Two Cards Everybody Picks

Now that I’ve done hundreds of Tarot readings, trends begin to form. Two cards seem to come up more often than the others, and in an elegant way they express two contrasting perceptions of similar situations, and demonstrate how perception influences behaviour and therefore consequences.

While the title of this post is obviously an exaggeration, it’s still remarkable how often I find myself interpreting these two cards. While it’s repetitive for me, it is reassuring to people that they are far from alone in experiencing this very typical emotional dilemma, and that the solution for it is actually quite pleasant.

In the traditional Rider-Waite deck, on the right, we see eight cups stacked in an orderly way, however in this formation the most noticeable thing is an empty space for another cup, making the collection seem incomplete. The figure in the card is walking away towards a barren landscape, presumably seeking the missing cup. The moon, representing intuition, looks down at the scene with a somewhat dissatisfied expression.

It’s so easy to focus on the missing piece. Unfortunately for us, we are not programmed to be content with what we have. The urge to continually be striving and seeking what we don’t have is a dominating condition. It drives us to learn and improve and discover and innovate and spend all sorts of energy. Yet that feeling of satisfaction or completeness which we are after is incredibly elusive – even when you already have eight cups, which is a lot. When you ask yourself “why am I not happy?” the answer is, you’re not supposed to be. Your biology will not allow happiness to occur constantly, so if you’re not feeling it, don’t add to your misery by believing the myth that your dissatisfaction is also entirely your fault. In fact if you can possibly just relax into your ennui you may find yourself becoming content by accident – that’s a clever trick if you can pull it off!

On the left is the card from The Enchanted Tarot, which is the deck I usually use for readings. In this version, the artist Amy Zerner has offered a slightly different allegory. At the top of a card there is a crying woman, with icy heart shaped tears falling from her face into a frozen river. Underneath the ice are fish, in a state of hibernation. In this state they appear to be dead. Here the fish represent unreciprocated emotions. The woman is pouring emotional energy into this situation where the fish are constitutionally unable to respond to her.

The silver lining of this card is that the fish are there at all. This card often seems to indicate a situation where someone has invested a lot of hope into a relationship with someone else who is unable for whatever reason to accept and return that energy. The presence of the fish indicates that there is some true feeling there, deep down – however the feeling has been repressed by the nature of the environment. The querent may be trying to warm up the fish with her tears, but the tears just freeze on contact. Winter is inevitable. The choices here are to wait, or give up and find some situation that is more productive to pour energy into. Or, I suppose you could take a blowtorch to the river, or encourage global warming by vastly increasing your carbon output, the caveat being that forcing a situation always has unintended consequences.

The song I associate with this card is Drake’s Hotline Bling.

So what is the solution to this stubborn problem? It’s a matter of refocusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have. You have lots of emotional energy to invest – you have eight cups, which is a lot! So what should you do with your bounty?

Enjoy it! Simple, right? The Nine of Pentacles almost always comes up as the response to the Eight of Cups in my readings. Here, in both decks, we have a beautiful lady with a very satisfied attitude. She’s in the golden light of her abundant garden, full of sweet fruit and sparkling stars. In both cards she’s being visited by a friendly bird, who has come to check out all that she’s got. The song I associate with this card is Kelis’ Milkshake.

This card reminds you to revel in all that you have to your immense pleasure and satisfaction. It often comes up in readings for people who are asking how to find a lover. There just is nothing more attractive than someone who appreciates everything good that they’ve got – it gives all of their best qualities the resonance of desire. If you truly want what you have, other people are going to want some too. All the birdies will come to check you out. It’s just irresistible.

Try it out, see if you can somehow override your hardwired tendency to cry into your milkshake and start feathering your own nest. Maybe start wearing less and going out more?