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Tarot Tutorial - Six Swords vs Eight Cups

Yoga Classes in Gibsons, BC - Integrative Healing with Sadhana

Cards with Similar Keywords or Meanings

In the study of tarot, you will find several pairs of cards that have similar meanings. Today, I'll look at the two cards of "moving on". For the most part, regardless of the deck or suit we look at, in each of the cards something is being left behind, there is a journey involved and the destination or outcome is unknown. While the basis of the meaning may be learned by studying a traditional deck, I have found that the nuances that are found when you spend time with the same card in multiple decks, subtle, deeper or slap-in-the-face significant layers of meaning are revealed. This not only makes you a better reader, but if you love cards the way I do, it is good fun, too!

Swords is the suit of the element of air, which represents the intellect, communication and the truth and, as we are all well aware, the truth IS a double edged sword. I do not usually refer to this suit as the suit of the "mind" as this is such an ambiguous word that includes consciousness, the understanding of intellect versus wisdom and how the ego plays its role in all of this. Swords is a complicated suit from which we must extract our own truth and learn to become comfortable with the consequences of our decisions. There is a tremendous amount of courage needed to navigate this suit. You need to be ready to deal with your issues, look at your SELF in the mirror and understand that each of the hardships you experience is a gift, chosen by you, to move forward on your soul journey.

The element of air is the element of the heart chakra. The suit of swords however, is also related to issues of the throat (truth, communication) and third-eye chakra (clear vision), which is why meanings can become very confusing in the tarot. You would assume that the heart chakra is connected to the suit of cups. In one respect it is, but in a different way it is connected to the swords. The heart chakra sits in the centre of the lower and upper chakras. It is the union of our earthly and divine experiences. It is also the centre of the Tree of Life and the sefirot of beauty known as Tiferet. The interconnection of elements, suits, symbols and numbers mean that each tarot spread or reading has multiple possible interpretations and must be related to both the querent's question and the surrounding cards.

Cups, on the other hand, is the suit of water. Water represents the emotions, all of them, as well as intuition. As you are undoubtedly aware, every card in the tarot has a light as well as a shadow side. For every positive emotion, there is a negative counterpart. It is much like the eleventh card in the major arcana "The Wheel of Fortune"; sometimes we are up on top of the wheel and sometimes we are down. Sometimes we are on the way up; sometimes we are heading downward. The river is always moving, or at least let's hope so, for we know what happens when the waters become still and stagnant.

The element of water is the element of the sacral chakra. It is our connection to the divine feminine, our sexuality and creativity. (And - yes, creativity is greatly associated with the suit of wands as well.) It is the portal into this reality and the home of unconscious memories. How the emotions associated with the sacral chakra are different from emotions of the heart chakra is a matter of spiritual development. Raw passion, the need to procreate and experience all life has to offer is sacral chakra exploration. In the heart chakra, you move beyond the duality of the emotions. It is the home of unconditional love, faith and the gateway to divinity. So in the suit of cups, we explore the full range of emotions to move toward our own divinity. Each of the suits has a path to spirit and each has its flaws. The object is to learn the lessons and move towards balance.

Six of Swords follows the five of swords where you have experienced a battle or confrontation intellectually, mentally or even emotionally. Remember that air=heart chakra, moving towards balance of earthly existence and coming to terms with your spirituality. So, it is possible that this battle challenged who you are at a very fundamental level. And, whether you won or were defeated, in the six of cups, you have decided to move on. You have decided that the time for battles is over. In most decks, you will see the swords being carried forward in a boat. One of the questions to ask is what do the swords represent for you and why are you taking them with you? Are you the boatman or the passenger (or the child if there is one)? You have made a decision to move forward. You are courageous. You have no idea what lies ahead, but in your mind (there's that multi-layered word again), you know it is your only choice. You are rising above and moving on.

Let's look at the images from a few different decks:

(Top row L to R)

Anna K: The boatman or boatwoman is carrying the swords AND driving the raft. The raft is moments away from reaching still water and the shore ahead is within sight.

Beautiful Rebellion: Loved ones have been left behind. This is a personal journey, but you have acknowledged them with a wave.

Deviant Moon: The swords are part of your vehicle for moving forward. The land ahead appears to be the land behind after the flames of the battle have died. I cannot help but comment here that we need to resolve our issues. They will continue to be repeated until they are processed. It could be that you are battle-weary and need time and space to process everything. But know that if the issues that were the root of the "battle" were not resolved, that you will face them in another form on the next shore.

Everyday Witch: Three witches are on the run, leaving the situation of the five behind. Energetically they are being carried forward by the wind (air). The moon is full, which is a perfect time to shed whatever needs to be shed. The autumn leaves also symbolize the natural order of things coming to an end.

