The next of the Aces corresponding to Arcanum I, The Magus, is the Ace of Cups.  This card reflects the light of the The Magus through the prism of water.  The key exoteric phrase for this card is:  A Message from a Loved One.  A phone call, an email, a letter, skywriting or carrier pigeon might deliver this message!  Other exoteric interpretations might be:

  • Emotional conversation
  • A new love interest
  • Travel concerned with domestic affairs
  • A sympathetic mental turn
  • A mood demanding analysis
  • Analysis of affectionate relations


Notice that these exoteric interpretations combine emotional issues with the qualities of Mercury and New Beginnings of The Magus.

The esoteric or inner meaning of the Ace of Cups, on the other hand, is symbolized by the constellation Canis Minor in the sign of Cancer and decanate Cancer, ruled by the Moon.   Zain writes, “Cancer is the first of the watery signs and thus relates to baptism.  That is, the Sun, as symbol of deific power, as it makes its annual pilgrimage, must go into, and come out of, the water sign Cancer before it can return to its own home in the next sign, Leo.  It is not the sign of death, but in a natural birth-chart rules the conditions at the end of life; and thus signifies, as baptism does, a readiness and willingness to enter upon a new and higher form of life, a willingness to enter the Father’s fold.”  Zain goes on to explain that when the ancients sought to find an emblem of the Savior in the heavens, it was most natural for them to choose the brightest of all the stars, the great star Sirius (what we now sometimes call the Dog Star, but which is actually Canis Major).  Egypt particularly venerated Sirius because its rising hailed the beginning of the New Year and the seasonal flooding of the Nile, which made it possible to grow crops and feed its people.  The great star Sirius, in turn, had its own announcer.  The star Procyon, the Little Dog Star, is sometimes called the Water Dog Star because it sits on the shore of the Milky Way. The Little Dog Star always makes an appearance above the horizon first.  Zain writes, “The baptizing star (referring to Canis Minor), chief luminary to picture the water-decanate of the most watery sign of all the zodiac, thus announces one still greater who is to come.”

In biblical times, the baptizer, John, also came before one still greater and announced the coming of his cousin, Jesus.  As you will recall, it was John the Baptist who cast blame on Herod and his sister-in-law for their adulterous relations.   The sister-in-law was so outraged that at Herod’s birthday party, she put her daughter up to dancing before Herod in veils. Herod, beside himself with arousal, promised the young dancer anything she wished.  Unfortunately for John the Baptist, the young dancer’s wish was his head on a silver platter.  Zain writes:  “And it is not amazing, as the power of the Sun is cut off as soon as it reaches the family decanate of the family sign (the Sun entering Cancer) that John lost his head through a plot involving the whole domestic group.”

The water dog of Canis Minor reminds us of our loyal family pet, our trusted family member, and also reminds us that our greatest opportunity for treachery and deceit lies within a domestic situation.  Zain writes: “The feelings which are present as the companions of thought determine the type of compound which is formed in the thought-cells of the structure of the finer body.  Treachery, sooner or later, brings a reward of sorrow through the events attracted by the thought-cells thus formed.  Hate gnaws at the very bones of the hater, attracting malice from others…Ever-changing moods and fretful inconstancy within the domestic circle attract a train of woes that consumes the energies and leads eventually to some disaster.”  And, thus, the spiritual message of The Ace of Cups is:  The wages of sin is death.  Domestic violence resulting in death is reported in newspapers and on the television every day.  Even more tragically, sometimes the children are involved. When the Ace of Cups appears in a reading, its inner meaning warns of mood swings, irrational behavior and destructive thoughts and feelings, particularly within family circles.  The key word for the inner meaning for the Ace of Cups is MOODS.


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About letstalktarot

Allyn McCray began reading Tarot in 1971 after discovering a deck in an occult shop in San Francisco, California. In 1999, the American Tarot Association recognized her as a Certified Tarot Reader. During her experience as an Internet reader between 2000 and 2002, Allyn’s readings were regularly featured on the websites, Psychicnut and Roadtalk. In 2002, Allyn joined The Church of Light, aka Light.Org, a non-profit international school of esoteric studies, where she is now a Hermetician, Certified Teacher, and Minister. Allyn also serves as the Communications Director of The Church of Light and is a Section Advisor in The Order of the Sphinx.
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