Ah, romance! That is everyone’s first thought as they draw the Two of Cups; and indeed, that is one of its best known definitions. That is not the only one. Of course the suit of cups represents emotion, the subconscious mind, intuition, the subtle connection between all life-forms, and of course, that most fluid of usual subjects for readings: relationships. And of course, there is the traditional meaning of the number two- receptive, open, twin souls, or pillars flanking a gate- either way, partnership is clearly indicated, even in a world defined in large part by polarity. Two is the number of complimentarity, of opposites that draw each other close or push each other away. It is the first number that clearly shows the presence of the other.
At the very least, we may interpret the Two of Cups as a partnership with a strong emotional component. Two figures, (whatever the refinements and personal preferences of the artist who renders them), drink a toast to each other in almost every deck that has representational illustrations. If they are not enjoying their cups, they are at least enjoying each other. But the partnerships shown, though always friendly in the upright cards, do not always mean love relationships, (though the odds are better than fair they could certainly go that way given encouragement.)
In this post I intend to compare the 2 of Cups in four different decks, partly to compare the similarities and differences, and partly to show how different interpretations may apply according to the designers’ visions for each different deck.
I will start with the Cosmic Tarot by artist Norbert Losche.
His characters often bear a strong resemblance to old time movie stars, and his visions for his cards are so dramatic. I think ol’ Norbert must have a real soft spot for old fashioned romance. In his rendering of the 2 of Cups, a very debonair man is portrayed in what appears to be a luxurious, romantic-era dressing gown, and he is romancing a beautiful lady, who all but swoons in his arms. (Sappy, but effective, and who can deny their secret longing to be swept away in just this fashion?) Two chilled goblets in the foreground sweat drops of condensation among flowers that crowd them together, and the glow from the two goblets unite to form one beautiful dome of light.
(Bartender! I want whatever they’re having!)
Blooms swirl around the heads of the lovers as they loose themselves in the ecstasy of the moment. Ah, Love! A distant ocean melts into a starry night sky, and planets float in the background. The isolation of the lovers is perfect as the rest of the world disappears. This is the most classic interpretation of the 2 of Cups- the one everybody who has ever had a relationship reading hopes for. It comes complete with everything except “…and they lived happily ever after…” unless it falls in the ultimate outcome position.
Ah Norbert! You really must be quite the romantic! (Check, please!)
Again, sticking to tradition, but a bit less overblown, is Robin Wood’s take on the 2 of Cups. Two very attractive young people toast each other, smiling and surrounded by light. Their hands entwine as they hold up two beautifully matched goblets- they are not identical, but clearly complimentary, and made for each other. The power of this contact casts a ring of rainbow light around their cups and sweetly clasped hands. A smooth green lawn and distant mountain landscape in the background indicates that whatever awaits them, they have each other, and will travel together through both easy and difficult times. The raising of kundalini energy is indicated in the caduceus that climbs rays of light toward the winged solar lion’s head hovering golden in the sky. His red and golden garments and golden hair show his fiery passionate nature, and she is crowned with the leaves and adorned with the flowers and vines of earth, showing that she is thoughtful and creative. When spirited fire is grounded, the earth brings forth it’s gifts. Energy is wedded with matter, and vice versa- you can’t have one without the other, and together they make all things manifest.
Robin Wood has this to say on the matter: “The whole card should give the feeling of two opposites meeting in a spirit of love to bring transformative healing.”
The Mystic Dreamer Tarot is a bit less traditional, though still romantic. Heidi Darras has again given us a beautiful young couple, though with a bit less polarity- since the boy is gorgeously effeminate, and the girl has a delicately handsome, rather than “pretty” face. Nonetheless, they compliment each other, and again, a spiritual alchemy is indicated by a caduceus hovering above them in the golden air. A dreamlike landscape unfolds behind them, and their lives unfold with it, in a vista of promise and hope. Barbara Moore, who has written the instructional text to accompany this deck, says “the key here is the coming together of two things that creates a third thing that is, in and of itself, powerful, beautiful and passionate.”
Last, is the least traditional of all, the minimalist and yet elegantly clear interpretation of Emily Carding, in the Transparent Tarot. Two graceful and sinuous figures reach across a gulf of empty space to toast each other, crossing their chalices in a kind of salute as they make contact. One has recognizably human features, the other…is a mystery, with a blank elipse of a head, suggestive of an alien nature. One represents the familiar and human, the other the unknowable- but the union between them unites the known with the unknown, as “the waters flow together”. When I look at this card, I see an image that suggests beings made of water, mer-folk rising from the deep, rearing up in two fountains and facing each other. Though separate for the moment, they share a common source, and beneath the surface are still connected. The implication here is less romantic, yet in a spiritual sense runs deeper than all that lovely, sodden-sweet romance of the traditional view- these are two beings who recognize each other as the other self, who agree to make contact above the surface of conscious thought, intentionally completing the circuit that is implicit at the source. Together they arise from the ocean of soul, they reach toward each other in a mirroring movement of accord, and whatever they hope to accomplish is already well on its way to completion. In Emily Carding’s words: “This card often appears to signify soul-mates…the kind of romance signified…has its roots in strong friendship and similar ideals…physical attraction may also be present, but it is the spiritual and emotional connection that will have brought them together.”
It should also be taken into consideration that twos often represent choices as well as romantic possibilities. I am reminded by the writings of Janina Renee, a favorite tarot scholar of mine, that sometimes this card signals the need to accommodate another, to consider their needs and desires, to compromise and make changes in your behavior in order to draw closer together.
In a reversed position, things take on a distinctly different flavor. Depending on the context and relationship to other cards present in the reading, there could be obstacles standing between the two partners, there could be a lack of the emotional “juice” necessary to charge the relationship with that indefinable essence to take it across that last gap from friendship to romance, or the timing could just be wrong. An excellent warning comes from Mary K. Greer‘s Complete Book of Tarot Reversals:
“Perhaps you are [being] drawn into a relationship that is not good for you.”
Most of the time, though, I consider it a matter of obstacles or timing. He shows up with flowers, just after you’ve pulled a double shift at the print-shop. He’s in a dinner jacket and you’re covered in ink. He’s got reservations to a dinner theater, and shows up unannounced, and you’ve just ordered a pizza and climbed into your jammies.
Get over it; either clean up and go, or call for another pizza, and give the tickets to your favorite neighbors.
So remember: the word for the day- (and for every day) is:
(or at least be harmonious, and dance together sweetly.)