Two of cups

Cups

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

Twos

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.

Decks

RWS

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?

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Pagan Cats

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…

Wild Unknown

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.

Lumina

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

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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.

Associations

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.

Swan

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

Roses

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…

Rose Quartz

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.

The song of the sea

“As silent as a fish”
– A saying from ancient Greece

In 1953, Jacques Cousteau co-authored a book titled The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure. It was long assumed that the ocean was a quiet world, empty of sound.  But we have since discovered that this is far from the truth.  The seas that surround us are filled with a vast array of sounds.

“The underwater soundscape can be as noisy as any rainforest”
Kate Stafford

Underwater sound is generated by a variety of natural sources, such as breaking waves, rain, the sound of bubbles popping and of volcanoes erupting at the bottom of the ocean.  There is the creaking and cracking of ice, screeching and popping and groaning.  The noise from ships at the surface and the sound of the earth quaking.  And of course, the sounds of marine life.

Because sound travels five times faster through water than through air it is a useful tool for aquatic animals.  Especially given that sight and smell are less effective underwater.  All it takes is a bit of murky water and your vision is severely restricted but sound can travel for thousands of miles in the ocean.

Animals use sound to study habitat (echolocation) and to detect predators and prey.  Sound is used for communicating about reproduction and territory and some animals even use sound to stun their prey, such as the pistol shrimps.

Whales and dophins

Probably the most well known sound from the sea is probably that of the whale song.  The haunting, eerie moans gave the whale a voice and in doing so, probably aided conservation efforts.  Whale song is now part of human culture and helps us feel connected to these mysterious creatures.

The humpback whale has the loudest voice in the animal kingdom, carrying for miles.  And it is thought that they may have one of the most complex songs in the animal kingdom.  Their songs are sung by the males and the songs are always changing although whales from one area sing the same song, whales from different areas sing different songs.  Almost like they have accents.

In contrast to the melancholic songs of the whale, we find the excited pips of dolphins who use high pitched beeps to paint a picture of the world around them.  Their language of squeaks and chirps lets them communicate with each other and whistles are used in a similar way to names, they are unique to each dolphin and seem to be a sort of greeting, an announcement that you’re there.

Apparently, dolphins are also able to mimic sounds and one scientific paper suggest they may even sleep talk in whale song.

We have long been fascinated by dolphins, ancient Greek mariners listened to them through the hulls of their ships and according to Aristotle in about 344 BC, they even heard dolphins snoring!  NB, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they do actually snore…

Crustaceans

The term crustaceans covers a vast array of marine species including crabs, lobsters, shrimp and barnacles.  They are united by their exoskeleton and some use this to produce sound.

For example, the snapping shrimp are rather noisy creatures, especially given their size.  They produce a crackling, sizzling sound by clicking their claws.  They do this to stun prey,deter predators, and to communicate with others.

Hermit crabs make a noise by rubbing its body parts together or rubbing against the inside of their shell and do so as a sign of aggression.  Male fiddler and ghost crabs use acoustical signals to call to females during breeding season and are apparently unique amongst crustaceans in doing so.  Other species use sound once they’ve found a potential mate but not to call out.

Spiny lobsters make a rasping sound by rubbing a piece of soft tissue, called a plectrum, against a smooth, stuff file near their eye.  Essentially they move the plectrum over the file in the way that a bow is moved over the strings of a violin.

Fish

We tend to think of fish as silent, except for the occasional little noise of their mouths opening and closing but this isn’t the case.  They produce sound using their swim bladders and their teeth that include grunts, croaks, clicks and snaps.

When it comes to mating, it is usually the male that makes the sound.  Some fish come together in large groups to ‘sing’ and may continue for hours, dominating the local soundscape.  Fish, such as the oyster toadfish, that live in murky water, need to make use of sound to find a mate as vision is limited.

The other key reason that fish make noise is when they are threatened, want to show aggression or need to defend their territory.

For some fish, instead of producing sound, it is listening that is crucial.  Many coral reef fish have a stage in their life where they go away from the reef, returning at a later time to mature.  These fish, such as the clownfish, need to know how to return and it’s thought the song of the reef provides a road map.

The song of the reef

A healthy coral reef is not a quiet place.  When they are teeming with life, they are one of the noisiest places in the ocean, making a sound like crackling popcorn thanks to the snapping shrimp.

The sound landscape changes throughout the day, with a rhythm like birds on land.  Fish have dawn and dusk songs and different creatures call at night than during the day.

Sea urchins are one of the contributors to the evening chorus.  Kina sea urchins dominate New Zealand waters with the sound of their eating.  And that specific local flavour to the music of the ocean is important for our little critters which are searching for home, or for a healthy reef to start new life on.

Listen

The song of the ocean is not a static one, it is not a consistent one.  It changes as the day passes, it changes by season and by locality and it changes based on the health of the sea.

There are many recordings of ocean music and of particular species but these are two I found helpful:

Animal Allies Oracle Cards – Crab

I’m going to come back to the subject of sea monsters as there’s plenty to discuss but first I feel drawn towards a post about the crab. This is one of the cards in the Animal Allies Oracle Deck and so this post will form my thoughts about what that card means to me.

