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Join Date: 09 Jan 2003
Location: England
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Aoife 
Symbolism in the RWS 6 of Cups


Sorry, but I've never 'bought' the idea that this card is just about innocence and nostalgia. I've always felt there's something 'not quite right' but I've never spent the time to unravel my suspicions.

In February, Francesca wrote,
"I find that 6s have some hidden agenda. Why is he giving the girl flowers? It is a sweet gesture but the motives behind it should be questioned. On the surface the card depicts sweetness, innocence, happy memories, but is it all so much sugar-coating?"

Well, to begin with there's debate about the figures. Is the left-hand figure an adult, older child, dwarf? Is the right-hand figure a young girl or a grey-haired little old lady? This is also complicated by the abcence of obvious perspective. Are the cups really bigger than those which appear on the other cards? The only clue appears to be the uppermost cup, on top of the stone plinth, which suggests a container the size of a planter.

So why are the cups being used as planters? Why does each contain a single white, five-petalled, star-shaped flower? This must be of symbolic importance but I've no idea what or why.

Turning to look at the scene - I see a clear division between 'town/official' building and residential area. The left hand side shows the division marked by the stone plinth, showing an heraldic device [St Andrew's cross? on a shield {of protection}], steps up to the paved town area. An official-looking figure seems to be walking away. The issues here are not of an official nature, are not of societal interest? They are happening outside of the 'protected' area?

Is the larger figure a vendor or a giver - is the cup offered freely or is payment of some kind expected? One of the cup/planters is on top of the plinth - belonging to the official/town area? Does the figure have a right to offer the cup/planter to the other figure? Is it his to give/sell?

Rachel Pollack in 78DW says that 6s are about commuication. Are the figures speaking? What might be being said?

Why does the smaller figure show no sign of taking the cup/planter offered? The larger figure's knees are bent and he leans towards the smaller figure - he wants her to take it?

There seems to be a fair degree of agreement that the larger figure is a dwarf. The cards were designed in less PC times. Symbolically dwarves have been associated with the Underworld. "Coming from it and remaining linked to it, they symbolise those dark forces which are within us and which can so easily take monstrous shape..... they never minced their words but spoke the naked truth..... their pointed remarks had more than a hint of clairvoyance, pinpricks deflating self satisfaction..... guardians of buried treasure or of secrets...... guides and counsellors..... generally expressing themselves in riddles. Dwarves are also images of perverted lusts." The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Chevalier & Gheerbrant. ISBN 0-14-051254-3.

Uh oh! I don't like where this is leading..... and that bright red hood [a colour which attracts children]. Thank goodness the child has heeded the warning not to take pretty things from strangers.

But before I get carried away with my suspicions I must remind myself that these hoods were common medieval garb - designed to keep out the cold [as much as shield the face from view/ a caul of invisibility]. The liripipe [tail from the back of the hood] has in fact endured as a feature of formal academic dress [UK graduates and barristers robes still retain a liripipe]. So is the dwarf a teacher? A doctor [of the psyche?] A historian? Somehow I don't think so. I've been unable to trace the origins of the liripipe - and my suspicious mind is again seeing a possible phallic link.

Back to the child. I can only see one of the child's hands. She wears a white glove - of masonic significance? A symbol of purity.... ensuring that one does not make contact with anything unclean. So she has some protection? And this reminds me that the only other figure in the pack who wears hood with liripipe is the architect in the 3 of pents - and I understand there's masonic significance there.

But I'm still stumped.

"Tarot of The Heart" Thompson, Mueller & Echols ISBN 0-380-80900-1 says,
"In Jungian psychology, the presence of male and female figures directs our attention to internal male [animus] and female [anima] energies and the retreating adult tells us this is a recognition and developmental joining that we can only do alone. He cannot protect us".

Well, this gives me the best understanding I've found so far but your thoughts, views, comments are eagerly awaited.
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