Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Tarot Card of the Week: Oct. 19-25, 2009

The Six of Cups
The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.
— Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974)

This is an enigmatic card, to say the least. Many Tarot scholars interpret this card at face value, accepting its initial impression of simplicity, sweetness, childhood friendships, and fond sharing. One writer even calls it the Hallmark greeting card of the Tarot.


As I have mentioned before, a closer inspection reveals much that is unsettling and mysterious. For instance, Pamela Colman Smith, the artist of the Waite deck, was extraordinarily talented and knew perfectly well how to draw children. So why are the children in this scene so.. well… strange?

Is the figure on the left an adult, an older child, or a dwarf? And is the person receiving the cup of flowers 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 the out-of-proportion perspective. Why are the cups so much bigger in relation to the people than those which appear on all the other Cups cards? Why is the cup sitting behind the boy drawn in exactly the same size as the ones in the foreground? If the rules of perspective are engaged, it should look smaller.

Conventional interpretations of this card emphasize its sweetness, the joy we may receive from re-visiting fond memories, nostalgia for the past, or perhaps a visit from a childhood friend. I would not argue with that at all.

But there seems to be a deliberate strangeness in this card, hinting that perhaps some of our cherished memories may be slightly distorted, either by the passage of time, or by the human heart’s tricky way of remembering only what it wants to.

Therefore, this card’s innocence might not be completely benign. In the left background, the soldier walks away, hinting that, for better or worse, our guard is down. And Rachel Pollack writes in Tarot Wisdom, “Some people see it has having sinister undertones; one woman I know links it to incest and the way such families create false pictures of family happiness and harmony.”

Well, maybe. But the sixes of the Tarot are traditionally focused on beauty, balance and harmony, so such dark interpretations seem to me a bit exaggerated.

Instead, I would suggest that this dream-like oddness, while nothing to fear, may be something to pay attention to. In what ways does your past call out to you this week? What old friendships do you wish you could restore? Is there someone you need to give or receive forgiveness from?

In the coming days, make a point of finding time to enjoy and share the simple pleasures. There may a gift for you that comes from your past, through old friends, lovers, groups, or other heart connections that may turn up. If you need to make a peace offering, or grant forgiveness, do so. There may be more going on than first meets the eye.

But your own sincerity and honest motivations can make life sweet.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • October 19, 2009, 11:13 am Blackened Phoenix

    This has always been one of my favorite cards! Congrats are in order! I've nominated you for the Honest Scrap award! Pick it up at

  • October 19, 2009, 4:34 pm Kelley

    So well said, Beth. Thank you!

  • October 20, 2009, 9:18 am ARIE

    The symbol underneath the out of proportion cup is the GEBO rune, which means to give and to receive.
    It is colored black and white meaning it has origins in the distant past.
    The person on the right could be out of proportion. The person on the left remembering the person on the left as smaller in the past.
    The guard in my opinion is just patrolling, i.e. going to one end of the patio and then returning.
    The cups are holding a plant with a flower. Past emotions covered by earth over time and now appearing again?

  • October 21, 2009, 9:10 am Beth Owl's Daughter

    Oh, how cool, Arie! I just always thought it was some kind of medieval shield coat of arms…not knowing my runes!

    I change my mind all the time about the guard in the background. In fact, I never noticed him for years and years! It was my husband who first pointed him out to me, wondering who he was! Otter knows very little about the Tarot, so what a shock!

    I love that after all this time, I still have so much to learn and see!
    – Beth

  • October 21, 2009, 9:22 am Beth Owl's Daughter

    And thank you, BP (Julie)!

    I love getting awards, however, I am funny about them. I don't automatically pass them on to the required number of friends, etc. Seems too much like a chain letter. So maybe I shouldn't accept this; however thank you for your generous offer!

    In any case, though, I am so glad to welcome you here to my nest. Based on what I've seen from browsing around your blogs, it's an honor to have you here!
    – Beth

  • October 21, 2009, 11:18 am :: Lisa ::

    Yes I needed to hear this!

    "In what ways does your past call out to you this week? What old friendships do you wish you could restore? Is there someone you need to give or receive forgiveness from?"

    I am in the process of restoring an old friendship and have already asked his forgiveness. The more I read things like this, the more I am encouraged to strive for peace and understanding with this friend. It is a very important relationship to me.

    Thank you!

  • October 24, 2009, 2:10 am Thalia

    Late to this, I know.

    I don't mean to be all grumpypuss, but I do have to say that, you know, sometimes us artists just have off days, or are tired, or were rushed, or the subject didn't really resonate with us in the first place. Sometimes a piece starts out good in sketches but ends up not looking right, or out of proportion, even if we otherwise usually draw very well. So it may not be Pixie Smith's intention at all that the kids look kind of funny, or that the perspective is kinda screwy.

    Which doesn't take away from the interpretations any, of course.