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R-W-S Images/G.D. Meanings, 2

November 12, 2019

The Cups Spot Cards

Of the image on the 2 of Cups, Waite says: “A youth and a maiden are pledging one another, and above their cups rises the Caduceus of Hermes, between the great wings of which there appears a lion’s head.” He might have added that a cottage nestles in the low hills behind them.

The G.D. meanings range more broadly than any that the picture evokes: “Marriage, the home, love, pleasure. Warm friendship. Harmony.” Marriage, Love and Home are suggested by the image but neither Warm Friendship nor Pleasure are; and although Harmony could be extracted as a significance of the card by contemplation of the image, I suspect that precious few tarot readers go so far as to make the extraction, sticking rather with the simple, even simplistic, representation they are presented with of the card’s mystical title: Lord of Love.

cups 2    cups 3

Waite’s description of the 3 of Cups is: “Maidens in a garden-ground with cups uplifted, as if pledging one another.”

To the G.D., the card’s significance was: “Plenty. Hospitality, eating and drinking. Pleasure, dancing, new clothes and merriment. Abundance. Passive success, the result of luck or good fortune”, with the added proviso, “Can indicate love and/or marriage.”

The card’s mystical title is Lord of Abundance, and the image tangentially addresses this condition by depicting the material results of abundance. One can also read in it Dancing, Merriment, Hospitality, Eating and Drinking, though a person is most likely to see those things in the picture if they are already cognizant of the card’s meanings. The image does not convey any sense of Passive Success (my instructor in G.D. tarot reading taught me the phrase “success that was not anticipated” in connection with the 3 of Cups), Luck, Good Fortune, Love or Marriage.

“A young man is seated under a tree and contemplates three cups set on the grass before him; an arm issuing from a cloud offers him another cup. His expression notwithstanding is one of discontent with his environment” is how Waite describes the image on the 4 of Cups.

The G.D. meaning is: “Success or pleasure approaching their end. A stationary period in hap­piness which may or may not continue. Receiving pleasures or kindness from others, yet some slight discomfort and anxieties therewith. Blended pleasure and/or blended success in the form of success accompanied by worries or misgivings.” The Waite-Smith imagery mirrors “a stationary period in happiness which may or may not continue”, but everything else is missing.

cups 4    tarot-cups-05

The Waite-Smith 5 of Cups depicts “A dark, cloaked figure, looking sideways at three prone cups; two others stand upright behind him; a bridge is in the background, leading to a small keep or holding.” One might also note that, in the background, is a dwelling separated from the cloaked figure by a stream crossed by the bridge.

The G.D. gave this card the mystical title Loss in Pleasure, and the divinatory meanings they associated with it are: “Disappointment in love. Marriage, engagement or similar relationship broken off. Unkindness from a friend or friends. Loss of friendship. The symbolic death or end of pleasures. Disappointment. Sorrow and loss in those things from which pleasure is expected. Loss of a relative (by death).”

The image only obliquely addresses many of the Golden Dawn significations; although it is a vivid depiction of Disappointment. Cups, interpreted as affection in all its varied forms, functioning in negative mode, would serve as well, or better, as an aide-memoire to the G.D. meanings. The picture on the card indicates Disappointment only, and is open to other interpretations having nothing to do with the meanings with which the G.D. invested the 5 of Cups.

The image on the 6 of Cups is described as: “Children in an old garden, their cups filled with flowers.” An old house, seemingly part castle, forms the background to the scene. The boy is smelling a flower in the goblet he is holding. A man with a spear walking away from the children can be seen in the distance.

The card has the title Lord of Pleasure in the G.D. tarot system. The meanings they assigned to it are: “Commencement of steady increase, gain and pleasure, but commence­ment only. Beginning of wish, happiness, success or enjoy­ment. Success.” Nothing of this is replicated symbolically in the picture on the Waite-Smith 6 of Cups. In The Key to the Tarot Waite puts forward three interpretations of the card. The first is that it is a symbol of “the past and of memories, of looking back, as – for example – on childhood,” of enjoyment coming from past events, and of “things that have vanished”. The second is “new relations, new knowledge, new environment, and then,” he explains, “the children are playing in newly entered precinct,” none of which bears any relation to the G.D. meanings.

cups 6 (2)    cups 7

Waite sums up the picture on the 7 of Cups as depicting “Strange chalices of vision, but the images are more especially those of the fantastic spirit.” It shows a man entranced by a vision of seven cups, each containing a symbolic image – a laurel wreath for victory over adverse circumstance, jewels for wealth, a serpent representing enemies, and so on.

The G.D. meanings are: “Lying, deceit, promises unfulfilled, illusion, error, deception. Slight success, but not enough energy to retain it. Illusionary success.” Of these, only Illusion is successfully conveyed by the Waite-Smith image. Other significances, such as Lying, Promises Unfulfilled, Error and Slight Success, cannot, with the best will in the world, be drawn out from the Waite-Smith image.

The 8 of Cups depicts the following scene, “a man of dejected aspect is deserting the cups of his felicity, enterprise, undertaking or previous concern”, according to Waite. The locale is a rocky inlet, the full moon in the new moon’s arms (an esoteric symbol) looks down upon the scene.

The G.D. meanings for the card are: “Success abandoned, decline of interest in a thing, to lose interest (in something). Things thrown aside as soon as gained. Not lasting even in the matter in hand. Ennui. Instability. Loss of good name.” The G.D. title for the card is Lord of Abandoned Success and the Waite-Smith image represents this concept figuratively. The remaining concepts cannot so easily be deduced from the picture on the card, however, and “loss of good name” is not suggested by it in any way at all.

cups 8 (2)   cups 9a

“A goodly personage has feasted to his heart’s content, and abundant refreshment of wine in on the arched counter behind him, seeming to indicate that the future is also assured” is what Waite tells us is to be found on the Waite-Smith 9 of Cups.

For the G.D., this was a card of Material Happiness and its divinatory meanings were: “Complete success. Pleasure and happiness. Physical well-being. Wishes fulfilled.” Waite’s image indirectly addresses Golden Dawn connotations such as Physical Well-being. One cannot say that the concept of Material Happiness is well represented: one needs to have studied Waite’s commentary to pick up on this meaning, leaving those users of the Waite-Smith tarot who do not possess a copy of The Key to the Tarot in the dark where this facet of the card in divination is concerned.


Of the 10 of Cups, Waite says, “Appearance of cups in a rainbow; it is contemplated in wonder and ecstasy by a man and woman below, evidently husband and wife. His right arm is about her; his left is raised upward; she raises her right arm. The two children dancing near them have not observed the prodigy but are happy after their own manner. There is a home-scene beyond.”

To the G.D., this card portended: “Matters definitely arranged and settled in accordance with one’s wishes. Complete good-fortune. Perfected Success. Permanent and lasting success.” The Waite-Smith design suggests marriage and a family. That is one aspect of “matters definitely arranged and settled in accordance with one’s wishes” that will satisfy some, but not all, inquirers’ needs. Sadly the “complete good fortune” aspect of the card is not in any way addressed, while “permanent and lasting success” is conveyed only tangentially, to be picked up on by those who have eyes to see.

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