King of Cups: The Teacher / Savior

hold space for others to support their growth

Kings exercise maturity and leadership in their element + Cups represent our emotional life and how we relate to others

from Shakespeare Tarot

Focused on understanding, supporting, and encouraging others’ growth, the King of Cups provides emotional support from a position of strength. The most sensitive of the kings, their watery nature allows them to be intuitive and gentle, though more discreet with their own feelings, appearing aloof and hiding their own vulnerability. They enjoy helping others and are excellent group leaders. Diplomatic, they maintain harmony and are most apt to act from a place of emotion than cold logic or authority, and may be viewed by the more masculine kings as impotent. Drawn more to spirituality, counseling, and the arts, they are more likely found in academia, faith circles, or private practice.

Leadership is not being in charge; it’s about taking care of the people in your charge. Simon Sinek

With water / Cups correlating to the NF personality types, this king is the ENFJ, whose understanding and love of people makes them fun to be with. They are likely to interact with others on their level, chameleon-like, and tend to define their life’s direction by other people’s needs, unaware of their own. Do not force them to deal with logic and facts without any connection to a human element. They have a strong need for close, intimate relationships, and put effort into creating and maintaining them. Those who have not found their place in the world may be extremely sensitive to criticism, may worry excessively, and feel guilty.

(-) In resistance, they are emotionally unavailable, detached; perhaps hiding behind the facade of a caring role. Disloyal, they violate our trust.

(+) In excess, they may be melancholy, maudlin, wearing their heart on their sleeve — or perhaps they’re wearing our heart on their sleeve, taking great pride in their humanitarian nature and of their role as savior.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Are you always the one holding emotional space for others? Are you also tending your own emotional needs?
  • Does the Wounded Healer archetype hold special significance to you?
  • Is it difficult for you to tap into your own emotions?
  • Do you showcase your tendency to help others, proud to be their savior? Do you think it, privately? What part is served by that?

What else? Court cards are complex and multifaceted, including more than these labels, and you may have other insights. What historic or fictional characters does this king remind you of? What part of yourself is represented, here?

Queen of Cups: The Counselor / Martyr

hold up the mirror to reflect for another

Queens reflect the magic and power of their suit from within + Cups represent our emotional life and relationships

from the Cary-Yale Visconti

Deep diver of the inner realms, the compassionate and supportive confidante is always there with a sympathetic ear to listen to our woes and help guide us through them. Able to put their own feelings aside in favor of others, they possess an emotional maturity which allows others their own feelings. The unconscious is a mysterious place, obscured to us and often uninviting, but the Queen of Cups can reflect it back whether they mean to or not. It’s almost as if they’re a vessel, channeling water through their core with a natural affinity for the psyche and its shadows, dreamworld, visions, and attunement to the clairs.

They care for the feelings of others, and their natural emotional fluency is reflected outward not only in guiding us through our inner realm, but their compassionate nature advocates for those less fortunate. As empathic as they are empathetic, their sensitivity can be a benefit or a bane.

In resistance, they close off to their own feelings and become reactive and moody, fluctuating as widely as the tides. Similarly, they can be insensitive of others’ feelings, and their environment in general.

In excess, they rely on the love and affections of partner, family, and friends for their own self-worth, sometimes absorbing others’ emotions or values as their own in order to feel accepted, and sacrificing their own needs in service to others.

Questions we may be prompted to consider when this card appears include

  • Do you explore your own emotional drives and triggers? What gets in the way of doing that?
  • Where do you find yourself reacting rather than responding to others?
  • Do you rely on the love of others for your self-worth?
  • Are you sensitive to the needs of others, or is that something you could develop?
  • Do you suppress your own feelings by focusing on those of others? How can you honor your own?
  • Do you readily absorb the emotional experience of others like a sponge? How can you establish better shields?

What else? Court cards contain so many personas and aspects, and you may have other insights. Who is this queen in your life? What internal part takes on this role?

