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Granny Jones - The Four Cups

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Granny Jones - The Four Cups

From the blog - a card pulled from this deck.


Ever since AE Waite did his stuff at the turn of the Twentieth Century, nearly everyone since has blindly followed in his footsteps and given this card a bad rap, which I find rather sad. Even, to some extent, Granny herself. You see the huge yawning face in the foreground, boredom personnified. Behind it, two figures in prison garb blindfolded wander around, indicating feeling trapped and not having a vision for the future or a roadmap helping to get there. A very grey river runs under the arched bridge, four golden cups hanging in the arches losing their contents into the current as if life and the joy of life were trickling away. Let's not talk about the floating objects just yet.

But is this all there is to the card? Far from it, and in fact it is my gut-feeling that despite their prominence, these parts of the image were merely lip-service to the real business of the card.

As soon as she first glanced at this card and at The Star, my friend Laura recognised the scene immediately as the bridge and church at Richmond, Tasmania (how, I don't know: she lives in NSW now, and came from WA originally). Granny has a fine sense of place - later on when we discuss the Death card, we will mention that again.

And looking through the deck and getting to know it over a couple of decades, her love of place shines through. I'm willing to believe there's not a single imaginary place or person in the deck: everything and everyone is incredibly real. And in this card, a sense of her love of that particular location shines through.

In this image, the bridge crosses from the dry, infertile soil that these people are on, to the lush, rich green Tasweigian fields and hills on the other side of the grey river. Overhead in the sky, three birds wheel for the sheer pleasure of flying: I have come to know that this is Granny's sign of special blessing in a card, indicating the presence and good favour of the Triple Goddess. A dark raincloud offers the fertility that water brings to a parched continent, but the sun is peeping out. Hope is present, and positive emotions are one step away, if only you will unblindfold your eyes and allow yourself to see it.

And behind all this, the quintessentially recognisable church of Richmond. As in the Star, it is a small, homely structure made out of the local stone, with a typically Australian red roof. As in the Star, she has not portrayed the Cross that must be on the original building's spire. That cross on every spire of every church screams "Christianity", and Granny is more inclusive than that. When she shows us this church, it is a place of sanctuary, healing and rest for all of us, no matter our beliefs or our lack of them.

There is a paradox in this portrayal of the Four Cups. Four gold cups tip their contents into the river, hanging from the bridge. But four other cups, one yellow (thought), one red (motivation) and two green (fertility and happiness) are bobbing along in the current. And in fact, they all have their openings facing upstream, toward the flow of the river, as if with some eagerness. That's a clue, folks. There are two ways of looking at the Four Cups: with pessimism, and with optimism.

As most of us know, Cups are about Water, and Water is about emotion. Four is a number of great stability and strength - we do most of our engineering and architectural design around that number for that reason. A lot of people associate stability with lack of change (which it is close to, but isn't the same thing), and therefore with boredom, and I contend that Waite was just such a person. Faced with emotional stability, he didn't seem able to look past that and see the benefits of calmness. So many people think ecstasy and its attendant lack of certainty and even, often, lack of safety, is somehow preferable to deep-down calm, unecstatic happiness that comes with trust-through-time.

Waite seemed to. And Granny bowed to that "Tarot Tradition", too, when designing the foreground of the card. Her essential love of peace and optimism, though, and her sense that this card isn't as boring as most people think, shines through once the figures in the card voluntarily take off their blindfolds, turn around, and walk across the bridge. If you choose to be bored with your emotional life, well, that's your choice. Those blindfolds haven't been superglued on. Me, I choose to appreciate the calm, stable, happy times.
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