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Tarot Heaven

King of Cups

Tarot Card Meaning

king of cups
king of cups

King of Cups

Prince of the Chariots of Water

Fire of Water (Yod)

Court Element: Fire

Suit Element: Water

Golden Dawn Zodiac: Feb 9-March 10 (Aquarius/Pisces)

Hebrew Letter: Yod

Sephiroth: Chokmah


King of Cups Description and Symbolism

A man sits on a stone island in the midst of a turbulent sea. The sea is composed of greens and blues that roll back and forth. A dolphin is jumping from the ocean through the air. Throughout history, dolphins have saved many people from drowning. They effortlessly navigate between the water and the air. They are the human companion to the sea, always helping humans in need. The name dolphin comes from the Greek word delphinos, which means womb. This was also where the Delphic Oracle held their prophetic gatherings. The dolphin is appropriately placed near the King of Cups to show his nurturing ability to care for everyone (womb) and his intuitive, psychic feelings. Or are the original authors of tarot, intentionally leading us astray? This wouldn’t be the first time in the occult (from Latin meaning conceal, hidden, secret) that this has happened. 

The dolphin looks more like a whale. I am not sure if this was done on purpose or if the illustrator, Pamela Coleman Smith, didn’t know what a dolphin looked like in 1909. The idea to me is that the picture of the sea animal is what you make of it. It is adaptable, like the King of Cups. Perhaps it was inserted to fool us. The old Golden Dawn and Rider Waite group can write all they want about it being a dolphin, but the viewer is left with a feeling of inaccuracy as we gaze at what looks like a long-finned pilot whale, a beluga whale or a sperm whale. All of these whales have bigger, rounder heads, unlike the dolphin with its sleek “bottle-nosed” head. We don’t see the fins, so we can’t confirm nor deny what we are actually seeing. We only get 1/3 of the picture. Heck! Maybe it’s just a fish jumping for joy or a random fish being tossed around in the ocean.

The bigger question on everyone’s mind is that it does look like a sperm whale….right? That’s what I thought when I saw it, though I was 14 years-old teen with raging hormones. lol… This lead my subconscious to ideas related to fertility and, well, other ideas.

Besides having to have a marine biologist degree to interpret the King of Cups, we can see from the pictures that it is some kind of fish. A small portion of the tail is seen directly below the fish. He also wears a fish necklace. This is wear meditation correlates to tarot. Through gazing in a meditative state at the cards, we begin to learn how to use the key tool to occult wisdom: concentration. It is not enough to merely read what is written about tarot, but to learn the ways from within.

The letter NUN in Hebrew means fish. Nun is assigned to the Death card. Scorpio is the fixed water sign running through every single card in the suit of cups. It culminates at the King of Cups. All kings symbolize the finality of the suit. Often having many kings in one reading means the end of a project, relationship or situation. But no one says Death, quite like the King of Cups. Only when we are truly in touch with the wide spectrum of our emotions do we finally realize what the King of Cups is really offering us. It is through the acknowledgment of every one of our own emotions, which all people have that we complete a cycle. These emotions are prevalent whether dormant in the unconscious, subtly played out in the subconscious or in direct contact with the conscious mind.

The King of Cups asks you, “Why do I feel this way?” And yet how many times do we avoid the death of an issue. Is this why the King and Queen of Cups tend to look away from each other? The Queen of Cups is looking internally, so it is up to the placement of the King of Cups next to another card. Where is he looking? If you get the King and Queen of Cups together in a reading, see which way his eyes are turned. If they are turned into the Queen of Cups, there is a better understanding of subconscious and conscious emotional behavior.

On the other side of the King’s throne is lovely red ship that is rolling with the sea. His passion to succeed and transverse anything that life brings to him is symbolized by the red ship. Red is the color of passion and desire and a boat is part of cultivation. This hints at the symbolism for being able to manifest our desires into reality by cultivating them thought our spiritual bodies first and then back to the material. (Take a look at the symbolism in the Magician’s red roses).

The King of Cups is not moving, but his eyes give way to what he is thinking. They shift to the left, while his body remains calm. He seems cautious about something. Perhaps the turbulent waves are affecting his emotional mood, yet he doesn’t show it; he feels it. His eyes give away the emotions of his heart.

There is a contradiction between his eyes and body. Fire and water are also opposites and seemingly contradict themselves. The King of Cups searches his subconscious and conscious mind to find a balance between the two. He is supposed to do this effortlessly, but in actual tarot readings I’ve done this doesn’t occur. This king, either upright or reversed, can have waves of different emotions, which affect his personality. So even though, I’ve read over and over again that he is the calm and a master of his emotions, I haven’t seen this often in my own readings.

The King of Cups has challenged me and my intuition. He can be kind, loving, nurturing one day. In another reading, I see him as mean spirited, wounded and spiteful. If kings are reminding us to master the element, perhaps the King of Cups is speaking to me personally. It asks of me, “Can you discern what type of man this is? Use your intuition. Allow your psychic faculties to be aware.”

His colors seem to contrast rather than blend. Yellow, red and blue are all primary colors. They are the colors that make up all the other colors. For instance, he wears a yellow turtle neck, cape and a blue gown. Blue and yellow make green, which is the color of his shoes and the waves. The opposites merge together to create a new color.


King of Cups Interpretation and Divination

Like his queen, the King of Cups is highly emotional, but his emotions are less transparent. He has learned to keep them under control even though there might be a molten lava of emotional eruption inside him. Indeed, this king is the more emotional of the four kings of tarot. We can see the rough, choppy sea behind him. The water is the subconscious, which rules the world of emotions.

