I was looking for something quiet to do as I’m still a bit wonky from illness and not up to doing much else. I would love to buy some new card decks and fiddle with them, but there aren’t any new ones coming out that appeal to me, so I browsed my card database to see what hit me.
Upon seeing card samples, there were several tarot decks I found myself remembering fondly or thinking that I wasn’t too familiar with them, so I made a list of 11 decks:
Dragon (Peter Pracownik)
Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA
Then I thought it might be fun to pick an odd card and compare it across decks, but I wanted a card that wasn’t always clear for me in meaning or one I get mixed up with. For me that would be a few Minors, maybe Cups or Wands, probably the higher numbers around 8 or 9. Narrowing it down to one I pick. . . 9 of Cups.
The 9 of Cups is often called the Wish Card, but for me, the wish card is the 7 of Cups where riches and desired things are displayed spilling out of the cups. The 9 of Cups is the self-satisfied drunk card, the guy who doesn’t know when to quit card, the guy who hides behind the table card. I just don’t get the card, it never imprinted on my brain as showing that my wish will come true. So, the inn is full up and he’s serving lots of customers beer. Complacency, self-satisfaction, business is successful, but wishes come true? Not like the 7. In the 7, everything you ever wanted is before you, you can have anything.
A visual comparison is attached using the Universal Waite deck. Now, looking at these, which one looks like you might be wishing for something and that it will come true? The 7 obviously, hence my confusion about calling the 9 the Wish Card.
Perhaps the subtle difference is the illusion of the 7, the ruin of delusion and fantasy, and the solid, concrete reality of the 9? It doesn’t always come across for me so I’m hoping that card comparison will cement the difference between them in my thoughts.
Okay, so let’s explore with the 12.
AQUARIAN – Not too much different here than a stylized R-W deck, but it’s very attractive. Yes, that chap with the 9 cups look jolly pleased with himself. No real suggestion of illusion or negatives with the 7 in this deck, it looks quite bountiful.
COSMIC – Looks dreamy. Yeah, she got what she wanted, candles and romance, happiness, success. In the 7 you can see the destructive fantasy of the illusion at work. In the 9 there is the peace of actual fulfillment.
FRADELLA ADVENTURE – Here the Cups suit is called Masks. I’ve always loved this deck. So in this 9, the guy gets the girls, and they are wearing masks and can be anything he wants. A wish come true! In the 7, the masks look like the masks of demons, there is the suggestion of haunting or preying on the person. Too many choices, too many bad guys to fight. The book says imagination has been given too much rein. Too much daydreaming can keep you from doing anything or accomplishing your dreams–your mind is spread too thin.
NEW CENTURY – I love the look of this deck. This is quite subtle, but knowing the archetypes they can be read easily. In the 7 is illusion and growth of thoughts and daydreams, the masks of the theatre, she is mooning about in the clouds not really getting anywhere, just putting those masks on and off. I like the phrase from the book “wrongful yearning.” In the 9, plants are thriving and water overflows to fulfillment of the firmament.
SANTA FE – I rarely use this but it’s so interesting that I like to keep it. These are difficult to understand without the book. In the 7 though, the little balloons seem to be imprisoned or encased in a substance that makes them inaccessible.The dreamer is floating, but does that get him anywhere? In the 9, dreams can be touched and held, there is balance–ah I wondered when a deck would get to the balance side of things. An unbalanced mind can’t manifest wishes, they just float around, but a balanced mind and body can. I like the energy in the 9 here. His chest is bursting with ideas and dreams rising up and surrounding him.
The balloons are really water jugs, some spilled and some not. The magic of fulfillment keeps them from spilling in the 9, but even so there is enough to spill and share – true abundance. In the 7, the figure supports nothing, the small jugs are inverted but in the clouds and can’t spill–sounds good until you realize that their contents remain in stasis too. The big one spills too much precious liquid.
DRAGON – I have never used this deck! I traded for it because I liked the artist’s work and have his Ogham deck which I like. This is one of those decks with semi-illustrated pips that I generally like but they can give off an air of sameness. In this 7 I might get a whiff of unwholesome yearning and making yourself ill with illusion and daydream. The 9, while attractive doesn’t really say much–maybe “flow” and thus abundance but it’s not terribly clear.It looks icy, yet the water flows.
FAIRY – LS MINI (TRIMMED) – I couldn’t wait to trim this little deck. It’s the only deck I’ve ever trimmed a border off, and it sometimes makes it more difficult to identify cards, but the paintings really shine without borders. In this deck Cups are Hearts. The aspect of illusion and not being able to touch an idea or wish or dream is fantastic in this deck. The fairy is touching the frog it’s sitting on but is the frog under water? the shadow of reeds and flitting fairies and light is also illusory. If you’ve ever sat by a stream on a hot day then you know how your mind drifts into daydreams. The 9 is a bit iffier. Happiness I can see, but the subtlety of success and satisfaction aren’t quite visible, but still interesting.
