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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ten of Cups - Astrological Associations (by Zanna)

Astrological associations for the Minor Arcana cards typically involve both a planet and a zodiac sign. The attributions established by the Order of the Golden Dawn (OGD) are by far the most commonly used. However, some Tarot decks use a different set of associations. As a professional astrologer, I find it interesting to compare and contrast these associations from deck to deck. The use of astrological associations with Tarot is completely up to the reader. This is merely intended to be interesting and fun.

Credits for the decks and books mentioned in this post can be found HERE.

Ten of Cups - Astrological Associations (by Zanna)

Tarot Dynamics System by Anna Burroughs Cook
(illustrated in this blog by the Universal Waite tarot deck)

In Anna Cook's TD system, cards 2 through 10 are known as Subject Cards. They are viewed as having a strong impact on our immediate agenda, on situations, moods, opportunities or obstacles that pass quickly. The number on the card reveals the situation. The suit and definition suggest the reason for the situation, along with options and the most beneficial approach to take.

The suit of Cups represents Emotion, including dreams and that which gives meaning to your life. This is a fairly standard Tarot association. The astrological aspect of this system comes into play when we start talking about the number on the card.

To interpret the number Ten, we can look at the astrological Tenth House, which is considered to be the house of career and or reputation. In general, the Tenth House is about your role in society, where you "stand" in the public eye or the community, your ambitions and aspirations.

The Tenth House is associated with the zodiac sign Capricorn (a cardinal Earth sign known for being organized, responsible, goal-oriented, practical, and self-disciplined. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn (representing limitations, lessons, authority, and karma).

In the Tarot Dynamics system, Subject Card Ten stands for Achievement. Therefore, in the TD system the Ten of Cups is "Emotional/Achievement." It's easy to see how this might be connected to the Tenth House/Capricorn/Saturn idea of self-discipline and ambition. Anna Burroughs Cook notes that this card "can also generate 'instant karma'." She also states that the Ten of Cups means "life is what you make it." This makes a lot of sense, given the Capricorn/Saturn association with karma and taking responsibility.

(Please note: There is more to the TD astrological connections than I have included here. My intention is to convey the basic flavor and tone. A much more detailed, comprehensive discussion will be provided in Anna Cook's forthcoming book, Advanced Tarot Dynamics.)

Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley

For Crowley and the Order of the Golden Dawn (OGD), the Ten of Cups represents the energy of Mars (energy, force, sexual desire, and aggression) in Pisces (a Water sign ruled historically by Jupiter and/or Neptune, for many modern astrologers). Pisces is known as an emotional, romantic, impressionable, adaptable, imaginative, and intuitive sign. Crowley writes: "The arrangement of the cups is that of the Tree of Life. But, on the other hand, they are themselves unstable. They are tilted; they spill the water. . . Mars is the gross, violent and disruptive force which inevitably attacks every supposed perfection. His energy displays the greatest possible contrast with that of Pisces, which is both peaceful and spiritualized." Crowley titles the card "Satiety." When I look at the Thoth Ten of Cups, I can feel the hot Mars energy coming off the card. It's almost overwhelming.

Hajo Banzhaf and Brigitte Theler (in Keywords for the Crowley Tarot) describe the energy of the card as: "fulfillment (Pisces) and a new beginning (Mars), emotional (Pisces) strength (Mars)." The idea of Mars representing a new beginning makes sense when we consider that Mars rules Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. Banzhaf and Theler have chosen to emphasize the constructive power of Mars instead of the destructive power. It is tempting to view Mars as a negative or malicious force, but Mars can also be credited with getting things moving in a positive direction.

Let's return to Crowley's comment that Mars is the force "which inevitably attacks every supposed perfection." The Ten of Cups often depicts a happy, perfect family scene. While it isn't wrong to enjoy that scene, we may also need to be prepared for disruption and a downward trend. Banzhaf and Theler write: "Culmination puts an end to the ascent."

One World Tarot by Crystal Love

Crystal Love associates the Ten of Cups with the third subdivision of the sign Pisces, with Jupiter and Neptune as the natural rulers and Mars as the subruler. She writes: "The brute force of Mars merges with the inspirational and nebulous Pisces. . . If this energy is applied and used positively, a dedicated and brave visionary or healer may be the result. . . The combative tendencies of Mars can cause danger by hidden or secret enemies, possible danger during travels in foreign lands, and trouble in close partnerships and relationships. The Ten of Cups may be generally unreliable."