Knight of Cups: The Champion / Dependent

offer love in support of another

Knights take action + Cups represent our emotional lives and how we relate to others

from the Deck of the Bastard, by Tarot by Seven

Where the Page brought the water element inward to explore, the Knight’s external nature expresses it outward. Peaceful and charming, diplomatic and chivalrous, the quest of this Knight is to bring out the best in others by supporting and cheerleading, making amends and offering gifts. It’s almost as if the cup he is holding contains within it the encouragement that is needed at any given time. Who provides that for you? The champion acts on behalf of others because they believe in them. What part of you encourages and supports others in their endeavors? Ready to gallop in and save anyone, they are the only Knight in the Smith-Waite deck without gloves, a sign of their open and outwardly giving nature.

This Knight always seems to be labeled as a romantic lover, but to me that’s too superficial and limiting of the nature of a court whose role is to take action in an element of compassion and in relationship to supporting others. All of the Cups courts — even the introspective ones — consider those outside of themselves.

In fact, borrowing from personality typing, all of the Cups are NFs (iNtuitive Feeling), and the ENFP is the inspirer who tends to bring out the best in others. They’re affirming, loyal, and optimistic with a good sense of humor, but they are driven to meet the needs of others.

In resistance, they rely on the affirmation of others and may become dependent — or co-dependent, enabling another’s addiction, emotional dysfunction, or irresponsibility.

In excess, their attentions or loyalty may be smothering. A darker side of this type may be manipulative — and quite good at it, as they understand the needs of others.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this court comes up include

  • In dark times, who can you count on to lift you up?
  • What part of you is supportive of others? Is this from a genuine desire for their well-being or the need of their favor, attention, or affirmation?
  • Do others tell you they need some space?
  • Do you become involved in causes or cases for others’ gratitude or indebtedness? What need or internal part does this serve?
  • Do you enable another’s self-sabotaging behavior?

What else? Court cards are complex and can be seen in many different ways, and you may have other insights. Who is this Knight in your life?

Page of Cups: The Dreamer / Puer

explore the inner and unseen realms with a playful heart

Pages strive to understand + Cups deal with our inner realms and how we relate to others

from the Hirajeta Tarot

Where the Page of Wands explores their passions, the Page of Cups explores their inner realms. They are reflecting, dreaming, imagining, curious about their own emotional capacity, unconscious depths, or esoteric topics. They are innocent, playful, and trusting. Creative, they’re fond of books, art, and music — and the ethereal places their imagination can take them. They go with the flow, easygoing and lighthearted, and make friends easily (and are the most likely to talk with animals and befriend faeries). Prone to sensitivity, they feel vulnerable and avoid any sort of discord or conflict.

This page corresponds perfectly to the INFP, and I haven’t seen a system of corresponding the types to tarot courts that doesn’t assign it here. INFPs are idealists and dreamers, curious, and loyal. They seek to understand others but can be less accepting of those who threaten their core values. Their primary goal is to find their meaning in life; how they can best serve humanity. As both idealists and perfectionists, they can be hard on themselves in their pursuit of the goals that they’ve identified for themselves. Considerate of others, they will go to great lengths to avoid conflict but when faced with it, will approach it from the perspective of their feelings rather than who is right and wrong; and they intuitively understand others’ perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them. They’re flexible until one of their values is violated, and they may become aggressive defenders. As perfectionists with high standards, they can be very hard on themselves. INFPs who can’t balance their high ideals with the requirements of daily life will never be happy with themselves, and may become paralyzed about what to do with their lives.*

In resistance, they fear vulnerability and rejection. Riddled with self-doubt or illusion, they’re too insecure to act on their dreams and unwilling to take risks in matters of the heart.

In excess, they are slow to mature and leave their safe little worlds; perhaps the puer, refusing to grow up and accept the responsibilities of life.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Do relationships frighten you due to a fear of being hurt?
  • Do you withdraw into fantasy in order to escape the stresses of life?
  • Have you abandoned a rich inner life because you were told it wasn’t real?

What else? This is a complex card and your insight may differ. How has it come up for you?

