This suit, associated with water, is to do with emotion, intuition and matters of the heart. It is where we find creativity and imagination as well as fantasies and dreams. Cups deal with relationships and love and in the water we find reflections and can see into our inner worlds. The water in these cards often reflects our feelings and thus make for interesting readings.
Cups fulfil their purpose by receiving and holding water or emotions or even space
In tarot, twos can, appropriately, go two ways. They can be about union and partnerships or they can be about choices and opposition. With this in mind though, we can also see them as being able balance or finding the middle ground.
Twos are also linked with the high priestess, the two from the major arcana. I’ve not done a post about her yet but she is often about intuition and looking inwards for answers which is a very watery idea so we can really understand a lot about the two of cups by feeling into her energy. She is a card that sings with sacred, feminine wisdom. She is balance and harmony and peaceful stillness. Yet she is also about awakening what lies inside you, revealing that which is hidden. This dichotomy gives us a hint of what we will find across the twos.
In this card we have two people, facing each other, holding a cup towards the others cup watched over by an winged lion. Rachel Pollack describes this as a lesser version of the lovers card which again has two people, this time naked and again watched over this time by an angel. The latter shows a mature relationship, strengthened over time, where as the former is the beginning of a relationship, the early stages. The two of cups can also show friendships and other kinds of relationships, not just romantic or sexual heterosexual couples.
The winged lion hovers above the caduceus of Hermes, a symbol of healing and wisdom, could this be about the healing that comes from interacting with other people?
If we remember the age and context of the RWS deck and follow the gender stereotypes, we find the card features both masculine and feminine energies and ideas coming together to make a whole. Together the couple are more than the sum of their parts. What can you achieve when you join forces with another person?
There are some similarities here with the RWS card but I much prefer this imagery. We do not know the sex of the cats for a start and instead of the winged lion we have the moon which is associated with the high priestess. The cross that joins the moon with the cups and joins the two cards could be read as a religious symbol but I like the idea of it uniting the cats with the high priestess and the overflowing contents of the cups. Aeclectic Tarot have a very different take…
“Even the sexual sacrament is hinted at in the 2 of Chalices as the starry sword enters the cup in imitation of the sexual act.”
I’ll let you take it as you like…
In the image we find two roses which are dependant on each other to stand up, whilst the two of cups is normally seen as the love card, is this actually a warning? One way you can become interwined, unhealthily, with another is when your identity becomes tied up in who you are as related to them. This can be the case in relationships where one person gives care to the other and they become carer, mother, young carer etc.
Are things as they seem? If you look closer the roses don’t have thorns. Does this mean everything is sweetness and wonderful or does it mean they are a façade? I’m going to unpick the symbolism of roses later on.
We could also see the two roses as mutually supporting each other instead of being ‘dependant’ and the negative connetations we tend to ascribe to that. NB, I am not saying depending on people is a negative thing, very few of us are fully independent and instead we are interdependent and that is healthy as we are humans and humans are social creatures. Perhaps it is an invitation to let yourself be vulnerable with another person. Or perhaps the other person is you – do you need to work on your relationship with yourself? Perhaps you need to integrate part of yourself or acknowledge and care for an aspect of yourself.
More traditional interpretations are around love, romance, attraction, passion… as well as letting go of relationships which cause you pain.
Connection and balance. Yin and Yang.
This version of the two of cups is similar in design to the two of swords, both show an image reflected and both feature birds with outstretched wings. Here though we have swans and between the swans are two cups, both overflowing but with different colours.
The little white book mentions balance but this is a different sort of balance to that of the two of pentacles. That was about balancing more physical things – different tasks, different responsibilities. This card is more about balancing relationships and whilst no relationship is always completely equal there is a natural ebb and flow, give and take, self and other that establishes itself.
A relationship but that doesn’t necessarily mean romantic or intimate, we have one on one relationships with many people in our lives. These might be friendships, work relationships, family relationships etc. If the relationship is unbalanced this might show as communication issues, as dishonesty or just feeling out of flow. If this is the case it might be necessary to look below the surface. As I mentioned with the wild unknown, it’s always possible that the relationship which is out of sync is the one you have with yourself.
