Monday, May 2, 2016

A Closer Look: Seven of Cups

Key words and concepts

  • Overwhelming possibilities
  • Lack of focus
  • Inspiration
  • Imagination
  • Indecision
  • Numbing through excess

Seven goblets brimming with treasures float among the clouds, tempting the character in the foreground. He hasn’t yet reached for any one cup, not having made a decision.  The character is overwhelmed and unable to evaluate his options, even though he is excited by the possibilities.

The seven of cups can be read simply as overwhelming possibilities leading to an inability to decide.  Each cup looks so tempting that it’s hard to pick just one!  The idea here is that, before we commit to a decision, we can let our imaginations run away with each unique opportunity. One description gives the example of somebody considering three possible romantic partners; instead of evaluating the decision and picking one person to date, the character on this card would instead spend their time imagining in great detail how each relationship could go, and get caught up in the fantasy.  In the end, their opportunities pass them by because of indecision. 

You can also look at this as the “careful what you wish for” card.  Some cards are full of exciting treats, like a fancy castle, a pile of jewels, or a laurel wreath (which symbolizes victory).  But look a little closer at that cup with the victorious laurel crown: There’s a skull hidden inside that cup!  Creepy, right?! Though our fantasies may gleam and shimmer in our minds, the reality may be much more mundane or even unpleasant. 

You’ll notice that one of the key concepts listed here is numbing through excess.  Some folks read this card as addiction or substance abuse.  I personally do not read cards that literally.  My tarot readings are not the place to explore medical or mental health issues in a diagnostic way.  A querent who is managing an addiction doesn’t need me to probe their substance use specifically; if I open the door by exploring themes of being overwhelmed or using excess to escape, the querent can decide whether or not it is helpful for them to disclose their addiction.  Tarot is about universal human experience, and everybody—whether or not they have experienced substance abuse—knows what it’s like to be overwhelmed and want to escape.  Use that as your starting point, not an assumption about addiction.

This brings me to another point about tarot.  You’ll notice on my Request a Reading page and my Etsy store, I point out that tarot is for entertainment purposes only and not a substitute for healthcare.  That’s not because tarot isn’t useful for healing, growth, insight, or even recovery from trauma; indeed, that’s what draws many people to the cards in the first place.  The disclaimer is because tarot readers are not necessarily trained to deal with the specific challenges posed to trauma survivors, or folks in recovery from addiction, or somebody working through a mental health diagnosis.  Tarot can certainly inform those experiences, but not in the same way treatment does (and not everybody pursues treatment in the same way).  I’m a social worker by trade, and work very hard not to “social work” my clients, because that is not the role in which they are coming to me.  

If you decide that you want to read tarot for strangers, I recommend having a list of local hotlines on hand.  If something comes up during a reading, do your best active listening and let the querent know that there are resources (and free ones are best).  Some populations for whom I keep hotlines on record include:

  • Survivors of trauma/violence
  • Veterans
  • Folks in recovery from substance abuse
  • Folks with mental illness
  • Folks with disabilities or chronic illness
  • Folks experiencing food scarcity (pantries, etc.)
  • LGBTQIA folks
  • Ex-prison residents (especially for jobs and housing)
  • Immigrants and refugees
  • Folks experiencing unwanted or unintended pregnancy

Local resources will vary greatly, but you can almost always find a national or state-level hotline for each of these issue.  

Having your cards read is an inherently vulnerable act.  We need to respect that vulnerability—and its associated risks—by recognizing our own limitations.  Tarot is such a powerful tool for growth and self-awareness; as readers, let’s also be a source of connection to resources for people in our community who need it the most.

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