The Mythic Tarot for Everyday Life: Understanding the Cups

By Cheryl Hill

The suit of Cups in the Mythic Tarot is represented by Eros, the Greek version of Cupid, and by Psyche, a mortal. Eros was the son of the love goddess, Aphrodite.  Psyche was human, but was so beautiful that the people began to worship Psyche instead of Aphrodite. The goddess did not like the adoration and worship of the people being taken from her, and when Aphrodite looked upon Psyche, even Aphrodite became jealous of the mortal’s beauty. Aphrodite commanded Eros to kill Psyche. So, it was Aphrodite’s jealousy that inadvertently unleashed a series of events that would bring to light an unlikely love story. 

Psyche, who had committed no wrong and whose only crime was her beauty, was to be condemned by the jealousy and fear of others. Psyche had two other sisters who had married. Psyche was not married yet, but not because she didn’t have suitors—in fact, she had many. But, her would be suitors were so intimidated by Psyche’s beauty that they didn’t dare approach her. Psyche was left alone and lonely. Psyche’s father became worried that perhaps there was something terribly wrong with his daughter, so he paid the local oracle a visit and was instructed by the psychic that if he didn't want disaster to fall upon him, he would have to take Psyche to the sea, tie her to a rock, and wait for his daughter to be eaten by a sea monster! The poor girl seemed to be doomed. 

Meanwhile, Eros, en route to accomplish his mother's bidding, was fully prepared to throw the woman to her death via the sea monster. But when he gazed upon her, he was so immediately enraptured by her beauty that he pierced himself with one of the love arrows he carried. Now, Eros was under the spell of his own powerful love potion. In a soft wisp, Eros’s unseen image carried Psyche away to a magnificent palace where he invited Psyche to stay. The invisible Eros stipulated that Psyche could have anything she wanted, except she was never permitted to look upon him. So, Psyche lived in the lap of luxury; her every need attended to. At nighttime, Eros would visit with Psyche. Psyche could feel Eros’s body next to hers and sense the mate she had so desperately longed for, but in the morning, her love would be gone. 

One day, Psyche’s sisters were permitted to visit. One look at the life of luxury Psyche was living immediately invoked her sister’s jealousy. The sisters devised a plan to ruin Psyche’s peace and contentment. They began whispering doubts of Psyche’s mate’s intentions, telling Psyche the reason Eros wouldn’t let Psyche see him was because he was so ugly, a monster that would devour her. The sisters warned Psyche to be prepared for this attack, telling her that it would be better if she uncovered the mystery first, instead of being taken by surprise. Psyche became worried. What if her sisters were right? What if Eros wasn’t the man she had been waiting for all her life, but was instead some type of hideous monster? The only thing Eros wanted of her was for her to never attempt to gaze upon him, but the sisters had filled her mind with terror, and now all the love she felt for Eros fell by the wayside. Psyche determined she would catch a glimpse of her lover. So, after Eros had fallen asleep, Psyche lit a lamp and held it by his face. Psyche was so relieved at seeing Eros’s beautiful features; she didn’t notice a drop of hot oil fall from the light. Eros awoke from the pain of the burning oil and looked into his lover’s eyes. Eros instantly arose and fled the palace. Psyche’s possessions had disappeared, too. Psyche, because of her mistrust, was left alone. 

Psyche searched for Eros, but to no avail. She finally decided she should go to Aphrodite and beg the goddess to help her find him. Aphrodite was still angry at Psyche for all the trouble she had caused, but decided that she would give Psyche a semblance of a penance. She gave Psyche four tasks—tasks impossible for a mere mortal to complete. Psyche accepted the punishment, and despite the utter impossibility of performing all the tasks, she nevertheless set off to attempt them, because of her love for Eros. Unbeknownst to Psyche, Eros was still watching over her, and the impossible tasks Aphrodite imposed were accomplished. 

In the end, Aphrodite agreed to the union of Eros and Psyche, but so that Psyche would not be worshipped as a mortal like before, she petitioned to have her made immortal.

Psyche’s journey of love can be perceived in The Mythic Tarot. Her story teaches us much about relating to another person, and about the developing feelings that come with the emotion of love. Love is a spiritual emotion - you can’t see it, but you know it’s there. Psyche hadn’t seen Eros, but she felt the emotional spiritual connection of love.

Newly divorced and single clients who come to me for readings regarding their love lives have one common factor – they all are looking for a lasting relationship. The client doesn’t ask, “When am I going to have my next fling?” but quite the opposite, “When will I find Mr. or Mrs. Right?” My clients kept running into the problem of manifesting the same type of man or woman as their ex was, but with a different face!  What were they missing here? They were focusing on the physical features they wanted in their next partner, not the spiritual qualities. I had them concentrate and write down what they wanted in a partner that would make their future solidarity with that person complete and compatible. 

Psyche went through great pangs to bring Eros back, and she knew the trials she was going to go through were worth the prize. Psyche also was aware there was the possibility that she might die, but that thought didn’t dissuade her from trying – because she knew love was worth the effort.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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