Face Up Tarot: Three Cups Reversed


Margarete Petersen Tarot, Osho-Zen Tarot, Tarot de St. Croix

What is Face Up Tarot?

When we lie face up, we are exposed. With our bellies facing the sky we lay open to whatever may befall us, be it travesty or ecstasy. With our backs against the ground we limit our options for avoidance or escape. We are poised to receive. Is it possible that in this position we might be more ready to listen to ourselves more deeply?

When we draw a card face up, consciously choosing the card rather than pulling at random, we lie face up to ourselves, belly up, backs against our realities. We are poised to receive our own stories, to affirm our lived experience, our present moment truth. Where is there to go, without the distraction of the future or the unknown, but into the depths of our own knowing? From this vantage point, we own each card, each card meaning, each life decision, and the beliefs that inform it all.

What to expect…

This series was inspired by a face up spread I did back in November in order to give me courage and focus . This series will explore face up cards and the many ways they can be used: to process events, to supplement random card pulls, to transform, incite courage, and to affirm. Under the umbrella topic of face up tarot, this series might contain new spreads, interviews, and wild poems. Expect awareness, empowerment, and courage-to-be themes. Authenticity. Vulnerability. Because to me, that’s what face up means.

Three Cups Reversed

The three of cups from my current favorite deck, the Tarot de St Croix, is more subdued than others.

Three figures sit at a table playing a board game. There are symbols, images of the moon, spiraling snakes. Mysticism is celebrated, but quietly. This is in direct contrast to the classical image of three dancing figures, raising their glasses in utter abandon. In popular culture this is what a celebration looks like: the raised glass, the dolled-up ladies, the socially-focused frolicking. Social means celebrate means nurtured. Or so it goes.

Until recently, I never frolicked like we normally see in the three of cups. Not without alcohol. There is still often a boundary. Is it introversion? Social anxiety? Or some kind of weird pride left over from growing up in NYC where every step needed to be perfect and polished, where I always needed to try to look good. How do I, as a somewhat socially awkward person, identify with this card? With the celebration it depicts?


A “Private” Celebration

I went to a women-only non-alcoholic dance party awhile back. I didn’t intend the evening to be the introvert date of the year, but that’s what it turned into. I went to dinner alone. I drank tea. It was like I was one third of the three women depicted on the three of cups in the Tarot de St. Croix.

Except that underneath the quiet loner exterior of an adult dining alone, was a goofy 11 year old girl ready to dance her heart out like it was 2 am at a friend’s sleepover. It doesn’t get much more three of cups reversed; not for me anyway.

There was tension at the start of the party. I tried to put the tension into words. The word was trust. I needed to trust the DJ, the dance floor. I needed to trust myself to open, to express. I needed to trust the crowd to receive that expression and to recede, to make room. I needed to trust that the party could contain – what does a space like this contain? – Desire. The desire of many. The dance floor is a place where desires converge and energy is raised: life force, sex, and art. All these things at once. Rather than it being solely about fun, feeling safe was of the utmost importance.

I found a quiet corner and removed my bulky turtleneck. Underneath I wore a long formless shirt dress and underneath that I wore spandex black leggings and a spaghetti strap top. Simple, statement-less. Meant to make dancing easy. Meant to be comfortable and, to an extent, not stand out. Meant to be shed later as I opened up but only after discerning what kind of party this was.

I wasn’t alone in this. Later, women would shed shirts, dresses, bras, shoes, inhibitions. Many layers would come off. There would always be something left, for sure. Some of us have invisible cages. Barriers to dancing. Barriers to dancing with others, to smiling, saying hello, yelling out, flirting. I marvel at the people that can completely release. I wonder if there are those who marvel at me that way, when I shed my layers, when I revel in my own joy and forget fear for a little while.


This dance, it was not the freedom of an ecstatic dance.

At an ecstatic dance, I don’t have as much mental commentary. There are no cages or concerns. There is no perception of group fear. At an ecstatic dance, movement is prime. Movement is the religion. Even dance is secondary. And in that genderless wiggly space people shout, writhe, explode, and experience the moment; I do too. No, this dance was not like that. We felt each other out. Women. Girls. Grandmothers. Queerfolk. GNC. Cis. Trans. Communing even within our respective cages, whether the bars were apparent or not.

I experienced a private celebration at this dance. Usually, I don’t go dancing. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t seek lovers. These things aren’t the linchpin of my social life anymore. I love movement and I love to dance but do not prefer the rest of what’s associated with “going dancing.” I expected, on some level, this dance to be different. I expected it to transcend any boundaries I associated with “going dancing.”

Because there would be no men and no alcohol, I thought it might be more like ecstatic dance. Cageless. It was not. Women carry their own cages with them it seems. Without outside assistance, without reinforcers. Myself included. But still the space, the evening, was worth celebrating.

It affirmed that I don’t need to deal with alcohol to love dancing or to dance. It affirmed that I don’t even need to love socializing to dance. It affirmed women are glittery, cautious, wild, sensual, handsome, playful, fun, and worth being with. I loved that. I loved myself at this dance. I loved watching us thaw and trust. I was able to be alone with these women. We carried our desires like so many cups, and raised them. To trust, communion, and play.

These could be said to be the trifecta illustrated in the three cups. The trust needed to own our desires, our creative expression, our life force; communion, as in absolute humanhood: the group cohesion we feel when all of us feel the same baseline tremor through the floor into the soles of our shoes; play as in joy, as in if we like it, we move toward it.

And why is the three of cups reversed?

