The Eight of Cups – A One Page Guide

The Eight of Cups is one of those cards in which Waite has only slight differences in divinatory meanings versus the Golden Dawn. The differences are in the illustration. Instead of Pisces and Jupiter, the main element is instead the full Moon eclipsing the Sun. The Romans, in their panoply of gods, assigned Diana three aspects, goddess of the Moon, the huntress, and the queen of the underworld. They nicknamed her “trivia” or “three roads.” She was the goddess of forks-in-the-road! Waite and Colman Smith use this as a metaphor to portray the action of the divinatory meaning. The character deserts the cups of an enterprise or previous concern; i.e., he came to a fork in the road, and after, no longer travels the original road. The card is full of “dualities”—harvest and planting, death and rebirth, male and female, Sun and Moon, old path and new path—which seem to mimic the dual nature of the divinatory meanings. Thus, the Eight of Cups is a collection of reflected images, none exactly the same as the original. It occurs to me that if we understand the illustration correctly, the proper reading of this card is more than “the decline of a matter” in importance, as Waite put it. It is actually advice to avoid the consequences of whatever the “decline” was. The occurrence may be infrequent but not rare (as suggested by the solar eclipse). And the advice is that the best path to be on during or after that decline is “the road less traveled.”

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The Moon: Waite’s Symbols

For the modern reader, it is usually the “deception” side of the Moon’s meaning that is given. Often, it’s a suggestion that one has to look again, preferably with better light; to recognize something that isn’t what it appears to be as it really is. To look beyond the mystery. But in Waite’s Moon, the mangy looking yellow wolf, quite singular looking, is yellow for a reason. Notice it is the same yellow as that of the moon. Waite has already told us that the intellectual light is a reflection and beyond it is mystery; it illuminates our animal nature. Therefore the message may be that when we reflect upon the thought of our animal natures using the reflected light of intellect… we see the wild nature of the wolf. I would add “reflection” to the standard “deception” meaning of this card. Thus, for example, in a questions concerning love and faithfulness, a reader might do well to ask the querent to use their intellect to answer the question as to whether the object of their affection’s domestic or wild side rules them. In doing so, the Moon card helps them find the answer to question inside themself.

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