So far, this has been the most challenging card for me to define. Not because there is anything unusual about the card. This card, in fact, reduces to a fairly simple idea, (which I will get to shortly.) My issue with describing this card is how so many OTHER people describe it. In my research, almost ALL the definitions of this card require a certain context in a reading in order to be meaningful. There’s the classic Rider image where a man is sitting, arms and legs crossed, at the base of a tree. He looks at three cups, and does not look up at one being offered to him. Too many definitions focus on this man’s potential attitude, and his reasons for not accepting the cup being held out to him. “Know when to say ‘enough.’ ” “Apathy.” “Boredom.” “Refusal to acknowledge good things offered to you.” And even “temperance,” are the most common ‘definitions’ of this card…
But what if we strip away some of the pictures? Why DID this image become so iconic for this card? We know that Cups is an emotional, spiritual, lucky, personal suit. The number four brings consistency, stability, balance and calm to the suit. Water’s fluid, shifting, conforming energy for a moment lies still.
What is still water good for? A calm pool of water is nature’s mirror, and ideal for reflection. The Four of Cups in a reading may be prescribing exactly that. Sit back, look at yourself, look inward. Calm down. Consider the serene and meditative feelings that a calm lake or peaceful river awaken inside us. In fact, it may be that our cross-legged Rider figure is indeed meditating, which would explain why he isn’t concerned with The Cups that have passed or the Cup offered for the future. He’s looking inward.
So take your time. Wait out the storm. Look inward. Everything in the outside world will still be there for you when you are ready for it. What’s passed will still be in the past, and the future always ahead of you. This card is very much a now card, but rather than encouraging us to act, it asks us to pause and consider all aspects of the present.
Much like the outstretched hand in the classic image, this card also promises us that if we do as we’re told, answers will come.
We all need a break once in a while.