And which Tarot card has the darkest shadow, the deepest warning?
For me that is always the 6 of cups.
Have you ever taken the time to really gaze at this card? I don't mean some of the more sugery, cute decks. I mean the Rider-Waite deck.
Look at how the buildings seem to dominate, overwhelm, and could I say trap?
Look at the man in the background with the spear, firmly striding away.
Look at the figures- are they children? Notice the red hood and mittens.
And look carefully at the cross. A Saint Andrews cross, to the best of my knowledge the only one in the Rider-Waite deck (do let me know if you've spotted one else where)
How do you feel about this card now? Does it still only mean nostalgia, childhood and happy memories, or could it have another, deeper meaning. Are you feeling slightly unsettled yet?
Lets go back a moment.
Happy childhood memories.
How quickly that runs off the tongue, yet who doesn't have at least some fearful dark memories from childhood?
Who never felt terrified- even if only of dark shadows and potential loss?
My experience is most people experience at least one trauma as a child, whether that was loss of a parent, parental illness, loss of a loved Grandparent, moving home or school, close friend moving away.
Then there is the childhood fears and sadness that can not be explained, or justified. A simple fear that has no root or meaning, but was felt just as deeply.
And that's the trauma children can experience with loving parent/s doing the best they can.
Childhood is, despite nostalgic images, a difficult time.
I did warn you it was a card with a big shadow...
So lets look at all those symbols again.
A red hood is an important fairy tale symbol, a tale about a little girl who is learning about the complexities of growing up. If you would like to dig deeper into this tale there is a great blog post here.
If you would like to remember how scary fairy tales can be for younger children two modern films recreate that fear for adults- both based upon a red hood...
Don't Look now
Company of Wolves
The St Andrews Cross is also know as the Martyrs cross, from stories that he asked to be crucified upon a crux decussata because he felt unworthy to be crucified. Whether this is true or not, the Rider-Waite deck was designed and written by two Roman Catholics, so it is only sensible to presume they were knowledgeable about Christian mythology.
It's hard to put into words, but when I first researched this card it took several weeks of gazing, meditating and researching then all the parts came together.
All children are martyred in one way or another. I am meaning the idea of martyr to mean "a person who suffers greatly"
With luck and good fortune a good enough parent will need to martyr their child as they grow older. Many parents try to give their children a sense of protection and security by protecting them from outside issues and consequences, which as they grow older children will need to face.
As an example, several years ago i discovered my 18 month year old was eating a chocolate bar he had taken from a shop whilst I was pushing him in his buggy. Although I did talk to him about shops and asking, I didn't "punish" him- I should have been more aware and responsible.
If my 13 year old took chocolate from a shop- It would be a whole different situation. She would need to face consequences for her actions (not that she ever has i would like to point out)
Many children suffer an early martyrdom despite the best of intentions from their parent/s. Illness, poverty, family breakdown can cause trauma that impacts a child. Of-course a supportive parent or family can help the child to cope in a positive way, reducing the ongoing effect of the trauma.
Sadly some children are martyred by their parents, through neglect, abuse, or perhaps simply a lack of bonding and emotional care.
The man walking away symbolizes the martyrdom to me. At some point we must all leave our children to the world and trust that they will seek us out when they need us.
Hopefully we leave our children to survive in gentle stages as they grow ready, but that is not always possible.
The overbearing buildings, the odd people neither quite one thing nor another reminds me of being a child. Memories of not understanding, being out of control, not knowing what was happening and not being able to influence my circumstances in anyway. Dark, distant memories of not knowing what was real and what was fantasy.
At the risk of sharing my own cultural references, there was one Dr Who episode that really captured for me a child's fear, and how it influences all adults. You can hear the main speech here
My experience is that sometimes (and I stress the sometimes) the 6 of cups can point to emotional issues from childhood that are now impacting adult life.
I need to point out this trauma may not be abuse or neglect, it could have been a family needing to move home, the death of a Grandparent, or just memories of feeling sad or scared for no specific reason. Sometimes there is no reason, and that is o.k.
But I have seen it many times now, the 6 of cups in a blocked position, or in the past paired with a difficult card, or perhaps unexpectedly cropping up time and time again. Its's as if the card is saying look to your past, find the root of pain, heal from the earliest point.
Much of the time the 6 of cups is about nostalgia and childhood memories. Either you are too focused on the past, or you need to look to your past to inspire the present.
But the number 6 is the number of generations, look carefully at all the 6's in the Rider-Waite deck, they all show people in un-equal relationships.
There is the possibility of control, power-play, abuse and neglect in all of the 6's....