Last year I incurred a traumatic brain injury that completely zapped me of energy for the better part of a year. I was finally released from occupational therapy late last year, and as I was planning for 2019 I knew I wanted a big, happy, joyful year to make up for a year I more or less missed. I was elated when I sat down to pull my Card of the Year and got the Ace of Vessels from the Slow Holler Tarot. Since learning tarot over a decade and a half ago (yikes, time flies!) I have always looked to the Chalices for emotional healing and support so I knew it was a good sign if this card of a vessel overflowing with love and support was kicking off my new year and my release from TBI treatment.
Chalices correlate to the suit of water. Water is heart based energy. Often this is the suit when we see relationships with other people, romance (and love of all types), art and emotions get their turn front and center. Because I believe the tarot is best used as a tool for healing, I most often read this suit as a larger narrative about one’s journey towards emotional healing. All of us are, or should be striving for healing. All of us have been hurt at one time or another. All of us have to deal with an unhealthy and often toxic society that sends hurtful and negative thoughts about ourselves into our minds. This is ESPECIALLY true for marginalized people in marginalized communities. It’s especially true if you’re someone who’s likely to be reading this series. If you’re interested in tarot for collective healing, you probably recognize the need for it.
I want to back up a little bit. I talked about this suit being a narrative of our journey. I worded it this way because the way I learn a new tarot deck and teach tarot is based on principles of storytelling. I also read based on the Celtic principles of our life being comprised of one big cycle, but several smaller cycles therein. (Obviously the Celts did not create this concept but I know the most about their relationship with life happening in cycles because of my own spiritual path.) This means that even though I teach students to learn how to tell their story with the tarot first, that doesn’t mean that is the only time those messages are applicable to you. You are ALWAYS in the middle of a story. You are probably always at the beginning of a different story and the end of yet another story and somewhere else entirely (a fun side quest maybe?) in another several stories. Our lives are comprised of thousands of different moving parts, and learning tarot is about learning how to address the parts most pressing right now.
This series is one about collective healing though, so it’s important to note where we are in each other’s life cycles whenever we’re able to do so. How are we helping or hindering someone else’s growth? When are we behaving like a stingy Four of Pentacles when really what our loved ones need from us in an open Two of Cups energy? How can we give back to our community and the world from where we are right now? The Cups most often address wherever we are in our personal emotional journey but as you read through the next few paragraphs, I don’t want you to forget the impact that your heart and your journey might have on someone else’s.
Healing is not linear, and neither is the suit of Cups when we’re undertaking a storytelling journey with it. I would love to say “Start at the Ace and work your way through to the Ten and tell a clean, lovely story with a perfect beginning, middle, and end” but that just isn’t isn’t possible. Instead, the way I want to address the Cups as a mode of healing is encourage you to lay out your Ace through Ten in order and just sit with them for several minutes. Notice the unique emotions in each one. You’ll likely see:
Hope in the Ace
A sense of balance in the Two
Joy in the Three
Disconnection in the Four
Heartache in the Five
Nostalgia in the Six
Overwhelm or Confusion in the Seven
Bittersweetness in the Eight
Relief and Happiness in the Nine
And Genuine Contentedness in the Ten
The emotions you note based on the art of your cards, how you read the cards, and your own life experiences and mood may mean your listed emotions look different than mine. That’s okay! Trust your own intuition, I just know some readers really like to have a quick reference as they find their own tarot footing.
Once you have the baseline emotions, think about your current (or most recent) emotional or spiritual healing journey. Think about the inciting incident that made you go into that journey. Which card represents that moment? At which points did you feel the listed emotions? Move the cards around so that they’re in an order that makes sense for you and that journey. Hopefully you still end on a positive card, but this is your journey. It’s okay to heal from things and still be bitter that they happened. What’s most important is that there’s a stop and start — even if you haven’t hit your stop yet. Take a deep breathe and close your eyes for a couple of moments. Look at your cards anew when you open them. What do you see now that can help you or guide you through the next stage of your healing journey? Which cards are you working through or feeling now in that journey and which cards are you still hoping to achieve? What does your newly ordered Cups suit tell you about what to do and how to frame your next stage? Take some notes and do some tarot journaling around all of this if you’re able to. Pick a Cups card to sit on your mirror or your altar and remind yourself of your healing goals.
While all of us are continually growing and healing and evolving, there will come a time when you are healed enough to move on from regular exercises like this. In that time, the above exercises and journal questions should still be useful, specifically in gearing them towards collective healing. What communities are you a part of, and where has oppression and collective trauma manifested lately? Go through the same exercises above but now frame yourself as a member of a community. Which cards represent where you’re still hurting from this oppression and which ones represent where you have something to offer or give back right now? Don’t overstep or give into white saviorism with this. Know your place and your role in the movement. The Cups cards from beginning to end -however yours end up being numbered – can still help you heal from this trauma yourself AND offer your heart to your community to aid in their healing.