C Cups: (or Maybe Chrysanthemums )

Now when you say “Cups,” the letter “C” is not the first thing to occur to The Bad Witch, who is a Double D, thanks.

Without getting all personal on ya, I can say that I’ve been contemplating the Seven of Cups for almost a week now. Part of a vision, the card was given to me (by Hestia, in her guise of the switch-wielding grandmama, of all Goddesses) in an elaborately adorned box. “This is a gift.” The Seven of Cups is usually translated as depicting the yearnings and fears of our fantasy life – for good or ill.

Aquarian Seven Cups

Given that our dreams are usually prodigious; our desires have the ability to corrupt even our purest intentions.   Also, the card indicates a releasing of unyielding repetitions – especially for those of us who may have forgotten how to daydream. Particularly in regard to our magical life.  At first glance, I was incredibly grateful. My initial read was that the card gave me permission to relax and concentrate on myself for a minute, something that hasn’t happened since m’birthday. If it had been part of a spread, I would have said, “Yea, duh. The Bad Witch has too many irons in too many fires.”

But, as a “gift,” the more I think about it, the more troubled I become. I mean, the Lord of Debauchery handed over to The Bad Witch in a Tiffany box from the ultimate homebody virgin in the role of matriarchal disciplinarian? Who does that?  A friend compared the card to the scene in The Last Crusade where Henry Junior has to select a chalice. Though there is a variety to choose from, only one brings life. All of the others bring death. No pressure.[1]

How the Seven of Cups could be a gift is a bit of a puzzle. There are as many ways of taking the message as there are ways of reading the card, as there are alternatives represented on the card itself. So, gentle reader, may I use you as a sounding board to do a little of the introspection which this “gift” seems to indicate is necessary? Grab a glass of sumpthin’[2] and sit a spell.

Rider-Waite Deck 7C

The Seven of Cups often appears when the reader (or signified) has a difficult choice to make and too many options from which to choose. In most decks, the seven cups are filled with extraordinary endowments. However, in most decks, there is a danger hidden within one or two of those cups. That’s the easy read. Temptation is another common interpretation of this card. Since this card is a Cup, we comprehend the arousing (both sexually and emotionally) connotations of “temptation.” What might happen in this kind of compulsion is the challenge to our ethical code; we may end up treating another human being in a way in which we wouldn’t wish to be treated. We may have the whole world at our fingertips, but if we act like a tool, we’re useless. That’s a less immediate but certainly an easy read. There is no confusion about why the card is called the Lord of Debauch.

Now, debauchery and The Bad Witch don’t have a very chummy relationship. I hate to disillusion you if you thought otherwise, but my idea of wantonness is a glass of wine on an empty stomach, black eyeliner, or shopping without a grocery list.[3] Though there was this one time when I spent a few months “slumming” at a local drinking establishment (that has since closed its doors). It was the summer after I earned my doctorate when I stepped in a pile of doo-doo that I have yet to clean off my shoes.  So, it’s not like I run around looking for ways to find Trouble and invite it into the ring for a few rounds of pugilism. I’m usually bobbing and weaving to keep that particular son’abitch from trouncing me.

First, let’s take a look at the card itself. Here’s where you get to look into the subconscious of The Bad Witch. Who knows if the contents are what I see? This is why I louves the Aquarian Deck so well, it’s tres Jungian. But I am about to show my subconscious ass – don’t I know it.[4] I use the Aquarian Tarot in most readings and this familiar form is how the card appeared. The Aquarian 7C shows seven cups stacked securely: a hand holding aloft a rose, a helm (perhaps a deep sea diver’s mask), a prone human head, a yellow chrysanthemum, a butterfly emerging behind fruit, a coiled snake, and half a rainbow. The Rider-Waite is slightly different and seems to have different connotations. The Rider-Waite deck presents the reader with seven cups elevated above the conjurer, on a nebulous foundation; in the cups are: a disembodied head, a shrouded figure (Morgan Greer represents this as a theatrical mask), an emerging snake, a castle, fruit, a laurel, and a dragon.

Taken individually, the contents seem to offer a choice between:

A hand holding aloft a rose: Now, this can be a reward – more likely, a romantic token – which is my first impression. But looking at the sucker a little longer, I think this could also be a rose-shaped scepter or – eeks – a mace. But ain’t that a kick in the head? Often things we first perceive as treasures end up bringing doom – either in the form of too much responsibility (a scepter) or in the form of punishment (a mace). The Wait gives us a castle which is often read as a representation of power, control, and stability. (Perhaps giving a strong contrast to The Tower.)

