Hark, now hear the sailors cry,
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic.
As hundreds of my colleagues traveling from around the world gather this week for the annual Tarot Readers Studio in New York, it appears we are being guided by another Eight. Appearing here for only its third time ever, the Eight of Cups beckons with its mystery and power.
In her classic work, Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack names the Eight of Cups as one of the Gate cards. Whether by the use of geometrical patterns that stimulate the brain in mysterious ways, or simply because of what she calls “The Strangeness,” the Gateway cards open up levels of information not intellectually understandable.
Just last week at our Tarot Meetup, where we are working our way through Mary K. Greer’s 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, long-time member Dana showed me a new aspect of this card (which is the one he is using for our studies) that had revealed itself to him. It was precisely this very “gateway” patterning that had struck him, and which I had never really noticed either.
As I have pointed out before, when you look at Pixie Smith’s depiction, you see the cups in the foreground, stacked neatly, but clearly there is one missing. The cloaked figure (one of the few people in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck of ambiguous gender) is positioned in the missing space, walking away.
What Dana noticed is that the negative space is a hexagon, the six-sided geometrical figure. In many numerological interpretations, six is the number of love, communication, sincerity, and enlightenment. Above in the sky, in a harmonious balance of nearly identical size, is the circle shape. The circle is a symbol encompassing all space and time, divine unity, the Goddess, and is the enso of Zen which represents elegance and enlightened fulfillment. And of course it is the symbol of the sacred wheel of life/death/rebirth.
So here, in the most subtle form, we are invited to feel (rather than explain) what the figure may be seeking, the “gateway” through which he or she has passed, all watched over and blessed by the presence of Divine Mystery.
Unlike the Five of Cups that overflows with grief and loss, and also features a figure of indeterminate sex, in the Eight the person has turned away, crossed the river, and now strides forward, cloaked in passionate red. The choice is made; the heart seeks what it must find.
The Cups, of course, are about dreams, emotions, love, and emotional fulfillment. And all of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot’s eights hearken back to the Major Arcana eight – Strength. So they speak of summoning the courage to move and take action. The easy or well-known ways will no longer satisfy; change and transformation are needed, even if the journey is long and the outcome is unknown.
While it appears that this is a night scene, a closer examination reveals that this is actually an eclipse, with the Moon’s inner awareness overshadowing the Sun. An eclipse is, itself, a Gate, a time between, when Mystery’s song to us may be clearly discerned. Thus, the underlying understanding comes from the hidden, or unconscious realms, rather than overt, mundane reality.
What has this voyager decided to release? The emotional security that appears to have been so carefully tended and neatly stacked up has a gap – what is missing? What higher vision do they seek upon the mountaintop? What lies ahead on this deliberately solitary path?
What similar choice lies before you this week? In what ways are you now finding your courage, perhaps to turn away from what no longer satisfies you? What mysterious longing summons you to leave behind what you have known, before the cups can be spilled and ruined?
By your own volition, you are now free to leave behind the fullness of your experience, without waiting for it to turn sour, dry up, or be dramatically dumped out. It appears this is a choice you have been coming to for a while.
The eclipse is a crossroads, a brief doorway of magical time and space. It offers a time out of time, through which you can slip. Your path is calling to you, but do not delay. You can now leave behind what you know in your heart is finished, without regrets.
May your journeys be blessed.