Is the Tarot de Marseille Suit of Cups about Romance?
Since the Ace announces the energy of its suit, let’s look at some Aces of Cups to see if they conjure up romantic associations.
In the image above, the 1830 Vergnano ace is a big bowl of flowers. The Avondo Brothers 1880 knock-off of the soprafino pattern (published by Lo Scarabeo as the Ancient Italian Tarot) has a cherub popping out of the window in a fancy urn. Green dolphins, sacred to Aphrodite, play around the base. Claude Burdel’s 1751 ace (from the Universal Tarot de Marseille by Lo Scarabeo) is energetic and cheerful, with a phoenix rising from a fire under a bright sun. To my mind, all three cards conjure up love, romance and friendship.
Then there’s the standard Tarot de Marseille, first published by Nicolas Conver in 1760 (shown here: Lo Scarabeo’s Ancient Tarots de Marseilles). Those pointed towers could be cathedral spires or castle battlements. They create a forbidding, walled enclosure that seals the interior off from the rest of the world. Perhaps the walls are the boundaries of an isolated town, or a very insular community. For me, the card implies withdrawal behind barriers and a fear of intimacy.
What’s the story in the rest of the Conver suit of cups? How does the ace’s energy play out in cards two through ten? It starts out romantically enough. Cards two and three seem to be about falling in love, getting married and starting a family. But how does the story end in cards nine and ten? Nine cups are arranged in neat rows like little tin soldiers or a church choir. Some decks lack vines, giving this card a sterile feeling. In other deck styles, the vines section off the cups, isolating each one in its own cubbyhole. In card ten, the rows of cups work together to hold up a cup that’s tipped over. Or perhaps they are all looking up in awe at something larger than life flying overhead.
Rather than love, bliss and finding your soulmate, the Conver TdM cups show a progression from isolation, to a couple, to a nuclear family, to integration with a larger family or clan, then losing one’s individuality in a community that demands conformity and sacrifice for the common good.
Try this: lay out the suit of cups in numeric order. What kind of energy is the Ace offering? How does it play out through the rest of the suit? What story do you see in the sequence? Tell us what you discover in the comments below.