Animal Totem Tarot
A hermit crab is shown on this version of the two of cups and is chilling out with his friend the anemone, apparently friends for live! The anemone protects the crab in return for free accommodation and they make a (non romantic) match in heaven!
“It shows the coming together of two energies to create a mutually beneficial outcome.”
– Animal Totem Tarot
This version of the two of cups really emphasises the focus on friendships and on the give and take that goes on within them, the healthy exchange of energy within a two way relationship and the understanding that equality doesn’t mean things need to be identical. What you offer your friend is likely to look very different to what they offer you. Perhaps they can afford to splash out for your coffee and cake when you can’t but perhaps what you bring to the relationship is creative ideas or a listening ear. We all have something different to offer. At the same time though, I feel like the crab and the anemone realise that there are some people who take and take and never give and these people are not worth it.
Venus in Cancer and the Crab
Venus in cancer speaks to me of nurturing relationships, of love expressed through caring and being attentive to feelings of loved ones. There is an importance placed on security and comfort within relationships and a sensitivity which can feel like moodiness. The crab from the animal totem represents cancer and because of this we can lean into the idea of self protective boundaries and the need to retreat from time to time. Crabs have soft, squidgy insides and these need to be looked after or the hard shell will come between them and their loved ones.
Whilst the crab in the animal totem card is a hermit crab, because it’s also the sign of cancer, I’m going to look more generally at crabs. Whilst it isn’t the case for hermit crabs, generally crabs have shells. This hard layer doesn’t grow with them, instead they have to moult, a process coordinated by their hormones. As they prepare to moult, the old shell starts to soften and erode and a new shell starts to form underneath it. When it is time to moult, the crab takes in a lot of water, expands and cracks open the old shell. They then have to get out of the shell, a process which can take hours, and which can be difficult – imagine trying to get yourself out of your skin! Once they’re entirely out of the old shell, eyes, legs and all, they have to hide. They are incredibly soft and vulnerable at this point and need to avoid predators until their new shell has hardened.
This feels like a huge metaphor for so many aspects of our lives and I’m not going to unpick the process much, but I want to note that there is merit in avoiding people who are likely to hurt you when you aren’t in a strong place. It is ok to practice self protection when you are vulnerable. It is ok to set boundaries.
Whilst shells provide excellent armour, they can also act as a divide between us and the world. Are you feeling connected to what is going on around you? Are you putting up walls to protect yourself? Are these walls helpful or hurtful right now? Are you letting anyone see beneath your shell? The two of cups encourages us to open up, to let someone in and to trust another with our true self.
Since writing the post about the swan I’ve got my animal totem tarot which has the swan as the lovers card, so relevant here!
“When we come together it is not so that we can fill something in each other, but instead, stand in our own glory and know that together we can create something magical. Let the contrast of our individual states create the perfection in our togetherness.”
– Animal Totem
Obviously roses are the flower of love but they are also associated with balance and passion. In mythology they are associated with Aphrodite the goddess of love. They adorned her head, feet and neck and it was said a rose bush grew where her lover was slain. Similarly, in Christianity it was said a rose bush grew where Jesus died. Thus roses are also about devotion.
Despite all this love and such, roses can actually be deadly. There is a disease called sporotrichosis which is caused when a fungus is forced under the skin by a rose thorn (or other sharp infected thing). It tends to affect the skin and because it is spread by roses, it’s referred to as rose thorn disease or rose gardeners disease.
Of course, even if you don’t get sporotrichosis, being pricked by a rose isn’t all that fun… Where there is love there is pain…
Where there is love, there is often rose quartz, a crystal associated with all kinds of love – family, friends, partners – especially unconditional love.
Apparently Cupid gave the gift of love to humans in the form of a rose quartz and returning again to Aphrodite, it was said that the stone was turned pink by the blood she spilt trying to save her lover and thus the stone became a symbol of everlasting love.
More than love, the crystal is alleged to help you to forgive, to understand, to see things from different perspectives and hence to have a healthy relationship. This may also be helpful in having a more compassionate relationship with yourself – you deserve forgiveness, understanding and unconditional self love as well.
I hope throughout these different ways of looking at the two of cups, you’ve seen that it’s not just about romantic relationships, it’s also about friends and family and, sometimes more importantly, about how you relate to and love yourself.