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Alchemical Tarot — Knight of Cups

The Knight of Cups is Don Quixote. He dreams the impossible dream, ready and longing to fill his cup with the romance of life.

And who’s to say he is wrong?

This man is a Pisces, a sweet hoper, far more at home swimming gracefully in the currents of the emotional waters of life than in his current fish-out-of-water incarnation of armour and sun and dry sands. The gentle sun reflects his gently sunny disposition, and also shines mildly on his silver fish-scale-ish armor. There is some passion urging him forward, as seen in the redness of the fish and the red in his horse’s trappings, but this is not passion out of check, nor passion inflamed; it is a quiet passion,

Even the pace of his horse is that of a fish swimming in its native currents: unlike the dashing-about of the Knights of Wands and Swords, and unlike the stolid plantedeness of the Knight of Pentacles, this horse walks a tender walk, neither hurrying nor dallying, no rush and no dawdle, flowing with the Tao. He is not passive, there is action, but it is Right Action.

Whether or not the world will reward such Right Action remains to be seen.

Also, he’s alone. Knight cards are about solo journeys, but at the same time, since this guy is all about feelings and emotions, which usually arise because of how we interact with the living world around us and its denizens, there is quiet loneliness there too. And remember: if everything were perfect, this Knight would be at home, wallowing in his bathtub, reading Neruda poems and drinking rosé. Something drove him out on his quietly passionate quest, and he has trekked through this whole sandy desert and holds his cup out, presenting himself to the Fates, asking that his cup be filled, saying, “I am here, Life, I am ready, please share these emotional waters with me.”

There are those who say he is a Messenger whose cup is already full, but I say that only makes sense in a “namaste” way. If you really want to see it this way, you can see this card as, “the water in my cup salutes the water in your stream,” but to me this is not the primary meaning. The primary meaning is, “please.”

There is a duality to the Knight’s environment. If you draw this card and you’re in a pissy mood, you may notice that this native of the flowing waters of emotion has been trekking through an arid desert, dry sand everywhere. How is he going to move forward when just beyond this stream, the mountains are craggy and rocky and better suited to extreme rock-climbers than to horses? Is his way blocked?

Or has he finally arrived at his destination, the stream itself?

The Knight, an incurable optimist, sees the situation as Don Quixote would see it. He sees the shining silver armor and the shining golden cup, the cool shining water and the warm shining sands, the cool shining sky and the warm shining sun. He sees that the hills beyond are hills, not mountains, and they are bathed in golden sunshine. He sees that the sands are golden like the gold of his cup, and he sees that he has just arrived at this flowing stream of feelings, where he is ready to fill his cup. The stream flows with the Tao, neither stagnant nor agitated, but flowing with life.

Reversed — Quixote Inchoate

My default setting for how to read reversed cards is: you tack the words, “on the inside,” on to the end of however you understand the upright card. If the upright version of the card is about how you deal with the world, the reversed version is about how you deal with yourself. If the upright version is about stuff that’s sprouting into external being, the reversed version is about stuff that is currently seeds planted deep in your psyche, doing lots of work that hasn’t yet become externally visible sproutlings. So for me, today, the Knight of Cups reversed is about latent questing after desire. Often the internal work is far more dense and potent than the external work, because the inner work is about potential energy, and the outer work is about releasing that potential energy into kinetic energy. The inner work is about coiling the spring, and the outer work is about unfurling the spring. So “on the inside” is a far more energy-demanding time in the cycle of life, even if it doesn’t look like much to outsiders.

The Reversed Knight of Cups is like, “O Beauteous Stream, I want it, I’ve come so far, I’m so ready, please,” but for whatever reason, it’s not time to fill his cup yet. The energy is there, but it’s in a holding pattern, waiting. Or, if you’re feeling especially generous, the streams that fill the Knight’s cup are inner streams, not outer ones.

How does this Knight show up for you?