Lectio Divina is a medieval monastic practice embodied as an engaged reading of the Word. It is not analytical, and it does not employ the mind in discourse under prescribed limits, inquiries, and notions. It is an engagement with the word through contemplation, experience, sensation and meditation.
Lectio Divina is a feasting on the Word. First, the taking of a bite (read); then chewing on it (meditate); savoring its essence (pray) and, finally, “digesting” it and making it a part of the body (contemplate). -Gervase Holdaway, The Oblate Life†
Cups are a suit of engaging the non-discursive. It is one of feeling, of moving with currents other than the analytical, other than with the head.
With cups we drink, we share, we satiate, on occasions in excess. They also come in all shapes and sizes, from tumblers, long and pillar shaped, to coffee cups with a handle. There are also glasses for different liquors. The cup concerned with here is more of a chalice. Maybe even a sacred cup, considering how ornate and stately it stands upon an elaborate base and body, while the top features turrets reminiscent of a cathedral. The communion chalice perhaps?
In this cup is invested our desires, hopes, and feelings, like tendrils weaving together, proliferating from one cup to the next, and in doing so entwining our hearts and emotions. A cup is a cup, but it is also how we feel about things, how we experience with our heart and our body, our skin. It is about the sensory experience. Feeling here is nuanced, emphasizing that which moves our heart and our body. Cups hold liquid we ingest in, or pour out. Cups are also shared, or indulged in solitary. Like the interweaving vines moving through each of the cards in this suit, cups weave our lives and hearts together, sometimes in excess stimulating the growth of poison. More often slowly, with the rhythm of water, taking its time with steady consistency nurturing our homes, symbolic, corporeal, and spiritual.
From the beginning, one is the blessing, and the home. Two is the communion and the coming together in like heart. With three and four there is the birth of life that establishes the foundation. Five is the heart, the center of pleasure and sensuality. Attending to the center and what presides over the moment. Six is the flowing river, onward we go toward new paths ahead. Seven is the unexpected, secrets bubbling from the depths that confront our movement forward. Eight is the gossip, the chatter, words in excess that proliferate and colonize our feelings and our engagement with others. Nine is the key that unlocks what is sought, the loosening of what was tightly bound, the opening. Nines are a threshold we cross. Tens are the end and beginning in one. The spilled cup that can hold no more, over-satiation, drunkenness, excess.
This suit contextualizes our heart’s and body’s engagement vis à vis the other. It is close to our body just as we hold a cup close to our self, a mark of proximity. Since cups are also shared, and offered, they suggest relational aspects. How we relate to others, and how our bodies relate and feel about others?
Re-taking the aspect of liquid, one can extend this to be subsumed in Water, along with all the connotations ascribed to Water/water. Water as the river of life, as the blood that courses through our veins, lubricating, and water as that which nourishes and cleanses. Just like water, flowing onward on the path, traversing rocks, boulders, fallen trees and the numerous obstacles in its way, continual movement. This suit moves in like form through openings, consistent even if slow at times. The focus here is on what the cup holds and how that element moves in the world, water.*
When thinking of the object that holds the water, the cup, one enters the territory of receptivity, because the shape of the cup receives what is put into it. It is concave, hollow, holding what is put inside. Herein secrets lie, the dark, and the hidden connoting the occulted. This receptivity has its limits, until it is spread throughout other cups, creating a dynamic narrative of inward and outward movement.
Clearly, to give this suit the sacred definition of the grail is an easy jump to make. This suit is both profane and sacred, close to the body and pleasure, while also rising beyond the everyday into the divine. It can hold both the liquid of communion with spirit, just as it can also carry muddy profane water, impenetrable, murky, and dubious. It is open and willing, just as much as it occults within its depths. On a more mundane note, this suit also indicates family, familial bonds and dynamics. Perhaps because of the allusion to blood with the communion cup.
To mirror one of the 21 Trumps…
How to condense such a subtle suit to one trump? Containing both the sacred and the profane, that which is beyond and that which is close. Different modalities of being and experiencing require differing approaches. From one spectrum, Temperance rises with her two pails, pouring and mixing, getting the recipe right. Moving, displacing, refining the flavor, and balancing.Temperance moderates the right mixture of experience from her high vantage point.
Conversely, The Star with her two pails spills out its contents, letting the water intermix with the moving river and the verdant soil. Close to the ground, bare, she furthers what Temperance began. The journey of experience here is one of refinement with the body engaging in the process. This is the alchemy of the body and the heart in conversation.
Like The Star, the suit of cups is distinguished by vulnerability and sensibility. As is often mentioned, the Ace of Cups is the Holy Grail, that which is sought with vigor and zeal. It is this same Holy Grail that contextualizes our desires, and our wants. Demanding we ask ourselves, how far will we go for that which we desire? Yet Temperance and the Star together reveal that this is no blinding drive, on the contrary, there is tempering in the experience, for she is naked, bare, yet wants for nothing, instead pouring out. Just so, this suit plays an alchemical game between desire and non-desire. Mixing one with the other, seeking the perfection of both in the admixture.
Whether one cup or too many, this suit will always challenge us in a game of love and desire.
Bringing all this full circle, I want to refer back to the monastic art of Lectio Divina, the embodied experience of the Word. It is a hearing of the divine that is felt with the body, and with the heart. Wherein meaning is a continual enunciation that reverberates from within and without, spinning a tapestry of boundless color. This is the singular quality of the suit of cups.
∆ If you’re catching this post/series midway, Animating the Tarot Pips, the introduction along with a master list (with links) of the installments can be found here.
† Lectio Divina: Divine Reading, The Online Guide to St. Benedict, http://www.e-benedictine.com/lectio-divina/. 1994-2016.
* Water subsuming all liquids ingested and not ingested, sea water, river water, well water, wine and diverse liquors, coffee, etc.
Animating The Tarot Pips by Natalia L Forty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at mistandether.wordpress.com.