Today I want to launch my first post that extends beyond the useful but limited world of card profiling. In the tarot, there are many cards that have similar meanings to each other (the Ten of Swords and Death, the Lovers and Two of Cups, etc) and creating useful distinctions between these cards can be challenging. For this reason I will be posting a series of entries called "Discerning the Difference". While the cards do certainly share certain aspects with each other, being able to understand and speak to their individual nuances will help enhance your scope and abilities as a reader. Once you can "discern the difference", you will be able to get more detailed information from the cards, know what to do when similar cards show up in the same spread, and provide more accurate readings for your friends and clients.
Today we will discern the difference between two of the most loved cards in the minor arcana: the Three of Cups and the Four of Wands.
Both of these cards can signify a celebration, joy, sociability, being surrounded by loved ones, feeling emotionally supported, and being creatively stimulated. But there are also some considerable differences that will aid us in understanding and communicating the messages of the cards.
One major distinction that pops into my mind revolves around the imagery of the harvest and the colours of the sky. In the Three of Cups, the women are raising their creative and emotional energy, and as they do so, the world around them also yields it's bounty in a symbiotic relationship. It is a card of summer. The sky is blue indicating midday and that these women are still very much in the middle of the act of raising energy. It is ecstatic. This is a card about emotional harmony, being creatively stimulated, and exploring artistic opportunities in a group dynamic. It represents bouncing ideas off of one another, riffing off of each other's creative energy, and working as a team. Without that excellent collective energy, no harvest will be produced. This card is about atmosphere.
In the Four of Wands, the creative energy which has already been harvested by the group is used to fuel an individual's entrepreneurial enterprise. Rather than working as a team, our hero gets to reap the benefits of being supported by a community that seeks his own personal advancement. The sun is setting, meaning that the time for preliminaries is over and now it is time to prepare for the dawn of a new day. In this card, the energy is used to fuel the next stage of the querent's personal journey. He has the support of community, but he is acting as a free agent, and it is not necessary for him to be creatively stimulated by his peers so much as by his ambition. This card is about environment.
That's all well and good, Rowan, but what does it mean in practical terms? Well, since you asked, here are some examples of different ways these can be expressed in fortune telling:
- Love, Three of Cups: Spend time with your friends. Go out dancing and flirt with the cuties at the club. Have your besties over for brunch and talk about your emotions over lots and lots of mimosas. Allow yourself to receive emotional care that isn't romantic, you'll feel so much better once you do. Look for potential partners in creative public environments like poetry readings, open mics, dance halls, or night clubs. Have a three-way.
- Love, Four of Wands: It's time to look somewhere you haven't looked before. You're about to begin something new in your life, so don't look for romantic fulfillment from the past. By investing your energy in self-advancement, you will create the openness and opportunity necessary for emotional or romantic fulfillment. Enroll in a class, explore new environments, and let your talents guide you. You will have better luck finding someone in an environment that is slightly challenging rather than one that is comfortable.
- Work, Three of Cups: Do something creative, but don't be distracted by the need to play. Put yourself in a team in which you all feed each other. Meet with your colleagues and brainstorm over brunch or cocktails. Bring something fun into your workplace in order to freshen the energy and liven up yourself and your coworkers. Refrain from shirking responsibility. A good rehearsal, team, or cast.
- Work, Four of Wands: It's time to move onto a new project. Look at the progress you've made so far and use it to create a new goal. Move into new responsibilities that allow you more independence. Accept support from your coworkers without being limited by their vision. It's time to move on, you've reached the Opening Night or Closing Night performance.
- Health, Three of Cups: There may be a tendency towards excessive drinking.If you don't enjoy working out, try dancing! Team sports could be a fun way to get your body moving. Don't overindulge in rich foods. Focus on having your main meal earlier in the day.
- Health, Four of Wands: Build up a routine that is sustainable. Ask members of your community for health and exercise tips, but feel free to adapt them to your own needs. Reward your mouth with a yummy meal only after you have rewarded your body with some good exercise.
- Occult ability, Three of Cups: Play with ecstatic forms of meditation. Join a drum circle and dance to open up your access to higher inspiration. Teas, oils, and potions are especially potent ways to unlock occult ability right now. Attend a public ritual. Perform tantric sex magic.
- Occult ability, Four of Wands: Test out the skills you've been cultivating thru a new exercise. Take the practices given to you by your spiritual teacher, tradition, or community and find ways to expand and work with them so they become your own. Find a specific role for yourself to perform in public ritual. Begin a new type of magical enterprise. Look back on your spiritual experiences to really understand and make the most out of them.
Of course, the differences that I lay out are only guidelines, and as always you must trust your intuition to understand what Spirit is speaking to you. If during a reading you are really feeling a certain way that may be at odds with something I or someone else has written, TRUST YOURSELF! When you clear your mind and ask your Higher Power for guidance to come thru clearly and in a communicable way, then the first thought that enters your head will always be the right one. Also, it bears restating that these interpretations are particular to Rider-Waite Smith decks, and that other decks have their own inspired approaches and distinctions.
I hope that this has been a helpful way for you to begin "discerning the difference"! Now take off your shoes, grab a glass of wine, call a friend, and put on some good music! You deserve it.