The Four of Cups – A One Page Guide

The Four of Cups is noteworthy in the far-greater-than-usual distance between Waite and the Golden Dawn group. And that is to say nothing as to how far away from the qualities of Chesed, the qabalistic influence; clearly it is the widest departure from the Sephirot we’ve seen so far. Waite seems to have gone rogue! He seems to focus on the Moon, which rules the decan and is the planetary association for Cancer, the Zodiac sign for the decan. The Moon’s light is reflected and illusory; it is the opposite of “real” light, direct from the Sun. Waite, in his description for this card, says things seen in this illusory light appear as a “fairy gift.” We might describe the young man’s attitude is such that anything less then “the real thing” is unsatisfactory. There is a sense of profound alienation. It appears to me that Waite is setting up a contrast between the young man and the High Priestess, the major arcanum associated with the Moon. If you do not have the secrets, mystery and sacred law, you are just an empty vessel to whom spirituality is like an illusion of an empty cup. I would suggest that a modern interpretation is that it signifies alienation from the materialistic world. But it doesn’t suggest the antidote—going out into the spiritual sunlight—but I don’t think Waite meant it to. Frankly I prefer the “enjoy it while you can” message of the Golden Dawn group for this card, for that is something that we can do in the companionship of real world friends and family.

Read more

The Four of Swords – A One Page Guide

The Four of Swords’ depiction of the tomb of a Knight outwardly conveys soldiering and death. Yet if we look at the upper left, we see a scene that is likely to be an Annunciation scene: a scene of birth. The astrological influences include strong life-giving entities in Venus and The Empress. The female deities, then, are key to understanding the Four of Swords. The Transit of Venus is a celestial event at which time Venus changes identity from evening star to morning star, from preceding the Sun to following the Sun. Venus’ movement is the metaphor for the Divine Feminine rising–Aphrodite rising from the sea at Cypress. Waite’s divinatory meanings communicate a fork in the road, a bi-directional path for his soldier. He moves forward by falling behind; by putting down his weapon so that he can pray. In Chesed, the qabalistic influence, we see the “mechanics” of the process. Chesed can be said to represent another “bi-directional” arrangement: a contract between God and the people. This is the “piety of people towards God, as well as grace, favor or mercy of God towards people.” The card is a “snapshot” of two vectors in the “lives” of the dead Knight. And the transit of Venus is a metaphor by which we can depict two opposing vectors in the same snapshot; or two opposing divinatory meanings.

Read more

The Four of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

The Four of Pentacles is one of those minor arcana cards with a short, though not particularly sweet meaning. The little king looks like a greedy little so-and-so, and that is pretty much the message. But there are a number of things we can note. One of them is that the illustration is, once again, in line with the astrological, elemental and qabalistic sources according to its position in the wheel, though the qabalistic source is given a bit of short shrift in this one. Capricorn and Saturn drive the emotional “tone” of the illustration. Capricorn is sometimes referred to as “the goat of fear,” and the Capricorn personality sometimes takes their natural strength of will to a rigid extreme. Saturn, of course, tended to eat his children. Earth merely provides the link to the very materialistic nature of this card. The point of interest is Chesed, which should be a force of love and charity, but in this case is so outweighed by the other, more negative aspects that all that remains of its “gift” are the divinatory meanings of legacy and inheritance. Our little king, “cleaving to that which one has,” his coins, becomes the personification of “You want this? You’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.”

Read more