A.E. Thierens, PhD. (Astrology & the Tarot)
Thierens describes the Ten of Cups as follows: "It is the Water on the Sixth house, where it meets with Virgo-influences. . . It means the physical and sensatory possession or ownership. Consequently it has to do with the agreeable sensation of being 'at home' and 'at ease,' having possession of what is wanted." In astrology, the Sixth house is indeed associated with the zodiac sign Virgo, ruled by Mercury. It is described by astrology.com http://www.astrologyzine.com/what-is-a-house-in-astrology.shtml as the house of "Service, Duty, and Health." Joanna Martine Woolfolk tags the Sixth House as the "House of Service and Health."

(Note: The astrological system devised by Thierens is radically different from that of the OGD. I will not go into detail here, but will simply provide the astrological associations for the card under discussion. If you are interested in learning more about Thierens' system, I recommend his book Astrology and the Tarot.)

The Mandala Astrological Tarot by A.T. Mann

Like the OGD, Mann's deck associates the suit of Cups with the element Water. Mann describes Cups Eight, Nine, and Ten as "The Pools of Pisces" and associates them with the time period from 19 February to 20 March. Cup Ten is assigned to the Third Decan of Pisces -- Pluto in Pisces. It represents the time period from 11 March to 21 March.

On the King Scale of Color, the colors linked with Pluto pale red. The color for the sign Pisces is red-violet. Mann's keywords for Pluto are "power, the masses, magic, propaganda, force, force majeure, frankness." For the sign Pisces, his keywords are "swelling seed; purifying rain; serenity; potential. Sensitivity; destiny; receptivity; self-sacrifice; psychic impulse; karma; seclusion; mysticism." Mann's divination meanings for Cup Ten include "Supreme artistic activity comes from unconscious drives which have viable means of expression. Universal feelings must be translated into real experience. . . . Tempted to revert to previously debauched positions. Ego-tripping becomes dangerous and stressful." (This last statement by Mann brings me back to Anna Burroughs Cook and her "instant karma" comment. I'm also reminded of the saying: "The bigger they come, the harder they fall.")

The Whispering Tarot by Liz Hazel

Liz Hazel's suit of Cups is the suit of the Water element, embodying "emotions, feelings, relationships, love, as well as the nature and consequences of emotional attachments." Like Crowley and Love, Hazel associates the Ten of Cups with Mars/Pisces energy. Her illustration shows a pleasant setting on a moss-covered bank of a lake. We see water fairies rising from each of the ten chalices; as they rise into the night sky, they turn into stars.

Hazel notes that this card can suggest "the satisfaction of being surrounded by happy, healthy family members." Ill-dignified, the card might indicate "A situation with no perfect resolution. . . At a distance from family. . . Separations, exits."

In general, I typically see the Tens of the Tarot as representing culmination in conjunction with a new beginning, a threshold between places, transformation or transition. The Ten of Cups can give a sort of "cup runneth over" impression, with the potential for positive or negative  consequences -- abundance vs overabundance.

The Mars/Pisces designation for the Ten of Cups is the most common among the systems described above. Thierens, as usual, is different, proposing a link between the Ten of Cups and the Sixth House (Virgo/Mercury). A.T. Mann goes with a Pluto/Pisces connection. An association with Water is common to all of the above-referenced sources.

As always, I welcome your comments!

~*~ Zanna ~*~


  1. Thank you for your work on this, Zanna. Yes, I am quite a few years too late for this comment, but perhaps it's never too late to discuss something so timeless. I really liked your conclusion about the conjunction of ends (tied in with Pisces) and new beginnings (Aries). I myself saw that same symbolysm, as soon as I read the word 'satiety' above (Crowley). Perhaps then, there could be elements in this card that show a situation in which after an 'end' there is a new cycle and not necessarily something completely 'new', as in starting a completely different project, or different relationship... Just perhaps a new cycle, or a new attitude/spin on things?

    1. I completely agree with you that the Tarot Tens (and the Nines as well, really) can point to a new cycle or stage of something rather than a completely new project/relationship. In fact, I usually look at that possibility as being more likely than a hard "breaking off" and totally new, unrelated beginning of something different. Thank you for your comments!


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~ Zanna