Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Sage of Cups

The Sage or King of Cups in a tarot deck is an ambivalent figure, always hiding something.  He usually represents someone in Art or Law.  It is said that he is uncomfortable in his own suit--a water suit--because at base his soul is fiery.  But though he's become a master of the suit of cups, he is always pretending.  He could be a figure that has repressed his own dreams in order to succeed in the world materially.  He's very good at what he does:  advising others, healing disputes, directing others.  He is the consummate diplomat, a respected leader, although he also has a fiery temper that sometimes surfaces. 

I like to think of the Sage of Cups, which is what this figure is called in the World Spirit tarot deck,  as an artist who has taken on a larger role that involves administration--a poet who has become the Poet Laureate, a writer who directs the NEA (or serves as an MFA program head!), an artist who runs a press or nonprofit.  Maybe he's a teacher, a literary translator, an editor of an anthology:  the idea is that the essential, inner directed work of the writer or artist is turned outward to help others.

I understand the ambivalence of this figure only too well.  I am in love with the compassion he shows to others, his generosity, his willingness to share what he has learned.  But I fear his own creative fire has been reduced to a pilot light that burns, but not brightly enough to sustain the fire he needs to for his own spirit.  The image of the Sage of Cups invites us to think about the balance of fire and water we might need to find in our own lives.  

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