When I started writing my Tarot course I made a determined effort to study each tarot card in the Rider-Waite deck.
Not through reading books, I had read meany, many excellent books. But through just gazing at each card, and letting my mind explore the image.
Some cards were really surprising- - WHY hadn't I realsied before that the High Priestess was the card of my personal deity- Hel? I felt really stupid at that moment.
The 6 of cups sent me on a two week depression, which is why I still talk about it as "The darkest card in the deck" You can read my blog on the 6 of cups here.
I almost started throwing things as I tried to engage with the most annoying court-card, the dreamy, mostly useless Queen of cups (I know she has many wonderful gifts, she is also my shadow card, working with her was personally quite painful. I am working on clear boundaries.)
Then I also noted all those amazingly beautiful little details, which made me fall in Love with Rider-Waite (or perhaps more accurately Pamala Colemen Smith) all over again. The mis-matched boots in the 7 of wands, the beautiful symmetry in the 3 of swords, and the way that I loved the lead character in the 5 of swords.
One detail that really grabbed me was the bridge that links the hopeful, happy, party card- the 4 of wands- with the sadness & grief of the 5 of cups.
The more I compared the cards, the more convinced I was that I was looking at the same scene from different angles- with that bridge as the point of reference.
I wanted to consider how this one detail could deepen my understanding of both cards.
In the 4 of wands;
I see this as a celebration, a harvest, a party, perhaps a marriage. There are several people in the far left of the card- it is as if the community has come together to celebrate something.
In daily readings I often see this as taking the time to celebrate small success- because when we pause to celebrate success it improves our confidence, lifts out spirits, and makes the next success a little easier. You know what they say- what you focus on will be magnified (or you attract where your thoughts lie).
The more I connected this idea of celebrating success, the more I realized that there must be a time to put the martini glass down & get back to work. Often when I am gazing at cards I get a sense of the card moving, and now I felt that late Sunday afternoon, sunny, lazy feeling. You know the feeling, dulled senses with an impending feeling of doom because you know that really you should be getting on with some very important stuff- but hey one more beer (or box-set) and you really will get on with it.
If you want to know how the 4 of wands really feels when you have stayed in this card for a little too long there is a song that describes it far better than me, The Kinks, Sunny Afternoon (you can hear it here.)
Put bluntly, celebration is great, important, and much needed. But there comes a point when you have to cross that bridge & face real life again, with all its difficulties, hard work, disappointments & failure.
So lets look at the 5 of cups. Much of the symbolism is quite clear, something is lost (or perhaps willfully destroyed in a fit of temper?) but there is still much left in the 2 cups left standing.
But what of the bridge. The first thing the bridge does for me is highlight the river. The same river that flows near the Empress, the river of life. A reminder that life is always flowing, moving- even when we are stuck.
I often get a feeling of stuckness with the 5 of cups.
Someone either stuck in grief, self-sabotaging opportunities to preserve the dark cloud above them (perhaps they kicked the cups over in a fit of passionate rage- the fluid is red & green the colors of rage & envy)
Maybe they are crying in their heart, hurt form loss and sadness- but living with a false smile, the gloss of "I'm alright" . Never actually able to feel joy, because the grief is still stuck inside them.
Now for me the bridge is a reminder that the 5 of cups- a card of grief & sorrow - is not a place to linger too long. Sadness needs to be acknowledged, expressed, and then life needs to be lived again.
Perhaps the one thing the bridge reminds me is that in the end life is for living, through the best of times & the worst of times, we just have to keep moving forward. One step at a time.
I also have a you-tube video exploring the image of the bridge between the two cards, you can find that here