Guardian: A feminine tree takes one last glance back to the moon for guidance (perhaps) before she turns and moves on. She alone is responsible for carrying the child apparition to the next world. If I layer this nuance onto a more traditional deck, it gives me compassion for the one in the boat who decided it was time to go.

(Bottom row L to R)

Lumina: Beyond the dark forest, the stars shine brightly in the night sky. The swords appear to be left behind or perhaps they delineate the path to the new land. Whether you are still moving through the dark forest or you have glanced upwards and begun to follow a star, this beautiful artwork feels hopeful.

Osho Zen: Keyword: The Burden. Do you need to take everything with you on this journey? Is it not time to lighten your load? I always saw this card as a lesson for the exhausted one at the bottom of the "pile", but is the one on his shoulders not carry a burden as well? The rigorous uphill journey may be an illusion.

Sasuraibito: The woman in this card is not travelling, but coming g up for a breath of air. Is that not how it feels sometimes when you leave a horrible situation behind? Finally, you can breathe again. The swords may still feel like they are poking at you, but you are on your way and moving in the right direction.

Sidhe: Keyword: Insight's Voyage. Lots of powerful symbolism in this variation of the six of swords. The single sword is pointing upwards, the sun in shining, the (wise) owl rests at the bow of the boat. The boat is guided and protected by unseen forces. I like this variation as it is a clear reminder that often these battles the result of false perceptions or beliefs and that moving forward is a journey of trust in something greater.

Eight of Cups follows a card of delusion - seeing what is not really there. The illusions in the seven of cups have been created by an imbalance. As with most cards, there is a range of possible interpretations. Too much emotion is physically exhausting. The energy it took to keep the eight cups full, upright and in balance was likely not a two-way street (co-dependent relationship perhaps) and you are feeling the effects of the attachment or depletion. Unlike the six of swords, this is a solo journey, one that will take you to a place where you will face your own darkness and come out on the other side lighter and more in balance. Bringing the sacral chakra into balance involves finding the patterns you have been repeating and beginning to see them from a wider perspective, so you can learn from them and move on. This is an inward journey.

Let's look at the images from the same decks as above:

(Top row L to R)

Anna K: The figure departs in the night focused on the path ahead. Whether he is leaving behind overprotective parents or a failed relationship, whatever has come to an end, it is time to leave to discover who he really is.

Beautiful Rebellion: The time for mourning is over; it is time to find your freedom. It is fine to cherish the past but now is the time to be present and do the healing work.

Everyday Witch: Another interpretation may be that what is being left behind wasn't enough. She has set off on a journey to discover what is missing. The shadow side could be one of perfectionism where she is seeking the ninth cup, which will complete the top row. Unfortunately, this could go on and on building up a third tier and so on.

Deviant Moon: This image is more definitive. She has had enough of her old way of being and recognizes that it was far from perfect.

Guardian: The roots must be broken in order to move on and that likely will cause pain. This is not the kind of landscape that will allow her to flourish. She glances at the network she has built but knows that the sun will guide her to a new place where she will find healthier soil to root her branches.

(Bottom row L to R)

Lumina: A leap of faith is needed to cross the divide. Trust that one's own inner journey is the most important gift one can give oneself and if you are willing to take that leap, spirit will be there to guide you.

Osho Zen: Keyword: Letting Go. It's a seemingly long fall for the drop of water to become one with the pond, but that is where she will find her divinity, where she will discover that in letting go of the past, she will no longer feel separate.

Sasuraibito: This card reminds me of a true story. A young woman arrives in India. She is on her way to an ashram and something inspires her to shave her head before she gets on the train. In India, a barber is not allowed to shave a woman's head, but somehow she manages to find someone up to the task. On the dirty streets of Kolkata, her head is shaved. Her hair is thrown into the road along with all the other trash. The woman returns to her room where she looks in the mirror and cries as she says hello to herself for the first time.

Something else that caught my eye recently: "Nappily Ever After" on Netflix. I haven't seen it yet but it appears to be the same message.

Sidhe: Keyword: Escaping Stagnation. Earlier I mentioned that it is important to keep the water (the emotions) moving. E-motion is energy in motion! If we pause for too long putting too much energy into something and it doesn't flourish or it doesn't make our heart soar, we will begin to rot or die in or with it.

If you enjoyed this card comparison, you may want to try this method with another pair. If you are not sure how to apply chakra psychology or the energy of the elements, it is one of my passions and I would be happy to prepare a tutorial just for you. I appreciate your comments and feedback.

Your personal tutorial can be booked on my Etsy Shop @SadhanasHealingRoom.

Namaste and stay well, Sadhana


Integrative Healing with Sadhana offers instruction and guidance as a full healing package or you can choose individual practices such as Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Space Clearing or Intuitive Readings in Gibsons BC. ​Either way, you will be met exactly where you are at and together, we will adapt practices to fit your individual needs improving your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.


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