Saturday, 29 September 2012

The King of Cups

Radiant Rider Waite ©Poshkus
Carla of Rowan Tarot commented on a reading including the King of Cups, challenging me to rant about why I dislike this Court card so heartily ;)  She likewise wrote up her reasons for hating the Queen of Wands, which is well worth a read even if, like me, you are a fan of this Queen :D

So, why do I dislike the King of Cups?  I acknowledge that there can be some very positive traits to this card, but at a gut level my first impulse is often to react against it.  I think there are two different negative sets of people I associate him with.

Firstly, to me, he represents someone who thinks they are an authority figure, and who doesn't like to admit to their own emotion.  These people often ridicule others for showing their feelings.  Emotional bullies, basically!

For example, I think of a couple of my teachers, who would laugh at kids who got upset over exam results, or anything else that happened.  The kind who'd say "Suck it up!" or "Don't be such a wimp!"  One physics teacher was well-known for throwing chalk at students and saying things like: "That's the kind of answer I'd expect from my dog, and if my dog gave me that answer, I'd kick it!"

Steampunk Tarot ©Moore & Fell
Looking back on it now, I guess those teachers were struggling with their own emotions.  Feelings of being ignored or disrespected, of being stuck in a job that made them unhappy.  But how they expressed it was through being thoroughly unpleasant to others.  The King of Cups, for me, has deep emotions, but doesn't quite know how to deal with them.  He's afraid of being overwhelmed by them, and so lashes out.

My first stepfather, from the age of 8, was like that, too.  He would say that I was pathetic because I was young, or that I should be less of a girl.  "Don't just cry about it, do something!"  Or else, "You're just a child, what do you know?"  At the time I didn't know enough to say, "That's what I feel and I deserve to be respected as a human being."  Well, I'm not sure I'm great at saying that these days, either.  Though I encourage my counselling clients to honour their emotions...

Just look at the Radiant Rider Waite King of Cups.  So stern-looking, and making sure to keep himself out of the water - wouldn't want to get affected by messy emotions!  Or the Steampunk King of Cups, emotionally blinkered, blowing smoke to hide his own insecurity, hiding in alcohol.

Mystic Dreamer Tarot ©Moore &Darras
And that's where my second category of disliked King of Cups characters comes in: alcoholics.  Clearly, there's some overlap between them and emotional bullies, though not always.

Even when an alcoholic isn't an emotional bully, many still  try to drown their emotions in the bottom of a glass of wine, or whatever their tipple of choice is.  The alcohol anaesthetises them to their emotions, and those of others, so they can ignore them.

I hate the fake bonhomie, the boring, repetitive anecdotes, the sense of there not really being anyone at home.  There's no human contact, it's all just a facade.  And as for interest in other people, in who they really are and what they feel, well, that's just not in their frame of reference.

Maybe alcoholism is a disease, maybe the alcoholic can't help it, maybe it's to do with their upbringing, what they've been through.  I know all the excuses, I've heard all the justifications.  But my heart is a little hard in this regard.

Housewives Tarot ©Kepply & Buffum
Why should that be?  Aren't I supposed to be loving and accepting of everyone, as a counsellor and a spiritual being.  Perhaps... but my father was an alcoholic.

Years of being ridiculed, of being made to feel fat and stupid and boring, of being told why everyone else was amazing, have left scars.  My dad would tease me about my eating.  When he was dry for a few years, he admitted he'd done it to try to avoid any comments about the fact that he was drinking most of his calories.  Didn't change the fact that he'd been a big factor in my developing an eating disorder.

He found it really hard to deal with any emotion, so he would avoid emotional situations.  If he were to tell you he loved you, that might provoke an emotional situation.  So he just never said it, at least to your face.  He would tell me about how wonderful my stepmum was, and my half-brothers.  Made me feel like crap in comparison.  Turns out he told them how wonderful I was... so we all felt bad, unloved, and jealous of one another :(

Crystal Visions Tarot ©Galasso
At the root, then, there are a lot of daddy issues in my dislike of the King of Cups.  I am starting to try and recognise his good qualities, some of which Carla discussed here, and others of which Alison, of This Game of Thrones, highlighted here.

For example, in the Crystal Visions Tarot I see a King who is able to have one foot in the water, the other on dry land.  He can be a part of the flow of emotions around him, but without losing his perspective, without getting swept away.  That allows him to help others see their feelings and situation more clearly.  It also lets him stay diplomatic.