A helm of some sort: Given the tubers stemming from the helmet, it looks a little like the deep-sea diving equipment[5] which materialized in every unexpected corner (including dark closets, dammit) my brother-in-law’s house where I stayed over Christmas.  Helmets are about protection, right?[6] But . . . wha . . . that implies one needs protection or that one is going into realms where humans cannot subsist – like the deep sea or outer space. Or on my testy Welsh mare.[7] But when I think of tubers, I think of biological rhizomes and then societal rhizomes and then my brain goes all Deluzian. You surprised?

A nearly androgynous human head: My first thought is of John the Baptist. Well, no. My first thought is “Why isn’t the helmet on the head? That would have protected it.” My answer is always, “Because it isn’t; it didn’t.” Unlike the Oz-ish-ness of the disembodied head in the Waite deck, this head looks like, if it’s disembodied, it’s been severed. But the optimist in me likes to think that it’s just a head poking in from another dimension. To me, there is a strong possibility that the neck and the body are simply (intact) on the other side of a portal. Yeah, yeah, that’s it.[8]

This is all interesting because my typical reading of faces on Tarot symbolize persona. So if the head is severed, this means that the identity of the individual is amputated from the unified Self, a subject near and dear to my academic heart. After all, Paul de Man, interested in “stumbling” into new kinds of knowledge, notes that we laugh at ourselves after physically stumbling because, to use Charles Baudelaire’s term, there is a dédoublement, a sudden escape from our conception of ourselves as unified beings.[9]

In the Waite deck, we also see a shrouded, glowing (to me, feminine, given its delicateness) figure. Many believe that this represents conjurer’s need for self-illumination. Then it strikes me. The conjurer is absent in the Aquarian card; there are options but no consumer. I’ve had a plenty hints that I need to work on introspection. Or something. A Native Americanist friend suggested (well, insisted on) Bear Medicine for me. Another friend gave me a ritual-use candle (one that had, fittingly, burned at both ends) to contemplate.

Chrysanthemums:[10] Aside from having air purifying qualities, being the name of one of my offspring’s favorite childhood night-time books, smelling like sawdust, and having been used in burial rites since Antiquity, mums were sent by Margaret Schlegel to Mrs. Wilcox’s funeral in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.[11] That’s all I’ve got. That, and “Mum’s the word.”

A butterfly (or is it bread?) emerging behind fruit: This looks like a loverly treasure-hoard with the bonus of transformation (if it is a butterfly and not bread). It’s like victory-times-two. Given my penchant for gardening, bread baking, butterflies, and my utter joy at a bountiful harvest, I’d say that the Aquarian image probably represents the wealth and abundance signified by the laurel wreath in the Waite deck. However, the Aquarian card lacks the skull shadow on the cup itself. (Which traditionally points to the anti-hubristic idea that “pride goes before a fall.” Vanity and greed pretty much can suck the life out of any party. Just ask Agamemnon.)

A coiled snake:  This really does make me think of my family’s cemetery first and foremost.[12]

A snake could represent sexual passion and desire, sin, danger, blah, blah, blah. However, before Eve was condemned to the originator of all sin, the snake was a powerful symbol of transformative knowledge (consider the snake around The Magician’s waist). The snake of The Aquarian is coiled and contained within the cup. It appears fairly benign and its hood, though indicating that it is a cobra, is not extended, therefore, is not threatened – and is, consequently, not a threat. The Waite snake is extended outside of the cup. It’s traversed the confines of the cup. It is totally coming for you, dude. But my deck, the Aquarian, has a snake. No danger. I’m reminded of the relationship between The Queen of Sheba[13] and her hotter-than-hot tryst with Solomon. Sex. Knowledge of Good and Evil. Soul-mates. Life. But, then again, Death. Snakes and eyeliner, no?

Likewise, a dragon, in Christian terms, is a symbol of evil, danger, and uncontrolled power. While today’s dragons are mostly associated with fantasy, the supernatural, and magic, there is still the implication which connects dragons and old-school Paganism. And TBW’s old-school itself. Having graduated from a place called “Saint George,” my kindergarten backpack depicted dragonslaying in all it’s Catholic glory.

