Cups hold water and water represents feelings and emotions. Feeling is the internal experience and emotion is the outward expression of feelings. It is important to keep the distinction in mind for those cases when one is not actively or obviously expressing what they are feeling.
The cards in this suit span a wide range of experience and are easy to relate to.
Ace of Cups
At the Ace of Cups, we are opening up to love. Maybe we don’t yet have an object of our affect or desire, but we are moving in that direction. Our openness has us feeling optimistic. We are better able to see the beauty that surrounds us. Life is beginning to feel good again. And if we cultivate this experience, we’ll increase its yield.
This card can show up when we are beginning to fall in love with someone or something.
Part of the process of opening up to receive love is to pour out those stale or negative feelings. Let go of past hurt and disappointment so it doesn’t mix with whatever new is showing up.
Two of Cups
At the Two of Cups, you are now face-to-face with someone or something to love. Yes, this card highlights romance, typically in the early stages. But it can also signify all the platonic forms of love as well.
The more general interpretation of this card is connection. Connection feels wonderful. Work becomes effortless when we love what we do. Our house becomes a home when it is filled with love.
The Two of Cups can indicate an experience of connection, love, and/or mutuality. It does not necessarily mean that this situation will become a long term aspect of our life.
When already partnered, this card can indicate a refreshing of the connection that established that partnership. Again, this does not just apply to spouses and significant others.
Three of Cups
In a word, the Three of Cups is celebration. Most often, it indicates celebrating with others, a small group or large. It can signify holidays, birthdays, or parties on any occasion.
More abstractly, this card can be about appreciation. Celebrating typically occurs after the fact. We celebrate our victories and successes. Appreciation contains all of that, but also includes anticipation, which is celebrating before hand.
Consider how we use the word appreciation to indicate the increase in value of a property or possession. In this regard, appreciation indicates expansion. Threes are creative, so this card highlights creating more that is good by appreciating, celebrating, and anticipating all that is good.
Four of Cups
Fours can represent a lack of flow. Emotions, the expressing of feelings, puts energy in motion. When there is a lack of flow, the feelings become stale. This card is the first in this suit that depicts negative feelings.
At the Four of Cups, one typically feels disappointed or pessimistic. Things don’t feel as if they are going in the right direction. Something has halted the progress. Maybe it’s not getting worse, but it’s not getting better. And maybe fear and doubt are bubbling up from somewhere inside of you, possibly related to the past.
When you have fallen into a rut, you must expend a bit of effort to get out of it. At the Four of Cups, you have to reach for reconnection. You might have to shift your perspective to see things different. Don’t assume that you are doomed to the same disappointments you have experienced in the past.
If you are offering something to another, and they are not accepting it, or perhaps outright rejecting you, what then?
Still waters run deep, but they also reflect. You might be asked to seek deeper within yourself to find the source of the murky water. You might have to look at your own lack of openness. Was your offering based on need? Are you putting too much of your joy in the hands of another?
Your joy is your own responsibility. It is not right or good to put that onus on others. Often, they are busy trying to find their own joy.
Expressing negative feelings does create flow and is often much better than holding them in. Let the ill feelings flow out, so the better feelings can flow in behind them.
Five of Cups
The Five of Cups represents myriad negative feelings we all experience now and again, for example: grief, sadness, depression, hurt, or anguish. If we look at emotional scales, this card represents those below anger and blame. By the time we get to anger, we are rising out of the feelings indicated here.
Most people will tell you that, when they are feeling down, there is a reason. You grieve the loss of a person or thing. You are depressed when things are not going your way. Sadness and disappointment comes when expectations fail.
When you look at the image on this card, a person is facing the three cups that have been knocked over. Hopes and dreams are dashed and seemingly destroyed. The two remaining cups are upright, but they are behind the despondent protagonist. S/He need to turn around to see them.
The counsel of this card is this: mourn what is lost, but then turn yourself around and focus on what is good. Do this well enough and you will eventually see what was gained from the situation.
All is not lost. Through reconnection, you can find your way back to happiness.
Six of Cups
The Six of Cups most often entails some kind of nostalgia, which, in and of itself, can feel bittersweet. If we are in a good place, we can remember the past with glee and appreciation, but it is too easy to long for something back there.
Or, we might find ourselves recalling hard times from the past, which could have us revisiting negative feelings and/or worrying we’ll experience these hard times again in the future.
No matter what you are feeling when looking back in time, remember that the person you are today is the sum total of all that you have experienced before, whether you remember it or not. If you had success in the past, you can have it again. If you had struggle or strife in the past, you got through it and learned from it. That experience can’t be taken away from you.
We do not have any power in the past. In other words, we cannot create the future from the past. The past has already passed. Don’t spend too much time back there. Maybe you are recalling and bringing forth something useful. If so, grab hold of it, but then come back to the here and now.
Seven of Cups
All of the sevens inspire introspection, and this one is no exception. At the Seven of Cups, we have options before us, but none of them feel right. Often, none of them are right.
There is benefit to the exploration, however. The options came to us because we asked for them, because we are seeking something better. The Seven is en route. It does not indicate failure, it just says that you are not at the finish line yet. You are still shifting and sorting. You are still working out the details of what you really want. So, by seeing these options, you are better honing your specific desires.
At times, you have to select one of the options presented even if it doesn’t feel right. That is simply because there is still more for you to uncover. The information you are digging up is inside of you, but the journey to it may require external interaction.
If you don’t have to choose, keep looking for better options. If you do have to choose now, do the best you can, but know that you will continue to create regardless. You take yourself with you wherever you go and you are the decider. You can create what you desire from any starting point.
Do not rush yourself. Do not feel defeated. Take a good look at what is presented and weigh your preferences and values.
