There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
~ Francis Bacon
This week, before Equinox heralds the great quarter turn of the Wheel of the Year, we are given one of the more enigmatic cards of the Minor Arcana. Welcome back, Six of Cups.
As I have noted on its previous visits, many Tarot scholars interpret this card at face value, accepting its initial impression of simplicity, sweetness, childhood friendships, and fond sharing. It has even been called the Hallmark greeting card of the Tarot.
They aren’t entirely misguided.
But a closer inspection reveals much that is unsettling and mysterious. For instance, Pamela (“Pixie”) Colman Smith, the artist of the Waite deck, was extraordinarily talented and knew perfectly well how to draw proportionate children. (Want proof? Look at the Pages, or the child in the Ten of Pentacles or Death, as a few examples.)
So why are the children in this scene so.. well… strange? Is the figure on the left actually an adult, an older child, or a dwarf? And is the person receiving the cup of white lilies (symbol of purity) a young girl or a tiny grey-haired little old lady? Her proportions seem much more adult. And why is she wearing a large mitten?
The card is also complicated by additional out-of-proportion perspective in the foreground and background. Either the perspective is quite wrong, or else the cup held by the boy and the one on the pedestal are very large, for they are portrayed as the same size as the ones lined up in the foreground.
Meanwhile, in the background on the left, a guard or soldier with a spear walks away beneath buildings that appear rather rickety and shabby looking.
The Lovers in the Suits
The numbered cards of the Minor Arcana all hearken back to their counterpart in the Majors, which would be The Lovers in this case.
The sixes of the Tarot, Minor and Major, depict restoration of balance, after the conflicts or power challenges of the fives. The resolution addressed by the Cups would be in the realms of love, intuition, emotions, forgiveness, and matters of the heart.
Therefore, perhaps this is showing us an exchange between innocent children that is later to be fulfilled in adulthood. Might you have a similar kind of friendship with someone? Did someone, perhaps from your youth, give you a gift that you need to revive now?
Or, as the soldier has turned and walked away, this may be an invitation to now lower our guard and connect to one another from a place of vulnerability and tenderness.
The Healing Gift of Imperfection
In the wider world, which looks more like a fractured fairy tale every day, or as astrologer Robert Wilkinson so aptly calls it, The Grand Irrationality, one of the wisest, very best things we can do, is begin sharing with one another, heart to heart. Never mind how imperfect, unresolved, or downright weird it may appear to be.
How might exchanging an intimate insight, even if it seems a little off-kilter, be a gift this week?
The requirement for perfection is a delusional soul-killer. Clamping down with rigid control almost never works and usually causes much suffering. Harmony is a far better goal for humans.
Giving and receiving just as things are, with tender sincerity, instead opens the heart, reveals beauty, and brings healing.
In a world filled with ever more dramatic distortion, where what is real and what is false are increasingly hard to differentiate, the one true place to begin is to freely share our own strange beauty with one another. Even if things are slightly askew, when we give our best, with sincerity and kindness, the gift is most dear.
In love, from love, let us prepare for the next great turning of the Wheel of Time.