A heavenly hand is offering us a cup that runneth over. Not with wine, though. Shouldn’t it be wine?
It’s clearly a communion cup, such as you would find in a liturgical Christian church. Look at the dove—which, for Christians, represents the Holy Spirit—hovering above it with a communion wafer. And the communion cup holds the wine that will (depending on how high or low the church in question is) either become the blood of Christ or a powerful symbol of it.
But instead of wine we have water. And, all right, it’s the Tarot. The suit of cups represents water here, which in turn represents our emotions and intuition. So of course it should be water, right?
But I see a cup like that every Shabbat: Jews use it for Kiddush—the blessing over wine. So again, the association is with wine, not water.
Why am I fixating on the lack of wine? It’s not the alcohol. Both communion cups and kiddush cups sometimes substitute grape juice. Besides, this cup offers life-giving water in abundance. Surely I should be satisfied?
All right, then. I’m moving on from the wine (or grape juice) versus water question. Instead, I’ll focus on the wealth of imagery in this card.
A kiddush cup. A communion cup—maybe even the holy grail itself? We see lots of grail imagery as the suit of cups progresses. Five streams of water overflowing, pouring down. Does each stream represent one of the five senses? Or one of the five books of the Torah?
In either case, these streams suggest a process that religious philosophers call emanationism. According to this viewpoint, everything that exists is an overflow from the unimaginably full and rich and creative One. This idea is popular in both neo-Platonism and in the Kabbalah, so it shows up quite a bit in the Tarot.
But there’s still more going on here. The droplets of water that also seem to be emanating from the cup? Those are in the shape of the Hebrew letter Yod, the first letter of the four that make up the name of God: the Yod Heh Vav Heh. (The Divine Presence, it seems, can be found in every drop of water.)
And then there are the lotus flowers in the lake beneath the cup. Whenever I see them, I finally reconcile myself to the fact that this card, despite all the communion imagery, is devoted to water and not wine. That lake needs to be fed by water, not wine. And so does the lotus flower.
The lotus is a potent symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism—in the former, it’s often associated with Lord Vishnu. (And since I’m a Vaishnava at heart, that makes them irresistible to me.) The flower thrives in mud, floating peacefully on top. So it retains its purity, even in the midst of what might look like trouble.
As humans, we can choose to be like that: we can be ugly with each other, or we can float above the mud-slinging and the hate, just like the lotus. Whichever we choose, though, we’re still nourished by the life-giving water all around us.
How do you see this card? If you’re a writer, does it suggest any particular sort of character to you? Or perhaps a lesson one of your characters needs to learn?
I haven’t thought of this card much in relation to writing. I think I’m too busy trying to absorb its lessons for myself! But maybe it’s time for me to explore those lessons through stories.
Okay, we need a card for next week: ooh, the Seven of Swords. Possibly my all time favorite card as far as writing goes!