* from

10 of Cups

take joy in what you have

Ten shows the fullness of the suit as we integrate its lessons in preparation for the next cycle + Cups represents our emotions and how we relate to others

from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot

And so, in the centered aspect of the Ten of Cups, we’re invited to appreciate the contentment in our lives, accepting ourselves and others for what we are. There’s a sense of emotional fulfillment, here; yet we’re often so busy pushing forward that we neglect to take joy in what we have, and we’re reminded to be present for whatever that rainbow may be in your life.

This card also reminds us that sharing the wealth offers fulfillment. When we feel joy and contentment, allow it to spill over onto others.

In deficiency, we’re disillusioned by expectations of perfection, never satisfied and always searching for bigger and better.

In excess, we focus on the positive at the expense of recognizing valid feelings (emotional / spiritual bypassing).

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • How easily are you satisfied?
  • Do you have idealized expectations that are never met?
  • Are you always focusing on the positives in order to bury disappointment?

What else? This card seems simple but can offer more complex challenges, and you may have other insights. How has it come up for you?

9 of Cups

consider what you wish for and nourish that dream

Nine prompts reflection before emerging to culmination + Cups represents our inner world of emotions and dreams

from Isidore Tarot

And so, in the centered aspect of the Nine of Cups, we realize a sense of self and are satisfied with what we’ve attained.  There is an overall sense of mindfulness inherent in this card, and a reminder of gratitude.  Traditionally known as the “wish card” in predictive reading because it indicates desires fulfilled, it invites us to check in with what we wish for and to build intention, nourishing our dream toward fulfillment. There is an inherent reminder in this card to “be careful what you wish for,” which pertains also to being specific in your intentions.  Consider them carefully.

In resistance, we don’t believe that we’ll get what we want, or we feel undeserving. Do we deny ourselves pleasure? We may be waiting for the other shoe to drop, and this is a reminder to examine those fears.

In excess, we overindulge in that which brings us pleasure or satisfaction (in order to keep things bottled up? Or, out of selfishness, we satisfy only ourselves, unconcerned with the welfare of others.

Questions we may be prompted to consider when this card comes up include

  • Are you preventing your personal growth in some way? How?
  • Have you been complacent in your intentions? Why?
  • Do you fear that your dreams will never be attained? What parts feed that fear?  What can you do now to take a step in their direction?
  • Do you overindulge, either as a way to avoid success or because you lack limits? How does that serve you?
  • Are you concerned only with your own fulfillment?

What else? This card can be an emotional powerhouse and you may have other insights. How has it come up for you?

8 of Cups

move on

Eight offers a new direction and readjustment + Cups represent the emotional realm and how we relate to others

from The Shakespeare Tarot by Chris Leech

And so, in the centered aspect of the Eight of Cups, the Seven has given us new perspective from which to readjust, and we turn away and move on. We may have an emotional attachment to something, but it no longer serves our higher purpose and it’s time to leave the past behind in pursuit of something that offers more fulfillment. This is not a sad goodbye as in the Five of Cups, but a reflective and hopeful step forward. Take that step; even if we don’t yet know what that new horizon is, we’re asked to be available for it.

In resistance, we remain in a situation that no longer serves us (out of emotional insecurity?), refusing the call to leave.

In excess, we tend to walk away from situations rather than face them. Perhaps we’re abandoning success.

Questions we may be prompted to consider when this card comes up include

  • What do you find yourself dissatisfied with? What is no longer serving you? Why don’t you leave it behind?
  • Are there emotions, memories, experiences of your past that could prompt forward movement if resolved? How can you start that dialogue with your parts?
  • Are you in denial about moving from one stage to another?
  • Do you have spiritual aspirations? Have you been ignoring them? What step can you take toward them?
  • Is it time to plumb the depths of your subconscious? How might you start that journey?
  • Are you in need of an emotional break or a sabbatical?
  • Do you have a pattern of walking away from problems rather than facing them? What are you avoiding? What parts protect you from it?

What else? There are many layers to explore with this card, and you may have other insights. How has it come up for you?