His emotions make him an excellent artist where he can tap into his creative juices. Anywhere you find artistic creation such as photography, painting, graphic design, you will find the King of Cups.

The spark of fire and element of water makes steam. Sometimes we need steam to propel us to finish or we need to “blow off some steam.”  


King of Cups as a Father

The King of Cups is susceptible to his wife and generally under her influence. He is generally emotional and problematically an alcoholic. In many readings throughout the years, I get the King of Cups as the family man alcoholic. Look for other cards to see if this is true. For example, a reversed Emperor, reversed Queen of Cups and upright King of Cups all would point to a raging alcoholic.

But without a doubt, he is in love with his woman. He puts her first and then his children. He views his wife as the bearer of his off spring, so he exalts her. He cares for his children and can be a fun dad. He is the type of dad who all the kids in the neighborhood think of as “cool.” He could have a hipper style of dress, buy the latest music or be doing the carpool thing. If he is emotionally mature, he is usually the type to marry early.  


King of Cups in Love

The King of Cups in love is passionate, romantic, but he can be an opportunist. When the King of Cups comes up in a love reading, know that he does have his eyes set on you even though it may take him awhile to let you know. He is a shy king. He is also a dreamer like the Knight of Cups, so he may have created an entire romantic relationship in his mind even before you and him meet. He could be intent on, “She’s the one I’ve been dreaming about.”

The downside to the King of Cups in love is his propensity for lying. Since he tends towards a flare for drama, it could take you months (if ever) to tell if he’s lying or not. He is prone to creating fantasies, which means he will believe his own lies. Early in a relationship he may spend more time dreaming about you, than calling you.

As I stated above, he can be an opportunist. If he finds a wealthy woman, he would dump his girlfriend and marry the rich woman. He won’t be in love with multiple women at once, but he doesn’t believe in death-do-us-part either. His emotions are like flipping a switch, so you will never really know when it will turn on or off. In a relationship, you could find yourself thrown out if he finds a better mate.

It’s unfortunate, but he is also prone to drugs and alcohol either upright or reversed. His consort the Queen of Cups, is only prone to drugs and alcohol abuse when reversed or ill-dignified.


King of Cups as Feelings

If you get the King of Cups as “what X feelings towards me?” then they have their eyes set on you. They feel a very strong feeling of love that surpasses a mere crush. They may even get butterflies at first and there could be some contradictions. Like he/she may look away breathlessly while talking to you. Don’t let that fool you. They are just nervous and may take some time to warm up. But once the King of Cups knows his/her feelings are reciprocated then they will feel at total ease.

In general, other feelings that could come up are calmness, understanding, compassion and sympathy.


King of Cups in Career

Water and emotions don’t bode well in a reading about career. I would be careful in a career reading if the King of Cups came up. It’s all a turbulent water of subconscious emotions behind him. His shifty eyes and piece of cold, gray throne he sits on look like they are in dire need of help. Yet there he impassively sits, not taking any action.

Be careful of a man coming to you pretending to help. He can have bad motives. The King of Cups can be manipulative in business and use subconscious manipulative ploys.

I had to do business with a man and a wife who were always coming up as the King of Cups and Reversed Queen of Cups. At one point, the King of Cups told me, “I told the investor that I was very ill and dying to put pressure on the sale. Then I got my wife to cry a lot on the phone.”

Once I dug deeper, I realized that these two had a long, long history of duping, stealing, lying and moving around.


King of Cups as Advice

The King of Cups advises you to take a deep look into your emotions. He suggests that you calm any turbulent feelings that you may have. Meditation or a calming bath would help you at this time.  

Getting the King of Cups as advice suggests that you are going through something turbulent, so this king suggests that you take a deeper look into your emotions and why you are feeling this way. You may even want to seek the help of a counselor.


King of Cups as an Obstacle

You could be so focused on the ideal lover that you miss good opportunities. Get your head out of the clouds. The person you are fantasizing over doesn’t exist and will block you from getting involved in real relationships.


King of Cups Professions

Photographer. Father. Stay at home dad.  Teacher. Artist.  Actor. Boat Captain. Fisherman. Counselor. Psychologist. Therapist. Educator. Anything creative and artistic. Zoologist. Marine Biologist. Shaman. Healer. Medicine Man. Veterinarian.


King of Cups Reversed

The King of Cups reversed is prone to emotional outbursts, otherwise known as a drama king.

The King of Cups reversed is prone to drugs and drinking alcohol.

The King of Cups reversed may throw pity parties for himself and dwell constantly on the past while making himself the martyr.

King of Cups Combinations

King of Cups and Emperor:
a. Being with someone, while wishing you were with someone else.
b. Finishing your project, but being in a completely different frame of mind.
i. These two have wandering eyes. Their body posture and their eyes are poised in two different directions. This is how we get the doing one thing, while having your eye on another.

King of Cups and Hermit:
a. The old man shows you how to control your emotions
b. The old man controls his emotions when he’s confronted with feelings
c. The older gentleman is a master of his emotions

King of Cups and Hanged Man:
a. Suspension of emotions
b. reigning in and controlling an emotionally pivotal moment

King of Cups and Queen of Cups:
a. A situation between a man and a woman. Emotional control and restraint is used. The woman may feel unusally calm.
b. complementary couple who may drink or do drugs too much. Given to artistic flights of fancy.

King of Cups and the Two of Pentacles:
a. Going back and forth between emotions
b. Being emotionally unstable.
c. Indecision