Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Closer Look: Two of Cups

Key words and concepts

  • Romance
  • Kindred spirits
  • Partnership
  • Affinity
  • Empathy
  • Commitment
  • Soul mates
  • Well-balanced friendship

If you are new to tarot, you may very understandably think that the trump card the Lovers is the card of romance, but the two of cups deserves that distinction.  This example from the Universal Rider-Waite deck shows two people facing each other with formal but gentle postures, and Waite suggests that they are toasting their commitment to each other.  

I know this card was intended to be a woman (left) and a man (right), but I feel like the genders read much more ambiguously than that, which I really like.  I could easily see these two folks as men, women, or non-binary.  It creates more depth, and more accurately represents a "universal" experience, if we allow for more flexibility in interpreting the genders on the card.

Another aspect of this card that I see overlooked sometimes is the aspect of friendship.  I am guilty of seeing this card in a spread and automatically thinking, "Romance! Love! Sex!" The truth is, the two of cups also symbolizes the affinity our soul feels when encountering a best friend.  For as much as this card could be the romance card, it could also be called the bosom buddies card. Again, keeping this interpretation in mind helps your readings become more universal and more accessible; after all, you don't want to alienate an ace client by declaring a steamy affair is in their future.

Finally, there is the imagery of a caduceus and giant.... winged lion head? What does that have to do with relationships, love, and friendship?  Robert Place explains that these are references to the god Hermes, and the winged lion's head a reference to the ancient religion of Mithraic mysteries.  But what does that mean for reading the card?  Well, honestly, it doesn't change my reading that much. This is a great example of why it isn't necessary to have an exhaustive knowledge of ancient symbols and belief systems to understand tarot.  It's cool to realize that Waite was making a statement about the role of divine power in loving commitment, but it doesn't really change my personal connection with this card. 

The more you work with the two of cups, the more you will discover shades of meaning.  It could refer to relationships that are romantic or platonic, sexual or not, straight or queer.  When you see this card in a spread, I hope you feel the warmth of a tender, supportive connection.


What does the two of cups evoke in you?  Do you have any particular decks with a two of cups you're just crazy about?  Let us know in comments!


  1. I'm just getting started with Tarot and this post was really informative for me, simple but clear... And now I really need to get myself that Robert M. Place book. :)
    Looking forward to more of your posts.

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful! Informative, simple, and clear are exactly what I'm going for. I JUST got the Robert Place book out of the library, and the history section especially is really exceptional. Please let us know how your tarot practice progresses!