6 of Cups in a tarot reading – tarot interpretation
To understand any minor card meaning in tarot we first need to appreciate its place within the entire system of tarot. So, with the 6 of cups we first see that it’s part of the suit of cups. Cups are ruled by water and symbolise our emotions and ability to bond with people, places and things. All minor cards relate to the major cards, most especially the major cards sitting at the same number. Here we are studying the number 6. The major tarot cards relating to number 6 are The Lovers and The Tower. The 6 of Cups is more heavily influenced by The Lovers card.
The Lovers Card depicts a young man standing at the cross-roads of
life. He stands in the present; the here and now. He has a decision to make. Should he go forwards into relationship and cut the apron strings as depicted by the older woman symbolising his mother, or stay home a while longer? Above his head the putti clouds his judgement by shooting arrows of desire towards his lover, yet he looks towards his mother for guidance. It’s a time of confusion and upheaval, a time when the future beckons yet the past threatens to hold us back. We know the past, after all we’ve already lived it, and we cling to it purely because we know it.
Don’t worry that the symbol is a story about a man. This dilemma happens to all of us whether male or female. We all face times when we need to discriminate and choose what will be the best way forwards for our long term benefit.
If we now bring this theme of The Lovers into the realms of cups and emotions we see that the 6 of Cups relates to emotions from the past, present and future. We stand in the present and look to our past and imagine the future. We consider how something did feel and how something might feel again, or how something new might feel. We assess everything with the emotions; there is no logic here.
In the Rider Waite deck, as illustrated by Pamela Colman-Smith, he describes it as ‘A card of the past and memories, looking back, as-for example-on childhood…’but this is only part of the interpretation.
Here are a few examples of how we might see the 6 of Cups during a reading. Surrounding cards always modify the meaning.
Nostalgia and dwelling on the past. This interpretation for the 6 of Cups is seen when the card is reversed. The questioner is more interested in the past and memories than in the present.
Tidying up and having a good clear out in the home (or workspace). It’s sounds like a very mundane interpretation but when we have a good sort out, maybe getting up in the loft or out in the garage to sort out all of that stuff we’ve been holding onto for years, it becomes a major operation in our life. Each item that we pick up holds a memory, reminds us of a loved one or a time in our life when we were happy or sad. Photos can be one of the most stirring possessions to sort out, because people we love, or once loved, look right back at us. Do we need to keep their image physically in our life? Other items such as a box of mementos from holidays stir us to sit down and reminisce, while that old vacuum cleaner, that really doesn’t work anymore, reminds us of the investment we put into buying it and how important a piece of equipment it was at the time. Do we still need these things? Do we need these items in our life to stir the memories, or can we live without them? Every single object we look at, or touch, needs a decision made, and an action taken.
This interpretation for the 6 of Cups is often seen when next to the 6 of Swords, The Lovers or the 4 Batons.
Decorating or refurnishing the home (or workspace). This interpretation for the 6 of Cups is often brought about by one of those moments when we step into our living space and suddenly see it with fresh eyes. We see it as others might and realise that the furnishings are old fashioned, the walls grubby and it all looks a bit tired. It feels like living in the past. Depending on surrounding cards here we can find everything from a complete overhaul and getting the decorators in, to popping out and buying a few new cushions for the sofa to add a splash of this season’s fashion colour so that we appear modern and on trend.
It can also be the task of rearranging the furniture so that a room looks fresh, new and different. Many Geminians like to rearrange their furniture one or twice a year.
This interpretation for the 6 of Cups is often seen when next to the 4 Batons, Ace of Batons or 3 of Coins.
Moving house/relocating. This is a very important issue for people and the 6 of Cups stands at a pivotal point when we move house. We clear all of our stuff out, make decisions about what to take with us and what to throw away, pack what we want to keep into boxes and transport it to our new home. Exhausting! Along with the arrival at the new home arise all sorts of overwhelming emotions, especially as we’re tired from all of the work and organisation. The pang of nostalgia. The sense of already missing our old neighbours and wondering if they really will keep in contact. The sudden rush of love for our new home, the excitement, and then the concern over whether this new kitchen really is a blue room and whether the appliances we’ve brought over will suit.
The past collides with the present and our future life in the new home appears before us like an adventure. Which way will it go? Will we enjoy our new home and love it for as long as the old one, or will the romance dwindle and fade?
Moving house goes in cycles and those cycles are represented by the 10 of Coins and the 4 of Batons. The 10 of Coins is the seat of power of the family type home and the 4 of batons is the new home. We start off by leaving the 10 of coins and making our way to the 4 of Batons. During our adult life we may have several 4 of Batons type homes, but eventually a large percentage of us end up with a 10 of Coins type home all of our own. Even when retired we go and buy a home large enough for our children and our children’s children to come and stay in. It becomes the ‘family home,’ the place that the younger members of the family gravitate towards when they say they are going home for the weekend.
When the 6 of Cups is turned after the 9 of Coins it often means that a youngster is leaving home, often to go to university or to move into their first flat. The 9 of Coins symbolises a place of safety, and with it placed in the reading prior to the house move symbolised by the 6 of Cups, it means that if everything goes dreadfully wrong that there is a safe place to return to.
A friend or romantic partner from the past reappearing. Most often this interpretation for the 6 of Cups has the Knight of Cups close by during a reading. The knight of Cups is romantic and exciting, yet never stays around for long. We don’t expect them to appear, yet we don’t anticipate them disappearing quite so soon either. In some contexts the 6 of Cups simply means ‘an old flame.’
An interest in history. Some people work as historians, but for many of us it’s a passing interest when on holiday and we look around ancient monuments or classical buildings. Mostly this will show when the 6 of Cups is next to the 3 of Coins symbolising architecture.
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