7 of Cups

consider the possibilities

Seven reflects in an inactive state while activity goes on outside of it + Cups represent the watery inner worlds of our emotions and dreams

from Murder of Crows Tarot

And so, the centered aspect of the Seven of Cups invites us to imagine, to dream. They may be unrealistic or scattered or just daydreams, but it’s important to allow ourselves the creative exploration of possibilities and ideals before moving on. Are you working on setting or tending goals? Dream big – you don’t have to share them with anyone else if you don’t want to. Take the time in dreamy Cups to indulge in this – the focus comes next, in the Swords.

In resistance, we may be stifled by indecision. All of these visions dancing before us can be overwhelming; choosing one means being denied the others. We may become fickle, moving from one to another. What are we searching for?

Cups deal with more than just dreams, though; consider the other possibilities (wink wink) of the inner realm – instead of hopes, are we focusing on our fears? Memories (as remnants of the six)? Spiritual pursuits?

In excess, we’re lost in pie-in-the-sky ideals, fantasizing about castles in the clouds, perhaps manic or delusional. We may have too much emotional clutter or creative vision and may want to rein it in. Perhaps we find ourselves distracted by the ideals of others and must be reminded to remain true to our own.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Are you unable to focus on your true north? What distracts you?
  • Are your aims unrealistic? How can you temper it back a little in order to be more attainable?
  • Are you swayed by the dreams of another instead of focusing on your own?
  • Are fears interfering in your process?
  • How is your inner spiritual life?

What else? Lots to unravel in this card, and you may have other insights. How has it come up for you?

6 of Cups

open your heart

Six expands in a new cycle from the contraction of five like the cogs in a wheel + Cups deal with our inner life, including our emotions and relationships

from The Relative Tarot by Carris Paris

And so the centered aspect of the Six of Cups allows us to open our hearts to another with the innocence of childhood and the desire to share, to be playful. Each of the sixes in Smith-Waite include the support of others in the dynamic of give and take, and there can be great satisfaction in giving, of being in service to others. This card is often read with a sense of nostalgia, of returning to something from our past — a memory, an ideal, a love, a dream, a friend – and reclaiming or reconciling it.

In resistance, we remain stuck in the past; old wounds resurface but are not allowed into the light. Some attribute childhood trauma to this card, noting the adult figure in S-W walking away, his back turned.

In excess, we may romanticize the past at the expense of the future. It’s time to move into a new cycle. Learn from the past, look to the future, but live in the moment.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • What or whom might you be ready to revisit? What could help you to open up?
  • What are you nostalgic for? Why?
  • What painful memories do you still carry? Are there child parts that should be heard in order to foster healing?

What else? There’s more depth to this card and you may have other insights. How has it come up for you?

5 of Cups

move through grief at your own pace

Five confronts + Cups relates to our emotional life

from Art History Tarot of Past Lives

And so, in its centered position on the spectrum, the Five of Cups invites us to confront our grief. The watery Cups long for meaningful connection, but are faced with sorrow and disappointment from something expected. We may be grieving and having a hard time letting go, but we must sit with it. We know intellectually that the pain will subside over time, and others may be telling us to put it behind us or to focus on the two remaining cups, but it’s all we feel right now and it’s valid. We must process our grief at our own pace.

In resistance, we may not be dealing with our grief at all. For so many of us, it’s easier to just ignore and repress.

In excess, we’re unable to move on, stuck in regret and failure and isolation, perhaps blaming ourselves for past loss. Or, we just expect pain and disappointment with a brooding contempt for love and relationships.

Questions we may consider when this card comes up include

  • What do you need to grieve? Can you give yourself the permission you need to do so?
  • Are ghosts from your past influencing current decisions? What parts are involved in that?
  • Are you focusing more on what you have, or what you’ve lost?
  • What chapter needs to close in your life? What can you do to welcome a new one?
  • Has your (or a part’s) mode of relating to others left you in isolation?
  • Do you default to self-recrimination, blaming yourself when outcomes have resulted in loss?

What else? These questions are by no means comprehensive but a way to get us started in thinking about the card’s many layered ways of fostering awareness and growth. How do you see it? How has it come up for you?