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The Four of Cups has always been a special card to me.  It is also, in my readings, quite straightforward.  While many cards in Tarot have multiple meanings or layers of meaning, the Four of Cups is, in my interpretation, a pure and relatively simple card with a very consistent message.  That does not mean however that it does not have spiritual depth.  Indeed this card is to me quite deep.

I was reminded of this in last night's ongoing Tarot teleconference given by Paul Nagy of Tarot Hermeneutics.*  The course works from two texts - Tarot Wisdom by Rachel Pollack and Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Way of Tarot.  During this class we utilized Pollack's book, focusing on the author's section on the minor arcana which includes information on history of Tarot, the elements and numerology.

For every class Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman, creator of the Sacred Rose Tarot, draws cards for that night's study using her wonderful layout, The Elemental Power Spread.*  Participants in the conference analyze this array and reflect on the relationship between the texts and the cards.  In last night's class some very interesting correlations between Pollack's numerology - specifically her section on Kabbalah - were made. 

What interested me most about the layout was the placement of the Four of Cups in the position of fire and Pollack's comparison (as pointed out by Paul) between that four and the Kabbalistic fourth Sefirah Chesed.  The ten Sefirot (pleural) are contained in the Tree of Life and may be most easily conceptualized as emanations of divine light.  The Sefirah, Chesed, commonly interpreted as mercy, or loving-kindness and loving-kindness is known as one of the thirteen attributes of God.  

Pollack goes on to liken Chesed to a benevolent outpouring or a great emotional generosity.  An interesting observation, I thought, as the four of cups has a strong association with both benevolence and generosity. 

I had never made the association between the two fours prior not only because I have historically treated Kabbalah and Tarot as non-overlapping but because even though Chesed is the fourth Sefirah, I am more likely to associate it with Jewish numerology, than I am Pythagorean.  In Jewish numerology, or Gematria, the value of Chesed is 72, as in the 72 names of God. For me, this last association leads back to the Four of Cups, as well. 

The Four of Cups, in this context, has a strong connection to divinity.  It is the hand of spirit reaching out to someone whether they are aware of it or not but not only reaching out.  In the extended hand of spirit is a fourth cup which the figure appears to ignore.  It is significant to me that the three cups which do command his attention rest upon the ground.

Earth, as representative of our physical world, the Kabbalistic world of action, commands his attention.  These three cups on the ground of ordinary reality are all he sees. 

This makes perfect sense of course.  If the offer of spirit is compared to the Sefirah Chesed through the common denominator of the number four, why should this human earthbound man perceive it?  The hand and the cup are not of this dimension, this world of action.  And yet there is an opening if we can only comprehend it.

To draw this card is to be reminded that divinity does indeed reach out to us.  We are encouraged to be both vigilant and receptive to this most important opportunity.

*To hear a live recording of Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman conducting a workshop on her Elemental Power Spread and obtain info on Paul Nagy's ongoing free teleconference class, A Way to Tarot Wisdom, please check out Paul's site, Tarot Hermeneutics.

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  1. Wald Amberstone of the Tarot School once said if I remember aright that the fellow under the tree is the bodhisattva buddha on the edge of nirvana realization.
    The crossed arms are a leminscate mudra ∞ [symbolic gesture] for 4X4 of the worlds in balance with themselves so they no longer impede liberation.
    What I recall from that evening's discussion is how the sephiroth's enumeration neatly line up in even-odd oppositions: where evens support evens and odds, odds in a 4 X 2 emanation between Kether –Malkut mirroring. Think of Kether-Malkut as the two halves of a walnut shell enclosing the 4X2 sweet nut meats divine savoring and taste!

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  2. I love the idea of this card showing someone on the edge of enlightenment! When I was writing this post, I kept thinking, but what about the tree? The Bodhi tree did not occur to me but it is a great symbolic image for the card. (Also possibly the tree of life which the figure has his back to?) What an interesting way to conceptualize the sefirot as well. The discussion that night must have been fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing it!

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  3. Barbara -- Thank you for inviting me to check out your blog. What a wealth of in-depth information about the tarot.

    I loved your line in this post: "To draw this card is to be reminded that divinity does indeed reach out to us. We are encouraged to be both vigilant and receptive to this most important opportunity."

    How very true. Divinity is there for us to reach out to at any time. It's a combination of believing, allowing and having the intention to receive it.

    Thanks for sharing your insights here. I hope you'll keep visiting and commenting on my Intuitive Tuesday posts. I appreciate your insights.

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  4. Sheri, thank you for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Your Intuitive Tuesday posts are wonderful. I will absolutely keep reading!

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