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Thursday, 6 March 2008

Eight Of Cups

trace the white circle that narrows round me
wet feet heavy, caught in place
look beyond the chalice of old treasures
stand beside the roots that lead me down

sea and shore collapsing in each other
calm waves breaching all hard lines
with head bowed and a star to mark the morning
I walk on water, and I do not drown.

This is not a happy place. It's another of those Water cards that have gone to the shore, and it's not looking at the path home; that path is blocked, or eroded. It's usually not looking at us at all - it's a face turned away. It's headed downwards. It's abandoning the map and heading into deep water, alone, and as we can't see its face, we don't know how it might be feeling about that. It could be unhappy, or it could be relieved. That all depends on what it's leaving behind, and why.

One of my favourite Eights of Cups is the one in the Mythic Tarot; it shows Psyche headed to the Underworld because if she wants to rectify her mistakes and be happy, that's where she has to go. She has to give up on the idea of herself as a simple, mortal woman with a simple, mortal marriage, and go into the dark.

This one is lit by a huge moon, and shows a figure standing by a confusion of sea and shore, roots and sand, like a landspit in the ocean of feeling, a lonely place, but an illuminated one.

Virtually all Eights of Cups show a moon, and, this being tarot, that probably implies a lot of uncertainty and a need to drown the rational in the sea and rely instead on the intuitive - which may or may not be an accurate guide.

Images of the Eight of Cups

The Eight of Cups in the Morgan-Greer Tarot is based on the RWS, but is prettier; a person walks away from a path almost blocked by emotion, and heads down to the sea. That the Eight of Cups tilts downwards is fairly established; that it's for the best, or sometimes all you can do, similarly so.

Scapini hints at a different kind of descent; a passionate scandal. It's often passion that pulls us off-track, but there's this very courtly notion here that it's the expression of love, rather than the failure of love, that's bringing you low.

The Osho Zen Tarot doesn't describe the problem, but instead gives us the solution: Letting Go.

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