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Join Date: 31 Jan 2009
Location: British Columbia, Canada
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Bohemian Gothic Four of Cups and Eight of Cups


In this deck, the Four and Eight of Cups are located in the same corridor, but the view is in opposite directions--literally and figuratively. In simplest terms, and to quote the LWB directly, the Four of Cups is about "being stuck in some endless, horrible cycle" and "being unable to shake off your obsessions and compulsions, though you feel trapped by them". The Eight of Cups is about "moving away from an oppressive, depressing situation" and "trying to escape from negative cycles and habits".

In the Four, we see a coffin at the top of the stairs of the tall, narrow, stone corridor. The coffin stands upright, against a pillar. It is lined with red satin. Within the coffin is a lovely young woman in a bride's gown. Her hair is dark and loose, and she wears a red rose in her hair. She clasps a bouquet of white and blue flowers. She looks sadly to the right of the card.

Are we sure? Closer examination of her visible arm shows that it is bent in an odd way--curved, really--and the sleeve is exceptionally narrow at the forearm to have a woman's arm in it. Her bouquet of blue flowers, looked at with a magnifying glass, looks a lot more like a collection of disarticulated humerus bones, looked at from the elbow end. This bouquet is a bunch of (probably) dried flowers and motionless joints. She gazes sadly into space, toward the right of the card, which is downstairs, down the corridor, presumably toward the crypt, perhaps where she feels she belongs. Her head isn't in the proper position relative to the neckline and shoulder of the dress. I posit she isn't there. I suggest that there's no flesh under that dress, and that the head isn't attached. What's the story here? (I haven't read/seen Bride of Frankenstein, so I don't know if that relates.) I cannot help but think of the discussion of the Four of Wands, speaking of the bride's high hopes, which we fear are going to get boxed up in that square stone house. Is this the bride in the Four of Wands, how she feels after a few years of marriage and being Mrs. Somebody Else? Does she feel as though her hopes died the day she got married? That she may as well be a pretty face stuck above an empty wedding gown, for all she has a life? Divorce wasn't socially acceptable, if it was obtainable at all. There was only one respectable way out of marriage: "till death do us part". A loveless, lifeless marriage is certainly an example of being stuck in a horrible, endless cycle.

In the Eight of Cups, we see a young woman walk up the same corridor. She casts a glance behind her as she makes her way to the stairs up, where she must pass under an arch flanked by urns and watched over by a skull. This young woman is also in white, but she looks reasonably real, and casts a plausible shadow on the wall. She trails a garland of white flowers from both hands.

It is unclear to me whether this woman is moving quickly or slowly; whether she is looking back nervously or wistfully. But she is moving away from the crypt, or the low state of mind, regardless of the frightfully tall shadow she brings with her; regardless of the effort of climbing, of the reminder of death she must pass under, or of the fact that there is more darkness to pass through beyond that, before she gets to the illumination of the next window (her light at the end of the tunnel). It takes courage to leave the familiar, effort to raise one's spirit, and one's own shadow is awfully heavy, insubstantial though it may be. It also requires "being real" to acknowledge one's eventual death (the skull before her). Once one has acknowledged one's mortality, one's finiteness, one passes a threshold (the archway) and can move forward, finding value in the rest of one's life, with no more backward glances. In this situation, the value of one's life lies in the part not yet lived or defined. This woman, at least, carries a garland of real flowers like a talisman, a sequence of blooms and buds yet to open. I do not know if she is the bride of the Four running for her life, or whether she is in the process of re-assessing her situation and making new goals that she can achieve for herself, irrespective of her husband's involvement.
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