As with all my animal spirit posts, this is my personal feelings and not affiliated with the very talented Jessica Swift who created the deck.

One of the angles to approach the crab from is through the astrological sign of cancer. And this has been helpful to me in the past, but yesterday I learnt that the sign of cancer used to be represented by the turtle and that blew my mind. It really deepened my understanding of cancer and in doing so it also helped deepen my understanding of the crab card.

So, first a bit about the turtle… If this idea resonates with you I would recommend having a look at the turtle post as it’s more detailed.

  • We have the idea of coming out of your shell, sticking your neck out, when you feel comfortable, when you are in a safe place or when you’re with your tribe.
  • Links with the moon, and I’ll look at how the crab has ties with the moon in a bit, but for now it’s worth noting that the sign of cancer is ruled by the moon.
  • Despite diving deep into the ocean, and the emotional world, the turtle still needs to come up to the surface to breathe. And cancer is a sign which is associated with the development of the self, of going into that emotional world.
  • The turtle thrives in some environments and dies in others despite facing the same challenges and this feels like it could tie into the first point about comfort and feeling safe. Having your clan around you or starting from a secure (physical or emotional) base really affects how you meet challenges.

Ok. Back to the crab!

Crab Basics

Crabs live in all of the world’s oceans, in fresh water and on land. They range in size from the tiny pea crab to the Japanese spider crab which has a leg span that can reach 18 foot from claw to claw… So maybe we still are thinking about sea monsters!

In general, crabs are covered in a thick exoskeleton, their shell, and this is an important part of the crab card. If you ponder nothing else when you draw this card, think about the shell.

Crabs tend to be aggressive creatures, fighting with each other over who gets the girl crab and over the best hiding holes. They communicate by drumming or waving their pincers, both of which could seem threatening to someone who speaks a different language.

However, when it comes to family, they have been known to work together to provide food, to protect he clan and to find a good spot for the female to release her eggs. This feels like it ties into the idea of the turtle and how it faces challenges differently depending on the environment (physical or other). In this case the crab is working cooperatively to protect and defend because it’s family is important.

Crabs tend to walk sideways, although some walk forwards or backwards, and some crabs can even swim. But the walking sideways may be a reminder that you can’t always head straight for the destination. Sometimes you need to go the long way round or try a different approach. Paths in life are rarely ones we can follow by walking forwards, we find we take detours, fall off the path, get distracted by another path, but these are all part of the journey.

Shell

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.

With this idea of self protection, comes an aspect of sensitivity. As a society, we have a terrible tendency to think of sensitivity in emotional terms and tend to view it as a bad thing. Firstly, emotional sensitivity isn’t a bad thing, like most things in life it’s how you approach it and how you manage it. But there is also environmental sensitivity, feeling overwhelmed by the sensory information that’s coming at you or by intense external inputs such as too much noise or people fighting. I know that my reaction to these types of situations is to almost literally retreat back into my shell. I pull away, I try to get out of the environment and I close down. I no longer have my true self fully available, I pull my heart and my soul tight inside myself. But then, when I’m out of that situation and I’m surrounded by people who have earnt my trust, I start to put my head back out.

The crab asks to us consider when to leave your shell and when to stay, when to focus on the external and when to focus on the internal, when to tend to community and when to tend to yourself.

There is a resilience and a strength to the crab. They are survivors. And the shell is obviously an important part of that. But shells can become stifling and we can outgrow the clothes, or the mask, we wear. To break free and to step into another self is a difficult, painful and vulnerable thing to do. But if you don’t, the pain of wearing an old version of you will get too much.

This may be a time when you are doing some personal development or rebuilding who you are. None of us remain the same forever, perhaps this is a cue to stop and check in with yourself.

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?

Returning a moment to the idea of the turtle as the symbol for cancer, we find an interesting difference in shells. Where the shell of the crab needs replacing and leaves the crab vulnerable during growth, and creates more of a dramatic process of growth, the turtle’s shell is made up from it’s backbone and it grows with the turtle. Turtles can also feel things through their shell and they cannot live without their shell. Crabs can live without their shell, as indeed they have to when they are changing shells. Whether they can feel someone touching their shell or not seems to still be up for debate. But for my perspective, mulling over metaphors, I think it’s an interesting thinking point.

If you’ve felt drawn to hermit crabs in particular, you’re going to have a bit more thinking to do as they don’t have a shell themselves, they step into those which used to belong to other animals. They are scavengers, mask wearers and actors. They are disguised and they are much more vulnerable than other crabs.

Moon

As they are often found in or around the sea, crabs are affected by the tides and hence by the moon. For example, they tend to mate at new and full moons. This means that the female will release her eggs to the tide at the next new or full moon when there is greater tidal flux meaning the eggs are more likely to be swept away to the sea safely.
But as mating needs to happen when the female crab has just moulted, this means that their moulting cycles are also governed by the moon and the tides. This also means that they are at their most vulnerable during new and full moons so perhaps the crab is calling you to look into your self care at these times.

There is a lot here to think about, especially if you reach out to see what the turtle has to say as well. If it’s all a bit much, perhaps ponder your relationship to the sea and the moon, both play a huge role in the life of a crab.