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The Llewellyn Journal
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Ten of Cups

This article was written by Rachel Pollack
posted under Tarot

Element: Water

Sephirah: Malkuth (Kingdom) sephirah ten in Beriah (Creation)

Pythagorean: Decad, higher unity, greater consciousness

Major Arcana: Wheel of Fortune, Judgment

Rider Theme: Excess

Golden Dawn Title: Perfected Success

Decan: 21-30 degrees Pisces, Ruled by Mars

Picatrix: Pleasure, fortification, of quietness and of peacemaking

As a number beyond the completion of nine, ten can have the meaning of an excessive degree of the quality of the suit, so that it is likely to change over into something else. We find this idea in the I Ching, the Chinese oracle, that when something reaches its extreme, it is about to change, sometimes into its opposite. The Rider seems to take up this idea with the tens. Hopefully, this is less the case with the Ten of Cups than with any of the others (we probably would want the Ten of Swords to change into its opposite), because this card shows a joyous family. The positive emotional quality of the suite shows us a simple scene. There is no mansion for these people, but also no burdens. The parents are conscious of all they have, holding up their arms to the cups arrayed in the rainbow, while the children dance freely. I followed this idea for my own Ten of Rivers in The Shining Tribe Tarot deck, though there the house is drawn realistically, to suggest that the happiness has roots in reality, is not fleeting.

We would expect something joyous from the Pythagorean interpretation as well, for the decad is their highest number, with such titles as “Heaven…Eternity…Power.” Since ten is the sum of 1+2+3+4, the decad contains all the elements. At the same time, the Ten of Cups emphasizes water. So we might ask, how would the Ten of Cups show the emotional coming together of different aspects of life?

The Kabbalist idea of ten is almost the opposite of the Pythagorean, stressing that Malkuth, the physical world, is the furthest from the perfection of one, Kether. However, a more positive view looks at ten as the reality number, the place where qualities of the suit take form in our lives. Here, the Rider seems to go well, with the idea that family happiness is what can emerge in life if Cups fulfills its possibilities.

READINGS—One of the happiest cards in the deck, in pretty much whichever system we use. Emotional connections, fulfillment. It is probably not a card of great wealth but rather of simple pleasures.

REVERSED—There may be something that calls into question or threatens a person’s happiness. More likely, it seems to me, the reversed Ten would mean that someone does not recognize what she or he has.

From Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings by Rachel Pollack

Rachel PollackRachel Pollack
Rachel  is considered one of the World’s foremost authorities on the modern interpretation of the Tarot. She is also a poet, an award-winning novelist, and a Tarot card and comic book artist. She has published 12 books on the Tarot, including 78...  Read more


Rachel Pollack's Tarot Wisdom
Rachel Pollack's Tarot Wisdom
Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings
Rachel Pollack
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