Eight of Cups
Eights can bring what I think of as systemic solutions. At the Eight of Cups, we are leaving something behind in order to move up to something much better. As with any death/rebirth process, we might have much more awareness of what we are leaving and not yet able to see what we might gain.
Each of us pours a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into endeavors that mean so much to us. It could be a job, a career, a relationship, or a creative project. Maybe we worked hard at it for years, but now it is just not making us happy any longer.
We grow, and thus we grow beyond those things we sought and gained or created. At this time, to hold on to the past just because of the countless hours we invested into it, holds us back from a higher potential in the future.
Every step into the future leaves the past behind. It is simply life in a time-space reality. It can be a challenge, but it doesn’t mean it is not what is best.
When the Eight of Cups shows up, it is time to let go of something and move up toward something else. There is more to be gained elsewhere. Open up to new opportunities.
Nine of Cups
I most often refer to the Nine of Cups as the wish card. It often indicates that you will receive or are receiving something you asked for—something you wanted.
The relationship between the Nine of Cups to the Ten of Cups is very similar to that between the Nine of Pentacles and the Ten of Pentacles. Here, you experience a peak moment. You have gained, but the journey is not over.
As I am writing this, I am hearing the phrase: fat and happy. There could be an inclination to overdo it a bit when this card shows up.
Savor the experience of gain; enjoy the moment.
Ten of Cups
I like to describe the Ten of Cups as contentment in all areas. Even if this is not literally the case, it most often feels that way. When you feel this good, you simply are not thinking about any issues anywhere.
Contentment is not the same as bliss, joy, excitement, or happiness, although any of those higher feelings can be showing up at this time. My personal experience of this card is a breath of fresh air and strong optimism. The sun shines brighter; the air smells fresher; food tastes sweeter. Milk this experience; savor all of the sensations; take time to truly appreciate whatever feels good now.
Regardless what level of goodness actually comes, it will be much better than what was experienced before.
This card can also represent a family gathering or a group of good friends coming together; in either case, love abounds. The connection is felt by everyone. It is truly a feeling of coming home.
The Court of Cups
Do not rely too heavily on the gender of the archetype. These cards can represent anyone.
King of Cups
The King of Cups is the most sensitive of kings. He is expressive and wears his heart on his sleeve. You always know what he is feeling; you can see it on his face. He is also the most nurturing of kings as well. He is affectionate and caring.
Many would say he is the most feminine of Kings, but he wouldn’t think of himself that way. He wouldn’t attach gender to feelings and emotions, as they are completely natural to him. He may be less traditionally masculine, but he is by no means weak. Water is his domain and this makes him as powerful as Poseidon. He can use his feelings, his intuition, his desires, and his empathy to inspire himself and others, and this makes him a charismatic leader.
As with all court cards, this may indicate a person in your life who is like this, or be highlighting these characteristics for your consideration.
Queen of Cups
The Queen of Cups is highly intuitive and observant; she feels things deeply and picks up on the subtle emotions of others.
She is loving, caring, nurturing, and affectionate—like her mate. She is not as expressive as the King, however. She is often shown with her cup covered or shielded. If you gain her trust, she will let you look inside.
The Queen of Cups truly understands the difference between feelings (the internal experience) and emotions (the outward expression). She is always aware of her feelings yet mostly only expresses them when and to the extent she chooses. If you are paying attention, you will know what she is feeling.
She is a true asset to have in your life: be her your mother, your friend, your wife, or your sister. She is not someone to take for granted.
If this card represents someone in your life, you might have to pay closer attention to see what she is feeling. If she represents you, she might be telling you to look at the way you are expressing your emotions to gauge if they are what you think they are. Maybe you are hiding too much of your emotion and thus not being seen or understood. Or maybe you are showing too many people your inner feelings, which is not serving you at this time.
Knight of Cups
The Knight of Cups is the romantic dreamer. He is entranced by the idea of love. Real life rarely lives up to his ideas (or ideals). He will do nearly anything for love, but is easily disappointed. He is prone to emotional swings in either direction. He can have a difficult time dealing with life because of his sensitivity and because his own feelings toss him around.
All of the Knights can be a bit adolescent, and this Knight is no exception.
The Knight of Cups may have a hard time finding (manifesting) a reality that lives up to his dream, but the dream itself has value. He is motivated by it, searches for it and creates art and beauty as a result of it. The ideal may be unrealistic, but were it not stated, no one would strive for it.
The Knight of Cups is romantic and sweet, soft and expressive, and very artistic.
This card can also represent someone who is out of touch with 3D reality. It could be someone not paying attention, but could also represent someone society would label as disabled in some way (usually mental). It could even represent someone using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism…to escape the harshness of reality.
Lastly, It could indicate that someone is thinking or feeling things that are not based on what is actually happening around them. They are not seeing things accurately.
Page of Cups
Young children can find happiness and joy in the simplest things. It is their nature to play and connect and laugh and explore. We’ve all seen cases where they simply don’t see the chaos or danger around them. We call this blissfully ignorant.
When a child is especially happy about something, they want to show you. They don’t keep their happiness or joy to themselves. Their glee is heard all around them.
Like a young child, the Page of Cups is focused on what is right before him. He is excited by the gem in his hands and wants you to enjoy it too.
The Knight of Cups is highly influenced by what is happening around him. The Page of Cups is very much the opposite. He has not yet been trained to discard his own joy because of others. This is not narcissistic, it is simply they way of children.
As an abstract card, the Page of Cups is about the fruits of love. It is a very practical, realistic, expression of love and happiness. Adult life can be complex and sophisticated. The Page of Cups represents simple and straightforward feelings and emotions, not exactly black and white, but clear and genuine.