Pairing – comparing The Lovers and 2 of Cups

The Lovers is the sixth card in the Major Arcana. The 2 of cups is from the minors (one of the four suits I talk about here).

The main distinction many people make between the majors and the minors is how epic the event is. For example, the Lovers card represents one’s soul mate, and 2 of cups is everyday, happy-to-be-paired-with-you living.

Another way to contrast them is in intensity.

“All along it was a fever. A cold-sweat hot-headed believer.”

“Makes me feel like I can’t live without you…Round and around and around and around we go.”

[Stay, sung by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko.]

About the Lovers card, I once heard another reader say, It burns hottest, but crashes harder.

~

Reversed, I see it as one of those angsty stories where the audience/reader knows they like each other, knows they’ll be perfect together, but they need to talk.

[Distance, sung by Christina Perri and Jason Mraz.]

“And I will make sure to keep my distance,
Say I love you when you’re not listening,
How long, can we keep this up?”

“And I keep waiting
For you to take me
And you keep waiting
To save what we had.” Read more

2 of Cups (comparing examples)

2 of Cups

Like the Lovers card, the 2 of cups can refer to a couple, cooperation, a pair.

But there is also a constancy here that may be absent in the Lovers. This is remembering to say “I love you” before you end a call. This is holding someone’s hand when they’re nearby, or listening instead of offering advice right away when the beloved is distressed.

This card represents constancy and a balanced, mutually beneficial partnership – usually of respect, but always of contentment. That is, both parties think they have something pretty good here.

Another distinction between the 2 of Cups and the Lovers cards is how in-the-world they are.

That is, most Lovers cards (see the last post) consist of the individuals being utterly focused on each other. In many 2 of cups images the introduction of physical objects (usually the two cups) draws the viewer as well as the characters into a connection with something physical. Something beyond the “transcendent” of the lover or the interaction.

There is a mutuality in all of these images, whether in sharing an experience that is beyond the other (Fountain, Steampunk) or connecting, giving to the other something beyond the self (Mermaid, Numinous).

Moving out of the ideal/theoretical and into the world is a function of this card being one of the Minor Arcana. Minors are about daily life and where the rubber meets the road. This is another way we make a distinction between the 2 of cups and the Lovers. One is the “practical” and one is the “ideal.” There will be overlap (usually based on the reader’s personal experience), but this is one easy way to mark a difference in interpretation.

The Numinous image, in case you can’t read the tiny words, has the human holding a vial labeled FINS while the mermaid holds one labeled, LEGS. I love this representation of offering understanding and (perhaps) a willingness to change in love/service to the other.

This is one of the most precious elements of 2 of cups. Each person is in this commitment, at this level of contentment, while they see the partner as the the partner is.

~

Of course, the same issue of representation exists in the 2 of cups that exists in the Lovers card. Namely that the dominant interpretation is a romantic one, and so messages or assumptions are being displayed in the way this *couple* is shown.

Several decks have a hetero pair on their Lovers card, and non-hetero pairings in their 2 of cups (or the reverse, as in Numinous).

Still other decks repeat the technique from the Lovers card and offer a few cute (or lovely) animals to interpret as is most appropriate in the moment.

The main concepts I bring to a 2 of cups interpretation are contentment, commitment, and connection.

It is one of the most reassuring cards I ever draw for myself or others. It is a reminder we are not alone, and have reliable people in our world who care for us – romantically or not.

When the 2 of cups comes up, it’s often an invitation to remind ourselves of those connections, and lean into their life-sharing power.

The Four Suits – The Four Elements

From Way of the Panda Tarot

Here’s a bit of context for some of the terms you’ll see in a lot of discussions about individual cards: Minor Arcana, suits, and elements.

From Way of the Panda Tarot

The Minor Arcana make up 56 of the 78 cards in a tarot deck.

In the tarot, once you get past the first 22 cards (these are called the Major Arcana and numbered 0 -21), you find a pattern of Ace – 10, + page, knight, queen, king, that repeats through four suits: wands, cups, swords, and pentacles.

If you know your standard poker deck you can see the family resemblance:

  • Wands correspond to clubs
  • Cups correspond to hearts
  • Swords correspond to spades
  • Pentacles correspond to diamonds

Together these four sets are called the Minor Arcana.

The cards of the Minor Arcana bring a tight focus down to a specific area (element) of life, and provide a context or mirror in that moment.

Each of the tarot suits also aligns with one of the four “original” elements, taking on and portraying variations on its characteristics.

  • Wands aligns with Fire: energy, identity, creativity, charisma, will-power, flashy power, impulsivity, passion
  • Cups aligns with Water: intuition, the unconscious, relationships, emotion, adaptability, healing, cleansing
  • Swords aligns with Air: communication, clarity, logic, knowledge, change, force, quiet power, speed, coldness
  • Pentacles aligns with Earth: the body, the home, material wealth, steadiness, depth, slowness, property, warmth

If you can remember that cups correspond to hearts, and the pentacles to diamonds, that might be a helpful reminder of what their suits are tied to.

Traditionally, the minors are different from the Major Arcana because the minors refer to elements of our life that are more or less under our control.

From Way of the Panda Tarot
  • Are you going to go to that party tonight? (3 of cups)
  • How am I going to occupy myself while my investment does its thing out in the world? (3 of wands)
  • What am I willing to invest in my learning? (3 of pentacles)
  • Will I recognize this heartbreak? (3 of swords)
From Way of the Panda Tarot

These can be significant parts of our lives, affecting our futures, but they are the times of choices or actions we more or less understand the shape of.

The Major Arcana, in contrast, feels like much larger forces at work. They represent settings, unexamined tendencies, and things we didn’t see coming – or couldn’t do much about if we did.

  • Life-challenges: What is our capacity to accept (XII The Hanged One) or live in the in-between, always adjusting (XIV Temperance)
  • Personality: how we handle alonenness or responsibility (IX The Hermit, IV The Emperor)
  • Does anyone know exactly what makes us fall in love? (VI The Lovers)

Not everyone reads such big differences between the two sets, but this is the most common teaching.

Smaller or equal to the Majors, the core thing to keep in mind when it comes to understanding the minors is their specific focus, strongly informed by the element of their suit.

Two of Wands (10 examples)

I always say that the deck a reader chooses is as much a part of the reading as the cards that are pulled.

There are many decks that have a lot in common between cards, and there are some that take a different path. This is just one example.

The two of wands can be interpreted in a number of ways, but I tend to see it as a card with a terrific energy of possibilities. I see a doorway suggested by the the two upright rods/wands/staves as they are portrayed in many decks.

All the figures – human or otherwise – invite the viewer to identify with their place in the scene, and that identification is part of the method of interpretation.

These cards’ different visuals and energy in the images suggest variations on the theme, from conflict, to questions, to a reversal of expectations and even wondering where one’s place is in the scheme of things.