By Sarah Taylor
Look at the two outer cards in this week’s spread. It is as if the staffs held by the figures of the punter in the Six of Swords and The Hermit form the boundaries that enclose a particular experience to which our attention is being further drawn by the light from The Hermit’s lantern. The colours in the backdrops to the Six of Swords and The Hermit are also muted, while the card that they flank is colour-full, save for a small section that is significant for its being grey.
The focal card, by virtue of these observations and its position at centre, is the Six of Cups. But what does the Six of Cups mean in this instance, and how do we identify its appearance in our lives?
Starting at left, the Six of Swords describes the movement from one state to another. This can be a physical journey (although not always by any means), but even if it is, it will have as its foundation a change in how we view things — the leaving behind of an old paradigm and the movement into a new one that is yet to take shape fully. Destination unknown. Except here we have an insight into that destination in the Six of Cups — numerical counterpart, yes, but one that is qualitatively and experientially different.
Swords are thoughts and beliefs; Cups are feelings and the unconscious (which is often revealed to us through our feelings). Thus, we move from a state of thought-based existence to one that is feeling based, and where we have a greater access to the unconscious.
In the Six of Swords, the seated figures’ view is impeded by the swords that stand, point down, in the bow of the punt. In this way, the card is similar to the Eight of Swords: both reflect the ability of our thoughts to obfuscate.
However, where the swords in the Eight have the figure surrounded and rendered temporarily motionless by her predicament (which she can break out of at any time if she so chose), here there is a resolve to move in spite of what is seemingly standing in one’s way. The energy around thought has not concentrated to such an extent as to stop progress entirely: the punter can see more than the two who are seated in front of him; he is the one who gets them from one place to another; he is the action-based masculine element of the psyche, whose singular focus is able to prevail against inaction. This implies an act of discipline and trust.
Meanwhile, the feminine holds still — battens down the hatches, as it were — becoming inward-looking, silent nurturer to the potential — the child — who sits beside her. She may look burdened, but it feels to me like a necessary deferral to the inner masculine, who takes the oars both physically and metaphorically. The child is accompanied by both, not as yet expressed in a definite way; present as a concept, its position more neutral than either the mature masculine or feminine. Yes, the child is in our consciousness, but, like the shore that has yet to come into view on the horizon, it might feel out of touch to those of us in transition in the Six of Swords — a whisper on the headwind.
Although The Hermit is the right-hand card, it feels very much like he is a foundation to the present rather than something that lies in the future. The Hermit, staff ablaze, star in hand, sheds light on a potential towards which we move in the Six of Swords. His wisdom, earned, tested and honed in solitude, illuminates a world of feeling.
“This is the way,” he seems to say.
Some interpretations of the Six of Cups refer to it as representing the past. According to others, it is the ‘soul mate card’. What these interpretations have in common is a form of remembering — or re-membering — based on a way of relating that is true to the Cups suit: feeling-orientated and with an acknowledgement of our inextricable link to a place that feels both familiar and unfamiliar, and which can bloom into consciousness in a way that delights and enriches us.
This is the awakening unconscious, which holds in it our ancestry, our origins, our ties to soul-family, a reminder of who we really are underneath it all. When the Six of Cups is active, we reconnect with something that feels intrinsically of us. That’s because it is. That is the soul mate. It is a beautiful home-coming to the heart.
And the Six of Cups is all about the heart. The Hermit knows this. He presides over the couple in the Six just as he presides over The Lovers (also a VI card) in some versions of the tarot. Lovers in exile — the apparently lost loves of the soul — become the dispossessed who come home to a remembrance of their value to one-another.
We could not reach this shore without deciding to leave somewhere else — to up anchor and entrust ourselves to a part of us that is able to get us here. And once we reach this place of re-membrance, the focussed, driven masculine can fade into the background as we become the child who had been seated to the left of the feminine in the punt.
Do we dare to play? In the light of the Sun and the guidance of The Hermit, who shows us the point of reconnection, which will be meaningful to each of us in different ways? We need not devalue the experience, nor do we need mistrust it. There is wise magic at play. It knows what to do.
Astrology/Elemental correspondences: Six of Swords (Mercury in Aquarius), Six of Cups (Sun in Scorpio), The Hermit (Virgo)
If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article explains how to use the spread.