Tarot Tuesday: The Seven of Cups


The Rider-Waite-Smith Deck

“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.

About Jenn Moss

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6 Responses to Tarot Tuesday: The Seven of Cups

  1. I’m not in any way practiced in reading these but ignorance has never stopped me before….

    I thought the clouds the cups rest upon would mean dreams for the conjurer. I put myself up as the conjurer to think, what does this mean? Each cup is symbolic of a possible dream: home, companion, riches and glories. That accounts for four cups IMO (castle, bust, jewels, and wreath). Three are attainable but with glories comes the chance of death…so beware.

    The serpent, shrouded figure and dragon remain. The serpent spells treachery. It’s above the others and to the right, a place of dominance in my life (I’m right handed) so I think someone in a power of authority will betray me in my quests. I need to keep in mind that a serpent is among the authorities and exercise caution.

    Dragons represent knowledge to me (because I read of dragons protecting the pearls of wisdom). Acquiring knowledge means risk, but what knowledge? The knowledge needed to pursue my dreams, because these are the cups resting on clouds. These dreams are all associated with fortune because seven is the number for fortune for me.

    Then what of the shrouded person, the one who is centered, ‘above’, and most illuminated? I think of this person as she. She is shrouded, unknown; so she represents an unknown aspect to the fortunes I seek, perhaps representing a fortune yet to come or dream yet to be made, perhaps associated with a female, or an object referred to as feminine (like a ship), or my feminine aspect. This tells me to keep my eyes open for unexpected chances.

    Thanks for posting. Cheers, M

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Intriguing reading of this card! The different ways we see the contents of some of the cups just goes to show how individual the interpretation of this card, especially, should be. (I love your reading of the dragon, by the way.)

      Thanks so much for this rich and detailed comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. M.L.S.Weech says:

    You know the first thing that struck me? He has all these options, but he didn’t choose one. It’s like the guy has so many “ideal” bounties, he can’t choose one, so he’s left without. Kind of makes me sad. I don’t do a lot of tarot cards, but that was almost the first thought I had. “Why doesn’t he just take one?” I thought it was a question worth asking.

    Liked by 2 people

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