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Bohemian Gothic Four of Cups and Eight of Cups

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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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I didn't notice at all that it was the same corridor. Very interesting this connection between 4/8 in the Cups given the similar connection between 4/8 in Pents.

I do think, given the Nosferatu King/Cups as well as the suggestion in 2/3 Cups of vampires, that our girl in the coffin might be vampiric. Frankenstein and the idea of crafting life from un-live things seems to be the theme of the Pents. While the cups and drinking is, aptly, vampires. Rising from coffins is what we expect from vampires, and a girl who must return every dawn her coffin, and must feed on blood every night, is certainly stuck in an endless, horrible cycle. There is that problem with being a vampire in some stories--the need to return to that one coffin, and should anything happen to it, you're dust. The red of coffin and rose also suggest vampire.

I don't think her arm is bone. I think she's angled so that her arm is in the coffin, and what you're seeing is the long stems of those dried roses. The suggestion seems to be that she has to tug one shoulder out, then turn to get the other shoulder out. It makes us see and feel how very narrow, small, and claustrophobic that coffin is--visually is suggests entrapment. It is interesting that she's in a wedding dress; she died/became a vampire on her wedding night, presumably prior to consummation as she's in the dress. I know we can take this to mean marriage as a trap--and in the 19th century it kinda was...but she wasn't really married was she? I kinda think it might suggest a perpetual state of neither married nor unmarried, like being neither alive nor dead. It's telling that the coffin is on a "threshold" that our bride is never carried across.

It's a marvelous and disturbing card as it really does give us a feeling perpetual "in-between." No going forward, no going back. All motion keeps one in the same place.
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By the way, do you notice the flow to these cards? 2/Cups has bats, that seem to be flying off and over 3/Cups. 4/Cups has the girl in the coffin with her flowers which seem to be the same sort of flowers being held by 5/Cups. Which then goes into 6/cups with their flowers. The first six cards, at least, really flow.
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I hadn't specifically noticed that flow; thanks for pointing it out. But the sleeve! I'd actually meant her right arm is bent in a U-shape, it seems.

But yeah, vampires. What you say makes good enough sense. Mind you, I've never really been "into" vampires, and consequently haven't read those sorts of books. Notwithstanding that this is a "gothic" deck, I prefer to see if I can first find a mundane story for the scenes in the cards, and often there is one. And the real possibilities of the shadow meanings are quite horrible already, without imagining vampires! (But I did google Nosferatu, and the outline of the story. He fits for the King of Cups image.)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swimming in tarot
I hadn't specifically noticed that flow; thanks for pointing it out. But the sleeve! I'd actually meant her right arm is bent in a U-shape, it seems.
Oh, yes, I see what you mean. It's very hard to see because the sleeve is narrow.

Do this. Bend your elbow back and near your body, and twist your hand inward. I think that's what's going on with the arm, but I had to blow up the image a lot and examine with a magnifying glass. Still doesn't quite work but the bouquet might be involved in obscuring things.
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The Four of Cups is supposed to be a vampire (I got the book, and it describes this woman as a vampire.) When Karen was first posting the cards on the Baba Studio blog, she showed us closeups of the Four of Cups, including the fangs. (You can't really see them, but they are there.) I love vampires, and this card is awesome.

The book also talks about the vampire being isolated, which is very true. A vampire lives forever, or at least a lot longer then humans, and everyone around them ages and dies while the vampire stays the same. Times and surroundings change, while the vampire never really changes. A vampire can be around humans but is different from them and can no longer really be part of human society (although they can try to pass for humans.) That is really isolating.

I also like the blue roses, since blue roses do not occur in nature, and it emphasizes the unnatural circumstance of being undead. Blue roses symbolize (according to my rose book) :fantasy, the impossible, new possibilites and miracles.

I really like this card. Lots of atmosphere.
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If I get out the magnifier and look VERY VERY closely and THINK HARD about fangs, I can almost see them. Very subtle.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swimming in tarot
If I get out the magnifier and look VERY VERY closely and THINK HARD about fangs, I can almost see them. Very subtle.
LOL! I actually wish they'd post the images large and singular. Maybe even sell them as posters? I'd love to get a good look at all the marvelous details.
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Two things you can do to see detail, without waiting for posters:
-Check the Magic Realist website, where they show all the cards. Only portions enlarge, but having them backlit is helpful, and you can tip your monitor forward and back to get the nuances of light and shadow. The cards are much brighter and colourful online (though less atmospheric) than with the dark blue deck.
-If you have access to a scanner, scan the card in "de-speckle" mode, and blow the image up as much as you need to, to see the details on-screen. You can play with contrast and saturation, too, to highlight different features. This can bring out subtleties that you might otherwise miss, particularly if you never imagined their existence in the first place!
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I hadn't considered that the entire suit of cups could refer to vampires. The first thought that struck me when I saw the Eight of Cups was Jane Eyre finally venturing up to the attic to see where that maniacal laughter was coming from.

If this young woman is trying to escape from the vampires' lair, I don't think she makes it. The woman in the Eight looks almost identical to the woman in the Ten of Cups, only with a different dress. I think the vampire ended up capturing and marrying her.
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