We started our journey with herbs and tarot in the sharp and illuminating suit of swords.
Now it is time to visit the suit of cups and the realm of water.
We find ourselves in western quarter, where the sun sets each night, and we enter the realm of dreams, intuitive instinct, and the dissolution between “us” and “them.”
The Cups are the cards that look at what lies beneath the surface including secret pains, emotional heartache and triumphs, memory, and the stuff that makes up our inner world. The Cups can be sources of great nourishment and healing, helping us to reach depths we did not think possible, and revealing to us the complexity of our emotional resilience. They can also show us where we are struggling to stay afloat and how our inner and emotional world can feel out of control, far away or a sea storm of confusion.
When there are lot of Cups in a spread, I pay attention to what is brewing.
As someone with a lot of water in my birth chart and as a creature who grew up in coastal cultures, I’m always surprised by the overemphasis in tarot of water’s “wishy-washiness” and lack of ability to set boundaries or be tough. If you have ever been bowled over by a crashing wave and feel the force of our ocean planet slam you down into the sand, you have experienced the fierce strength of water.
Water is formless and therefore has the freedom to make many forms, whether that be the hammering might of a waterfall, the soft gurgling of a brook or hot, angry tears. Now, there are certainly moments when cup cards come up because someone has become too diffusive and need to set up firmer boundaries in their life, but they also appear to signify stagnation (where the emotions are not flowing and being released with ease) as well as emotional intelligence and strength.
All cards shown in this post are from The Collective Tarot.
In the realm of Cups, I turn to herbs that are soothing and moistening, helping the us to travel through the realm of water with clarity.
I welcome in plants that bring focus and pull energy in as well as herbs that bring release for it is very important that water has the freedom of ebb and flow. I also think about herbs that cultivate love which is something which we all deserve in great abundance.
Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a classic oily herb of traditional western herbalism, helping to move fluids throughout the body efficiently and with great ease. Paying attention to the fluids of our body is key – we are fluid-rich folks and rely on fluids (such as the blood) to deliver nutrients and warmth to all parts of our bodies. Too much stagnation of fluids in your body? Burdock helps get the fluid passageways of our bodies in shape. Too much dryness and lack of moisture? Burdock is a supreme moistening herb (remember, its often more fun with lubrication!).
What Burdock does, as a mucilaginous herb, is re-establish a healthy ebb and flow of the fluids of the body and in the process it clears the blood and passageways of toxic buildup and assists with the assimilation of nutrients. Skin complaints such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin can often be added by incorporating Burdock root into the diet or as a tincture or decoction. Whether you’re feeling emotionally dried out or stuck in the muck, Burdock might be the watery herbal ally for you.
Rose (Rosa damascena) has been in recorded medicinal use for thousands of years and I always think it is important to pull in ancient herbs when working with the element of water from which we all emerged on our ocean planet. The many-petaled flower is my herb of choice for diffusing the energies of the Cups suit. Rose is an astringent and cooling herb, making it an important remedy for excess water and fluid which has dampened the internal heat and vitality of the body and spirit. Rose is uplifting, soothing, and nourishing medicine for those who are weaker in their vitality, including some children, elders, and those in recovery from illness. Cold conditions that include sign of runny, drippy noses are especially helped by Rose. Rose can be used in cases of an overactive bladder, bedwetting, night sweats, and general excess excretion of fluids.
Since we are in the realms of cups, we must speak of Love in all its myriad forms, including romantic love, sacred love, righteous love, and sexual love. Rose is a delicious and effective aphrodisiac and it opens the heart and body to sensual experience. The herba and the flower essence is especially useful for those whose hearts have been closed (appropriately so) after years of struggle and heartache – it helps them find ways to love again and I feel that it very much pulls in the resources and community we need to grow that love. Like many aphrodisiacs, Rose has nervine and nourishing qualities which help to relax and soothe the body so that it may become ready and desirous of intimacy in all its forms.
The Cups Court Cards
Seeker of Cups: Mimulus
The Seeker of Cups is soft around the edges, contemplative, and inward-gazing. They have realized that their inner world is as interesting, if not more, than the world around them. These are the cloud-gazing kids, the quiet readers, the open-hearted sweeties who don’t always understand why everyone isn’t just kind to one another. The contemplation that these swimmers are engaged in requires a level of vulnerability most of us are taught to disavow and shut down from a young age. Sometimes, their vulnerability leads to them being taken advantage of in relationships, give away their power out of a sense of misplaced generosity, and never learn how to or forget how to stand up for themselves. The flower essence of Mimulus helps our cup-bearers to realize that speaking up for themselves and setting up clear boundaries in their lives allows them to be kinder and more vulnerable in ways that they are still supported in the long run. Mimulus is also an excellent remedy for all Cup cards in general because it alleviates anxiety, especially anxiety around known fears.
