Lack of enthusiasm/joy is a sure sign that we’ve lost touch with our inner compass.
Astrologer Jessica Shepherd
As the dramas and anxieties of the current uncharted territory continue to build, the Four of Cups comes calling.
The Tarot’s suit of Cups is all about our emotional side, involving love, dreams, healing, and intuition. And Fours focus on grounding the energy of the suit, in order to establish stability.
But as we can see here, that stability may range from strength to stagnation.
The figure in the card is turned towards the three cups on the ground. But does he really see them? What do they hold? Are they past times, or current circumstances? Perhaps they are various desires or loves, among which he feels he must choose.
Maybe the young man (for indeed, Arthur Waite does say he is male) in the Four of Cups is simply lost in thought, or even meditating in a partial lotus position.
I wish I could give him the benefit of the doubt, however, this is not what Waite seems to have intended. Calling him a “wastrel,” Waite observes, “His expression not withstanding is one of discontent with his environment…weariness, disgust, aversion, imaginary vexations…”
Judging by his crossed arms that close off his heart, as well as his slight frown, it would appear that the young man is feeling flat, annoyed, discouraged, or stagnant. Or might he be grieving?
Notice the resemblance of the floating fourth cup to the Ace of Cups, of which he seems completely unaware. The Ace has often been compared to the Holy Grail, which is the gift of Grace from God, representing Her unconditional love, freely given to us.
The young man’s clothing incorporates the colors of Earth (green), Fire (red), and Water (blue). Missing is the (yellow) Air, which is perceptive, understanding, and inspired.
Thus, his attitude may be preventing him from seeing the cup being offered. We can only hope that his listless unhappiness will eventually become uncomfortable enough that he will turn away from staring at the cups before him, which do not bring him joy.
The Wings of Joy
In her glorious book of daily meditations, The Celtic Spirit: 366 Meditations for the Turning Year, Caitlín Matthews writes:
Joy is not a creature of the cupboard; it is wild, free, and profligate, spending itself in one great burst of energy. The ability to enjoy and be part of something is a skill many of us lose; as we disengage from the immediacy of life, we are less able to sink ourselves deeply into things.
This distancing of the self often arises from the need to protect ourselves from perceived dangers (physical and emotional). Whatever its cause, this form of separation from life clips the wings of joy very effectively.
As you contemplate the opportunities (or memories) now influencing you, maybe you, too, hesitate to select one, or to release what has been. Or could it be that what you see before you is disappointment?
How do we make access to joy? It can come only when there are three conditions present: a state of lively engagement with life, a receptive and spacious heart, and a respect for other beings than ourselves.
If we live in a closed-off bubble, forcing life to happen beyond us, joy cannot enter; but if we play ball with life, catching and throwing back the many experiences that come our way, we begin our true engagement.
If we have a daily receptive space where we allow the universe to speak to us, joy will find its way.
If we truly believe that the freedom of other beings is as important as our own, if we truly respect that freedom, joy will wing toward us.
Here we see the golden cup of joy, love, and hope on the wing. If only our unhappy protagonist will open just a little bit, he may receive more than he could have dreamed possible.
None of the Above
It’s very hard for me to not see in this card a reflection of the American election primaries now underway, as well as the election in Israel.
In both cases, it would seem there have been many (at times, maybe too many!) choices before us. Yet the electorate seems restless, wishing for something else, and stubbornly refusing to commit to whatever is being presented.
I admit I am sometimes grumpy about even my favorite candidates, wishing one would be a little less this way, or another was a little more that way.
Yet, when we refuse to see beyond our dissatisfaction, we may miss the shining alternative beckoning to our better natures.
Sometimes the best choice, and not just in politics, is something completely unexpected, out of the blue. We need only look beyond our cynicism and defeat.
Recalibrating our Inner Compass
In this final week of the Mercury retrograde, are you being given a time for reflection? For as you may know, Mercury’s apparent reversals three or four times per year offer us the chance to consider where we have been. If those memories are not warm, but melancholy, why? Is it possible that something else now hovers nearby, calling to you?
When did you last check and clarify your connection to your inner compass?
Could it be that you, like the our Four of Cups hero, need to pause a while this week? We all need restoration and some down time, as long as it doesn’t lead to depression or self-pity. Instead, what if you were to find a beautiful tree, sit down, open your awareness, and receive?
There is a strong possibility that Mystery is offering you an alternative you cannot see as long as you keep focusing on what isn’t to your liking. This could be unexpected news, a heart connection, or simply a gentle time-out.
At those times when we have trouble finding the path forward, remember that, like the fourth cup being offered, your path is also seeking you.
The sign you have been asking for is not always a blast of trumpets and fireworks. Perhaps it comes to you like a Faery gift: quiet as a cloud, gentle as a hand holding a cup.
Open your heart, reach out, and welcome this unexpected gift that comes from the source of Love.