The celebration is a personal one, experienced within. The party serves as a metaphor for an internal shift from fear to release and reclaiming. In order to open up, something had to be undone. Some boundary. Some restriction.

And so the three of cups reversed, in this case, is the unraveling of the something in the way of desire. I love to dance. That is ok. I don’t love to meet new people all the time. That is ok too. I can do both. All the celebrations count.


via pdpics.com

How do you imbibe?

A question I often ask in my tarot practice when working with the suit of cups: How do you imbibe? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Intellectually? Emotions drive the desire to imbibe. And yet we often are unaware of our the emotional needs. When we look for satisfaction, we do so unconsciously.

When we imbibe physically, we eat certain foods or maintain habits around fitness, sex, or touch. We use or do things to our body and we don’t always know the why behind it. The answer to the question – how do you imbibe? – will turn up in the cups you draw for yourself and which are drawn for you. What does celebration look like to you? A book and a quiet corner? An outdoor sensory adventure? A carnal indulgence? A commiseration? The smell of flowers from a lover wafting in while you work?

The answer will give you your own personal three of cups.



How do you celebrate? Comment below or tweet using #faceuptarot

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  1. Beth says:

    Siobhan – this post is so wonderful and as someone who has recently stopped loving ‘going out’ like I used to…and yet has felt that it must be a phase, it must just be an odd patch I’m going through, like something has been wrong with me, I felt so comforted and understood as I read your thoughts.

    I know this will resonate with introverts everywhere, and not just introverts, but anyone who has ever felt socially awkward, or like they just don’t have that ‘wild abandon’ tonight. Beautifully written and so moving. Thank you so much for sharing this xxx

  2. Thank you for your thoughts on this! Isn’t how funny how things change? I often turn down invitations to awesome sounding parties. Sometimes I feel isolated. It can be tricky, at times, to remember that while my standards for an event may mean that I get out a little less, when I do go out, the quality of the time spent is out of this world!! I’m just grateful that I live somewhere where there ARE events I’ll go to. You are welcome! I was psyched to go to this part and then psyched again to write about it!

  3. adrian says:

    this is a really great post! i only discovered tarot after depression made me even MORE introverted, so i’ve always kind of resented the 3 of Cups, but now i’m thinking about it totally differently. i’m excited that you’ve come on board LRT as a regular contributor!

  4. I hear you adrian, context is everything! There were times when, on rare occasions when I saw the 3 cups, I’d be like: -_- This is why I love to pull cards face up. I don’t have to wait for fate to shell out bliss to me and I don’t have to use standardized models for what life is like. I’m blown away to hear that you are excited that I’m here!

  5. Hah! ::Blushes a bit:: I think it’s because the practice itself is powerful. Many readers already incorporate face up cards. I think it’s really powerful and that there could stand to be more of it. I cannot wait to geek this practice a bit here.

  6. Marianne says:

    I’m going to have to join the introvert pile on here – one of the most liberating experiences in the last couple of years for me has been the realisation (and proclamation) that I dislike parties and don’t ever wish to go to them, so I just don’t anymore. Some people might think me a killjoy, but my actual friends get it now! Your take on the Three of Cups is such a great reminder that celebrations take on different forms, communion takes different forms… sometimes raising a glass with friends means raising a cup of herbal tea while sending a text message to a friend… then going back to reading your book in total silence. Ahh! It still counts, I think!

  7. Lara says:

    I printed out the 3 of Cups from The Fountain Tarot, just 4 x 6″ so sort of small, but right in the centre above my bed head. This card has three delicate (I think female) hands and wrists entwining holding three spilling cups. It’s this insinuating joyful closeness to me, and sounds like your story about dancing. I’m keeping it there, as, I suppose a kind of deliberate drawing too. I might add to it too, as time goes by and I want to add new feelings to that. Beautiful post.

  8. *Goes and looks at the three cups from the Fountain Tarot… When I looked at the image of the spilling cups, I thought that the pouring looks VERY conscious, almost slow. This called to mind consciously refilling the spiritual/emotional cup. The other fascinating thing about this version is if you suspend the usual concept of time and space (and something about this deck ALWAYS has me thinking of doing that!) this could be one single hand, replenishing in different ways. I don’t own this deck. I had to steal my roomies to peek at this image. I’m grateful for your mentioning it here! It added a sweet layer of intentionality to my “three cups story.” Ty for your thoughts!!

    • Lara says:

      Ah Siobhan, yes! What a great idea, the same hand in different time. It is very conscious for me because I also consciously “emptied all my cups” a la 8 of Cups in order to “fill them up” in a really specific way, just recently.

  9. Corinna says:

    Rainbows from Hawaii,
    I really enjoyed your post as well as your idea to choose cards that is in your moment. I never thought to do readings that way. However I enjoyed it very much and will share your idea with my group. I feel that learning your method of reading will make us more rounded and open to a more concrete interpretation of tarot. Thank you for this brilliant idea and I look forward to more!

  10. Madelene Antrim says:

    Lots of points resonate here. The introversion. The sobriety. The cage. After my daughter died five years ago my life shifted in ways I’d never imagined. I’m still coming out of that grief. I lost my career and life’s passion, I lost jobs, I lost my marriage (which was actually the shucking off of a shell and good and necessary, but still a loss). I became an introvert (I was a social butterfly prior to her death). I’m only just starting to come out the other side. Still so much work to do, but I can now enjoy (celebrate) the joy of a night at home with my cards and a cup of tea, rather than a glass of champagne and the raucous crush of a hundred other inebriated revelers. The later isn’t bad, per se, it’s just different, and not where I’m at right now.

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