Apprentice of Cups: Lavender
The Apprentice of Cups has learned to deliver messages of an emotional nature with a slow and steady beat. Along the way they probably stopped for tea, watched the water of a river run gently by, and appreciated the way that sometimes when they’re really happy they cry. They are beautiful, sweet, and sensitive souls – the Apprentice of Cups has not been ground down by the emotional weight of the world which they sometimes try to carry. I find that folks who pull the Apprentice of Cups often can experience the “messenger syndrome” a lot in which they deliver messages of beauty, wisdom, and emotional vulnerability that freak other people out to the point that the messenger is blamed for the discomfort or difficulty of the revelation. Lavender Flower Essence is armor for Apprentice of Cups folks – it protects the most vulnerable areas of our emotional life while still allowing for vulnerability. Lavender also helps to protect from unwanted psychic burdens of friends, family, and strangers on the street, so Apprentice of Cups folks can continue taking time enjoy the sunlight glinting off the water without feeling burdened by the feelings of others walking by. For those experiencing a stagnation of emotions in their life and feel like they are swimming through murky waters, Lavender can be a light of clarity. Ultimately, Lavender strengthens our brave Apprentices, protecting their gentleness, and teaching them how to deliver their messages with a centered will.
Artist of Cups: Mugwort
While the Seeker and Apprentice of the Cups court can fall into the more diffused and vulnerable energy of cups, the Artist and Mentor of Cups represent water at some of its most powerful. The Artist of Cups pities no fools, though they certainly invite many in. Their focus is on understanding the power of their dreams, visions, intuitions, and not only their inner world, but the multiplicity of worlds that exist. The Artist of Cups is on a journey to the land beyond the waves and sometimes it can feel like the waves will never stop coming – there is just so much feels. When you are on a journey of knowing your dreams and the powers they bring and better understanding your intuition, Mugwort Flower Essence is a welcome guide. Mugwort delivers the right amount of bravery needed to journey to the depths, but also helps us not to get stuck below. The essence pulls energy inward and then up and outward in a oceanic ebb and flow helping us to go within and them come back to shore. It can remind the Artist of Cups that they should take a break for tea and cake every moon or so…
Mentor of Cups: Lotus
The Artist has looked up from their cauldron pot and now they are staring right at you. Right at the very core of your being. The Mentor of Cups can be intense and emotionally unwavering. They have come to tell us that it is time we felt our way through this and stop hiding from our own depths. The Mentor of Cups is not afraid of the emotional turmoil that they might face – they are afraid of not facing it. The Mentor of Cups embodies the great gift of the Cups suit to surface from the depths and have something to share with the world about what they learned. Lotus Flower Essence walks the same path helping us to arise from the deepest depths with brightness and clarity. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe we can choose to learn from what happens to us and how we happen to others. Lotus essence helps us find the wisdom we need to travel back and then move forward again with our lives. The essence can also help Mentor of Cups folk connect with others on a gentler emotional frequency – I like to think that the essence helps them to blink.
Water-based medicines are the remedies of Cups and herbal tea is one of the easiest forms to enjoy! The quality of your tea will be based on the quality of your herbs, so source the bestest herbs that you can using reputable companies if you’re buying or learning how to grow your own. Here’s how you make great tea:
Good herbs that have been properly stored in an airtight jar in a dark and cool location will keep the taste and medicinal quality of your herbs top notch. In general, flowers and leaves should be used within a year of drying, while roots, barks, and berries can last for about two years.
Start with fresh, cold water. I used purified water and I do not reboil water that has been sitting in the kettle. Use fresh, cold water each time for your tea as the oxygen-quality in the water is important for taste.
Put the kettle on and boil your water. For most herbal teas (also known as tisanes), you’ll want to use boiling water. Different black, red, green, and white teas require different tea temperatures. While having exact temperatures of your water does make a difference, it’s not required. For the curious, here’s an example of a tea temperature chart.
Before you put your tea in the teapot, warm up the teapot with some hot water and then pour the hot water out. This not only improves the consistency of the brewing, but wakes up your teapot. A groggy teapot is never a good thing.
Add your herbs of choice to the teapot and cover them with your boiling hot water. For every 1 cup of water, use 1 teaspoon of tea. For a medicinal dose of herbal tea, use 1 tablespoon of tea per 1 cup of water.
Brew times vary greatly, but generally for black, green, red, and white teas you should allow the tea to steep between 3 – 5 minutes. Herbal teas should be brewed for much longer – at minimum 15 minutes, but overnight can be optimal for many medicinal teas.
Finally, strain your tea, add any additional sweeteners or milks (I’ll let you decide if the milk should be poured into the teacup first or into the teacup after the tea has been poured – the debate rages on!) and enjoy!
How will you drink deep the liquid wisdom of the suit of cups? Post your experiences below as well as any questions you might have about the information already shared.
Next time we’ll be exploring the suit of wands and the element of fire. Until then, journey well, clever ones!
Alexis J. Cunningfolk (she/they) is an intersectional herbalist, witch, and weaver of remedies at Worts + Cunning Apothecary.