray into acting, writing or modelling. Acting and modelling give us the freedom to play around with multiple roles and personas without committing to any which one, which reinforces the theme of vacillation inherent to the 7 of Cups. From a more negative perspective, this card could also come as a warning to beware of get-rich-quick schemes or con artists. Research your options and ensure that the end decision is well aligned with both head and heart to avoid disappointment in the long run. Because objectivity is often compromised when desires are so strongly involved, this card advises soliciting the opinion of a trusted confidante. Similarly, with respect to finances, seek the advice of a credible financial consultant before making any sort of investment. The 7 of Cups cautions that all is not as it seems; be discerning and discreet with your resources and information.

With regards to health, this card suggests alternative options to treatment and maintaining wellness over more traditional methods. In particular, more attention needs to be paid to the spiritual rather than physical aspects of health and wellbeing. Keep a dream journal and meditate regularly to gain more insight into what motivates you. Regular Reiki sessions to help realign the chakras (7 chakras : 7 cups) will help unite your emotional and spiritual consciousness with the more practical goals in life. Laziness and inaction can manifest as physical and psychospiritual blocks which have direct bearing on energy and vitality levels. Due to this card’s association with energy fractures/ dissipation, indolence must be guarded against.

7 of Cups from the 'Bohemian Gothic' Tarot

 “Freedom of choice is not a formal abstract capacity which one either ‘has’ or ‘has not’; it is, rather, a function of a person’s character structure. Some people have no freedom to choose the good because their character structure has lost the capacity to act in accordance with the good. Some people have lost the capacity of choosing the evil, precisely because their character structure has lost the craving for evil… The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decisions, the more our heart softens – or better perhaps, becomes alive.” ~ Eric Fromm.

 “Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillations between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch.

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” ~ Kahlil Gibran.

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