Half a rainbow: Rainbows tend to signify hope or a promise like the Judeo-Christian covenant between **** and man.  In many other cultures, rainbows, like the Bifröst, connect heaven and earth. Rainbows represent transience of life and human mortality (as represented in Virginia Woolfe’s To the Lighthouse), a utopia (as represented in Dorothy Gale’s wish to go “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”), or a new era of social change. However, in the Seven of Cups, Aquarian edition, we are given only half a rainbow. To me, this seems to indicate the “unfulfilledness” of the aforementioned symbols. Innocence – but only halfway. Fulfilled promises and hopes and dreams,[14] but only sort-of. A place to go where bluebirds fly, but one that only exists in our imagination. I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like a workout without a burn, a (slightly-dry-very-dirty) martini without a buzz, a joke without a punchline, a job without a paycheck, sex without an orgasm, Leelee Sobieski without an apocalypse, a Monty Python film without Terry Gilliam[15], my 9:30 without a gift of breakfast foods, Seattle without a Space Needle or Sydney without an opera shell, aquarium screensavers, smokeless cigarettes, electric fireplaces, rice cakes, goatees, and fish tacos.

So, all of this said, my options seem to be: (A) sex and punishment, (B) protection from external dangers, (C) a Hegelian unhappy consciousness, (D) death, (E) victory, (F) knowledge of good and evil, and (G) unfulfillment.[16]

I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, I just wonder if I couldn’t have had an F- 350 instead.

I plan to think on’t some more. No worries. This is not an abandoned project. Thanks for your eyes/ears. I think I see the picture a little more clearly – whether I like it or not.

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://onewitchsway.com/pbp2012/).

It is also part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Hop: “This isn’t your typical blog hop! We’re here to help you get the most out of your blog hopping experience. Instead of weekly hops that tend to be over long before you get through the whole list, we offer a whole month of hopping! And instead of endless links to varied posts and sites, we give you categories to place your direct-post links! So as a blogger you know whom ever is looking at this hop will find what they are looking for and hopefully that’s you! As a reader, you get to skip all the others and go right to what interests you most! It’s blog hopping made easy, organized and fun!” (http://paganpagesbloghop.blogspot.com/p/about.html).


[1] I’m thinking: Indy chooses the wooden one because of the “Jesus” thing, therefore his correctness hinges on a Christocentric predilection for meekness and carpentry. What if the Holy Grail has nothing to do with Jesus (as I contend)? Then what do I choose? The table contained no blót horns.

[2] May’s well, I did.

[3] Though I had an acquaintance once whose husband, a very talented bouncer, spread a destructive rumor about me having had sex– or something, I’m not really clear on the details of what I did/didn’t do – with a man ten years my junior in a bar parking lot. Sh’zam. I’m glad it didn’t (a.k.a. kinda wish it had) happen(ed).

[4] It will be like the episode of Community where Brita imagined everyone’s Scantron (read Rorschach) represented penises (Harmon, Dan “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps.” Dir. Tristram Shapeero. Perf.  Gillian Jacobs. NBCTV. 27 October 2011).

[5] It also looks a little like Boba Fett to TBW – but I’m sure that has *much* more to do with my clandestine nerddom than anything else.

[6] I nerdishly go a little Tolkien here and think about Dernhelm.

[7] I’d trust my QH with my life. And I do trust her with my Eldest’s. The Bad Pony? Not s’much.

[8] Some say that a human head might portend that the seeker will encounter a potential companion. Usually folks read “love-interest” into this symbol. A staunchly monogamous girl, I have to go with “new friend.”

[9] Yes indeed, I did just paraphrase myself from my dissertation. Whatcha gonna do about it? (“‘You Can’t Fight in Here, This is the War Room’: Dark Humor and Political Masculinity in Dr. Strangelove.” Monsters, Men and Machines. Diss. Auburn University, 2008. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2011. Print.)

[10] Did you know that mums are used in the treatment of HIV1? Me neither. Freshmen teach me cool shit from time to time.

[11] Charles, the asshat of the novel, desecrates them.

[12] During the lone visit I and my family made to Pisgah Cemetary, a diamondback slithered inches from my bambinas feet. That week, I had three other close snake experiences. Not unlike this week’s funtimes with bears.

[13] And my sister’s favorite stuffed animal: a life-size German Shepard.

[14] I asked the kids what they thought of when they saw rainbows: Eldest said, “Leprechans and unicorns.”

Son opened his mouth; I interjected, “Aside from double-rainbows.”

“I think of the fragmentation of light.” After ten minutes: “Half-a-rainboooow. It’s starting to almost look like a third of a rainbow. It’s gotta mean something.”

[15]Who’s the other one?”

[16] To quote a reader, WWTBWD?