Tarot Reflections: The King of Cups

Thursday, 29 June 2017

In Tarot, the suit of Cups is representative of emotion, creativity and the unconscious. As the maturation of the suit, the King of Cups embodies the ultimate balance of these different aspects. He understands emotions without being impulsive - he's connected with his feelings, without being controlled by them. He is able to empathise, without losing his sense of self. He has ultimate emotional and spiritual mastery - and he can understand (on an objective level) why the feelings may have arisen. In this way, he is balanced and enlightened, and able to make sound judgement. 

However this doesn't mean he's boring or staid - this is a creative and sensual archetype who experiences all the feelings, even if he doesn't act on them. He allows others to be fully expressed and would make a great mentor for an(other) artistic soul. In fact, he'd be a good mentor for anyone - he understands what makes people tick and treats them accordingly. This also makes him an effective diplomat - in fact it's hard not to like him, especially because he has a particular way of looking at you - it's almost as if he can see right through to your soul. 

As well as being in tune with his emotions and able to balance knowledge with spirituality, the King of Cups is patient and generous - he's a nurturer and is widely considered the most 'feminine' of all the Kings.

When learning to read Tarot, the Court Cards are often the most challenging to relate to, and the first step to understanding them can be found in the symbolic interpretation of the artwork (one of the many reasons people have more than one deck and therefore more than one way of accessing the symbolism). 

King of Cups from The Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson*, published by Llewellyn Books
In the minimalistic Linestrider Tarot (which is heavily influenced by the Smith-Waite tradition) the King's image is based on a piece of neoclassical sculpture. He appears to float up from the white background with the most gentle splash - Cups relate to the element of Water - accompanied by a fantailed fish which represents spirit and creativity, as well as the balance between the conscious and unconscious. The King's face is calm and restful but we can see his authority and maturity from his crown and beard. These are qualities that make him a good listener, leader and mediator. 

Keywords¹ associated with the King of Cups include: balance; vision; responsibility; maturity; intelligence; fairness and leadership. Also ² emotional balance and control; generosity. In my Tarot Journal I have an unattributed scribble describing this card as "The soul of an artist, the duties of a King.

In her book Choice Centred Tarot (1982), Gail Fairfield describes the four Tarot Kings as being about 'releasing' old patterns that are no longer effective in our lives. Her interpretation of this card is the release of an old emotional pattern (upright) or psychic/spiritual pattern (reversed), as follows (p77):
An emotion has run its course and is no longer operative in your life. This could mean a relationship is ending completely or that a particular part of the relationship is ending. The old pattern has become a habit that is no longer meaningful or satisfying... You need to make some real or symbolic gesture that shows you've reached a point of closure or completion around this feeling or relationship...
Of course, all archetypes have their shadow side, and when this King is out of balance, there's the potential for moodiness and emotional turmoil. He may seem unstable and unable to control his emotions. (If this is the case, it's necessary to work out a way to get back into balance, pronto!)

I find it very helpful to associate the 'people' of the Tarot with those I know, and typically think of the King of Cups as an ex-boss who I was very fond of. Of course, this isn't much help to anyone who doesn't know him, which got me thinking about people in the public eye who I'd relate to the energy of this card. I immediately came up with someone who is (from an outsider's view, at least) seen as all of these things - Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau - photo source: official Justin Trudeau Facebook page

What do you think? Can you relate to Trudeau as the King of Cups, or is there someone else you think of as a better likeness? Either way, when this card comes up as your 'card of the day' as it did for me this morning, there are a few things you might like to consider: 

1. What aspects of your life would benefit from increased emotional balance? 

2. Are you putting your responsibilities before your self-expression? Is this necessary or healthy for you? How can you balance this? 

3. Are you acting as mediator in any situations? If so, are you able to remain objective, or do you find yourself getting drawn into the emotional drama? How does this affect you and what can you do to improve things? 

4. What emotional or spiritual closure do you need? Is there a symbolic or actual gesture which you can make to help release that emotional or spiritual pattern? 

Thanks for reading. As always, your feedback is very welcome in the comments below, or on Instagram

*Amazon UK affiliate links included to the books in this post - the deck is widely available elsewhere, and is published by Llewellyn Books. The artwork and book are beautiful, however I find the card-stock to be quite underwhelming, which isn't to say that you won't like it.

¹ Taken from 'The Linestrider's Journey' by Siolo Thompson, the book which accompanies the deck.

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