Perhaps the echoes of people we once loved still linger in the places we frequented with them and that is why we go back… Not so much to remember them as to feel them.
Ranata Suzuki (with thanks to my friend Ellen-Mary O’Brien who first associated this quote with this card)
This week of the New Moon in Gemini, 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, 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.
Yesterday, I was unable to complete writing this, due to an appointment that took most of my day.
Now, sitting back down this morning to finish, the world has lurched again in the wake of a deadly violent attack. Last night’s terrorist bombing in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert was aimed at an audience that was mostly young women and teenage girls.
I can’t help but think about how different the real world is, compared to how we imagine and wish for it to be for our children, especially our girls.
As adults, we do everything in our power to protect them from harm, to provide a gentle, nourishing environment in which they can grow and flourish, and choose special treats for them like the music of Ariana, a talented singer who became a success when she herself was only in her teens.
The rose-colored glasses with which we may often remember our younger selves, or project our hopes upon our youngsters have their place, for hope for a better world is as necessary to childhood as healthy food and good schooling.
With this card’s visit this week, we are given a choice. We can see it on the surface as a sweet and happy card about gift-giving and innocence. We can also look deeper at the mysterious and somewhat foreboding details that have been included.
In the world, and in the Tarot, both are true.
The Nature of Nostalgia
When we imagine “Making America Great Again,” to what great time are we referring? When was the idyllic past so perfect, and for whom?
Have you ever gone back to your early childhood home or favorite places, to be shocked by how small, and perhaps shabby they now seem?
Keeping fond memories that slightly embellish the truth, and skip lightly over past hurts is typical of most healthy people. We well know that even the very best childhoods have their moments of private hell, and human history is interwoven with light, shadow, hope, and tragedy.
Still, though, remembrance of the good over the painful brings a gift of healing, as long as we do not close our eyes completely to what is or was actually true. By shutting out the truth, no forgiveness or redemption can occur.
In these strange and difficult times, which look more like a fractured fairy tale every day, 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 blatant lies and distortions, where what is real and what is false are increasingly muddied, 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, we remember and feel the kindness that abides, no matter if the giver is long gone.