What am I grateful for, and what more do I yearn for? That's the question asked by the FOUR OF CUPS / FOUR OF BOTTLES / MIXED HAPPINESS cards. What follows is a comparison of the imagery and interpretation of the Rider-Waite, The Haindl, and the Collective Tarot decks' respective four of the Water suit cards.
Rider-Waite’s Four of Cups has a mirror image of the Ace of Cups, a hand outreached from an unearthly cloud, offering a cup to the subject of the image, who seems not to notice this newfound potential. Several interpretations come to my mind. The first is that this young man is seated beneath a tree neutrally contemplating what he has before him- an act of meditating, as Buddha meditated under the tree, on gratitude for what one has, may produce mysterious new gifts. Another take is that he is too focused on what’s set in front of him, stubbornly so, with his arms crossed, and misses the gifts that are nearer and easier to reach out and grab. Rachel Pollack, in The New Tarot Handbook, observes that he is not taking the cup, which could indicate that we are not meant to take every offer, especially if we already have enough on our plate.
Haindl’s Four of Cups is named “Mixed Happiness”, which Haindl renames “Yearning”. The I Ching hexagram 3, or Chun, “Difficulty at the Beginning” is reversed to Meng, or “Youthful Folly”. For a card in the water suit, there isn’t any water in the image, and the plants pictured are long dead. The cups are empty, facing each other, each one trying to catch a drop from the other empty cups. This is a seemingly bleak image, resonant with the Chun hexagram that accompanies it. However, “Mixed happiness” and “yearning” as titles indicate some hopeful nature— Rachel Pollack, in The Haindl Tarot: The Minor Arcana mentions that dead leaves fall where they can help new plants grow, and so the life cycle continues through death. The emptiness of the cups are an invitation to fill them with our own emotional richness. When we see what we yearn for, we have the guidance we need to take the next right action. So, though we may be filled with the sadness at not having what we want, we are also mixed with happiness that we know what we want at last. This identification of the feeling of yearning for a desire is the beginning, difficult as it may be, of manifesting.
Collective Tarot’s Sacha Marini, who created the bottles suit, shows discontent on the face of a figure who is all bottled up. There is a storm outside, and while the bottle is beautiful, the person in it doesn’t think so. In the Collective Tarot’s accompanying booklet, Marini describes that moment in relationships, movements, and projects when the shine has long worn off and you’re getting tired of the same old thing. A retreat, a backing down from previously exciting convictions are described in the booklet. The notion of “How have I gotten myself into this?” may be part of what Marini is trying to say here, and I also see something else in this card. The emotional storms of commitment to a project or a cause or a relationship might call for emotional boundaries, protections if you will. But those boundaries can be overprotective and stifling. This card asks us to question whether our emotional boundaries serve us— are they too rigid, and suffocating our ability to test our strength and weather the storm? Or could they be too permeable, too easily broken, like the glass of an old bottle?
Thanks to @inthe78cards and @thetruthinstory for hosting this month's awesome challenge on Instagram!
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