GOLDEN BOTTICELLI – Yikes, what a beautiful deck. I got a bit overwhelmed with it once I’d bought the big art book on Botticelli to go with it, but I forget that sometimes meandering through a card or two is just as much fun than launching a full study. In the 7, is the angel holding his breath until he turns blue and gets what he wants? That woman looks a bit spacey, she’s been fantasizing about Elvis again like in the Stephen King book Needful Things. For me, this indicates losing one’s mind or hurting one’s body with the intensity of yearning. The book takes it a bit further and mentions premonitory dreams which reminds me of the way people get caught up in needing to be noticed for psychic abilities and an illusion of power. It’s all like candy cooling on ice isn’t it? Fragile, easily shattered.
The 9 is a beautiful card, like a banquet in Old Narnia. I’ll just see if I can track down the art history for these two cards. The people on the 9 card, seated at the table, are from The Marriage Feast of Nastagio degli Onesti which is taken from a story in the Decameron by Boccaccio. The lady on the 7 card, as you might guess from her flowery printed dress is from Primavera, as is the blue angel. In the garden of Venus things do take on a quality of dreaminess and unreality. The angel is actually the winged god Zephyr, grabbing the waist of the startled nymph Chloris who is accompanying Flora as she strews roses about. Zephyr is the mild wind of Spring, son of the Titan Astraeus, and Aurora, the Dawn.
Whew, if that doesn’t suggest illusion and delusion. . . .
IRONWING – Always surprising and always a pleasure to try to interpret without the notes. This is my kind of art deck, totally imaginative and original. In this deck, the Cups are called Coils. The 7 does look a bit threatening, like the beauteous stepmother of Snow White, menacing. Not really, it’s more ornately impractical than anything, a small fantasy vessel that looks fabulous but is ultimately too small and restrictive. Now that’s a neat idea for illusion–too restrictive. The bowl is a jellyfish and jellyfish are insubstantial, impossible to hold or see clearly. Yeah, I love the way she’s described this card, like it’s nothing bad, but nothing you can hold either, just that things are a bit asymmetric to reality.
On the 9 I recognize the triskele, but the chain and charms surrounding the mirror are neat. Water from the triskele poured over the mirror makes the vision clear, and the well then provides a gift–the artifact in the centre–and a wish. Very unusual take on things, but nice to contemplate.
NAVIGATORS TAROT OF THE MYSTIC SEA – Although I find the book a bit incomprehensible at times, I do like this deck and the colourful figures. I’ve had several good draws with this over the years. Keywords on cards give you a good clue in such a deck. Some people hate them but I don’t mind keywords.
This 7 is outright delusion. This fellow might think the reef is a special island of dreams but that’s a heck of a big buoy saying “watch out, danger underneath.” The suggestion of spirits or wine making one delusional and boosting the fantasy is here too, and he’s certainly dressed for fantasy. She mentions in the book hanging around with the wrong crowd and this appeals to me with this card. Groups promise you the moon and stars and then gossip about you if you don’t do what they want–the fantasy of friendship with such types is delusional.
The guy on the 9 is completely satisfied and leaves his mask is on the wall. I think this deck is based on the Thoth, which has a more alarming image of satiety on it, a fountain clogged with green gunk that looks like vomit, always a keen image after the party’s over. Here, more than other decks, you get a feeling for the negative of the 9 of Cups–there’s success and then there’s overdoing it completely to the point of insensibility. Rather closer to the uncomfortable complacency and gloating I see on the face of the tavern owner with his kegs of beer lined up. She mentions illusions in the book for this card too, and running away from success which isn’t quite the wish card everyone supposes.
OLD ENGLISH – The Minors in this have drawings based on pages from the Luttrell Psalter. I have a couple books on that so could probably hunt up the art references, but mostly they’re simple day-to-day work and tasks that people did, so no hidden meanings. The 7 in this deck is pretty static, with nothing to suggest illusion other than musicians. Well, I suppose music can engender a fantasy, like Bo Derek making love to Ravel’s Bolero in the movie 10. On the 9 card, the drummer just had to do a cartwheel he was so happy, so a suggestion of fulfillment and success. It’s fairly bland though.
To sum up my feelings after looking into the cards. I wouldn’t call the 9 of Cups the Wish Card, I still think that’s a misnomer, but neither would I call the 7 that. I really liked the feel of the 7 as misguided yearning and too much imagination running free and causing you to slip reality. The 9 can be about success but it can equally be about gloating over success and overdoing it. Fulfillment and abundance are not things to be self-satisfied and complacent about. That innkeeper is still insufferably pleased with himself. I think Zephyr should blow in and give him a tweak.