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Originally Posted by Barleywine View Post
I've contemplated this at some length before. I think I came to the conclusion that he took a close look, was dissatisfied, and was in the process of moving away in resignation when the scene was recorded. There is a sense of stagnation about the cups, and with the Moon riding high, an illusory - or maybe delusional - quality to the scene. The retreating man does seem disillusioned, like he's seen something we can only imagine, and is seeking higher ground to escape it. I once fancied that he's moving upstream, where the water is cleaner, rather than downstream where the miasma might follow him. (But maybe I've just been corrupted by the toxic-looking vision of the Thoth 8 of Cups.) The way ahead of him looks harder, but the only alternative is to return to the source of his disappointment. This is one of the RWS images that I think works quite well. This card has been seen "to reflect a somewhat stagnant state of things in relationships, and even presage their decline." The same author said about the number 8: "It is associated with moral decisions for good or ill." Those observations bring together two trains of thought: matters of the heart and questions of morality, both of which seem to be in a palpable state of distress here.
I had an interesting thought on this card just now, as I am working on the Knight of Cups. The Knight lives in a fantasy world of idealized love, courtly love, if you will....he puts the lover on a pedestal to worship, seeking the ultimate experience of "holy" love. It is a kind of ecstasy of the spirit in which he worship the love from afar, and bodily satisfaction does not interest him as he chooses not to sully her with "base desires." He is a flatterer, a womanizer, and a dreamer....when the dream is "busted" and the woman declines to be put on his pedestal...preferring a real, practical relationship from him, he gets on his horse and rides on to offer his "cup" to the next "damsel."

I had the interesting experience of falling in love with a Pisces man once who was my roommate for 10 years in New York City. This is precisely the experience I had with him so I took the relationship to the next level and made a friend of him, then watched him go through the same scenario for the next 30 years with dozens of other women, (including those prior to me), all of whom he declared were the "love of his life" as he walked away and out of their lives. He died in 2011 miserable and alone...still declaring to the world that I was the "love of his life"...a very sad story. That is the classic Knight of Cups.

My point here is that perhaps that is what is going on in the IX of Cups....the cups represent an "idealized" love relationship that failed to remain "idealized".... because the woman wanted something real.....but, like my friend, the fellow in the card carried the "ideal love" image with him as he went in search of the next "holy love experience." This theory offers an explanation of the dichotomy of the Cups still standing as he leaves them behind.
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