Everything You Need to Know About the Cups in Tarot

Associated with the element of Water and the aspect of the heart, the suit of cups in the Tarot holds several beautiful connective cards.

With this suit, we explore emotions, relationships, love and friendship, community, intuition, faith, spirituality, creativity, and magic, diving into our own sense of inner wisdom with sensitivity, wonder, and delight.

While we tend to think of this as the suit of love, cups also acknowledge the harder emotions we can experience: sorrow, loneliness, anger, frustration, sadness, and grief.

Just like Water itself, the suit of cups holds endless depths, raging currents, and rich beauty.

Tarot Cups Basics

The suit of cups is one of four suits in the Minor Arcana and includes numbered cards that go from ace to ten and four court cards. These cards are connected to the astrological element of Water, meaning that this suit is also linked to the three water zodiac signs: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.

Each of the four Minor Arcana suits is associated with an aspect of our humanity.

Cups represent the heart, while swords represent the mind, pentacles represent the body, and wands represent the soul. Cups help us acknowledge our most tender and personal feelings, the people and communities we feel drawn to, and the ways that we need to be held and understood.

In addition to Water and the heart, the suit of cups also represents creativity, attachment, attraction, love, family, connection, art, beauty, intimacy, vulnerability, empathy, perception, and intuition.

Just like the astrological element of Water, it’s here that we explore the depths that we carry, the secrets we keep, the times that we are fluid, and the times that we are stagnant.

As we move through the suit of cups, we discover a new wellspring of emotion, build important connections, grapple with loneliness and disappointment, reflect on our histories, make important decisions about where to invest emotional energy, and find ourselves fully supported by the collective.

When working with cards in the suit of cups, remember that these cards ask us to explore a particularly complex topic and may help us dig into feelings or reactions that we haven’t always completely acknowledged.

  • Where are you afraid to explore?
  • What secrets do you keep from yourself, and how do boundaries of protection help you heal and grow?
  • How does connection with others help us more fully understand ourselves?

The pips (or numbered cards) in the suit of cups show us many ways that we can think about this energy, from opening our hearts to new connections to guarding it when we feel unsafe.

These cards can help us recognize and hold space for our own grief or hurt, push us to be more generous with our energy, and extend empathy or kindness in new ways.

The court cards, on the other hand, represent individuals who are learning how to utilize the energy of the cups best.

The page is a child and student, someone who is just beginning their journey with creativity and sensitivity; the knight is an adolescent, eager to prove their talent and desire with actions; the queen is a master and ruler who teaches others how to use this element internally, and the king is a master and ruler who teaches others how to use this element externally.

These cards can represent the querent, a person in the querent’s life, or can offer advice on how to harness the energy of the suit of cups for themselves.

The Suit of Cups: Tarot Card Descriptions

Below, I offer some simple interpretations of each of the fourteen cards in the suit of cups. You can combine these with your own research or intuitive ideas to develop a personal, powerful understanding of each of these cards, but this will give you a place to begin.

Ace of Cups

Ace of Cups: A new beginning, a joyful connection, expansion, and discovery. Opening the heart to a new connection, learning more about the self, and recognizing an invitation to grow. The full potential of the suit of cups.

2 of Cups

2 of Cups: A shift in intimacy, a new relationship, something growing. Development within an important partnership. An opportunity for heightened connection or learning more about another person.

3 of Cups

3 of Cups: Important friends, chosen family, the people that see us for exactly who we are. Celebration, community, the collective. Letting ourselves be witnessed, sharing our triumphs and our sorrows.

4 of Cups

4 of Cups: Setting boundaries in relationships, pulling away from intimacy, feeling bored or restless with our current position. Isolating the self, feeling lonely, or wanting to be selfish with our emotions. Holding back.

5 of Cups

5 of Cups: Loss, grief, sorrow, mourning. A recognition that something has changed in a way that we did not want, an acknowledgment of some hope being lost. Space for sadness while also recognizing all that is still present.

6 of Cups

6 of Cups: Remembering happier times, exploring old memories, digging into the past. Play, childhood, nostalgia, joy, simple pleasures. Finding magic again.

7 of Cups

7 of Cups: Getting lost in our own imaginations, indulging in fantasies, losing touch with reality, or delaying making an important decision. Dreaming of possible futures. Learning the difference between dreams and reality, paying attention to illusions.

8 of Cups

8 of Cups: Choosing to walk away from a difficult or harmful situation. Abandoning something that no longer serves us. Choosing the self, starting a new journey, leaving something negative behind.

Recognizing when growth is not possible.

9 of Cups

9 of Cups: Comfort, pleasure, feeling pleased with where we are and how far we have come. Wishes coming true, even as we recognize that we have a few more dreams that we are hoping to achieve.

Delight, satisfaction, contentment.

10 of Cups

10 of Cups: Beautiful community, joyful partnerships, a sense of deep joy and happiness. Reciprocity, giving and receiving energy in equal measure. Feeling completely supported. Fulfillment.

Page of Cups

Page of Cups: A child of water, bringing news of a new creative opportunity, romantic connection, or community invitation. Artistic explorations, new beginnings, an opening of the heart.

Knight of Cups

Knight of Cups: An adolescent of water known for optimism, romance, dreamy fantasy, and wearing emotions on their sleeve. Pursuing an ideal, chasing after a conquest, taking on a new challenge, being willing to take a risk for love.

Jealousy, getting lost in imagination, a need for balance.

Queen of Cups

Queen of Cups: A ruler of water brimming with love, kindness, compassion, empathy, sensitivity, and artistic gifts. Deeply intuitive, trusts themselves. A teacher, artist, and an excellent listener.

King of Cups

King of Cups: A ruler of water with a powerful understanding of emotion. Strength, resilience, a willingness to share emotions and support those that need it. Someone who leads with their heart, who isn’t afraid of what they feel. An intuitive authority. Deep care.

Working With Cups

For a lot of people, seeing cards from the suit of cups is a joyful thing. After all, love is one of the most popular topics for tarot readings, and many people want to know more about the connections they may find and develop throughout their lives.

But it’s important to remember that these cards also have a lot to teach us about how we experience the world, the impact that art and beauty, and connection and sensitivity can have on us. Spend time with these cards individually, and consider the lessons they may hold for you as an individual rather than just focusing on what they may have to say within the context of relationships.

Which cards in this suit are you the most drawn to, and why? How do you understand the journey of the suit of cups? How do these court cards feel different than those of other suits?

This post features cards from the Fountain Tarot.

Related article: All About the Wands in Tarot

About The Author

Meg Jones Wall

Meg Jones Wall (she/her) is a queer photographer, writer, and tarot reader based in NYC. She is a columnist and contributor at Autostraddle, shares daily card studies and original tarot spreads as 3am.tarot on Instagram and recently launched a tarot newsletter, devils & fools. She is currently working on her first book and is available for personal readings and writing opportunities through her website.
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