From time to time a great common aspiration comes to the surface from roots that lie deep down in mankind. At a given moment, the whole mass of souls thrills as it opens its eyes to a new light.
Their multitude, for all its diversity, forms one whole in the unanimous and undisputed acceptance of a truth that is spontaneously taken as established; and, in one body, they set out together as though to find a new Holy Grail.
Pierre Teilhard deChardin, Writings in Time of War
Oh my! Here’s a visitor that we haven’t seen since 2015 – long before our lives and our countries went completely haywire. And its message was persistent in that pivotal year, appearing three times. So it would seem that its return at this fraught moment is an important omen. Let us open our hearts in welcome to the Ace of Cups.
The Tarot’s Aces represent the complete potential of the suit, and they all depict the hand of Mystery, offering its blessing to us. Since the Cups preside over emotions, love, intuition and healing, this card is the very essence of those gifts. It holds all the love that could be possible, and the deep knowing that comes straight from the heart.
The Waite-Smith Ace of Cups is actually none other than the Holy Grail. We see the dove of peace, symbolized as the Christian Holy Spirit delivering the wafer (the Host, or the body of Christ) into the cup. It is, in Christian terms, a picture of the Holy Communion.
Tarot artist and scholar Robert Place tells us that the five streams pouring from the Cup are the five wounds of the Christian God. He also suggests that the letter on the Cup is not a “W” but an “M” reversed, identifying it with Mary, the Christ’s mother, and is upside down to show that it is receiving the body of the Divine.
Interestingly, the deck’s creator, Arthur Waite, wrote that there were four streams coming from the Cup (perhaps a reference to the fountain in Eden from which the four rivers ran). But clearly, artist and magickal adept in her own right, Pamela Colman Smith, had other ideas.
And so can we.
The Sacrificial Fisher King
The appearance of the Grail Ace in this time of dramatic sociopolitical unrest, rampaging pestilence, and accompanying widespread death reminds me of the myth of the Fisher King.
This story is a very, very old one and takes many forms. The basic theme revolves around a wounded king who is either impotent or dying, and can only be saved by the power of the Holy Grail. While he waits, slowly deteriorating, he fishes in a nearby river, hoping for rescue.
One modern version of this powerful tale is the brilliant 1991 Terry Gilliam film, The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.
In the film, Jeff Bridges plays a radio “shock jock” whose offhanded cynicism sends a disturbed on-air caller on a murderous rampage. Robin Williams is a former college professor whose wife is one of the people killed, and who is so shattered by the tragedy that he has ended up delusional, homeless, and on a mission to fulfill the story of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail.
This is how Williams summarizes the story in the movie version:
It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king.
Now while he is spending the night alone he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy Grail, symbol of God’s divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, “You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men.”
But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded.
Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself.
He couldn’t love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die.
One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn’t see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, “What ails you friend?”
The king replied, “I’m thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat.” So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king.
As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed.
He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, “How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?”
And the fool replied, “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”
As you may know, it was once understood that the fate of the crops, the economy, and the people depended upon the vigor and progenitive power of the king. To have an impotent or wounded leader was a recipe for widespread disaster.
And so, here we are.
It seems to me that as long as our leaders (and those who enable them) are cruel, mentally unhinged, or, worst of all, unwilling to sacrifice themselves for the good of the people, the land will continue to suffer.
When those seeking power are greedy and only desire their agenda’s triumph, they are disconnected from love, grace, and humility. In that bubble of invincibility and hubris, they thus put the land and the people in mortal jeopardy.
In this season of Samhain, as our Ancestors draw near, they whisper how the truth and the danger in this story could not be more clear.
Now. In our own lives.
Grant Us Grace
For those of us not enamored with Christian symbolism, we can easily see the streams as the four Elements, plus the fifth sacred thing – Mystery, or Spirit. And so, this card is the sacred Circle, the Divine Feminine. It is a visitation from Grace.
Our Greek ancestors, and later the Romans, always, without fail, invoked the Graces before every meal, journey, festival, or other gathering. Their presence assured harmony and blessings.
Must we know for certain what we need at all times? Do we dare to ask for blessings we are not sure we deserve?
Author Sarah ban Breathnach writes, “Grace is available for each of us every day – our spiritual daily bread – but we’ve got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.”
I like the idea that Grace is a combination of the gifts from the three original Graces. Grace is the deep benevolence we can never earn, but which is generously given instead for the sole reason, simply, that life itself is blessed. We need only ask to be shown it.
Ask, Ask, Ask
When challenging times come, align with good, and do what you can to help. But realize, too, that none of us can pay enough dues to guarantee our well-being.
Happily, the Tarot reminds us with the Ace of Cups that this is not a problem. Grace and love are offered, if we will only ask, and then surrender to acceptance.
Asking for Grace means that the Divine Ones will fill in the gaps that we may not be aware of, support us in invisible ways we cannot ourselves anticipate, and will know our hearts more clearly than we may understand them.
This week, allow and receive, even if you cannot see all ends.
Find what refreshes you. Hold fast to your goodness and your finest dreams.
Grace is given freely. Blessings are bestowed on new love, or any other new beginnings that join hearts to one another, including the gifts of romance, children, and dear friendships.
What forgiveness do you need? What love do you long for? Who needs the healing only you can give? How might your own simple act of compassion be a gift of magical blessing to someone?
Divinely inspired love, healing, and heart-opening awareness are given readily to you.
We ask in perfect love. We receive in perfect trust.
May the sacred waters of Life restore our parched and suffering lands. May all the world’s souls thrill as we open our eyes to a new light.
May Divine Love bless you and lead you safely home.