He sits under the light of the full moon, tapping into his intuition.  He gazes down at some blooming lillies, a reminder that out of the mud of emotion and chaos, beauty and truth can grow.  He delights in the world he sees around him, in the people, the emotions and the wonder of life.

What about you?  How do you feel about the King of Cups?


  1. Isn't it interesting how some of us sense the shadow side of a card more strongly than the positive side? I recognize all the shadow meanings of King of Cups in your post, but they are not what come to mind first when I see him. (Whereas, with Queen of Wands, my first thoughts are of her negative qualities).

    I love the King of Cups because my father was one. The positive side. I adored my father and he made us his entire world. A kind, gentle, tender-hearted and soft-spoken man, he never had to tell us he loved us because it was so completely obvious. He was stoic, quiet; he listened to us and would quietly laugh. On the rare occasion he lost his temper, it was a quiet rage that was really terrifying. And he was the sort of strong, silent, steely Southern male who would not have hesitated to kill in order to protect his family. An example of his emotional attachments causing him to be less than logical.
    But where family and loved ones were concerned, there was no boundary he would not cross for them.

    He was the kind of man who, if you mentioned you would like to have something, he would write it down on a bit of paper and keep it in his wallet, and years later, after you'd long forgotten ever wanting it, he would present it to you. The kind of man who, if your refrigerator was on the fritz, would come over and fix it as a surprise. He just wanted to do everything he could for the people he loved. He found meaning in his life from being needed by us.

    I compared Charles Ingalls to the King of Cups in my post, and though Ingalls talks a lot more than my dad ever did, and I only ever saw my dad cry on a couple of occasions rather than every week, they were a lot alike. :) And the same initials: my dad's name was Carl Irvin. He passed away in 2009.

    1. What a beautiful tribute, Carla! Your dad sounds like a wonderful, amazing man.

      Isn't it fascinating how much our experiences in real life affect our reading of the cards? When thinking about the positive side of the King of Cups, I sometimes think of my current therapist. And yet, more often than not, when I first see that King, all this old stuff comes up first...

      I hope that, with stories and posts like yours, I shall start to reprogramme my view of him :)

  2. Very interesting and thoughtful post.

    It makes sense to me, absolutely. Our experiences define how we see certain personality archetypes. I am trying to think of a court card I don't like but I can't really think of one.

    The only one that sometimes makes me think something is the King or Knight of Earth--sometimes it makes me think something will take forever to manifest. Like ultra slow progress. But not always. It depends on the context of the reading.

    Anyway--hahaa. I try not to take it personally if someone dislikes my sign or an archetype I associate with--I realize people have deeply personal reasons for doing so.

    I have to admit--I have a big issue with alcoholism, too. There are several alcoholics in family and extended family, and I find it very upsetting. I hate seeing such smart and interesting people wasting themselves and destroying their health!

    Lotsa weekend hugs,

    1. Hi MM,

      I find it great that you don't have a Court card you dislike - how very balanced of you :) Perhaps it's because you so often associate particular cards with people you know - yourself and your family and friends. So, you have a positive association for each one. I think that's a great way to see the Court cards!

      I definitely know what you mean about the pain of seeing people destroying themselves with drink - that was certainly the case with my dad. Oh well...

      New week hugs,

    2. Court cards are weird. Sometimes I can't relate to them. I guess I got so personal with them in order to even connect with them in any way! It does help unless you encounter cases where you just have no idea what they're talking about.

      I'm not impartial by any means. Hah! I definitely get biased and cranky about things, and cards, that come up. But anyway. I know that there are lots of tarot cards (and tarot card combinations) that I feel 'blah' about when I see them. For instance, if I got, say, the 7 of Wands, 10 of Wands, and 5 of Pentacles together that would probably make me cringe. Same thing with the Tower plus any of the 5 number cards...or even a more benign card like the Hanged Man.

      But I guess one good thing is that over time I've learned that readings can have so many different meanings that I shouldn't get discouraged when I see negative or neutral cards. They can be helpful. Still working on that, though...

      Lotsa hugs to you and happy October!!

    3. It's funny, too, how we can have different cards that we see as negative or neutral. For instance, I actually quite like the Three of Swords, as I find it quite a healing card. It's dealing with the thoughts that are causing us emotional pain. Once again, I think that's because I used the card that way in a tarot meditation a number of years ago...

      Happy Nearly Halloween Hugs,