Alternative approaches to the Ten of Cups

As the final card in the Cups sequence, the Ten of Cups tends to be the tarot card of complete emotional fulfillment.

Unfortunately, this is traditionally represented by a ‘perfect family’ kinda setup, as in the Waite-Smith card, where we see a ‘husband and wife’ couple, two kids and a cute li’l red-roofed cottage all under a glowing rainbow of golden cups.

Ten of Cups tarot card
Ten of Cups

Since I don’t personally see the whole marriage-kids-mortgage thing to be the pinnacle of emotional attainment, I’d like to look around for different depictions to gain a wider understanding of this card, and differing ideas of what ‘family’ can mean. We don’t all have partners and kids, but I know that everyone is able to access the sheer joy of fulfillment that the Ten of Cups represents.

It’s surprisingly hard! I like the Morgan-Greer picture, showing two arms interlinked. And I found a cool picture of two people who don’t necessarily *have* to be married in the Paulina Tarot (shown at the bottom of this post). And the Wildwood‘s Ten of Vessels is wonderful, with it’s waterfall of love and generosity gushing plentifully over rocks and filling up ten chalices.

ten of vessels - wildwood tarot

In the accompanying book, Mark Ryan writes:

Generous fulfillment of desires from a source that is pure and cleansing. Reward for patience and love given selflessly. True emotional stability and freedom.

This gets to the heart to the card’s meaning for me. Happiness and fulfillment mean different things for all of us, but I feel strongly that the Ten of Cups specifically includes relationships with others in it’s core meaning. For me, it says ‘your friends are supportive and loving, as you are in return. The unconditional love and/or support of the people close to you is the route to this type of fulfillment – it can only be attained through giving as well as recieving. Think about who you surround yourself with – choose your family with love and care. Investment in these relationships brings true fulfillment back to you.

Two concepts shine out for me: mutuality, and solidarity. All that fulfillment can come from a strong family, for sure. The ‘perfect family’, I imagine, is one in which partner/s would never let you down and you can operate as a solid unit, nurturing each other and those children too, building a safe, strong, happy home where you can be all secure.

Ten of Cups from the Paulina Tarot by Paulina Cassidy
Ten of Cups from the Paulina Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

And it can come from other types of partnerships and relationships, and deep, real friendships. Or from belonging to a support group where you know you give as well as recieve, where you feel valued as well as supported. Or from being part of a religious ‘family’, or a political group…it doesn’t matter. The point is all about that mutuality and solidarity – you give wholeheartedly, unreservedly, without personal motivation, you understand and you nurture, and that same unconditional love comes back to you. That active role that you play in receiving that love and support is key – it doesn’t just happen, it takes work, it takes investment. Whoever the family on the card represents to you, they’re the people who make you feel like this, to whom you want to give of yourself, and upon whom you rely almost unconsciously for love. And when you feel that joy, when you achieve that beautiful, loving solidarity…well, maybe it does feel like cute little cottages, rainbows and the laughter of children.

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  1. Little Red says:

    Thanks Chloe! I'll take a look at the Gay Tarot. I've seen cards randomly before, but I've never thought of turning to it specifically for an alternative perspective – now I think about it, it seems obvious!

  2. ray tennessee says:

    i have recently begun studying tarot more in depth and have found your alternative interpretations a vital part of rounding that study out, thank you!

    i recently got this card as part of a reading about my partner and i. upon reading your interpretations, i had that warm glow that the card represents. i also went back and looked at the card with a newly open mind, not just responding to the imagery, but the symbolism of that imagery.

    i had a new response to it within me, i am using the classic rider-waite deck. i looked at the family through an archetypal lens. the marriage and balance of feminine and masculine, which according to june singer’s interpretations of jungian archetype, symbolizes a highest balance of emotional wellbeing. the two children dancing rang of inner child, innate wisdom, purity, a space and time before judgmentalism takes hold. altogether, looking at it this way, i was no longer peeved by heteronormativity, rather, was delighted by the capacity of this card to represent the balance of genderqueerness, non-binaryness of psyche. and to take that into a space of open and loving, fully embracing community: how damned lovely.

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