Riding hard – the Ten of Cups

Today I drew the Ten of Cups, from the incredible Mary-el Tarot by Marie White. Well, frankly I’ve never seen such a terrifying image, and especially not on a card that normally depicts smoochy couples and cute kids. Ew.

The Mary-el Ten of Cups gives us a wild scarlet horse, twisting and leaping, its mane flaming snake-like around it. The horse emerges from a thick black cloud which seems to weigh upon its hind like rock.

Above this is a hideous mother-and-child – grinning skeletons wrapped in a maternal embrace, tendrils of black cloud snaking about their bones. The mother tips away a cup of blood-red wine as she gazes down at her baby.


The Ten of Cups, from the Mary-el Tarot by Marie White

The Ten of Cups is a card I often struggle with. Too frequently, it seems to suggest that the pinnacle of human happiness is the whole marriage, house and babies shebang – a repressive and irritating way to depict emotional fulfilment. So I sometimes read this card as an indication of societal expectations of these things, so often a source of conflict and confusion in a querent’s life.

So what the hell is going on with Mary-el? Marie White describes that for her, the Ten of Cups is a message to appreciate the good things we have. The card centres around understanding that life is temporal, that death is a huge part of life and that we will all ultimately die. If we can truly comprehend this and get over it, we are free to live happy and fulfilling lives:

The Mother and Child are Memento Mori which in Latin means to remember your own mortality. Death comes for each of us equally and often without warning; one should always be prepared for it and should live life to the fullest every day, carpe diem.

This card seeks to capture the full spectrum of experiences that make up our lives: ‘love, joy, relationships, emotions, peace, interconnectedness and their opposites, war, loss, grief, sadness, suffering, separation.’

I love this focus on living life to the full and experiencing this whole spectrum of emotions. When I think of my friends, those I love the dearest are those who live hard, who love hard, who feel everything…hard, strong. They do not fear or shy away from the difficult experiences, because this would reduce the opportunity to feel the very best that life can offer.

And finally, what of that red horse? It is a heart pumping blood – a beautiful metaphor to tie this card together:

The red horse is the heart, his thundering hooves the smooth beat of the turning wheel which pumps the blood, drawing in and pushing out the ancient bloodline. Every one of us rides this horse in our short lives.

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  1. Little Red says:

    They are – hard and harsh, but to me that’s really beautiful, not everyone’s cup of tea though. I find a lot of the book impenetrable to be honest – I’m so ignorant about mythology that it mainly goes over my head. I’m really trying to pick apart my own understanding of the images without relying too much on the book….however it’s still full of amazing insights like the quotes above…

  2. purpleninja says:

    Beth, I am beginning your course again with this new deck. This was my first draw. This is my meaningful card for this time in my life.

    I live my life meekly, trying not to step on others, rather be stepped on. This causes problems, like resentment and depression. Who gets the brunt of this? My family.

    This card reminds me to take off that ‘happy go lucky’ mask at work, even pour out my wrath there. Then, when at home, I am more free to feel the joy and love I have been taking for granted.

    Death to the EGO! Your own rules do not work for your soul!

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