“Oooh, look at all the shinies!” That’s my first thought whenever I see this card.
A silhouetted figure stares, astonished, at the vision before him: seven cups, each containing some kind of promise or treasure. One shows a castle, one is brimming over with jewels, one holds a victory wreath, one a dragon, one the serene head of a statue and another a serpent. Finally, the one in the center contains a luminous figure in white with some sort of cloak or shroud or prayer shawl draped over it.
From a writing perspective, what kind of character would conjure up this vision?
The Suit of Cups gives us a hint: Cups represent water, which in turn represents dreams and imagination and the subconscious. So this character is a dreamer or artist, or perhaps someone who’s indulging their dreaming, artistic side, even if it’s usually dormant.
And this does seem to be an uncritical vision. It’s not clear, for example, that the figure notices some of the details. The cup holding the victory wreath? It looks like there’s a skull engraved on it. (Glory might come at a steep price.)
On the other hand, this could be a character with scattered goals: someone who’s never learned how to focus. He sees all these amazing possibilities and can’t bear to settle on just one.
Most of these cups, I think, are distractions. They’re fantasies that won’t bring him fulfillment, even if he does somehow achieve them. Sure, making enough money to live in comfort is a reasonable goal for anyone—but a character who chases after that cup brimming over with jewels hasn’t learned the lesson that enough is as good as a feast.
Some of the cups leave me confused. Is the serpent meant to represent wisdom or cunning or temptation? And what about the dragon and the head of the statue? I’d love to hear your ideas on what sort of dreams these represent. (I imagine they can change from story to story. Maybe the dragon represents hoarding in one tale, but magic in another.)
The cup really worth chasing, I think, is that luminous figure. To me, that represents a character’s truest self—what they would be at their best. Their divine spark, if the story takes a religious turn. Whether the character journeys to discovers that spark or endlessly chases after shallow substitutes probably depends on the story.
That’s my reading of the Seven of Cups—a card I’ve struggled with from time to time. How does it strike you? How would you use it to develop a character?
As always, if this inspires you to write a meta, poem or story, please leave the link in the comments. Meanwhile, we need a card for next week: the Three of Swords.